Tag Archive | "John Landes"

Water’s Edge Radio Hour Celebrates Local Voices of the East End

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.web Waters Edge Radio Hour @ Wolffer 11-9-13_1804

By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

Without lighting effects, set design or elaborate costumes, the audience is transported in time and setting, traveling from the waiting room of a modern day doctor’s office to the whaling docks of 1840’s Sag Harbor in a matter of minutes.

“Language is the most powerful thing we have,” says Josh Perl, co-creator of Water’s Edge Radio Hour, a new variety show on WPPB, 88.3 FM. “Good writing is compelling. We can transport people there with just a few words or sound effects and their imagination follows the rest of it.”

Along with partners John Landes and Peter Zablotsky, Perl proudly unveiled his newest project in the tasting room at Wölffer Estate Winery in Sagaponack last Saturday.

A locally based radio show a la “A Prairie Home Companion,” Water’s Edge promises to capture the unique character of the East End without catering solely to visitors. The hour-long program includes three short plays, three essays, and two full songs, as well as musical interludes. It will be performed before a live audience and recorded for broadcast on WPPB.

Inspired by his own love of radio, Landes came up with the idea for an East End variety show and quickly enlisted the expertise of Zablotsky and Perl, partners in the Naked Stage Theatre Company and HITfest, the Hamptons Independent Theatre Festival. Perl and Zablotsky added theater connections and experience to Landes’ vision. Also contributing acting chops, Perl hosts the show.

While many local artists wait to unveil their projects until the crowded summer months, Landes felt the winter was the perfect time for Water’s Edge to begin regular broadcasting.

“It occurred to me that the Hamptons – the North and the South Fork – in a lot of ways are perfect for a show like this because we have kind of a captive audience in the winter time,” said Landes. “Those of us who live out here year round and love living out here year round, we know each other in the community and there’s so many good, talented people out here – writers, actors and people who love it out here and want to get the message out to others about what it’s like out here.”

In April, Water’s Edge presented a pilot run at Guild Hall. The story centered on the conflict between a well-known group of locals and some unwelcome outsiders, represented by surprisingly talkative deer ticks and bed bugs.

Following positive feedback on the pilot, Landes, Perl and Zablotsky moved forward, crafting enough material for four shows and continuously working on more. The environment could switch from a whaling ship to a corn maze instantly; it is entirely dependent on sound effects made by the actors. In one scene, two dads sit in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, supported by sounds of a receptionist, baby noises, and Velcro ripping.

“The nice thing about radio is you can do anything,” says Perl. “Our tagline is where anything can happen – and it usually does. We’re able to transport people to the Sag Harbor waterfront in 1840 where Herman Melville is seeking work on a whaling ship.”

Although they range in time period and location, all sketches have one common thread: humor.

“He just happens to have a Jewish mother who’s very worried about him being in a boat with 100 men. His mother errs on the side of a little bit over protective, she wants him to be a butcher like his older brother,” Perl says of Herman Melville.

The creators are hopeful this is the start of a long running variety show with locally written pieces and locally based characters, ranging from celebrities to surfers to fishermen. Water’s Edge strives to go beyond the public’s perception of “The Hamptons” and deliver a compelling and authentic narrative that includes the year round community. Composed entirely of original work, the program is wholly inclusive; the creators are consistently looking for new local writers to contribute editorials and plays. According to Perl, although the plays use “Hamptons kinds of archetypes,” the stories are universal. In one scene, a wealthy older couple searching for entertainment during a fall visit find themselves slightly out of place in a corn maze.

“When a friend tells you a story about people you don’t know, if they’re a good storyteller, you’re right there in the moment with them,” he said. While the stage actor acknowledges that costumes and set design add to certain productions, he said that without those elements, radio allows for the text to truly triumph.

To complement the stories, Hopefully Forgiven, comprised of musicians Brad Penuel and Telly Karoussos, will perform several times during the show.

Water’s Edge Radio Show celebrates the East End community in a way “the Hamptons” are not always celebrated – from a local perspective – and it does so with good humor.

