Pilot Episode: First Online With Fran with Angelina Fiordellisi

“I think that one of our greatest responsibilities as theater providers,” asserts Angelina Fiordellisi, “is to sensitize the tribe . . . deepening our primal connections, our primal needs, our primal impulses and what Shakespeare calls ‘holding the mirror up to society’.” This poignant insight is particularly significant since the tragic course of events this past week in Newtown, Connecticut.

On November 19th, 2012 First Online With Fran featured Artistic Director and founder of the Cherry Lane Theatre, Angelina Fiordellisi. Listen to her reflect on the work at the Cherry Lane Theatre, most notably the 2013 Mentor Project, among others, and how they contribute to cultivating an urban artist colony, honor its ground-breaking heritage, create theater that illuminates contemporary issues and transforms the human spirit.

First Online With Fran was shot and edited by The New York Film Shop, Andrea Bertola, Artistic Director.

SUBSCRIBE NOW: http://www.youtube.com/user/FrancesMcgarry

Opera Night Gala

Opera Night Gala

An Opera Night Gala fundraiser will take place October 28th, Sunday 4:00-6:30 at 270 Main Street, Northport. $20 contribution Entertainment includes Opera, Operetta, Musical Theater, Refreshments, Raffles, etc. Celebrate the Fall Harvest (with some Halloween!)

For tickets, go to  http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/268976

Isabella Eredita Johnson: Founder & Director of Opera Night Long Island

Food for the Soul:  A Night At the Opera!

Where there’s a venue there’s a way to make opera affordable and accessible to local communities.  “Our goal,” says founder and Director Isabella Eredita Johnson of Opera Night Long Island, “is to foster the production and appreciation of opera and chamber music by bringing together Long Island’s finest singers, chamber musicians, and costume designers.  Since its first offering six years ago at Northport’s Café Portofino, Opera Night has attracted audiences of two-hundred or more.  Although it could never replace The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, it does allow people of all ages to experience live performances of opera talent right in their backyard without the hassle and cost of traveling to Manhattan.  Fans range from celebrity moms to teenagers; in fact, Newsday featured Opera Night in a news article that included a picture of a group of teens eagerly engaged in the performance.  This publicity drew throngs of curious spectators to squeeze into the tiny cafe space prompting the local Fire Marshall to issue a code warning! What seemed to be a closed door, a new one opened! 

St. Paul’s Methodist Church of Northport opened their auditorium facility to the fledgling group. To keep expenses and maintain budget line costs venues such as churches, libraries, and schools are affordable; however, the locations are not limited to Northport.  “We’re now in Oyster Bay…at this point where’s there’s a venue with a quality piano, where there’s an audience, there’s opera!” declared Isabella.

And quality is a primary concern to the organizers of Opera Night. As an emerging not-for-profit arts organization they face many challenges; however, a lack of talent is not one of them. “And there is great talent out here,” assures Isabella, “not just in the town of Northportand Huntington, but also the south shore in Nassau Countyto a Westchester Opera group seeking a performance site.”  Opera Night not only affords both performers and audiences to listen to beautiful music, but also gives singers a chance to use the congenial setting to try out new pieces for a Festival, or practice for opera auditions in the city.  Assistant Director, Maddalena, “Maddie,” Harris, shared a local success story, Lauren Haber who “started six years ago at Portofinomay have been a little nervous, but a lot of times she couldn’t come on Friday [evenings] because of her work schedule.” With the persistence and support of her opera peers, Lauren will be traveling this summer to Siena, Italyto perform a fully staged performance of a title role Suor Angelica. “We’ve seen her make this transformation and now has the confidence to pursue her dream.” This is how The Arts can help people find themselves; in fact, Maddie learned hidden talents of her own as a result of this art experience.  People who could not make the twice-a- month shows wanted to be kept in the loop, as it were; so, through Isabella’s urging, Maddie created an opera newsletter detailing the highlights of that particular evening.  “I never really fancied myself a writer…but opera touches my heart, my soul. When we see how opera can touch the people that come to us then it elevates it; it’s just the pure aesthetic of listening, along with the drama, and the personality, [that] make it a complete package for people to come.” Isabella recalled a father/voice major who had to relinquish his love of singing to support his family as a carpet salesman.  His wife saw that his life was not complete.  Until he found Opera Night.  Now he could sing, sell his carpets, raise his family, and have the joy of singing opera!  A happy ending for both wife and family!

