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Staller Center for the Arts

Eddie Alfano stars in the upcoming short, Internet Gangsters, on May 24. Photo from Staller Center

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts is sharing a selection of award-winning short films from previous Stony Brook Film Festivals to watch at home. The shorts, which debuted on May 5,  will be available for free online and will be screened twice a week through June. The films are announced on a weekly basis at www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com/shorts.

“We receive numerous requests every week from our patrons and followers asking for more content to be available at home during this crisis. These shorts are a great way to give them a taste of what the Stony Brook Film Festival is, and it shows what kind of films we premiere,” said Staller Center and Stony Brook Film Festival Director Alan Inkles. 

The series includes introductions from Festival co-programmer, Kent Marks, and Q&A footage from previous festivals.

 “We are excited to see all of our patrons soon, but until then, be safe and stay healthy, and we hope you enjoy this selection of shorts from the Stony Brook Film Festival,” said Inkles. 

Upcoming shorts include Internet Gangsters, a film by Sam Friedlander and starring Deer Park native Eddie Alfano, on Sunday, May 24 at noon; Hunter Gatherer, a film by Ashley Grace on Tuesday, May 26 at noon; and Across the Line, a film by Nadav Shlomo Giladi (in Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles) on Tuesday, June 2 at noon.

To gain access to the films, visitors can subscribe online at www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com or by visiting www.stallercenter.com/athome. 

On March 7 Kelli O’Hara and Sutton Foster joined forces for the first time in a double headline show at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts for their 2020 Gala and, though no one knew it at the time, this would be the last show of the Staller Center season. Performing songs from their lengthy repertoires, both Tony-winning performers gave it their all to a sold-out crowd despite mounting precautions and fears surrounding COVID-19. 

“I know this is a time of a little bit of nerves and wonder and mystery and anxiety … we want to give you a night away from that,” O’Hara said during her performance. The show went on, but out of an abundance of caution, the Gala’s reception was canceled. Little did O’Hara know, her comment about it being the last time audiences would be together, quickly became true. (see more photos at www.tbrnewsmedia.com)

Days later, on March 10, at the urging of Interim Stony Brook President, Michael Bernstein, the Staller Center announced that all March events were canceled. Bernstein’s bold and forward-thinking guided Staller Center Director, Alan Inkles, in his decision to cancel the Starry Nights concert, which was scheduled that same evening. 

One week after that, Inkles also took the lead and stated that all events at the Staller Center through May 15 would be canceled. In the following days, other theaters and arts organizations, including the Metropolitan Opera, followed suit. In a time of considerable unease, theatre venues across the world have closed their doors to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We were the first East Coast Arts Center that canceled shows for March last week and second in the country,” Inkles said. Indeed, the Staller Center decided to close before larger venues such as Broadway, The Metropolitan Opera House, and London’s West End. 

Performances by the Russian National Ballet, America’s Got Talent finalist Diavolo, and the 30th-anniversary show of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, among many others, are no longer coming to the Staller Center this season. “We are working with all of our artists and their managers in attempting to reschedule their shows in upcoming seasons and working together to find creative ways to minimize the financial hardships that appear imminent for these performers,” said Inkles. 

Other canceled events include: three remaining MET Opera Live in HD screenings, the Spring Film Series, A Capella Live, Starry Nights, Jack Licitra: U are the Music!, the Emerson String Quartet, Carol Wincenc, and the Doo Wop Project. The Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery is also closed to all in-person visitors through the end of May.

The Box Office is closed to in-person visitors, but patrons are asked to call or email the box office at 631-632-ARTS[2787] or [email protected] with questions or concerns. 

While Staller is offering credit or refunds for all ticketholders, generous sponsors, donors, and partners are offering their help, and many patrons have kindly donated their tickets back. 

“We are certainly seeing some great humanity in the art world as everyone scrambles to help each other,” Inkles said. 

Stay tuned for announcements on the Staller Center’s 2021-22 Season at www.stallercenter.com and visit www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com for information on this July’s 25th Annual Stony Brook Film Festival.