“It’s kind of funny,” says Perl of the variety show. “It’s not kind of funny, it’s actually very funny.”

Upcoming live broadcasts of Water’s Edge Radio Hour will take place on November 23 and December 14 at 7 p.m. at the Wölffer Estate Winery Tasting Room, 139 Sagg Road in Sagaponack.

Pierson/Bay Street Meeting Sparks More Conversation, Draws No Conclusions

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By Claire Walla


Finally, the two boards came to the same table.

On Tuesday, January 31, school officials and Bay Street Theatre board members held a meeting on the Pierson Middle/High School campus to discuss the potential for a collaboration between the two. The idea of the Bay Street Theatre collaborating with the Sag Harbor School District to create a new theater venue has been floated for a few years. And with Bay Street’s impending move from its current location on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, discussions have been spurred with greater urgency in the last few weeks.

The dialogue oscillated in scope for much of the two-hour meeting, wavering back and forth between small details (like whether it’s possible to obtain a liquor license on a school campus since Bay Street serves alcohol), and larger ideas, such as the school and theater working together to build an entirely new performing arts center in Sag Harbor.

But, while no board member on either side of the aisle completely put the kibosh on the potential for collaboration, there were aspects of this hypothetical partnership that raised red flags for both.

“I don’t want to throw any cold water on the issue, but I can’t possibly see how [an independent theater] can be in this school district, in this area,” school board member Walter Wilcoxen said.

Based on a memo the school district received from its attorney, Tom Volz, Wilcoxen pointed out some of the smaller issues, like limited parking and storage capacity.

But Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street Theatre’s executive director, expressed some concerns with the overall picture.

“One of the biggest issues for us, from a creative perspective, is we need to be able to have complete control over what we produce,” she said.

Though Mitchell and the theater’s creative director, Murphy Davis, assured the school that no expletives would be used on any signage related to the theater, some of the theater’s productions can be a bit, well, “racy.”

While Davis said there are elements to what Bay Street does now that could shift to conform to a different production model — for example, the theater could stop selling alcohol if it managed to secure other revenue sources — creative freedom is non-negotiable.

“We can do some pretty racy content,” he continued. “It’s imperative that we don’t feel hemmed in by that.”

Then there’s the time frame.

At best, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto said the process would take three years to complete. (Later, he explained that the time frame would more realistically take up to five years.) It would take six months for the school’s architect to draw-up a new design and then for the state education department to review the plans, another three months for the school to bid the project, then at least a year to construct the building.

“We’re talking two years after voter approval,” he continued. “And voters would have to approve such a project.”

The district’s current design for a 415-seat theater comes in at an estimated $12 million. Even if private funds were used for the project, Dr. Gratto said state aid would still kick-in for 10 percent of the cost, but that would trigger the need to put the project up to a vote.

Mitchell said the theater has a certain degree of flexibility for discussing future plans because it’s not scheduled to leave its current space until spring of 2013.

“The board would be able to back us renewing our current lease if we were working toward a pre-approved plan,” she said. “But, what we can’t do is say it’s going to take us another year to figure out whether we can get through these hurdles, and in the process lose all our other options.”

According to Mitchell, the theater is actively pursuing all possible options, including in Sag Harbor the Schiavoni property on Jermain Avenue, the National Grid lot on Long Island Avenue, the Sag Harbor Cinema, and in Southampton Village the soon-to-be vacant Parrish Art Museum space on Jobs Lane. At this point, Mitchell said the theater has put together several committees to further explore these options.

“It doesn’t sound like [the school] is going to be at the forefront,” Davis stated at the end of the meeting. Besides issues of parking, storage space and creative control, he said the time frame doesn’t seem viable.

“Just what I’m hearing tonight, it makes me uncomfortable that we’re going to have to wait,” he said.

And while nestling into the Pierson campus may seem like a dream sequence too riddled with legal complications to become a reality, school board members were energized by the idea of a potential collaboration off-campus.

