Arts & Entertainment

Johnny Cuomo sings to a group of children at the 2013 Middle County Public Library Apple Festival in Centereach. Photo by Kristin Cuomo

By Sue Wahlert

It’s quite possible that Mount Sinai’s Johnny Cuomo lives, breathes and sleeps music. Added to his life’s obsession are his love of cultures, nature, children and storytelling. He is a multidimensional music man who is lovingly known to many as “Mr. C.” As he says in his online introduction video, he is “deeply connected with nature, music, children and stories for children.”

However, there is even more to Cuomo than his guitar or his penny whistle.  There is a wisdom that lives within him.  It is a culmination of family vacations to the National Parks, his time spent volunteering on Indian Reservations in California and backpacking and studying abroad in Ireland, his dedication to religion and his need to make music. With all of this information, he has made it his life’s work to share his knowledge with children and adults through his musical storytelling profession and his performances in Irish Pubs.

At a very young age, Cuomo’s Stony Brook family began laying the groundwork for the man he has become.

“My parents had me interested in wolves, birds and bears,” said Cuomo. In college, Cuomo discovered the world of bird watching and is now an avid watcher. He uses his knowledge to incorporates tales of birds into some of his early childhood education programs.

Because Cuomo was exposed to history at a very young age, he was open to the experiences of volunteering at the Vieajas and Barona Indian Reservations in San Diego. “At night I would hang out with the elders. This enabled me to learn about their cultures and share my culture,” reflected Cuomo. This was also the first time Cuomo had the opportunity to work with children. “It solidified my love of working with children,” he said.

Cuomo’s love of Irish music was ignited during the two months he spent backpacking in Ireland, where he carried his belongings and a guitar. “I wanted to learn stories, music and history of the Irish,” he said. Upon returning home, he knew he had to go back, but this time would be via a study abroad program.  During his eight months of study, Cuomo learned to play the tin whistle, banjo and mandolin, and began performing Irish music.

In the late 1990s, Cuomo formed the popular Irish band, Gallowglass. Although they are no longer together, the musicians sometimes collaborate.  Currently you can see Cuomo on most Sunday nights performing Irish music at the Pig ‘n’ Whistle on 2nd Ave. in New York City.

Cuomo understands the vital importance of music in the life of children and adults. He offers private instruction and also has a wide range of children’s programs for Preschoolers through 12th grade. For more than seven years, Cuomo has been doing a weekly music program at the Chatterbox Day School in East Islip.

Director Lindsay Parker said of Cuomo, “The children look forward to their weekly music classes with “Mr. C.” They are fun, creative and exciting. Johnny brings a new dimension to children’s music that is rare to find!”
You might also find Cuomo on stage at the outdoor classroom at Play Groups School in East Setauket, strumming on his guitar while the preschoolers act out musical stories as they sing and dance.  Educational Director Maddy Friedman applauds Cuomo, saying “he is an exceptional music educator who brings his joy and love of music to our school.” Cuomo is scheduled to perform at the school’s annual May Fair on May 30.

Since 2000, Cuomo has also shared his talents at the Comprehensive Kids Developmental School, a public, special needs preschool on the lower east side of Manhattan. The opportunity to work with the special needs population has impressed upon Cuomo the importance of therapeutic music. “I can reach these kids with my music,” said Cuomo. “I have a special drum I use, where they can feel the vibration, and also a whistle, so they can feel the air move. It is a gift to be able to work with these kids.” Annemarie Fuschetti, the school’s former psychologist, said of Cuomo, “Everyone lights up when Johnny comes. Even those with the most difficult behaviors.”

One might wonder how one person can do all of this? Cuomo laughed as he said, “I have a number of part-time jobs that add up to more than a full-time job. I have traded sleep for time with my family.” His two boys, Johnny, 7, and Paul, 6, are also music lovers and have been to hundreds of their father’s gigs.  Recently, Cuomo was invited to play at Walt Disney World with a group of fellow Irish musicians. Fortunately his wife and sons were invited to be part of this journey, to experience the park and see Cuomo play an Irish music and dance show at Raglan Road Irish Pub in Downtown Disney.