All photos by Millie Elangbam/Staller Center

By McKenzi Murphy

Sitting cross-legged on the floor of a vibrantly lit playroom, a little boy gleefully fiddled with a box of Mr. Potato Head toys. Flanking him on both sides, delighted at his antics, members from the Los Angeles-based contemporary dance company BODYTRAFFIC, Haley Heckethorn and Tiare Keeno, joined the little boy in his creations. 

On the morning of their performance at Staller Center for the Arts on Feb. 8, Heckethorn and Keeno, along with the rest of the company, headed over to the new Stony Brook Children’s Hospital to spend time with a few of its patients. It was there, within newly painted and decorated walls lined with oceanic-themed paintings and paper mache art, that they met with and performed for about a dozen of the 40 patients.

“It’s always very rewarding to be able to give back to the community and spread the joy of dance with everyone, but especially with those who are really in need of a pick-me-up,” Jamal White, a dancer and BODYTRAFFIC’s social media manager, said. The last little girl he visited became his favorite because of her delightful laughter. While two of his colleagues went through some of their steps, she sat giggling and clapping along. “It was the cherry on top,” he said.

While the younger children seemed more interested in playing with the dancers and showing off their toys, some of the older children had an opportunity to ask the dancers questions about their work and the company, familiar territory for many of the performers. Throughout their tours, BODYTRAFFIC often goes on outreach missions. Usually, they visit schools and teach students a few of their modern moves, or go into retirement homes and work with elderly residents. However, for some of them, going into a children’s hospital proved to be a new experience. 

“It’s one of my favorite experiences so far,” Heckethorn, who has been with the company for two and a half seasons, said. “It was really lovely and especially doing that on a show day, it really inspires and brings a lot of energy. We travel so often and it is really taxing, so [events] like going to a children’s hospital reminds us of why we dance and why we love it so much.”

Splitting off into smaller groups, the dancers were able to visit a few patients in their rooms where they showed off a modified version of a dance they would later perform in front of hundreds at the sold-out show at the Staller Center. A few children even joined them in learning some steps after some encouragement.

“We visited this one five-year-old,” Rachel Secrest, a dancer new to BODYTRAFFIC’s season, said. “His name was Chris and he recently had surgery and was connected to a machine which was helping him. At first, we came in and he just laughed at us as we danced. We showed him some moves, and he was giggling and nervous, but his mom was with him and got him up and out of the bed. He still has it inside of him to want to dance.”

An emotional but so very rewarding experience, getting to spend time with the children became a bright spot in an otherwise high-stress day. 

“It’s tough seeing these kids who are quite sick and hooked up to different machines,” Secrest continued. “But as much as I could I was trying to really look at their faces and do what I could to make them forget their troubles for a minute. I was seeing a kid I wanted to connect with and share a dance with.”

General operating support was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Outreach program was coordinated by the Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital and BODYTRAFFIC. 

Paul Newland, Outreach director at the Staller Center for the Arts said, “It was a wonderful collaboration, and we look forward to working with the Children’s Hospital again soon.”

Photos courtesy of Staller Center for the Arts

 

The German film ‘Sweethearts’ starring Karoline Herfurth and Hannah Herzsprung makes its U.S. premiere at the festival on July 20. Photo from Staller Center

The Staller Center turns into a movie lover’s mecca when new independent films from nearly 20 countries screen at the Stony Brook Film Festival on evenings and weekends from Thursday, July 18 to Saturday, July 27. The popular festival, now in its 24th year, brings a highly selective roster of diverse films, making it a favorite of moviegoers and filmmakers alike.

Produced by the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University, the festival pairs memorable short films with an array of features you won’t see anywhere else. This year’s event, presented by Island Federal, brings in filmmakers, cast and crew who field questions after the screenings, adding a unique dimension to the experience.

The idea of family forms the foundation for many of the features and shorts at the festival this year. Whether they are by birth or by choice, flexible or dysfunctional, generational or newly formed, you will see families of all stripes in films that take place in nearly 20 countries, from Australia to Austria, India to Israel and Spain to South Africa.

