Tag Archive | "Bay Street Theatre"

Curing Monday Blues: Carlos Mencia at Baystreet

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Carlos Mencia will perform at the Bay Street Theater. Photo courtesy of the Bay Street Theatre

 

The Bay Street Theater Comedy Club is giving fans of laughter a chance to beat the Monday blues with a performance by stand-up comic Carlos Mencia on Monday, August 4.

Originally from Honduras, Mr. Mencia grew up in California and began his career doing stand-up on Amateur Night at the Laugh Factory, a world-renowned comedy club in Los Angeles. Soon after, he was headlining comedy tours with Freddy Soto and Pablo Francisco and starring in his own series on Comedy Central, “Mind of Mencia.” His Comedy Central stand-up special DVD, “Carlos Mencia: No Strings Attached,” was the first such release to achieve Platinum sales status.

After embarking on several USO Tours to entertain the troops serving oversees, Mr. Mencia decided to focus on more intimate audiences at comedy venues and is currently on his “C 4 Urself Tour.”

The Sag Harbor show starts at 8 p.m. Bay Street Theater is at the corner of Bay Street and Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. Tickets range in price from $69 to $89. For more information or to buy tickets, call the box office at (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Bay Street Hosts Annual Gala

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Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor will host its 23rd annual Summer Gala and honor Kate Burton, April Gornik and Sheldon Harnick on Saturday, July 12.

The gala, which will be hosted under a tent on Long Wharf, will begin at 7 p.m. with dinner and dancing at 8.

For the first time ever, Bay Street will host a pre-gala VIP cocktail reception an hour before the event at which Ms. Gornik will be honored and Broadway stars will perform.

Ms. Burton and Mr. Harnik will be honored at the gala itself, followed by a dinner prepared by chef Peter Ambrose. There will be live music by the Nancy Atlas Project as well as live entertainment by Broadway stars Patina Miller and Tovah Feldshuh. During the event, there will also be live and silent auctions, which include VIP tickets to IF/THEN with a backstage tour and a meet and greet with Idina Menzel, a weeklong stay for four at Wimco Villa in St. Bart’s, 18 holes of golf for two with Richard Kind at the Bridge, and more.

Ms. Gornik is an American artist who will be honored for her contributions to fine art and the Village of Sag Harbor. Ms. Burton is an actress, whose credits include “The First Wives Club” and “Scandal.” She is the daughter of actor Richard Burton and Bay Street co-founder Sybil Christopher. Mr. Harnick is a Tony award-winning lyricist, who, among many accomplishments, contributed to the music of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Bay Street Theater is a not-for-profit theater. The gala will benefit its educational and theatrical programs.

General admission tickets are $550 and $395 for young professionals under 40. VIP tickets begin at $1,000 and VIP tables begin at $10,000.

To order tickets, call (631) 725-0818, visit www.baystreet.org or contact events@baystreet.org. For VIP tickets, contact Diana Aceti at Diana@baystreet.org.

New Name, Mission for Bay Street

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Bay Street

It’s now called the Bay Street Theater and Sag Harbor Center for the Arts.

 

You say theatre, I say theater.

Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor announced on Friday that it had changed its name to Bay Street Theater and Sag Harbor Center for the Arts.  Along with the change in name is a new mission, new design and new programming.

In its new incarnation, Bay Street plans to continue to develop and present new productions, performances and events under the leadership of its new artistic director, Scott Schwartz.

The new name reflects that fact that Bay Street is more than just a theater, but a year-round arts center for the community that presents artists, concerts, lectures, and films. The non-theater programming will now be presented under the Sag Harbor Center for the Arts banner.

Bay Street also announced that it will have a new logo designed by Harun Zankel that is intended to reflect how the cultural center is moving toward a bright future with the help of its new artistic director, staff and the support of its board, patrons, and volunteers.

“This is such an exciting time of creativity and a fresh start with Scott’s vision guiding us,” said executive director Tracy Mitchell. “We look forward to rolling out new designs for all of the new programming later this year.”

Bay Street has also announced a number of new and expanded programs and initiatives. The Bay Street Shakespeare Initiative will bring classics to the East End, including “The Tempest” this August with Tony Award winner John Glover in the role of Prospero. “Blackout at Bay Street” will offer late night cabaret and avant garde theater in the lobby. “The Bay Street New Works Festival,” which was introduced in April, will return in 2015 with three days devoted readings of new plays by some of New York’s best emerging playwrights. There will be an expanded education program, including programs for children and teens, as well as a summer theater camp for kids.