More recently, Cuomo signed with manager Jean Marie Keevins of Little Shadow Productions. Keevins will serve as a liaison to other writers and companies with whom Cuomo might be able to collaborate and sell his original ideas to. The professional arena is wide open, from books to theater to animation. It is an exciting time for the artist.

Additionally, Cuomo is excited to be heading off to Alaska this July for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, where he will be teaching workshops and playing concerts focused on traditional Irish and American Folk music.

To top it off, the never weary Cuomo and his wife Kristin will be running their weeklong summer program, “Birds of a Feather Nature Camp.” Based out of the Setauket Neighborhood House, they have been running this outdoor program for more than 13 years. “We want to get kids to go outside and observe all that is here locally. It is an opportunity to see what’s in your backyard,” said Cuomo. The camp combines music, nature, crafts and hiking, all of which encourage kids to connect with nature and music.

Check out Cuomo’s website at www.johnnycuomo.com to learn more about his programs, listen to some of his CDs and check on upcoming shows. Any time spent with Cuomo is a time to remember, as his stories and music live on in the minds and hearts of many.

By Rita J. Egan

With the inventions of camera phones and social media, capturing the image of family members and friends is easier than ever. Even taking a photo of oneself is as simple as a quick click with a smartphone. Today’s version of the self-portrait, the selfie, has become so popular, reality television star Kim Kardashian has dedicated her soon-to-be released book, “Selfish,” to the art form, and last year the electric dance music DJ duo The Chainsmokers released their song “#Selfie.”

However, before social media and the Kardashians, even prior to the creation of the camera, artists have preserved the images of their fellow human beings and themselves for centuries. To celebrate the art of creating portraits, The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington offers two new portraiture exhibits starting April 25 — Before Selfies: Portraiture through the Ages and Poised Poses: Portraits from the August Heckscher Collection.

‘Self Portrait in Cape,‘ 1934, Heckscher Museum of Art, Gift of Audrey Webster. by Stokely Webster
‘Self Portrait in Cape,‘ 1934, Heckscher Museum of Art, Gift of Audrey Webster. by Stokely Webster

Lisa Chalif, museum curator, said it’s the perfect time for portraiture exhibits in this age of the selfie. “With the increasing use of social media, selfies stick in the news all the time. It’s so visible now, that it seems it sort of lends itself naturally to taking a look at portraiture historically. Before the age of your cell phone and the selfie, how did you get the likeness of yourself? Before the advent of photography really, how did you preserve your likeness?”

The Before Selfies exhibit, which includes both portraits and self-portraits donated by various individuals to the museum throughout the years, features approximately four dozen pieces by artists such as Thomas Anshutz, William Merritt Chase, Henri Matisse and 19th-century Long Island painter William Sidney Mount. Chalif said most of the portraits are from the 16th through 20th centuries with a few pieces from this century, and the pieces include oil paintings, pen and ink drawings on paper, chromogenic prints, bronze and marble sculptures as well as other mediums.

The curator said the exhibit not only focuses on the artists’ depictions of family, friends, public figures and character types but also takes a look at themes such as changing concepts of beauty and different approaches to depicting male and female subjects depending on underlying gender roles.

The Poised Poses: Portraits from the August Heckscher Collection exhibit complements the Before Selfies exhibit and features paintings from the museum founder’s private collection, which he donated in 1920.

Chalif said Heckscher had an extensive collection of historical European portraiture. The oil paintings on canvas and wood panels on display at the exhibit are by artists such as Sir William Beechey, George Romney, Antoine Vollon, Nicholas de Largilliere and Franz Wolfgang Rohrich.

When it comes to what she hopes visitors will learn from the exhibits, Chalif said, “A larger understanding of the portrait, of saving your appearance. What are you conveying when you are snapping a selfie, and how does that differ from historical portraiture? Just a larger sense of how to read a portrait, what does it convey beyond what somebody looked like? What can I learn about a period of history or the history of fashion? Just all the different ways that artists might convey something, information beyond somebody’s appearance.”

In honor of the museum’s two portraiture exhibits, there will be a selfie station for visitors where they can create their own portraits. Guests are also encouraged to share their images from the station on Instagram and use the hashtags #hmaselfie and #heckschermuseum.

