Tag Archive | "Bay Street Theatre"

“With My Own Eyes” Explores Arab Culture with Sag Harbor Resident Ken Dorph

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75 Kerkennah Ayoub donkey (2)

Sag Harbor resident Ken Dorph in Tunisia in 1976. 

By Tessa Raebeck

Ken Dorph has lived with a polygamous family in Morocco, was kidnapped in Mexico City and picked olives with Palestinians next to an Israeli settlement. In his career in international banking, Mr. Dorph, a longtime Sag Harbor resident, has traveled the world, meeting people and learning about their respective cultures, histories and prejudices. In all his travels over a 40-year career, Mr. Dorph says he has never encountered a people so misunderstood by Americans as Arabs.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Dorph talked about the history, misconceptions and politics of the Arab world. The talk was the first of a new series, “With My Own Eyes,” sponsored by Bay Street Theatre and the John Jermain Memorial Library. with the intent of bringing local residents together to learn from the experts in their midst.

“We really can bridge our differences with enough information,” said Catherine Creedon, the library’s executive director, who on Friday called Mr. Dorph’s talk “the realization of a longtime dream for me.”

“History is never fully objective,” Mr. Dorph began, citing both his own subjectivity and the manner in which schoolchildren are taught. “History is always told from the perspective of which facts are chosen, how you speak it.”

The presentation was dedicated to two of his friends, Rob Deraney, who died in the World Trade Center’s north tower on September 11, 2001, and Tracy Hushin, who was killed by a car bomb in Amman, Jordan, in 2005.

“September 11 profoundly affected me,” Mr. Dorph said, “Not just the loss of a friend, but this sense of misunderstanding between the Arabs and the Americans. I decided I wanted to come back to the Arab world; I had to be an ambassador. I had to show the Americans that not all Arabs are evil and I had to show the Arabs that not all Americans hate them.”

Mr. Dorph emphasized that, contrary to its representation in popular culture, the Muslim world is not monolithic. From democratic, secular Turkey to the fundamentalist absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the Arab world is spread across a myriad of dialects, nationalities and continents. Some 90 percent of Arabs are Muslims, but only about 20 percent of Muslims are Arabs. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, the vast majority live in Asia—India has more Muslims than the entire Arab world.

The center of civilization for centuries, the Arab world once boasted most of the world’s largest cities and flourished with art, architecture, music, philosophy and all forms of culture.

“Before the discovery of America, Middle Eastern dominance seemed inevitable,” Mr. Dorph said. “Most of the great urban centers of the world until the 20th century were in the Middle East, Europe was a backwater…. this whole idea of Europe ruling the world is a relatively new concept.”

In addition to the misguided view of the region as uncultured, primitive. and monolithic, Mr. Dorph said there is grave misunderstanding of women’s position in Islam.

“For its time,” he said, “Islam was a feminist religion, remarkably feminist.”

The first wife of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, was a businesswoman who didn’t wear a veil. The Muslim holy book, the Quran, banned female infanticide, gave women inheritance rights and right of witness and limited polygamy, divorce and dowries, all radical policies for the 7th century.

“Throughout the Arab world, women are as literate—in some cases more literate—than Arab men, actually in many cases now,” he said.

“I have worked all over the world and I have found that in Egypt, Turkey, in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Morocco, there are more women in authority—in banks at least—than there are in the United States—and way more than on Wall Street. I worked on Wall Street and Wall Street was like Saudi Arabia…[that] may have changed now, but [was] certainly true in the ’80s—worse than Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Mr. Dorph said in Korea and Japan, the opportunities for women are “way worse than in the Arab world,” yet people rarely comment on the treatment of women when discussing those countries.

When thinking of Muslim women, many Westerners conjure up images of  women in burqas, with nothing but their eyes showing through black cloaks. In reality, most Muslim women who wear veils choose to don a hijab, or simple headscarf.

In an informal survey of some 50 Muslim women, Mr. Dorph asked why they choose to wear the hijab. He received an “amazing series of responses,” he said, “but almost all of them have to, number one, deal with identity. The Muslim world knows that America is on their case.”

In response to prejudice against their religion because of the perception that it oppresses women, many Muslim women have decided to wear the veil in a proud statement of their Islamic identity.

Mr. Dorph recalled a Syrian woman who said to him, “The Lebanese girls with their makeup, with their hair, nobody takes them seriously. But when I wear my hijab with no makeup, people take me seriously.”