Kevin Pollak Kicks off Bay Street’s Comedy Showcase Series

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Comedian Kevin Pollak performs at Bay Street Theatre on Monday, June 2 at 8 p.m. Photo courtesy Bay Street Theatre.

 

By Mara Certic

The Comedy Showcase returns for its fourth year this Monday, June 2, at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. This year’s summer-long series kicks off with a performance by stand-up comedian and actor Kevin Pollak.

“We’re really excited that we were finally able to get him this year,” said Gary Hygom, Bay Street’s managing production director. “The kind of the cool thing about him is that he’s one of the few comedians who have had a huge dramatic career. Few people know that he started out as a comic.”

Known for dramatic roles in “A Few Good Men,” “Casino” and “The Usual Suspects,” Mr. Pollak started performing stand-up comedy in 1967 when he was just 10 years old. In his late teens, he started performing professionally and, after taping his first solo HBO comedy performance, Mr. Pollak was cast in “Willow,” a 1988 film directed by Ron Howard.

Mr. Pollak is known for his solid celebrity impressions, particularly his Christopher Walken, Peter Falk and William Shatner shticks.

Five years ago Mr. Pollak began “Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show,” an online talk show aired once a week. Guests such as Matthew Perry and Dana Carvey have been invited on air to play games like “The Larry King Game” –during which guests complete a series of tasks all while doing a bad Larry King impression—and “Who Tweeted”—in which guests guess the celebrity authors of embarrassing tweets.

Steve Rannazzisi will take to the Bay Street stage a few weeks later, on Monday, June 30. Mr. Rannazzisi is known for his role as Kevin on the FX show, “The League.” Mr. Rannazzisi got his break on MTV’s “Punk’d”: Ashton Kutcher’s practical joke reality television show. He has since become known for work on the comedy stage, on television and on the silver screen.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Steve perform,” said Mr. Hygom of Mr. Rannazzisi. “I’ve never seen him live, but I’ve heard he’s just unbelievable.”

A newcomer to the showcase will be writer and comedian Heather McDonald who will continue the series the following week with a July 7 performance. Ms. McDonald has been celebrated for her writing for the late-night comedy talk show, “Chelsea Lately,” and her collaboration with the Wayans brothers on two of their feature films.

Ms. McDonald has been featured on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and has guest-starred on several prime time shows. Her 2010 book, “You’ll Never Blue Ball in This Town Again,” spent seven weeks on The New York Times best-seller list.

After his sold-out show at Bay Street last year, Bobby Collins returns to its stage on July 14. Mr. Collins performs upward of 200 stand-up bits every year and is well known for his work on VH1′s “Stand Up Spotlight.” Mr. Collins has been the warm-up act for artists such as Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton and Cher.

Mr. Collins’s career in observational stand-up comedy began over 20 years ago, when he gave up a well-paying job at Calvin Klein to pursue his dream to make people laugh.

“I don’t like to have comedians come back and do the same material,” Mr. Hygom said. “But Bobby has such a huge repertoire, his shows always change. Everything is always new and fresh”

Maine-native Bob Marley—not to be confused with the Wailer—will perform the first of August’s comedy showcases on August 11. Mr. Marley is one of few who have performed on the entire late night talk show circuit. He has had roles in cult film favorites, such as the “Boondock Saints.”

Last in the series, Grammy- and Tony-award nominee Robert Klein returns to Bay Street on August 18 for what is expected to be another sold-out performance. Mr. Klein has received recognition for his comedy and also for his musical work on Broadway.

With over 100 appearances on “The Tonight Show and Late Show with David Letterman” to his credit, Mr. Klein got his start in comedy when he auditioned for the improvisational troupe, Second City.

Mr. Klein has released several successful comedy albums, one of which is said to have influenced comedy great Bill Crystal—who on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” admitted to have, in his youth, decorated his apartment wall with a poster of Mr. Klein.

Bay Street Theatre will present up-and-coming comedy stars when the All-Star Comedy Showcase also returns this summer. Hosted by Joseph Vecsey, the June 9 show will also feature comics recognizable from appearances on Comedy Central, MTV and PBS.

The Comedy Showcase performances are at 8 p.m. on most Mondays throughout the summer season. Bay Street Theatre is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, or to purchase tickets visit baystreet.org or call (631) 725-9500.

World Premiere of “Conviction” Opens Bay Street’s Mainstage Season in Sag Harbor

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Rehearsal for "Conviction" in New York City. From left to right: Director Scott Schwartz, playwright Carey Crim and the cast, Brian Hutchison, Sarah Paulson, Daniel Burns, Elizabeth Reaser and Garret Dillahunt. Photo by Barry Gordin.