Before Selfies: Portraiture through the Ages runs from April 25 through Aug. 9, and Poised Poses: Portraits from the August Heckscher Collection runs from April 25 through Aug. 2. The Heckscher Museum of Art is located at 2 Prime Avenue in Huntington and is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-351-3250.

From left, Bobby Montaniz, Amanda Geraci and James D. Schultz in ‘The Littlest Pirate.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Avast ye! Theatre Three’s world premiere of the musical adventure, “The Littlest Pirate,” which opened last Saturday, takes us from a baseball diamond to a treasure hunt on Diamond Isle and is a rollicking home run.

Written by Tim Peierls and Jeffrey Sanzel, the play tells the story of Annalise, a young girl who wants to play on the Petaluma Pirates Little League baseball team who are always losing to the Rovers from Roger’s Refrigeration. When the coach tells her that the only way she can be on the team is to cheat, Annalise is torn between playing a sport she loves and doing the right thing. She falls asleep on a bench and is swept away into a Pirate Dreamland where she faces the same dilemma when she encounters a band of pirates who want her to switch a real treasure map with a fake one.

Sanzel, who also directed the show, has gathered an enormously talented group of seven adult actors who all tackle duel roles with inexhaustible energy. The petite Amanda Geraci is the perfect choice to play Annalise, the littlest pirate. An incredible actress and singer, Geraci’s solo, “Always Wanted to Play Baseball,” is amazing.

James D. Schultz shines as Coach Wallop and Captain Pyrate who only speaks Pyrish. The one and only Bobby Montaniz is hilarious as he tells numerous jokes as Bobbo and Pirate Parrot. Hans Paul Hendrickson plays the role of twins, Fred and Norville and the Pirate Forvilles, which wasn’t an easy task, but he pulls it off with ease. Jenna Kavaler is wonderful as Jenny, the Petaluma Pirates’ best baseball player who really just wants to play the oboe. Evelyne Lune, as Erin Petaluma and The Pirate Queen, is the all-knowing matriarch of the group and switches roles effortlessly. Rounding out the cast is Andrew Gasparini as Boyd and Pirate Boyd, a terrific actor who has found his own niche on stage and clearly enjoys what he’s doing.

Although the set is minimal with only a few props, costume designer Margaret Ward has spared no expense with matching baseball uniforms and colorful pirate outfits. Choreographed by Marquéz Stewart and accompanied on piano by Peierls and on bass by David Goldberg, the musical numbers are superb, especially “How to Speak Pyrish” and the delightful “Great Day for a Treasure Hunt,” which you will be humming on your way out of the theater.

As with most children’s shows at Theatre Three, there are moral lessons sprinkled throughout the performance. In this case, kids will learn about cheating and the everlasting lesson of “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” It is no easy task getting a young audience to sit still for periods at a time, but “The Littlest Pirate” does the trick. No restlessness here  — just children sitting wide-eyed on the edge of their seats, enthralled by the enchantment of live theater. Kids of all ages will enjoy “The Littlest Pirate.” It is funny, entertaining and a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

The entire cast will be in the lobby after the show for a meet and greet and photo opportunities.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Littlest Pirate” on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. through May 9. Tickets are $10 per person. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

‘Short But Sweet,’ the butterfly bra created by Tammy Colletti in memory of her mother. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

Covered in feathers, decorated in shells and bedazzled in rhinestones, the bras on display at the Wang Center at Stony Brook University last Thursday looked like they could have been part of the latest collection from an eccentric lingerie designer. The bras were actually created by members of the community, local businesses, cancer survivors and television personalities as part of Bodacious Bras for a Cure, a fundraising event to benefit women’s cancer programs at Stony Brook Cancer Center.

Dr. Michael Pearl says the services offered to cancer patients involved in the cancer center help to restore some control in their lives. Photo by Erin Duenas
Dr. Michael Pearl says the services offered to cancer patients involved in the cancer center help to restore some control in their lives. Photo by Erin Duenas

Bodacious Bras was initiated by Linda Bily, director of Cancer Patient Advocacy and the Woman to Woman program at the center and inspired by a similar event called Creative Cups at Adelphi University. Bras were decorated and then put up for auction at the Stony Brook event. “It’s just a fun, different way of promoting awareness of all women’s cancers,” Bily said.

