By Heidi Sutton
When he’s not being a Scrooge during the holidays, Jeffrey Sanzel is working hard to make this world a better place through the creativity of live theater. Sanzel, the Executive Artistic Director at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, was chosen by the Port Jefferson Lions Club to be this year’s honoree of the Vincent Bove Award for his service to the community and for his unfaltering commitment to stop bullying.
Vincent Bove was the mayor of Belle Terre for 25 years, sat on the board of trustees of Mather Hospital until he passed away in 2006 and was on the board of Theatre Three. He was also the driving force behind Jefferson’s Ferry in South Setauket.
Lions Club members Michael DeGutis, Dan Jacoby and Mark Cherches presented the award to Sanzel on the Mainstage before the theater’s Saturday evening performance of “Legally Blonde.” “The Lions love Theatre Three,” said DeGutis, referring to the Port Jefferson institution that turned 70 this year. “We want to stop the bullying that’s going on all across Long Island,” said Jacoby before presenting Sanzel with a check in the amount of $1,800 for Theatre Three’s educational touring program, The Bullying Project.
“I’ve known Jeffrey for his iconic Ebenezer Scrooge, his fabulous Fagan [‘Oliver!’], his poignant ‘From the Fires: Voices of the Holocaust,’ which he wrote and directed. He’s supported the Bullying Project, the Daniel Miller Project; it’s just been a wonderful association all these years,” said Cherches before presenting Sanzel with the award “for his outstanding contributions to the Port Jefferson community … as an actor, director, author, creator and visionary.” Sanzel then received a long standing ovation from the packed house.
“This is an incredibly beautiful award,” said Sanzel. “We are thrilled with the support we’ve gotten [from the Lions Club] over the years. They were the foundation support when we started Class Dismissed: The Bullying Project 11 years ago and then 3 years ago with Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project. These projects would not exist without the support of the Lions Club.”
The evening was also a poignant one for the Theatre Three family as Saturday would’ve also been Ellen Michelmore’s birthday, the theater’s musical director who succumbed to cancer in May. “Ellen is a reminder to be a good person,” said a visibly shaken Sanzel, “… so receiving this today is a reminder to do good things in the world and of course the Lions Club is that reminder every day … so on behalf of Theatre Three and the arts community of Long Island we thank you for what you do.”
For more information on Theatre Three’s Bullying Project, please visit www.theatrethree.com.