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Jennifer Sloat

Theatre Three will present a sensory-friendly performance of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 11.

By Jennifer Sloat

Sensory-friendly performances are now part of the marquee at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. The shows are modified to provide a more comfortable setting for children with special needs. The theater’s artistic director, Jeffrey Sanzel, said they have been providing sensory friendly shows since October 2016 and the feedback he is receiving has been very positive.

“A parent contacted us and asked us if we would consider doing it,” said Sanzel. “We want to be inclusive and so I started looking into it.”

A sensory-friendly performance of “Goldilocks — Is That You?” will take place on June 3.

Sanzel, who previously taught high school for two years, reached out to a former student who works with autistic children to get her feedback and assistance in making the modifications. He began the work in June 2016 and the first sensory sensitive show was performed in October of 2016.

Families who attend the show can expect house lights to remain up and special effects and sound levels to be lowered. The music is quieter and there are no strobe lights. Actors do not run through the aisles and instead do a slow motion chase. Kids can also move freely about the auditorium during the show, lowering stress levels for parents who are concerned about disturbing fellow audience members.

“Knowing that we would not be frowned upon in the event my son could not contain his excitement made it an enjoyable event for all of us,” said audience member Lisa Clark. “[My son] Christopher loved the show and did not want to leave. When a cast member realized we were having trouble getting him to the lobby to take pictures with the rest of the cast, she summoned the cast to gather around him. How awesome is that?”

A sensory-friendly performance of “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” will be held on Jan. 21

A social story, provided on the theater’s website, is also used to lessen anxiety that kids may be feeling about attending the show. The online picture book can be reviewed by the children beforehand, providing a virtual walk through of attending a live show. It includes photos of the outside and inside of the theater, the box office and a picture of who will be giving them their tickets. Kids will see the path they will take to their seats, where they will sit and what the stage looks like. They will also see pictures of the actors in and out of their costume

“The thing that has been amazing is that ninety-nine percent of the kids have stayed the entire show; only twice did a child have to leave the show for a bit and come back up,” said Sanzel. All throughout the show the children are engaged, laughing and cheering. “We write our own shows and it is wonderful that they clearly are enjoying it.”

Perhaps most comforting of all is the opportunity for parents, caregivers and children to be in the company of others with whom they have something in common. “Families love it,” said Theatre Three company member Jessica Contino. “They are so thankful afterward. We stand in lobby for a meet and greet [after the show]. A young man in a wheelchair stopped us last year and said it was their second show. You just feel so good about it. It really hits home for some.”

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson. Sensory-friendly children shows are typically offered on the first Sunday of every month. Upcoming shows include “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” on Jan. 21, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 11, “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” on April 29 and “Goldilocks — Is That You?” on June 3. All performances are at 11 a.m. All seats are $10. For further information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.


‘This Must Be the Place,’ by Roy Lichtenstein, 1965. Collection of Dr. Harvey Manes

By Jennifer Sloat

It has been 50 years since the Summer of Love. It was a time that pushed the boundaries of music, art and society and had many feeling groovy and putting flowers in their hair. A half-century later that era still fascinates us.

The Heckscher Museum will explore that era through art with its latest exhibition titled From Frankenthaler to Warhol: Art of the ’60s and ’70s.

‘Chicken Noodle from Campbell’s Soup I’ by Andy Warhol, 1968. Collection of Dr. Harvey Manes

According to the museum, the exhibit, which opens this Saturday, delves into two trends that defined the art of the times and stretched the definition of fine art: abstract works that explore line, shape and color; and representational art on subjects from popular culture to everyday urban and suburban environments. Color field, minimalist, pop and photorealist works speak to the myriad styles that characterized the art world during the dynamic decades of the ’60s and ’70s.

In a recent interview, the museum’s curator, Lisa Chalif, said the time period was a watershed in American history and that many of the issues of the ’60s and ’70s continue to exist today. “The exhibition showcases the depth of The Heckscher Museum’s permanent collection. A good number of these works have not been exhibited for a while,” she said.

Andy Warhol’s soup can and Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-inspired images are among the works of art featured. The galleries will include iconic images from art legends Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist, Romare Bearden and May Stevens. There will be a total of 42 pieces on display.

“This generation of artists solidified America’s dominance of the international art world,” said Chalif, “They stretched the definition of fine art by using images from consumer culture and experimenting with processes such as silk screen, previously used in commercial applications.”

During this time, more women and African-American artists entered the mainstream art world as well, bringing fresh perspectives to modern subjects.

The art and music scene often intertwined in that era, and, fittingly, the museum will have a ’60s and ’70s soundtrack as the backdrop for the exhibit. “The show will be bright, colorful and fun,” Chalif continued. “We’ll have a photographic time line highlighting social, political and cultural events of the period, as well as music from the period in the galleries.”