Mariah Stein, Summer Intern for Opera Night Long Island can add her personal testimony of how The Arts changed her life. Completing her first year at Boston Universityas public relations major, Mariah was mesmerized by the “awesome talent” she witnessed on Friday nights.  She marveled at the ability of those who could not only hit those high notes, but also do it in front of an audience!  “I like watching the opera singers sing because it’s kind of crazy to be able to do things like that.  It’s insane that they can hit those notes.  That’s what interests me about it.  Just to see people with talent like that; I wish I could do that! I can’t, but it’d be cool if I could.”  Since she doesn’t consider herself to be among those rising stars, she doeswant to contribute to the cause.  “I want to get more experience with how I can use the social media, talk to people about [Opera Night], and meet people through doing things that will [raise awareness].”  There are many young people out there who are interested in opera and don’t know about this project.  Her talent and skills will be put to use to reach out to new audiences – both young and old through Facebook, Twitter and other public relation resources.  Besides doing the mundane work of cataloging and organizing mailing and contact lists, Mariah will also be creating a fund raising event in September.  Opera lessons, travel expenses, conservatory tuitions are all costly.   The Opera Night board feels that it’s important that their cause remains to be focused on singers.  Particularly the up and coming singers who are fresh out of college and/or conservatories.  Some have a need to fly to Europeto audition for a Festival.  A fund raising event will address this need among others.  More details below…

As for the vision of Opera Night Long Island, an opera house is part of the plan, but “rather than get so consumed with the whole marketing business end, “ Isabella feels  that they are meeting their stated goal:  “We’re doing the concerts.  We’re doing the music.  We’re having fun.”  It’s a journey that will eventually coalesce to be a complete work of art with Long Island’s own Opera House.

So, how does Opera Night dispel the clichéd notion of a fat lady wearing a Viking hat waiting to sing? Perhaps, due to her Neapolitan background, Maddie challenged this stereotype:  “We have singers introduce their arias to the audience. And that makes it real to the people. And that there’s a story [to tell]. And it is that story and what artists try to communicate [that brings The Arts] to life.”  And so, to those naysayers who say that the arts are an amenity or that opera is fine for you, but not for me, Opera Night Long Island would say:  “Opera is food for the soul.  It’s sustenance.  And it gives us meaning.  Without music there would be a very drab, one-colored world.  [Opera] is color!”

Heating up the Summer with Live Entertainment! An Interview with Diana Cherryholmes, Executive Director of the Huntington Arts Council

The image of a seven-year old dancing and mimicking the movements of Sol Y Sombra Spanish Dance Company on the grass at the Chapin Rainbow Stage is something Executive Director, Diana Cherryholmes of the Huntington Arts Council (HAC) will always remember:  “That’s what we’re about:  giving people these opportunities to sit and connect [in a way] that indoor venues do not permit.”  For the past 15 years, Diana has committed her talent and expertise to the Huntington Arts Council beginning as its Program Director.  “My heart is always with the Summer Arts Festival and making sure that we bring high quality variety of performances every summer.’  