Twenty-two bras were auctioned off, raising $5,000 that will help fund women’s patient services at the Cancer Center.

According to Bily, each bra entry had to be created on a size 36C garment. Nothing perishable was permitted on the creations and the entire bra needed to be decorated. A brief summary accompanied each bra explaining the creator’s motivation. The “Mandala” bra, which fetched $250, created by local artist Jessica Randall, was made of shells and won the Best in Show prize. “I made this bra,” Randall’s summary read, “to honor women who have struggled with the debilitating disease of breast cancer.” “That Meatball Place” bra was created by the restaurant of the same name, located in Patchogue. Featuring bows and rhinestones and the restaurant’s logo, the bra fetched $500 at the auction. “Whichever [meatball] style suits you, we support them all, while always saving room for hope of a cure,” that summary read. Another bra called the “Hooter Holster” was created by Port Jefferson Station native Clinton Kelly, co-host of  “The Chew.”

22 bras were featured at Bodacious Bras for a Cure bringing in $5000 to fund women’s cancer services. Photo by Erin Duenas
22 bras were featured at Bodacious Bras for a Cure bringing in $5000 to fund women’s cancer services. Photo by Erin Duenas

Tammy Colletti of Setauket made a bra called “Short But Sweet” dedicated to her mother Marion who passed away a year and a half ago. Using purple and teal feathers, the bra was made to look like a butterfly. A small vial containing a piece of paper that read “Cure Breast Cancer” rested in the center in between the feathers.

Colletti, who volunteers at the Cancer Center, said she was inspired to create a butterfly bra after watching her mother live out the remainder of her life in hospice care. “When they brought her in to hospice she was all wrapped up, and I told her it looked like she was in a cocoon,” Colletti said. When she passed away, Colletti imagined her mother shedding that cocoon and turning into a butterfly. “She was transformed into something beautiful, into something that I know is flying all around us.”

The Cancer Center provides a wide variety of support to ill patients to help them cope with a cancer diagnosis. In the Woman to Woman program, patients can get help with childcare, transportation to treatments, financial assistance to pay for costs associated with being ill and selecting wigs if needed.

Dr. Michael Pearl, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, said that a cancer diagnosis has a huge impact not just on the woman affected but on her family as well. “In a lot of families, the woman acts as the glue that keeps everything together,” Pearl said. When a woman gets sick, often the day-to-day operations of family life get disrupted. That is when the Woman to Woman program can step in.

“We have volunteers that provide active support services,” Pearl said. Services could even include driving a patient’s children to sports or band practice. “Getting sick takes away your control. The program tries to restore some control and normalcy into their day-to-day lives.”

Bily said she was expecting Bodacious Bras to take a while to catch on, but she was happy with the positive response of the event. “It was a great night,” she said. “People who designed a bra are already thinking about what they will make next year.”

From left, Samantha Carroll, Jay McKenzie and Bobby Peterson in a scene from ‘Violet’ at the SCPA. Photo by Theresa Grillo

By Charles J. Morgan

The noir musical “Violet,” based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts, opened last Saturday at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. But what is a noir musical? Is it an opera, rock or otherwise? Is it sad, heart-rending, tragic, on a level with “La Bohème”? Your scribe suggests it is somewhere between Rossini’s effort and the recent “Murder Ballard” — the former an illustrious work of art, the latter the apotheosis of poor taste. “Violet,” therefore, is a middle ground, standing across the road as a signpost directing the theatrical traveler to the crossroads of mediocrity. Take one of the forks: aesthetic satisfaction; take the other —  “…’n I wuz like wow!”

There are noir motion pictures too. They all occur in one noir night, in noir and white and always have plot lines involving a murder solution. It makes one wonder why noir musicals are penned in the first place. Presumably they were intended to pitch shock and schlock into the roiling sea of praise poured onto the “happy ending” dance and song of the major hits. In your scribe’s not-so-humble opinion, “Violet” is a classically flawed work hinging on the fact of a young girl’s face horribly disfigured by a flying axe blade. At this juncture one could rank it with the Parisian Theatre Guignol.