Mr. Dorph also spoke in-depth of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, noting, “Israel’s creation was devastating to the Arab world in many ways.”

When the newly formed United Nations partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab states in 1948, the Arab world was essentially divided in half. The centuries-old trade route from the cultural center of Cairo to the intellectual capital of the Arab world, Damascus, was eradicated.

“All these trade routes that had existed for thousands of years were gone because you had this hostile area in between,” Mr. Dorph said.

“I think it’s part of our culture that we see the world through the Israeli lens,” he said, adding that a third of American foreign aid goes to Israel and the United States is the only country in which over half the population views Israel favorably.

“Life in the occupied West Bank is a series of obstacles,” he said. There are areas Palestinians are allowed to build, areas they can go with permission, areas where they are not allowed and “checkpoints everywhere.”

“It’s a disturbing place,” said Mr. Dorph, adding that the West Bank is a “different place” than the rest of Israel, which is considerably more progressive and secular.

When he first saw the wall in the West Bank, Mr. Dorph thought it was a prison. When his cab driver told him otherwise, “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I cried. I just thought this is wrong, this is not the way to build a future.”

“The extremists are killing us, they’re the ones. It’s not the Israelis, it’s not the Egyptians, it’s the nutcases that are the problem,” he said.

A film of Mr. Dorph’s presentation can be found at the library’s temporary space at 34 West Water Street in Sag Harbor. 

Ken Dorph

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kendorph for sag harbor express

 

Sag Harbor’s Ken Dorph will discuss his experiences in the Arab world as both a business consultant and interested observer at the Bay Street Theatre’s inaugural “With My Eyes” series, sponsored with the John Jermain Memorial Library, on Thursday, April 10, at 7 p.m.

By Stephen J. Kotz

You will be speaking at the Bay Street Theatre tonight on your experiences in the Arab world. Can you give us an overview about what your talk will cover?

The title of my talk is “An Evening with my Friends, the Arabs,” and that sort of sums it up, with a heavy emphasis on friends. I have spent a good chunk of my life in the Arab world, and I have a passion for it. I think the Arab world is the most misunderstood part of the world on the part of Americans and I feel it is my responsibility to do something about it.

We know you have a background in banking and are now a consultant. Can you tell us a bit about your career and how it led to your work in the Middle East?

I was actually pre-med and I switched to anthropology—a real useful major—and I went on a junior year abroad to Morocco and later was in the Peace Corps in Tunisia. I went to graduate school at Ann Arbor, which is a great place for Arabic, and went on a Fulbright to Damascus while at Michigan…. I decided that I did not want to work for the U.S. government. I started to look around to see who was doing interesting stuff and it was business. I worked for Citibank, Smith Barney and the World Bank and then became a consultant.

I happened to be in China on September 11. I was planning on coming home on September 12…. I was so hoping somehow by some miracle the Americans would respond intelligently, so, of course, we invaded Iraq. I just decided as I was sitting in China, I wanted to come back to the Arab world.

What kind of work have you been doing lately?

I have been working with the World Bank to help the Tunisian government restructure their banks after the revolution. I’ve been working with USA ID [The United States Agency for International Development] helping the Libyans extend political power and services to local governments, and that has been extremely interesting because you have to go out in the countryside. I’ve also been working in Morocco with the World Bank to encourage investment, Saudi Arabia to get small business financing, and to set up a [agricultural] bank in Egypt.

You obviously don’t think Americans have good reason to be suspicious of the Arab world. Why is that?

I don’t see things the way I see things portrayed by the American media. It’s not my experience. I’m on their side. I work with them, I’m trying to help I’m not the enemy.

Fundamentalism is a problem, but that’s everywhere—Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian. There is nothing inherent about Muslims that is any worse than Christians. I’m none of the above, I was raised a Universalist. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but I do think there is a lot of unfairness.

Yet, there does seem to be plenty of Arab animosity directed at the west. Is that a misconception?

The Muslim world has grown more Muslim because of what the rest of the world has done to it. In the 1960s, most of the Arab leaders were secular…. Do you know who Mossaddegh was? He was the democratically elected president of Iran who was overthrown because he wanted to nationalize the oil fields. The shah was put in power and he was extremely ruthless. The Iranian revolution took on a fundamentalist flavor. Then Saudi Arabia had to crack down and become more fundamentalist. People are not any more crazy in Yemen than they are in California.