Rehearsal for “Conviction” in New York City. From left to right: Director Scott Schwartz, playwright Carey Crim and the cast, Brian Hutchison, Sarah Paulson, Daniel Burns, Elizabeth Reaser and Garret Dillahunt at the New 42nd Street Studio in New York City. Photo by Barry Gordin.

By Tessa Raebeck

You can grow up with your friends, live with them, even marry them, but can you ever truly know them?

This is one of many questions, perhaps unanswerable, in “Conviction,” a new play by Carey Crim that will have its world premiere Tuesday, May 27, opening the Bay Street Theatre Mainstage Season.

“In relationships, be they spouse or parent-child or friends, there is always a limit to how much we can know about another person,” said Bay Street’s new artistic director Scott Schwartz, who is directing the play.

That limit is clear in “Conviction,” the story of Tom Hodges, a beloved teacher at his local high school, who, early on in the play, is accused and convicted of having sexual relations with an underage female student.

“Conviction” stars Garret Dillahunt (“12 Years a Slave,” “Raising Hope”) as Tom Hodges. His wife Leigh is played by Sarah Paulson (“12 Years a Slave,” “American Horror Story”) and Daniel Burns (“Twelfth Night,” “Shipwrecked!”) portrays their 17-year-old son.

Brian Hutchison (“Man and Boy,” “Looped”) and Elizabeth Reaser (“Twilight” films, “Grey’s Anatomy”) play a married couple, Tom and Leigh’s longtime best friends.

“These five actors are all powerhouses,” said Mr. Schwartz. “I feel so lucky to both just be in a room with them, but also to have the opportunity to bring them to Bay Street and to share their amazing talent.”

“Conviction” explores the aftermath of Tom’s fall from grace and how his wife, son and best friends struggle with whether or not they believe his claim of innocence—and how to reconcile those beliefs with their love for Tom.

“This play,” said Mr. Dillahunt, who plays Tom, “examines the possibility of relationships of all sorts surviving where there is even a kernel of doubt and distrust.”

The cast of "Conviction:" Sarah Paulson, Brian Hutchison, Daniel Burns, Elizabeth Reaser and Garret Dillahunt. Photo by Barry Gordin.

The cast of “Conviction:” Sarah Paulson, Brian Hutchison, Daniel Burns, Elizabeth Reaser and Garret Dillahunt at the New 42nd Street Studio, New York City.

Photo by Barry Gordin.

 

“There are things that we individuals can just never know about the people we are with, so all we can do is live with conviction…and have belief about who they are deep inside them,” Mr. Schwartz said. “And when that conviction is challenged, when you’re forced to realize that there are things that you cannot know about the people you are in or choose to be in a relationship with, what does that do? How do you navigate that? How do you live your life—and is it possible for your relationship to survive?”

Ms. Crim came up with the idea for “Conviction” after a month of seemingly constant headlines involving inappropriate relationships between children and those in positions of authority culminated in a gig as a camp counselor, during which staff were directed against hugging campers or taking them to the bathroom without another witness present.

Although the rules made sense, she recalled her own experience as a camper climbing into her counselor’s bunk to hear ghost stories.

“Although I completely understood why we did it, it also made me a little bit sad for a more innocent time,” Ms. Crim said. “I started thinking about, putting those two things together, what has led us here?”

“I wanted to look at what it does to family and friends, who can never truly know…we can never, no matter how much we love someone, no matter if we live with that person, can we ever really truly know another human being,” she added.

Throughout the play, the viewer’s opinion on Tom can change multiple times. Ms. Crim said even her own “very strong” opinion when she began writing the play became less clear as she continued.

“Tom is the only one that really knows the truth,” explained Ms. Crim. “So, the audience is kind of in the shoes of the rest of the characters on stage, in terms of what information they get and don’t get. So, they have to take that journey—it is left up for them to decide.”

Also struggling with that decision are the actors, who remain loyal to the perceived convictions of their characters.

“I do believe that Leigh believes he is innocent,” said Ms. Paulson, adding she agrees. “But, I think part of her pragmatism lends itself to her believing what she wants to believe…She loves her husband very much and she wants to keep her family together.”

While Leigh appears loyal to her husband’s claim of innocence—and Ms. Paulson true to her character’s opinion—Ms. Reaser’s character, Jane, is burdened with doubt.

Ms. Reaser said although she is still figuring it out, she, like her character, thinks Tom is guilty.