The exhibit will be on view Nov. 18 through March 11. An opening reception for museum members and guests will be held on Dec. 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. In conjunction with the exhibit, two Gallery Talks will be held. On Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. art historian Thomas Germano will present a lecture titled “Andy Warhol and the Soup Can School,” and author and music historian Tom Ryan will present “How Music Changed History: 1960’s and 70’s” on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.

The Heckscher Museum of Art is located at 2 Prime Ave. in Huntington. For hours, prices and more information, call 631-351-3250 or visit www.heckscher.org.

Photo courtesy of Heckscher Museum

Promotional image from The Lockhorns Meet Howard Huge

By Jennifer Sloat

With just one cartoon panel and a few words, comic creator Bunny Hoest of The Lockhorns can deliver a zinger that can prompt a knowing smirk in most anyone that counts themselves as married, cohabitating or part of a couple.

What started as The Lockhorns of Levittown (yes, that Levittown) in 1968, grew into a comic strip loved worldwide and published in more than 500 newspapers. The bickering couple along with the sweet, supersized pet, Howard Huge, are part of a new exhibit at The Heckscher Museum of Art titled The Lockhorns Meet Howard Huge: Comic Cartoons by Bill and Bunny Hoest, which will be on view from Oct. 6 to Nov. 5. Bill Hoest is being honored in memoriam for his work.

‘Mother’ by Bill Hoest ©Wm Hoest Enterprises Inc., 2017

“It became popular very quickly,” said Bunny Hoest, speaking from her home studio in Huntington. Her husband was a returning GI when he created the strip after observing the interactions of couples settling down in Levittown. “He thought it was a great source of humor.”

The couple met in the early 1970s while playing tennis at the Huntington Racquet Club, during the same time Bill was compiling the cartoons into a book. He took notice of Bunny’s wit and soon asked her to become the book’s editor. The two married in 1973 and formed William Hoest Enterprises and co-created several more cartoons, including Laugh Parade and Howard Huge.

Bill was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1986. The couple then hired John Reiner to become Bill’s assistant and apprentice. After Bill’s passing in 1988, Reiner and Hoest kept the strip going, preserving her husband’s legacy. Still published in Newsday, the comic is translated into 22 languages and is seen by 100 million people worldwide.

Loyal readers may notice the occasional local landmarks thrown in by Reiner, a Stony Brook University alum. Nostalgic fans that have moved away often write Hoest after they spot an Aboffs paint store or other local reference in the strip.

The cartoons, according to Hoest, are social commentary and social criticism, not political. “We do it all in one cartoon. It has always been in one panel,” said Hoest, a former English teacher and graduate of Adelphi University.

Times have changed since the inception of the strip’s characters, Leroy and Loretta. Punch lines like “Leroy has joined the anti-social network,” keep the humor current but stay true to Leroy’s grumpy nature and Loretta’s sarcasm.

“We aren’t social workers but we are helping,” said Hoest. “Marriage counselors say they use it in therapy. If you can laugh at yourself it helps with the problems. But that is not why we did it; being therapeutic was a bonus! We are delighted. Isn’t that nice that people can get a laugh and resolve something with humor?” Hoest also notes that Leroy and Loretta are not Bill and Bunny. “We were crazy about each other,” said Hoest of her marriage to Bill. “A lot of times resolution is humor and that worked for us.”

After 40 years in print the comic still touches a cord with its readers. “Our fans say to us, ‘You are hiding in my closet or peering in my window,’” said Hoest with a laugh. “We seem to be hitting the nail on the head. That’s makes me feel very good.”

Several programs related to the exhibit will also take place, including Take a Selfie with Howard Huge and Children’s Art Activity happening on the terrace. Kids can also create a dog puppet to take home. The event takes place Oct. 8 from noon to 4 p.m. There is also a Celebrate Achievement Benefit honoring Pien and Hans Bosch, Bunny Hoest and the memory of Bill Hoest for their contributions to arts and culture on Long Island, taking place on Oct. 28.

While the amount of print publications has diminished, the syndicated strip still thrives. The nearly 85-year-old Hoest has five years left of a 10-year contract with King Feature Syndicate, distributors the The Lockhorns, with a 10-year option to renew. This would make Hoest a remarkable 90 years old when the contract comes up for renewal.

The very lively Hoest shows no signs of stopping. In addition to writing the cartoon, she is a member of the Berndt Toast Society (named after Smitty cartoonist, Walter Berndt), where she keeps in touch with fellow cartoon writers. They meet monthly for lunch, which may sometimes include a visit from some other famous cartoonists such as Mort Walker who pens Beetle Bailey and Mort Drucker, who is best known for his work at Mad Magazine or Mort Gerber of The New Yorker.

“I will do it as long as I can do it,” said Hoest. “I hope I can keep on.”

The Lockhorns Meet Howard Huge: Comic Cartoons by Bill and Bunny Hoest is on view at The Heckscher Museum of Art, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington from Oct. 6 to Nov. 5. For more information, call 631-351-3250.