Now then, standing back from all of the above, there was the indomitable Ken Washington direction. As his ever present skills reveal, interpretation and blocking were kept well ahead of the pursuing nemesis stasis. A pitfall of the one-set production is always a threat, but Washington came through. He handled the individuation of characters by giving them fast and slow motion that kept the boards well trod.

In the obviously starring role of Violet was Samantha Carroll. In singing and acting she was outstanding. With a fetching stage presence, she coupled this with a delightful soprano voice. With scarcely an exit she was easily the jeweled bearing on which the dynamic of the show rotated.

Two male singers vied for her attention … her complete attention. One, a sergeant; the other a Tech 4. The sergeant (Flick) was Jay McKenzie, the Tech 4 (Monty) was Bobby Peterson. McKenzie was the cool, veteran soldier with a strong tenor. In Act II his duet with Carrol was very impressive.

Peterson was more than just a foil for the sergeant. His voice was robust with a lyric tenor closeness that expressed his simple love for Violet. Michael Bertolini doubled as the bus driver and, in a powerful cameo, a corrupt Bible-thumper. He sang and danced with a group of pretend Bible singers. Viewing it your scribe felt Catholics in the audience would wear a wry grin; Evangelicals would have picketed that “preacher’s” performance.

As Young Violet, Hayleigh Jusas revealed excellent stage presence and a strong voice. In the “preacher” segment one ultra-powerful voice stood out: that of Amanda Camille Isaac. It was powerful, smooth and wrought with strength that not only expressed her religious fervor but rattled the rafters.

Music was live under the direction of Melissa Coyle with Craig Coyle on second keyboard, Ron Curry on bass, Jim Waddell on drums. Tiffany Jordan on cello, Brad Bosenbeck on violin and two guitars handled by Ray Sabatello and Douglas Baldwin provided palpable background, effecting it all with no brass.

“Violet” was a completely well-executed noir piece. It was balanced with other than rock, pertinent, believable recitatives and tender solos. To your scribe it was a critical challenge. To the audience it was a treat.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown, will present ‘Violet’ through May 17. Tickets are $35 adults, $20 students. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Peter Fogel stars in the touring production of ‘My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy.’ Photo from Theatre Three

During the first 15 minutes of “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy,” currently on tour and playing at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, I became a little concerned. I expected to be laughing my tuches off, but that wasn’t the case. Until, that is, Peter Fogel, portraying the show’s author, Steve Solomon, really started describing his Italian mother and Jewish father.

Despite the slow start — and some predictable jokes — the one-man show is enjoyable, especially if you can relate to it.

The show ran on Off-Broadway from 2006 until 2008 and spawned sequels “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m STILL in Therapy” and “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m Home for the Holidays.” Inspired by Solomon’s family and his upbringing in Sheepshead Bay, the show received favorable reviews and has toured internationally and in more than 100 cities.

Fogel, a Stony Brook-born, Baldwin-raised comedian, does a wonderful job of portraying all of the Solomon family and has great comedic timing when interacting with audience members who couldn’t stop laughing.
Fogel is especially hilarious as Grandma Angelina, who states “grandpa was a mail order groom damaged in shipping” and in one conversation confuses “condo” for “condom.”

One of the show’s strength’s is how even the punch lines have a little poignancy to them, like when Solomon asks his parents about the birds and the bees, but they always answered in riddles.

At the end of the show, Fogel made a comment about performing the show in other states and how not as many people get the jokes, which are definitely New York-centric.

There aren’t many other places that will truly understand the bit about driving through a gated Florida retirement community and being stopped by an elderly security guard with a walker or having a Jewish father whose cure-all to life’s problems is Chinese food.

These bits make the show and are so incredibly true for anyone whose parents, or grandparents, have shipped off to Florida or kept Kosher — unless it involved Chinese food.

Some of the jokes may be a little cliché, but man are they funny!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present ‘My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy’ through May 10. Tickets are $44 on Wednesdays and Thursdays and $49 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Special group rates are available. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Featuring two nationally recognized groups in folk music and an open mic filled with 10 local singer-songwriters, the Northport Arts Coalition’s StarLight Concert Series ended its season with a bang on Friday.

A packed house was captivated by the intertwined harmonies of singer-songwriters Chuck E. Costa and Mira Stanley of The Sea and the Sea and the old time up-tempo music of Jan Bell and the Maybelles, a cornerstone in the Brooklyn folk and country scene.