And this summer’s festival series is hotter than ever!
As one of its goals, the Festival brings performances that people have never heard of and might not consider attending. As a guest of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultured Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts, in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, noori, one of Pakistan’s top pop bands will be performing on the Huntingtonstage and at The Kennedy Center. Making bold choices are guided by consistent audience attendance (last summer’s numbers were over 59,000 individuals), Diana is assured that they’ll come because “they believe in what we do and they know that we always bring quality [performances].”
The scope of the summer series is vast and rich in range:  everything from Cuba Gooding & The Main Ingredient to Bethany & Roofus Roots Quartet, an evening of American roots, Haitian Rhythms and African Desert blues, to La Bottine Souriante, a group who first appeared on the Quebec music scene in 1976 and is a living legend of French North American roots music. To fulfill its goal of bringing performances that are produced locally the Festival includes such favorites as Plaza Theatrical Productions of The Producers, The Huntington Community Band, the Long Island Dance Consortium, Curtis Haywood, Winner of HAC’s 2012 “Got Talent? Long Island,” and Broadhollow Theater Company’s Guys & Dolls.  Partnering with other Huntington arts organizations provides the community with choices that don’t conflict with each other; rather, they coalesce into an abundance of rich arts experiences: “Collaboration is very critical in this day and age. As long as there is a demand, then that brings greater benefit and the pie can grow larger.  We’re not fighting for our quarter slice; we just won’t do that.  The pie just gets bigger.”
Nevertheless, even though arts organizations value fluidity and creativity the challenge remains for them to be solvent. With the spiraling trend of cutting funds to the arts, the Huntington Arts Council  faced similar slashes.  Most recently, Huntington TownSupervisor Frank Petrone cut art funds from the budget only to reinstate them once the community expressed their objections:  “The Town of Huntingtonbelieves in The Arts and The Huntington Arts Council for 49 years, and I’m very thankful that they put it back.”  To offset this world of “diminishing dollars,” Diana implemented strategic planning to keep the business of The Arts running.  For example, Got Talent? Long Island  which promotes the wealth of local talent became a successful fund raising event. Innovative thinking such as this is critical for organizations to succeed in the “new normal.” The Bethpage Federal Credit Union sponsors the Arts in Education Program that allows partnership with seven school districts. The executive director of the New York State Council on the Arts states that “we’re doing more with less; now, we’re doing less with less.”  Grants close to $200,000 each year fund Nassau and Suffolk Counties to artists, individual artists, and organizations.  Viewed as a small business, the Huntington Arts Council provides entertainment for the community as well as economic benefits from “ordering office supplies, to hiring staff, to buying a slice of pizza for lunch as an employee.”
The eye is always kept on the prize:  The Arts instill a love of beauty and culture in our world and makes us capable of doing extraordinary things.  Case in point, an intern was always interested in art particularly comics and is now employed at DC Comics.  Another intern completed her Masters degree at School of Visual Arts.  “High Arts” is another opportunity for young people to exhibit their work.  Newly designated Huntington Arts Council’s Pubic Relations representative Dana Rutson recollected a young woman who as a result of this experience realized the next phase in the pursuit of her career:  “It served as an inspiration,” said Dana.  Despite attending art gallery shows, it became an “aha” moment for her:  she could continue to present her work at future exhibits. Unfortunately, training programs have been cut to accommodate the “less is less” mantra; however, other organizations offer enrichment such as the Art League of Long Island and The Huntington School of Fine Arts. “Whether somebody stays in the arts it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is what they’re getting out of this experience and how it can help them achieve their next step in life to get to wherever they want to go whether it’s a teenager or a 50-year-old woman.”  The Huntington Arts Council prides itself as being a “community of collaborators.”  They have certainly proved the mettle of their worth.  Visit their website.  Lend your support of The Arts and make a difference in your life and the lives of your family and have a hot time in the town tonight.  You’ll be glad you did.
To find out more about the Summer Arts Festival and The Huntington Arts Council visit their website at http://www.huntingtonarts.org/

Women in the Arts

Read FIRST ONLINE WITH FRAN’S interview with Marla Lewis, Long Island’s Grammy-winning songwriter published in the May issue of GEM Magazine!

“I never expected to win a Grammy,” says Wantagh award-winning singer/songer, Marla Lewis.  “I just love to write songs that teach, entertain, and sometimes raise a smile.  I’m really proud of my work.”  Read more…
Gem Magazine Long Island