What I see in the Arab world are normal people trying to live normal lives and do their best, loving their children and going to work. I think it is important to try to have a bigger heart. I tend to be an optimist. It is my nature to believe that humans are rationale. I think it is in our interest to work together.

Dog Walks and Cocktails: Second Annual Steinbeck Festival at the Bay Street Theatre

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Artists recreate the "Grapes of Wrath" cover on their way to the Steinbeck Festival in Salinas, California last year. Image courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

Artists recreate the “Grapes of Wrath” cover on their way to the Steinbeck Festival in Salinas, California last year. Photo courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

By Tessa Raebeck

In 1960, John Steinbeck and his French poodle Charley left their home in Sag Harbor to drive across America, meeting with strangers and staying at campgrounds in an effort to reconnect with the country the 58-year-old Steinbeck had been writing about for decades.

As part of the 2nd Annual Steinbeck Festival at Bay Street Theatre May 1 to 4, the “Travels with Charley” Dog Walk will honor Mr. Steinbeck’s account of the journey, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America,” which became a bestseller.

Author John Steinbeck.

Author John Steinbeck.

In conjunction with the annual festival hosted by the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, the author’s birthplace, Bay Street is hosting eight film screenings and other celebratory events across four days. The festival begins Thursday, May 1 with a screening of “Tortilla Flat,” the 1942 film adaptation of Mr. Steinbeck’s 1935 novel and first commercial success. The 1992 version of “Of Mice and Men” with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise and “Grapes of Wrath” starring Henry Fonda will screen on Saturday, May 3.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, “Grapes of Wrath” will be further honored at a cocktail reception at a private waterfront estate sponsored in part by Wölffer Estate Vineyard Saturday evening. While sipping on the namesake vintage of Wölffer winemaker Roman Roth, “The Grapes of Roth,” guests can view Mr. Steinbeck’s home and writing studio by boat from Upper Sag Harbor Cove.

At the “Travels with Charley” Dog Walk Sunday morning, dogs and their owners will walk a loop from Bay Street to Haven’s Beach and back, finishing the festival with a “Bones and Bagels” reception at the theatre.

For $150, the VIP Pass for the festival includes the cocktail reception, film festival and dog walk. The dog walk alone is $35, film festival passes are $30 and individual film tickets are $10 each. For tickets and information, call 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Nancy Atlas, Caroline Doctorow & Inda Eaton are Bringing the West to Bay Street in “Way Out East”

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Inda Eaton, Caroline Doctorow and Nancy Atlas will perform at Bay Street Theatre Saturday.

Inda Eaton, Caroline Doctorow and Nancy Atlas will perform at Bay Street Theatre Saturday. Photo by Grover Gatewood.

By Tessa Raebeck

Like many great ideas, it started at the kitchen table.

Building upon years of dinner conversations, East End singer songwriters Nancy Atlas, Caroline Doctorow and Inda Eaton will come together Saturday at “Way Out East…A Journey in Song,” the second show devoted to the combination of their talents.

After selling out the inaugural “Way Out East” concert at East Hampton’s Guild Hall in October 2012, the trio is reuniting, this time at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre.

“There’s a thing about harmony singing,” said Ms. Doctorow, “and it’s kind of hard to beat three women singing together, because it’s a very appealing sound and situation and it sort of creates one new voice out of the three voices.”

“It seemed like a natural idea to take to the stage for sure, as we all have a certain vocal pocket and timbre that we sing in,” agreed Ms. Atlas. “This definitely grew from pure roots.”

The artists first crossed paths at a songwriter series many years ago, but had never had the chance to get to know each other. That first get-together quickly evolved into regular dinner dates; they have now been meeting at least once a month for the past four years. They’re not unanimous on whose idea or house it originally was, but that doesn’t matter.

“Before we knew it, guitars came out and we were singing at the end of the meals,” said Ms. Atlas, who lives in Montauk and performs with her band, The Nancy Atlas Project.

“Those dinners really feed our souls,” said Ms. Doctorow, who leads Caroline Doctorow and the Steamrollers, “because we talk about everything and it makes you feel—it ’s very comforting to know that other people have felt the same as you.”

“There’s not been one time that I didn’t leave one of these gatherings feeling a bit more inspired,” said Inda Eaton, who lives in Amagansett and lends “a tad bit of maverick energy” to the group with her grassroots band and Western roots.

Between them, the three acts have opened for Blues Traveler, Hootie and the Blowfish, The Band, Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Buffett and Crosby, Stills and Nash, just to name a few. Ms. Atlas, Ms. Doctorow and Ms. Eaton, who will be joined Saturday by a few members from each woman’s band, have combined their rock, folk and indie music into a western, distinctly American sound.