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‘Past Tense,’ by William Grabowski

The Huntington Arts Council recently announced the winners of its latest exhibit, a self-portrait show titled “I See Me.”

Juried by Lynn Rozzi, director of the Firehouse Plaza Art Gallery at Nassau Community College, the “I See Me” prospectus requested artists to respond to the challenge of sharing their interpretation of questions and statements behind self-portraiture: “Who are you? How do you see yourself? Let everyone in on your personal vision of you. Self-portraits rule the day!” The response, reflected in the exhibition of works, consists of a diverse mix of media including but not limited to oil, digital photo, watercolor, graphite/gouche, ink and pastels.

Participating artists include Anu Annam, Christopher Arvans, Robyn Bellospirito, Mark Belton, David Benson, Pamela Best, Marlene Bezich, Elizabeth Cassidy, Beth Costello, Katherine Criss, Judith Davidson, Jessica Dayan, Emily Eisen, Paul David Elsen, Jessica Faro, Jim Finlayson, Nicole Franz, Susan Geffken Burton, William Grabowski, Donna Grossman, Dan Guido, Kirsten Hadjoglou, Rodee Hansen, Samantha Hernandez, Sofie Hoff, Lori Horowitz, Caroline Isacsson, Kate Kelly, Lauren  Miceli, Margaret Minardi, Denis Ponsot, Robin Rosen-O’Leary, Lauren Ruiz, Jim Scovel, Constance Sloggatt Wolf, Jackie Stevens, Janice Sztabnik, Bobbie Turner, Tracy Vaccarino-Guzzardi, Chuck Von Schmidt, Pamela Waldroup, Lois V. Walker, Randy Weisbin and Fahiym Williams.

“‘I See Me’ employs the very interesting and up-to-the-minute concept … The Selfie … with the theme of self-portraits. And it seems to have touched the funny bone of a lot of artists who had a really good time picturing themselves in interesting, psychologically insightful and incredibly artful ways. This is a show not to be missed,” said Linda Louis, a member of the HAC board of directors and exhibition committee.

William Grabowski captured first place for his digital photo, “Past Tense.” Beth Costello garned second place for “No Language Barriers Here,” ink/oil pastel/paper on panels, and third place went to Margaret Minardi for her “Self Portrait,” colored pencil.

Awards of excellence were given to Marlene Bezich  for “Under Cover Artist #1,” oil; Donna   Grossman for “When One Door Closes,” oil/door panel; Jessica  Dayan for “Mirror,” oil/linen; and Mark Belton for his untitled self-portrait, acrylic/canvas.

“I See Me” will be on display in the Main Street Gallery through April 27, 2015. The gallery hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-271-8423 or visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

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The Mary Louise Booth House. Photo by William P. Steele

By Rita J. Egan

On Jan. 27, the childhood home of a writer, editor and translator of the 1800s, Mary Louise Booth, was officially listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Members of the Yaphank Historical Society were anticipating the news since the New York State Board for Historic Preservation approved the house for submission in the beginning of December.

The Mary Louise Booth House exhibit room. Photo by William P. Steele
The Mary Louise Booth House exhibit room. Photo by William P. Steele

Tricia Foley, historian for the Yaphank Historical Society who is working on a book about Booth, said the house, located at the intersection of E. Main Street and Yaphank Avenue, was built in 1829.

“It’s an early house of the period at the beginning of Yaphank’s development. In 1800 there were only 20 houses here and by the 1840s there were 200,” she said.

Foley said the Long Island ½-house is a one-story structure with an attic, two windows in the front and a door on the left. This was so if the owners added an extension, the door could be in the middle, according to the historian. Foley said many of the ½-houses were custom built, and the Booth house features beaded edges around all the windows as well as fireplace mantles in the parlor and bedroom with an unusual detailed, carving style.

Its inclusion on the list means the historical society can apply for more grants and there’s increased protection against demolition in the future, according to Foley. The group hopes to apply for a grant in the near future for renovation.

“There is a bay window in the kitchen, in the keeping room, and when we get more funding we would like to remove it, because it’s not period appropriate. It was probably put on later in the 19th century or early 20th century,” the historian said.