Dr. Gratto directed interests to the piece of empty land directly across the street from Pierson, at the intersection of Division and Marsden streets, where the Trunzo family owns four parcels. According to community member John Landes, who’s already investigated the site, the cost would roughly total $4 million — just to purchase the land.

As for the overall idea of collaboration, Bay Street Board Member Robbie Stein said, “When you look at it, there are a lot of problems. But, on some level, starting this dialogue is bringing to the community the idea of: is there a place for arts in the community?”

The Bay Street Board will meet again next week to further discuss all its options.

Restaurant Forges Identity With Music

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For drummer Claes Brondal, it has been a difficult time to meet and play with other musicians. There are few opportunities, he said recently, to sit in and play, especially at a professional level.

For restaurant owner John Landes, there was a challenge to make his Bay Burger on the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike a nexus for the various groups that make up the local community.

Together, after meeting through a mutual friend over Thanksgiving dinner, they decided that the casual restaurant would make a perfect venue to bring musicians together, as well as those that appreciate an evening of freewheeling and frequently unexpected music.

“I had been looking a long time for a venue for a jam session when I met John,” said Mr. Brondal in an interview this week. “We started talking about a Hamptons jazz festival and said we should start small.”

That’s when the idea of doing weekly Thursday night jams at Bay Burger got started.

“We just thought we’d take the temperature of the community,” said Brondal.

Going into the fourth week of the session tonight, Thursday, it appears that the temperature is pretty hot — or cool, as the case may be.

Each week has seen some growth in the audience, and each week sees new performers showing up to play, said Mr. Landes.

 “It’s attracting the musicians, and that’s what we wanted to do,” he said, adding the evenings’ music ranges widely, from jazz to folk to funk and Latin.

“Right now it’s pretty much free form,” he said. “The music works very well in the room, as it’s not necessarily rock.”

The restaurateur, whose daughter and son-in-law Joe and Liza Tremblay, really run the place, said they had been experimenting with music since last year, and regularly featured local bands and performers, such as Jim Turner and Leroy Klavis.

“We’re outside the village and trying to find ways of putting Bay Burger on the map,” said Mr. Landes. “We’re trying to establish an identity for Bay Burger, and music is one of the ways to do that.”

“I’ve always been a music nut,” said Mr. Landes, who remembers visiting a number of local sites for live music, including Stephen Talkhouse and even the concerts at Long Beach during the summer.

He went around searching for local bands, and said that while the restaurant featured music on a regular basis last year, they “wanted a more consistent house band.”

Mr. Landes gives most of the credit to Mr. Brondal who, he said, set it all up.

“He was the one who reached out to the musicians,” said Mr. Landes.

In February, Mr. Brondal sent out an excited email to friends and musicians telling them about the new venue and soliciting ideas. It would be, he promised, not an open mike night, but a “good ol’ jam session where musicians can practice their craft, try new compositions, new ideas, free style rap over the Sidewinder beat, take a leap of faith, solo over odd chord changes and signatures.”

His solicitation was successful, and now he says each night features about 10 or 15 musicians anxious to sit in and experiment.

“It’s all inclusive,” he said, “but you have to be able to play and interact with other people.”

“Right from the get go we had a full house,” he said, and now we’re getting musicians from as far away as Sayville.” The nearest place with anything like what is going on at Bay Burger is in Levittown, said Mr. Brondal.

For his part, he credits the Bay Burger owner with making the scene happen.

“John Landes believed in the combination of burgers and jazz,” said Mr. Brondal. “He’s creating a cradle of arts, music and poetry.”

Indeed, even Mr. Landes’ own staff gets in the act. Willie Jenkins, a line cook will often come from behind the counter and put in his own, original freestyle rap with the musicians.

“So it’s also a marriage of music and spoken word,” said Mr. Landes.

Noting his location on the turnpike, Mr. Landes said, “We’re at the crossroads, trying to bring two communities together. We’re trying to establish our identity and see where it goes.”

The Thursday night jam sessions at Bay Burger begin approximately at 7 p.m.