The families in this year’s films are found in Cold War era East Germany and the political upheaval of 1980s Jerusalem. They brave the isolation of North Dakotan farmlands, experience drug-fueled head trips in the California desert and solve idiosyncratic murders on a small Turkish island. They live in Paris’ Chinatown as well as remote Himalayan villages; they travel the dusty roads of Senegal and the long highway from the south of England to the Isle of Skye; and they revel in the lush rain forest of Queensland and the wilds of Appalachia.

PREMIERES

There are many world, U.S., East Coast and New York premieres in this year’s festival including the opening film, Balloon, a German film based on the true story of two families who escaped East Germany on their homemade hot air balloon, which is making its New York premiere on July 18.

The festival closes with another New York premiere of the French film Lola & Her Brothers, a charming comedy about three adult siblings who are still trying to look after one other after losing their parents.

Several American indie films will have their world premiere at the festival, and many foreign films, including Yao, Sweethearts, Miamor perdido, Lady Winsley and Made in China will have their U.S. premieres. 

American features include Them That Follow, a tense drama featuring Academy Award winner Olivia Colman; the raucous comedy Babysplitters, featuring Long Island native Eddie Alfano; and Guest Artist, a stunning and humorous film written by and starring Jeff Daniels and directed by Timothy Busfield. 

“The quality and diversity in our dramas, comedies, and documentaries are extremely high and I expect our audience to be thoroughly entertained this summer,” said Alan Inkles, Stony Brook Film Festival founder and director. 

For a complete film schedule and descriptions of all of the films, visit www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com.

TICKET INFORMATION

All screenings are held at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook in the 1,000-seat Main Stage theater. Film passes are on sale for $90, which includes admission to all 20 features and 16 shorts over 10 days. 

Passholder perks include VIP gifts, discounts to over a dozen area restaurants throughout the summer, guaranteed admission 15 minutes before each film, and the opportunity to purchase tickets for the Closing Night Awards reception. 

For $250 you can purchase a Gold Pass and receive all the Regular Pass perks plus reserved seating with filmmakers and guests, as well as entry to the exclusive Opening Night party and the Closing Night Awards reception. 

Single tickets for individual films are also available for $12 adults, $10 seniors, $5 students. For more information or to order, call the Staller Center Box Office at 631-632-2787.

Times Beacon Record News Media hosted a double-feature screening of “One Life to Give” and its sequel, “Traitor: A Culper Spy Story,” at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts on Sunday, June 23. The screenings were followed by a Q&A with Executive Producer Leah Dunaief, Director Benji Dunaief, featured actors Dave Morrissey Jr. and Jonathan Rabeno and production designer Connor O’Neill. The free event, TBR’s gift to the community, attracted hundreds of history buffs to the Main Stage Theater to learn about Setauket’s Culper spies and their critical role in the Revolutionary War.

Photos by Rita J. Egan and David Ackerman

Dave Morrissey Jr. returns as Benjamin Tallmadge in ‘Traitor.’

Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook will present Times Beacon Record News Media’s latest film, “Traitor,” on Sunday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. The special screening is preceded by the award-winning “One Life to Give” at 6 p.m. Admission is free, TBR’s gift to the community. Call 631-751-7744 for more information.

Belle (Emma Watson) comes to realize that underneath the hideous exterior of the Beast (Dan Stevens) there is the kind heart of a Prince in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic directed by Bill Condon. © 2016 Disney Enterprises inc. All Rights Reserved.

Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook will host a concert by the Stony Brook Wind Ensemble on the Main Stage on Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Conducted by Bruce Engel, the program will include Samuel Barber’s “Overture to the School for Scandal,” Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony (1st movement),” “Bolero by Maurice Ravel, “An American in Paris” by George Gershwin, “Beauty and the Beast” by Allan Menken and “Pines of the Appian Way” by Ottorino Respighi/

Tickets are $10 adults, $5 students and seniors. For more information, call 631-632-2787 or visit www.stallercenter.com.