With her two friends in tow, Ms. Eaton will return to her home state of Wyoming for a short tour at the end of April.

“This is our hometown show before we go out West,” said Ms. Doctorow, a native New Yorker who lives in Bridgehampton. The set list on Saturday is comprised of “the exact songs we will be playing out on the prairies,” Ms. Atlas added.

Since moving their collaboration from the dinner table to the stage two years ago, the artists have been working together when they can, singing backup at each other’s shows, playing on one another’s records and using each other for inspiration.

“What really helps is the camaraderie,” Ms. Doctorow said. “If one of us is having a problem—the music business is a very tough business—what’s so great is to lean on the experience of the others and the wisdom and the advice.”

“Both Inda and Caroline have given me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten in this business and I would hope they could say the same about me. We are truly lucky to have found each other,” said Ms. Atlas.

That mutual understanding enables the singer-songwriters to turn their stylistic differences into a harmonious collaboration of their songs for “a lovely, laid back experience,” according to Ms. Atlas.

“Because of the camaraderie, we’re able to bridge our own music styles,” Ms. Eaton said. “Music is its own camaraderie, but there’s an additional camaraderie that goes on that I think comes from the uniqueness of our careers, there’s not too many other women singer-songwriters.”

“To spend time with other women singer-songwriters is very empowering,” she added. “We deal with a lot of the same issues…it’s great to run things past each other and get some of that professional support.”

Each woman also brings distinct skills to the business side of the table. Ms. Eaton is technically savvy—a “multimedia wizard” according to Ms. Doctorow—and can direct the effects and equipment side of a show. Ms. Atlas deals with financial logistics and the people that come with them, negotiating money and ticket prices.

“She’s really a good person to have to go to bat for us if something’s not right with a venue, etc.” said Ms. Doctorow. “She’s very strong in that way.”

Ms. Doctorow covers the “nuts and bolts” of an event, she said, booking the radio, writing the show description and making sure everything is in order to move forward.

“Caroline writes all the time,” said Ms. Eaton. “She’s very prolific and so she’ll put something together and I’ll think, ‘Wow, I didn’t think about that.’ Or Nancy will come up with this real powerhouse song and you walk away thinking, ‘Oh, I didn’t think about that, how inspiring was that?’”

Ms. Doctorow wrote a song for Ms. Atlas, aptly called “Song for Nancy” in 2011 and “My Sunday House,” a song she wrote for Ms. Eaton, is on her latest record.

“What it’s about,” she explained, “is how music becomes your religion when you’re on the road. You live and breathe it and it becomes a vehicle for revival of your spirit.”

“Inda and Caroline understand me in a way that few others do,” Ms. Atlas said, later adding, “We are able to discuss things at a very real and deep level with all the fat cut off. I truly cherish my monthly dinners.”

“You get invited to someone’s kitchen table and that’s where the music sounds the best,” said Ms. Eaton. “That’s the best way to hear music and harmony, just as it comes out of the kitchen table. That’s my hope for the show, is that people get a sense of the authentic essence of a song.”

 “Way Out East…A Journey in Song” is Saturday, April 5, at 8 p.m. at the Bay Street Theatre, 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For tickets and more information, call the box office at 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Bay Street’s First Annual New Works Festival Highlights Emerging Playwrights

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By Tessa Raebeck

From farmers contending with fracking interests in rural Pennsylvania to unrequited love for a high school flame built up to unrealistic—and potentially devastating—expectations, Bay Street Theatre is exploring the various manifestations of struggle this spring.

The Sag Harbor theater will open the 2014 season with its first annual New Works Festival April 25 to 27, highlighting the work of three of New York’s emerging playwrights.

The festival will include readings of the newest work by P. Seth Bauer, Jess Brickman and Molly Smith Metzler, as well as talkbacks following each reading, in which the audience can interact directly with the artists. An “Artist Interact” on Saturday will offer further dialogue with the authors through a panel discussion led by award-winning writer John Weidman.

The festival is the first event led by Bay Street’s new artistic director Scott Schwartz, who has voiced his dedication to giving a stage to promising playwrights. Bauer, Brickman and Metzler, are “very exciting writers,” Mr. Schwartz, who is currently out of the country, said in February.