“It’s kind of this thing that haunts her and it’s haunted her for years,” she said. “Is he guilty? Is he not guilty? And how do I reconcile that with this incredible man that I’ve always known him to be?”

“Some people can really live a duality and I find that very impressive. I think it’s important that we do know how to live a duality, because not everything is black and white,” she added. “But in Jane’s case, she really can’t straddle that line.”

“There is no template for a family on how to deal with something like this,” said Mr. Dillahunt. “Everyone is flying blind and doing the best they can. It’s a story of survival and, in the end, sometimes, things you hold dear must be sacrificed.”

Tom’s conviction comes down to he said, she said, with only the two parties involved definitively knowing the truth.

“There’s no evidence beyond that, beyond testimony—and that’s really a fascinating, scary thing about the world that we live in,” said Ms. Reaser.

“Conviction” premieres Tuesday, May 27 at 7 p.m. and runs through June 15, showing at 8 p.m. A special “Pay What You Can” ticket offer for the opening show has a limited amount of tickets available at the Box Office after 2 p.m. that day. For other tickets, visit baystreet.org or call 631-725-9500.

Paula Poundstone Opens Saturday Night Comedy This Weekend at Bay Street Theatre

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Comedian Paula Poundstone will open a series of special Saturday night comedy performances at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre on May 24 at 8 p.m.

Richard Lewis will take the stage June 21, and audiences can spend “A Divine Evening with Charles Busch,” accompanied by Tom Judson July 26.

Ms. Poundstone is a regular panelist on NPR’s rascal of a weekly news quiz show, “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” and is known in her decades long career in stand-up for her ability to be spontaneous with a crowd.

“No two shows I do are the same,” said Ms. Poundstone. “It’s not that I don’t repeat material. I do. My shows, when they’re good, and I like to think they often are, are like a cocktail party. When you first get there, you talk about how badly you got lost and how hard it was to find parking. Then you tell a story about your kids or what you just saw on the news. You meet some new people and ask them about themselves.  Then, someone says, ‘Tell that story you used to tell,’ and then someone on the other side of the room spills a drink, and you mock them.  No one ever applauds me when I leave a party, though. I think they high five.”

For more information, or to reserve tickets, visit baystreet.org. 

Stages Brings a Favorite Back to Bay Street

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The cast of Stages' 2006 performance of "Once Upon a Mattress." Photo courtesy of Stages.

The cast of Stages’ 2006 performance of “Once Upon a Mattress.” Photo courtesy of Stages.

By Tessa Raebeck

A twist on the fabled tale of “The Princess and the Pea,” the romantic comedy “Once Upon A Mattress” returns to the Bay Street stage this weekend in three shows by Stages, a Children’s Theatre Workshop, Inc.

A fractured fairy tale that takes a comedic twist on the classic story, “Once Upon a Mattress” has music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer and book by Marshall Barer, Dean Fuller and Jay Thompson.

The play will mark the 97th production for Stages, which begins its 20th season of professional-quality shows featuring local young actors this summer.

Director and choreographer Helene Leonard manages a cast of 30 young actors. Local musicians Amanda Jones and James Benard will provide accompaniment.

For Sunday’s Mother’s Day show, all mothers in the audience will receive a crown marking them “Queen-for-a-day.”

“Once Upon a Matress” is Saturday, May 10 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 11 at 2 p.m. at Bay Street Theatre, 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit stagesworkshop.org, email info@stagesworkshop.org or call 329-1420.

Film Explores The Woman Behind Secretariat

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Penny Chenery Tweedy with Secretariat. Secretariat.com

By Stephen J. Kotz

Few horses have captured the public’s imagination like Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, whose success made its owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy, the public face of horse racing. With the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby this weekend, the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival will present the East Coast premiere of a documentary that explores the life of the famous champion’s owner, who was a trailblazer herself in a sport long dominated by men.

“Penny & Red: The Story of Secretariat’s Owner,” which is directed by Ms. Tweedy’s son, John Tweedy, will be screened at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Bay Street Theatre. The screening will follow a “Triple Crown Benefit” lunch and silent auction of Secretariat memorabilia that will take place at noon at The American Hotel and raise money for the film festival and two charitable organizations dedicated to the welfare of horses, Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue and the Secretariat Foundation.

Jacqui Lofaro, the director of the film festival, said the idea for turning the event into a three-way fundraiser was a natural. Amaryllis, run by Christine Distefano, which now has eight locations on Long Island, has several of Secretariat’s offspring among its rescued horses, and Ms. Tweedy founded the Secretariat Foundation.