Viviane Kim, winner of the 2018 Stony Brook Young Artists Program Concerto Competition, will be this year’s special guest artist. Photo by Erica Murase

By Melissa Arnold

Classical music has a long-held reputation for being upscale — there’s something about it that feels refined, polished and graceful. The Department of Music at Stony Brook University is passionate about demystifying the genre, making the works of Mozart, Brahms and others enjoyable for everyone.

Each year, the Stony Brook University Orchestra invites the community to join them for their Family Orchestra Concert, an hour-long performance meant for all ages, including young children. This year’s concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5 at the Staller Center for the Arts’ Main Stage.

Viviane Kim, winner of the 2018 Stony Brook Young Artists Program Concerto Competition, will be this year’s special guest artist. Photo by Erica Murase

“[This event] used to be called the children’s concert, but we didn’t want to give the impression that it’s just for children — the whole family comes along, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy,” said conductor Susan Deaver, who’s led the orchestra since 2000.

The ensemble is comprised of over 70 Stony Brook students, both undergraduate and graduate, as well as a handful of area high schoolers. Many of the students aren’t music majors and come from a variety of disciplines. In fact, the majority are studying biomedical engineering.

“So many of these students have been in music all their lives and don’t want to let it go,” Deaver said. “We have a lot of great players, and it’s a real blend of disciplines, the common denominator being a love of playing orchestral music.”

 This year’s concert theme will highlight dance in orchestral music, with each piece either having “dance” in its title or creating a sense of dance and movement. The repertoire features recognizable pieces including selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Bach’s Minuet in G, along with some that might be unfamiliar, like Strauss’ Thunder and Lightning Polka. 

The program will also feature works by Brahms, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Borodin. Dancers under the direction of SBU’s faculty member Amy Yoop Sullivan will collaboarte with the orchestra.

A highlight of each year’s concert is a solo performance from a grade school musician in Stony Brook’s Young Artist program. Open to grades 6 through 12, the program allows young musicians to enhance their musicianship and ensemble performance skills. Students are encouraged to enter an annual concerto contest, where a panel of impartial judges chooses a student to play at the concert.

This year’s contest winner, 12-year-old pianist Viviane Kim, will play Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D Major.

“I wasn’t really nervous because I’d practiced a lot. I played the song for my family, my friends, and anyone else who came to our house,” said Viviane, a seventh-grader at Port Jefferson Middle School. “It also helped that only three people were listening,” she joked.

Viviane, who also plays the flute, comes from a musical family — her father, Alan Kim, plays piano as well, and her grandmother is a violinist. “I played piano all the time when Viviane was a baby, and she took a natural interest in it. She started playing around the same time she started reading,” her father said. 

Michael Hershkowitz, executive director of Community Music Programs for the university, sees the annual concert as a chance to expose the audience to something new and wonderful.

“It’s important for classical musicians to be as accessible as possible and to break down barriers for people wanting to try it. A lot of people have an impression that classical music is just old and stuffy,” Hershkowitz said. “I think that dance is one of my favorite themes we’ve done — so much of music is tied to motion and bringing people together. And once you see a classical concert, you want to do it more.”

All seats for the Family Orchestra Concert are $5. For tickets and information, call 631-632-2787 or visit www.stallercenter.com.

For more information about the University Orchestra, contact the Stony Brook Department of Music at 631-632-7330 or visit www.stonybrook.edu/music.

Renee Fleming

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

As befits a woman born on St. Valentine’s Day, Renée Fleming grew up to become the sweetheart of the opera world. Possessing a powerful yet silky voice, great beauty and impressive acting skills, Fleming has moved from a single dimension to any number of new musical venues, with a major role in Broadway’s “Carousel,” singing the national anthem at the 2014 Super Bowl, and innumerable appearances on television, in movies and in concerts.

The opera diva will be the star attraction at Stony Brook University’s Gala, the major fundraiser at the Staller Center March 2. I’ve long known about her spectacular professional career but thought I would like to know more about the person that she is, so I had a brief, 10-minute chat with her on the phone at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain. We were time-limited to protect her voice, which is as immediately recognizable when she speaks as when she fills the Metropolitan Opera House with glorious music.