Playwright Molly Smith Metzler. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Playwright Molly Smith Metzler. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

In discussing his vision for his inaugural season at Bay Street, Mr. Schwartz and the team at Bay Street have a “deep commitment to new work and developing new plays and musicals at the theater.”

Bay Street Executive Director Tracy Mitchell reiterated that sentiment on Monday.

“When Scott came to us as our new artistic director, one of the first things we talked about was really wanting to go back to trying to include — well, first of all,  — extending our season into the shoulder seasons by helping artists with their new work. It’s something that we wanted to do for a long time and with his help, we’ve been able to implement it,” Ms. Mitchell said.

The festival is being produced in association with SPACE on Ryder Farm, a non-profit artist residency program on the grounds of Ryder Farm in Brewster, New York, “another organization that helps people develop new work,” according to Ms. Mitchell. Led by founding executive director Emily Ryder Simoness, SPACE provides writers and theater companies with residencies.

Mr. Schwartz and Ms. Simoness together decided on the plays to be featured in the festival and cast them using Bay Street’s equity actors.

“Fight Call” by Jess Brickman, a graduate of the Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program, will be read on Friday, April 25 at 8 p.m. The backstage comedy about the theater world explores the boundaries of trust between an up-and-coming young actor and a seasoned veteran after one threatens to commit an act of violence on stage during their performance.

Playwright Jess Brickman. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Playwright Jess Brickman. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

In addition to plays, Ms. Brickman has written essays, articles, screenplays and for television and web series. After premiering at Lincoln Center, her films, “The Five Stages of Grief” and “I Am Not a Moose” were selected at the Hamptons Film Festival and several other festivals for the 2013 circuit.

On April 26, the second day of the festival will begin with the panel discussion at 4 p.m., followed by a cocktail reception. Led by John Weidman, the panel will allow audience members to ask questions of the playwrights, Mr. Weidman and Mr. Schwartz.

Mr. Weidman won a Tony Award for Best Musical Revival for “Assassins,” and has written the books for a variety of musicals, many with scores by Stephen Sondheim.

“This is someone who obviously reached the pinnacle in our world as a playwright,” Ms. Mitchell said.

Following the discussion will be a reading at 8 p.m. of “The Orchard Play” by P. Seth Bauer of Philadelphia.

“It’s a contemporary re-imagining of Chekhov’s ‘Cherry Orchard’,” Mr. Bauer said Tuesday. Old family farms near Mr. Bauer’s home in Pennsylvania, “facing incredible hardships financially,” were offered “enormous sums of money” by oil companies interested in drilling for natural gas through “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing.

“The paradox was that these farmers, they sold their mineral rights, they ended up decimating their land and drinking water — getting money but perpetuating their own demise,” he said.

“There seemed to be an interesting if painful parallel to be drawn here, so I chose the Chekhov play as my inspiration…is it inevitable, I’m not sure, and it’s not for me to say. I just wanted to humanize the problem and write about people who had a deep and complex love for their home, their legacy and their land,” he added.

Playwright P. Seth Bauer. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Playwright P. Seth Bauer. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

The festival ends Sunday at 2 p.m. with a reading of “The May Queen” by Molly Smith Metzler, which will premiere at the Chautauqua Theatre Company in July. The comedy centers on the obsessive love of Mike Petracca for his high school flame, former May Queen Jennifer Nash, and the realities of their reunion versus his high expectations, revealing the strange roles people play — often unknowingly — in each other’s lives.

As the audience learns the backdrop of the creative process through the interactive dialogues, how a play develops from reading to workshop to — ideally — Broadway, the playwrights will be able to bounce their work off the audience.

“The audience is the finishing part of the play,” said Mr. Bauer. “It doesn’t exist without the audience. I can have an idea in my head, but the real test is — does an audience connect with that idea or no.”

The New Works Festival is April 25 to 27 at Bay Street Theatre, 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Student Musicians in Classical Concert for Katy’s Courage

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Christopher Ritter, Benjamin Hoertnagl-Pereira, Georgia Bennett and Kivlan King, who will perform as Classical Students for Katy's Courage Sunday. Christopher Golden photo.

Christopher Ritter, Benjamin Hoertnagl-Pereira, Georgia Bennett and Kivlan King, who will perform as Classical Students for Katy’s Courage Sunday. Christopher Golden photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

They have performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Pierson High School auditorium, but on Sunday 10 classical musicians will join together with a sole purpose: to honor Katy Stewart.