An exhibit documenting Booth’s life, who was born in 1831, is on display at the house. The Yaphank native was one of the first female reporters for The New York Times and the author of “History of the City of New York.” Foley said this book was originally intended to be a school textbook, but once the publisher realized just how significant the work was, it was released for public distribution.

The Mary Louise Booth House parlor. Photo by William P. Steele
The Mary Louise Booth House parlor. Photo by William P. Steele

Booth was also the founding editor of Harper’s Bazaar when the magazine started as a weekly in 1867 and worked with the publication for 22 years until her death in 1889, according to Foley. The historian said the editor did her best to educate women about the pressing subjects of the era.

“She was a suffragist and abolitionist, and she quietly brought in women’s issues into the different features and columns every week to keep women apprised of what was happening. She didn’t express her opinions, but she let people know very quietly,” she said.

While Booth remained objective when it came to the articles she published, outside her office, the editor and her friend Susan B. Anthony were involved in working toward equal pay for teachers. The former Yaphank resident was also part of the Women’s Suffrage movement, and she was the secretary of the 1855 Women’s Rights Convention in Saratoga Springs. The writer and editor was considered an abolitionist as well, and during her research, Foley found that Abraham Lincoln sent Booth a letter for her efforts in the Union cause. The president was impressed by the writer’s personal work as well as inspired by a book she translated from French to English called “Uprising of a Great People” by Count Agénor de Gasparin.

Foley said Booth, who during her lifetime translated over 40 books from French to English, was also involved in the Statue of Liberty transaction due to her translating and networking abilities. The translator introduced the statue’s sculpture, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, to key players in New York City such as bankers and government officials. The historian said Booth showed a gift for language at a young age. After she and her family moved from Yaphank to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when she was 14 years old, the future translator taught Latin classes as a teenager and also attended a French academy to practice conversational French.

The Mary Louise Booth House. Photo by William P. Steele
The Mary Louise Booth House. Photo by William P. Steele

“She had such a gift for language. She picked up conversational French very easily,” Foley said.

The historian said she isn’t surprised that Booth’s childhood home, which is the last remaining residence of her lifetime, was recognized on the register considering her work, which influenced the country and New York State history. The house, which was originally located on E. Main Street across from where it stands today, had various owners throughout the years until it became the property of the Kinney family after World War II. When the family donated the house to Suffolk County Historic Services in 1998, it was moved to its current location, and the Yaphank Historical Society became the steward of the home, according to Foley.

The public can visit the Mary Louise Booth Childhood Home Sunday afternoons in July and August or by appointment. For more information, visit www.yaphankhistorical.org or call 924-3401.

Jean Linzee will portray Emily Dickinson. Photo from the WMHO

In honor of National Poetry Month the Ward Melville Heritage Organization will host a live dramatic performance titled “Artists & Poets,” showcasing iconic American poets, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, at the Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., in Stony Brook Village on Sunday, April 19, from 2 to 5 p.m. The event will  feature Jean Linzee as Emily Dickinson and Darrel Blaine Ford as Walt Whitman.

A former Long Island biology teacher and world-traveled ornithologist, Ford not only has a striking physical resemblance to Walt Whitman but a personal affinity with him since childhood, when he was given a copy of “Leaves of Grass” and was “hooked ever since.” He has been recreating Whitman’s persona for over 30 years and continues to maintain his legacy today by visiting schools and libraries as the famous poet.

Linzee is a Yale graduate and has taught English and theater at The Stony Brook School for over 20 years. Her experience includes not only teaching but also acting, directing and writing. She has conceived, written and performed in many of her own one-woman shows, as well as William Luce’s “The Belle of Amherst,” based  on the life of Emily Dickinson, which she has performed in England, Poland, Switzerland and throughout the United States.

There will be a special interaction with the audience and the actors, who will perform in an impromptu skit embodying the personas of Dickinson and Whitman as if they were meeting for the first time. The performance is $20 per person and will include refreshments.

There will also be a free art exhibit on site including works by Pat Solan, Flo Kemp and members of the Stony Brook Photography Club. Additional dates for the free art exhibit are April 16, 17, 18, 20 and 21.

For further information, please call 631-689-5888 or visit www.stonybrookvillage.com.