Q: You are coming to Stony Brook to perform. Do you have some special connection with SUNY?

A: Yes, I went to SUNY Potsdam, and so did my sister and brother. My two nephews are at SUNY, so we are a fan club.

Q: You undoubtedly travel a lot. What do you do to keep yourself healthy and protect your voice during plane trips?

A: I try to stay hydrated, get enough rest. I live moderately and believe in mind over matter. And I do the same as others, trying to avoid those who are coughing on the plane.

Q: I believe you grew up in a musical family, your parents both being high school music teachers. Did you always want to sing?

A: It was the furthest thing from my mind! I loved horses, thought I might be a vet, or maybe the first lady president — which has yet to happen. I had ambition, was a very good student. I always wrote music growing up. But I never heard of a woman composer so that wasn’t an option. I majored in music ed, my parents thought that was a good idea, went on to the Eastman School and Julliard. Then I fell in love with jazz.

Q: Do you get nervous when you are to
perform?

A: I was not a gregarious person, that wasn’t my personality. I was shy. So that was one of the skills I had to learn.

Q: Do you have a favorite role or composer?

A: I’m not so much into favorites. Verdi, Strauss …

Q: Do you speak other languages?

A: Yes, I speak French, German, some Italian.

Q: Do you need to know those languages to sing in them?

A: No, there have been great singers who have not known the language they were singing in. You do not need to know the language but it is helpful.

Q: You have two daughters. How did you manage the work/life balance?

A: It’s hard for a working mother. You never feel you are doing anything well. You have to manage everything. It’s challenging. Fortunately I have a tremendous amount of energy and a great work ethic.

Q: Did you get that from your parents?

A: (Pauses.) Yes, probably.

Q: Do you ever have nightmares that you had forgotten your lines?

A: Yes, those kinds of nightmares like
everyone else.

Q: Did that ever happen?

A: No.

Q: Are your dreams set to music?

A: Hmm, I don’t really know. 

Q: What else about music?

A: I’m working with the National Institutes of Health. When children are exposed to music early, their oral comprehension is increased. Studies have shown that.

A major passion of the opera superstar is the intersection of music, health and neuroscience. She is artistic adviser at the Kennedy Center and has launched a collaboration with NIH — the first of its kind between a performing arts center and the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. She gives presentations on her concert tours with scientists, music therapists and medical professionals. She recently co-authored an article with Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, for the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Be sure to come out for the fundraising Stony Brook University Gala Saturday night, March 2, at the Staller Center. You will not only hear fabulous music. You will see one of the 21st century’s most remarkable
women.

Susan Lucci

A night of comedy

“Celebrity Autobiography” heads to Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts Recital Hall on Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. The evening will feature Emmy winner Susan Lucci (“All My Children”), Mario Cantone (“Sex and the City”), Jackie Hoffman (Emmy nominee for “Feud”) and show creators Emmy nominee Eugene Pack and Drama Desk winner Dayle Reyfel who will read from highly selective and hilarious celebrity memoirs.

Mario Cantone

The passages in “Celebrity Autobiography” run the gamut from the “poetry of Suzanne Somers” to the shocking “romance tips” from Tommy Lee. Audiences will hear how Vanna flips her panels, what Stallone stores in his freezer and tips from the Kardashians. Justin Bieber, Hasselhoff, Celine, Zayn, Barbra, Tiger, Arnold, Britney, Dolly, Cher, Oprah, Beyonce, as well as the famous love triangle of Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher are included, all in their own words. 

“Celebrity Autobiography” won the 2009 Drama Desk Award in the category of Unique Theatrical Experience. The off-Broadway show ran for 10 years and toured extensively to Los Angeles, Edinburgh, London’s West End and Australia’s Sydney Opera House. Tickets are $48 with discounts for children, students and seniors. To order, visit www.stallercenter.com or call 631-632-ARTS (2787).