At the sixth annual Classical Students for Katy’s Courage Benefit Concert at Bay Street Theatre, student musicians from across the East End will perform in memory of Katy, a beloved Pierson student who passed away in December 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer. At just 12 years young, as her parents Brigid Collins Stewart and Jim Stewart say, Katy had already touched the Sag Harbor community with her bright personality, inherent kindness and contagious positive energy.

The 10 students, who come from East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor and range in age from 13 to 19, will perform 12 classic pieces by composers such as Handel, Mozart and Chopin. Local professional pianists Ellen Johansen of East Hampton and Alvin Novak of Water Mill, as well as 21-year-old Manhattan School of Music student Ge Gao, will accompany the students.

The classical concert is a fitting celebration of the life of Katy, who had a true love for music. Katy played the piano and treasured her violin, taking lessons with David Fox every Saturday morning. Mr. Fox, also the strings teacher at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, will introduce the students on Sunday.

All proceeds from the 100-minute concert will benefit the Katy’s Courage Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research and Katy’s Kids @ CMEE, which will open in the fall to provide counseling and play therapy opportunities for grieving children and their families.

“Through performing for Katy’s Courage, I hope that I am able to honor Katy’s memory, as she was able to touch so many hearts herself, and use my gift to support this cause,” said Matthew Maimone, 19.

A Sag Harbor resident, Mr. Maimone started playing the piano at age 6 and was accepted to the Julliard Pre-College at age 10, receiving an education that helped him to earn acceptance to the Juilliard School College Division last year.

“What I enjoy most about classical music is being able to give whatever story, whatever feeling, whatever aura a composer intended in his composition to an audience,” said Mr. Maimone, who will close the evening with a Chopin composition.

Opening the event will be Pierson graduate Christopher Beroes-Haigis, 19, on the cello and Benjamin Hoertnagl-Pereira, 17, of Southampton High School, on the violin.

“Playing music and writing music, in general, is an art form that people, if they want, could use to express themselves or to send out a message, to form bonds with others, or to give a gift for others to enjoy, which can help them in many ways,” said Mr. Beroes-Haigis, who is now studying at Bard College.

“I feel that music is a beautiful way to express oneself, just like an artist expresses oneself by painting,” agreed Leo Panish, 16, a sophomore at East Hampton High School. Mr. Panish began playing the violin when he was 2 ½, asking his parents if he could learn after watching his brother Maxfield, who will perform on the piano at Sunday’s concert, play.

“What I love about classical music,” he said, “is that I can listen to a piece again and again and each time I get something new from it. There are so many complexities in the music that it requires listening to a piece many times to even begin to understand it.”

Pianist and Pierson sophomore Christopher Ritter, 15, who began studying with Ms. Johansen when he was 6, will play “Toccata in E flat minor” by Aram Khachaturian. His classmate at Pierson, Emmanuelle Bernard, will perform a Mozart composition on the piano, followed by a cello piece by Kivlan King, a student at Southampton High School.

Ross School eighth grader Tristan Griffin began playing piano at 4 ½ and had his first solo concert at Steinway Hall when he was 7. The 13-year-old will perform two piano compositions Sunday.

Vocalist Georgia Bennett, 16, will sing “Lascia Ch’io Pianga,” a sad but beautiful opera piece in Italian.

“It’s a good way to express myself and it is a release from everyday life,” she said of music, adding, “It’s such an honor to be singing to benefit Katy’s Courage.”

“The idea of the benefit concert makes it less about the criticism and the close scrutinizing found in other concerts, and more about giving back to the community,” said Mr. Beroes-Haigis.

“Music is a gift that can change a person’s life,” said Mr. Maimone. “Hopefully, through my music, I can encourage people to give to help support pediatric cancer research. This would make Katy proud.”

The sixth annual Classical Students Benefit Concert for Katy’s Courage will be held Sunday, March 23, at 4 p.m. at Bay Street Theatre. A suggested donation of $15 has been suggested. For more information, call 725-9500 or visit katyscourage.org.

Documentary by Sag Harbor’s Kenny Mann at Bay Street Theatre

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Members of Kenny Mann's family with Kenyans. Photo courtesy of Kenny Mann.

Members of Kenny Mann’s family with Kenyans. Photo courtesy of Kenny Mann.

By Tessa Raebeck

Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor’s Kenny Mann will screen her documentary film, “Beautiful Tree, Severed Roots,” an exploration of identity based on her family’s experience living as Jewish immigrants in Kenya.