Mr. Tweedy, who has enjoyed a long career as a documentary filmmaker, and Bill Nack, a former Newsday reporter who covered horse racing and wrote, “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion,” will attend both events and take part in a question-and-answer session following the screening.

“I realized my mother was getting older and her story needed to be told,” said Mr. Tweedy in a telephone interview this week. “It transformed my mother’s life—she became the human face and voice of Secretariat. And she transformed how thoroughbred owners interacted with fans.”

Ms. Tweedy was a child of self-made man who first made a fortune in New York before rescuing the old family farm, The Meadow in Doswell, Virginia, from foreclosure and transforming it into a horse farm. Ms. Tweedy, who worked in New York during World War II, was studying for an MBA at Columbia University when she got married. At her father’s request, she dropped out of school a month before graduating.

She moved with her husband, a successful lawyer, to Denver, where he became one of the founders of Vail as a skiing center. In the film, Ms. Tweedy who is now in her 90s, admitted that she was unhappy in her marriage and frustrated with her role as a housewife. When her father became ill in the late 1960s, she had her escape. She began splitting her time between her family, in Denver, and the horse farm in Virginia.

In 1972, she began a streak of remarkable success, when her horse Riva Ridge won both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.  But those accomplishments would pale in comparison to what would transpire just a year later.

Entering the season, Secretariat was considered a potential star, and Ms. Tweedy was able to syndicate the breeding rights for more than $6 million, an unheard of sum at the time and enough to rescue the family horse farm, which had been running losses for several years.

In the Kentucky Derby, jockey Ron Turcotte guided Secretariat from the back of the pack to a two-length win. At the Preakness, Secretariat showed a remarkable, and sustained, burst of speed in the back stretch to move from dead last to an easy victory. But it was at the Belmont, the grueling mile-and-a-half race that foils so many Triple Crown hopefuls that Secretariat enjoyed his greatest triumph, obliterating a small field of only five contenders to win by an astounding 31 lengths and shave more than two seconds off the track record.

Mr. Tweedy said that because at the time, America had been torn apart by anti-war protests, the beginning of the Watergate scandal and other problems, “there was a hunger in the culture for an uncomplicated hero.” And Secretariat fit the bill.

“We would get 250 pieces of fan mail day,” Mr. Tweedy said, adding that Secretariat was on the cover of Time, Sports Illustrated, and Newsweek in the same week. The horse, he added, was a natural ham, straightening up and posing when he heard the click of a camera.

“It was a very cathartic opportunity to talk about and explore issues that we hadn’t talked about as mother and son,” he said of making the film. It was also very much an opportunity for my siblings.”

“She was extremely capable and interested in business and she was passionate to have her own career,” said Mr. Tweedy of his mother. “She did have a heroic journey, but the back story was not known to the public.”

Tickets to the Triple Crown Benefit luncheon at the American Hotel are $125 and include admission to the film. Tickets for the film only are $15. For more information visit HT2FF.com or info@ht2ff.com or call Bay Street Theatre at 631-725-9500.

Bay Street Theatre’s New Works Festival Explores the Craft of Playwriting

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By Tessa Raebeck

With three staged readings and an interactive panel discussion, Bay Street Theatre’s first New Works Festival will give up-and-coming playwrights a chance to develop their work in front of an audience—and give that audience a chance to see the culmination of the playwrights’ creative process firsthand.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, an “Artist Interact” panel discussion moderated by award-winning writer John Weidman will allow the playwrights to explore the challenges of being a modern playwright and the process of developing new work in the theater.

At 8 p.m. Friday, the festival starts with a reading of “Fight Call” by Jess Brickman, a comedy about the backstage of the theater world. The play explores the boundaries of trust and professionalism between a veteran theater star and a young up-and-coming actor when one of them threatens to commit an actual act of violence—as opposed to an acted act of violence—on stage during their performance.

A contemporary reimagining of Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard,” according to playwright P. Seth Bauer, “The Orchard Play” will be read Saturday at 8 p.m. It follows the struggle of a Pennsylvania family farm as it tries to contend with outside pressure to sell their land to oil companies interested in “fracking,” hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas.

The final reading is of “The May Queen” by Molly Smith Metzler Sunday at 2 p.m. The comedy focuses on the disappointment of Mike Petracca when he is reunited with the high school flame he has been obsessed with since her departure years before. It examines the unreliability of expectations and the roles people play in one another’s lives, often unknowingly.

“Talkbacks” in which the audience can interact with the writers will follow each reading.

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

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

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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.