In 1942, Ms. Mann’s parents arrived in Kenya as Jewish refugees from Poland and Romania and stayed during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950’s and witnessing Kenya gain independence in 1963. The film deals with the issues of identity on personal, national and universal levels.

“There is a true majesty at work in this artistic effort,” said archivist Jackie Marks of the film. “It is a long song to Africa as well as a faithful historic record of a time when the country was entering a modern progressive age. More than that, it s a reflection on her younger self; serving as a mirror held up to the young people of today who are forging their identities in a world that is at once fragmented and hyper-connected. The film is a testament to the filmmaker’s gifts and to her ability to look into her own heart and to question.”

“Beautiful Tree, Severed Roots” will screen Thursday, March 20 at 7 p.m. at Bay Street Theatre, 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Tickets are $10, available at the door for cash only. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Bay Street Theatre. To watch the film’s trailer and learn more, visit rafikiproductions.com. For more information, call Bay Street at 725-9500.

Bay Street Theatre Hosts 2014 Mainstage Local Auditions in Sag Harbor

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ScottSchwartzBayStreet

Bay Street Theatre Artistic Director Scott Schwartz. Courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

By Tessa Raebeck

Bay Street Theatre is hosting local auditions for three plays premiering over the summer during the Mainstage Season and a fourth production opening in the fall.

The auditions will take place on Saturday, March 8 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. Actors can audition for the three mainstage plays, “Conviction,” “Travesties” and “My Life is a Musical,” as well the Literature Live arts-in-education production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Judging the auditions will be Bay Street’s new Artistic Director Scott Schwartz, joined by John Sullivan, associate producer, and Will Pomerantz, associate artist.

“The summer of 2014 at Bay Street is a season of art and revolution,” Mr. Schwartz said. “As the new Artistic Director of Bay Street and also as a new member of the East End community, I am deeply committed to making this theater a home for local artists. I hope everyone who is interested in working with Bay Street comes to these auditions, and I look forward to this opportunity to continue to get to know our artistic community.”

All actors should bring a resume with a photo stapled to it and prepare a monologue under two minutes. Those who would like to be considered for “My Life is a Musical” should prepare 16 bars of music to sing. An accompanist will be provided.

For more information on the productions, characters and auditions, visit baystreet.org.

Bay Street Theatre Announces 2014 Mainstage Season, Vision of New Artistic Director Scott Schwartz

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Scott Schwartz directing a play in Seattle. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Scott Schwartz directing a play in Seattle. Courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Scott Schwartz is excited. He’s excited about art, he’s excited about expansion and he’s especially excited about world premieres. The new artistic director for Bay Street Theatre, Mr. Schwartz has announced his inaugural Mainstage season and crafted his artistic vision for the theater, which includes broadening its programming to include more traditional works, developing new plays and musicals and “bringing the best and most exciting theater artists to Sag Harbor.”

Mr. Schwartz has been a freelance director for over 20 years, working on and off Broadway, in London and Japan, and with not-for-profit theaters across the country. He has been an associate artist at the Alley Theatre in Houston since 2007.

“I’m just so thrilled now to be working at Bay Street with this wonderful theater,” Mr. Schwartz said Sunday. “Bay Street has an amazing history, an amazing reputation and this tradition of doing great work, so I want to continue that tradition—and I want to expand upon it.”

Mr. Schwartz has three primary goals for Bay Street: Bringing artists from around the country “and perhaps eventually around the world” to Sag Harbor, as well as working with local artists “to create the most exciting theatrical productions;” maintaining a deep commitment to new work, developing new plays and musicals in-house; and expanding the repertoire of productions at Bay Street to include “some of the greatest works of the theatre of all time,” including classic works by Chekhov, Shakespeare and other great historical writers.

“The most important thing for me,” said Mr. Schwartz, “is, ultimately, the productions we do be visionary, exciting, innovative and also be entertaining—a place the audience comes to both be challenged, but also have a great time.”

The Mainstage season begins May 31 with the world premiere of “Conviction,” a modern drama written by Carey Crim that Mr. Schwartz will direct. “It’s a piece I’m very, very excited about,” he said about the play.

“Conviction” centers on Tom Hodges, a popular and caring teacher, husband and father who seems to have it all. The play examines the strength of that foundation when Tom gets accused and then convicted of having an inappropriate relationship with a student.

“It really is a family drama,” explained Mr. Schwartz, “and really is about all of us in that we all have moments in our relationships where we realize we can’t fully know the person we’re in a relationship with, we never can. It’s not possible to know every aspect of another person. And thus how do we live our lives under those circumstances? We have to have conviction about the person we’re with, but when that’s challenged, what do we do?”

Bay Street Theatre's new Artistic Director Scott Schwartz. Courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

Bay Street Theatre’s new Artistic Director Scott Schwartz. Courtesy of Bay Street Theatre.

That universal significance resonates with the director, who emphasizes the humanity in all the plays coming to Bay Street this summer as part of its “season of art and revolution.”

Richard Kind will return to Bay Street from June 24 to July 20 as the star of the Tony Award-winning comedy “Travesties.” Directed by Gregory Boyd, who Mr. Schwartz calls “brilliant,” the Tom Stoppard comedy is set in 1917 and 1974 in Zurich, Switzerland. It fantasizes about the interaction of British consul Henry Carr (played by Mr. Kind) and some of the major figures of the 20th century, including James Joyce and Lenin, who were living in Zurich at the time.

“I think that play is the centerpiece of our season … what it really gets at is the sort of passion and fire and revolutionary spirit of these guys as they’re trying to meet girls and trying to have a great time,” Mr. Schwartz said.

The third Mainstage production is another world premiere, “My Life Is a Musical,” which will run from July 29 to August 31. Director/choreographer Marlo Hunter and writer/composer Adam Overett are “both real rising stars in musical theater,” said Mr. Schwartz.

The musical comedy follows the journey of Parker, a man who experiences the entire world as if in a musical, with everyone he meets appearing to sing and dance. Initially embarrassed by his peculiar worldview, Parker ultimately learns to love even the part of him that makes him different.

“We all have things about ourselves that we feel don’t fit in or we’re not comfortable with, this show explores that life from a wonderful, musical land,” Mr. Schwartz said of the high-energy musical.

Mr. Schwartz’s vision for Bay Street extends past the Mainstage. In late April, the inaugural New Play Festival at Bay Street will host readings of new plays by three “very exciting” writers. A summer initiative will bring outdoor readings of Shakespeare’s work to the community. The summer camp program is being expanded to Southampton and the theater is launching after-hours programming “to offer fun, cool theatrical experiences to our audience late night,” Mr. Schwartz said.

On February 10, Bay Street announced the launch of The Scott Schwartz New Directions Fund to “honor the vision of its new artistic director.”

“This fund,” said Tracy Mitchell, executive director of Bay Street, “marks the kick-off to an amazing season of a very new Bay Street.”

The Neo-Political Cowgirls Dance for Justice at Bay Street Theatre

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Last year's performance of Eve Ensler's "V-Day, One Billion Rising" by the Neo-Political Cowgirls at Bay Street Theatre. Photo by Tom Kochie.

Last year’s performance of Eve Ensler’s “V-Day, One Billion Rising” by the Neo-Political Cowgirls at Bay Street Theatre. Photo by Tom Kochie.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Neo-Political Cowgirls return to Bay Street Thursday, February 27 with their rendition of Eve Ensler’s, “V-Day, One Billion Rising.” Eve Ensler, creator of “The Vagina Monologues,” started the worldwide event as a way for people to rise up, speak out and dance together to demand justice for women and girls who are victims of violence.

Director Kate Mueth and the Neo-Political Cowgirls are again partnering with The Retreat and the Bay Street Theatre in the thought-provoking performance aimed at empowering women through self-expression.

Renditions of the dance, which is largely improvisational, will be performed around the world. Those looking to join the global movement are welcome to attend an hour-long dance rehearsal prior to the event, at 5:30 p.m. in the theatre. No experience is necessary and men, women and children are all invited.

Those less inclined to dance are welcome to come to the main performance at 7:30 p.m., which includes music, spoken word and, naturally, dance.

With the slogan, “Rise, Release, Dance!” One Billion Rising for Justice is a global call to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Through transformative dance, survivors of violence are encouraged to release their pain and rise up against their tormenters. Dances usually end with the dancers’ arms spread wide, their head held high and mouth open in a message of release and renewal. In 2013, feminist activists in 207 countries participated in the Valentine’s Day event.

The Neo-Political Cowgirls’ staging of “V-Day, One Billion Rising,” will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 13 at the Bay Street Theatre, Corner of Bay and Main Streets in Sag Harbor. A suggested donation of $20 will benefit The Retreat. For more information, email Kate Mueth at gladmueth@aol.com or call the box office at 631.329.7130.