Ruth Bashinsky

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Cultural Arts Playhouse: For The Love of Theatre

Cultural Arts Playhouse performs their production of Hair.

“Quiet on the set” is a rare occurrence for those teaching children theatre, but for Bruce Grossman, founder/president of the Cultural Arts Playhouse in Syosset, that is par for the course.

His theater and acting academy has been training children, teens and young adults in musical theater, acting, and dance for the last quarter century.

“We offer a noncompetitive environment where all of our kids have the opportunity to shine and participate,” says Grossman, adding that the company has a zero tolerance for bullying. “Our approach is to develop confidence and self-esteem centered around positive reinforcement.”

“Being part of a theater group teaches acceptance and tolerance and being patient of others,” he says. “We have an incredible team of directors, teachers, music teachers, choreographers, artists and builders.”

Students at CAP may participate in a show or take part in the class curriculum that gives them training in speech, diction, exercises, dance, improvisation, monologues, audition techniques, scene study, and voice.

“We have had thousands of children of all ages participate in our classes or our shows,” he says.

Many have landed roles on Broadway, and in national tours, regional theater, movies, HBO specials, commercials, and voice-overs, says Grossman.

One Long Islander who is a CAP alumnus is actress Jamie Lynn-Sigler, who played Meadow Soprano on the popular HBO drama, The Sopranos.

“Jamie was our first famous student,” he says. “She was with us since she was a little girl.”

The spacious state-of-the-art theater is home to all their mainstage productions. Playing in October is All Shook Up; November is Next To Normal and December is The Nutcracker. The academy also has a satellite location in Wantagh.

During some productions, it isn’t unusual to see Grossman onstage and in character. Earlier this month, he played the Reverend Shaw Moore in the academy’s sold-out performance of Footloose. And in January 2019 he will return to the stage playing Daddy Warbucks in the musical Annie.  

“I like to set an example for the kids,” says Grossman. “Our goal is to entertain Long Island with professional quality entertainment 52 weeks a year, and we love doing it.”

Cultural Arts Playhouse is located at 170 Michael Dr. in Syosset. They can be reached at culturalartsplayhouse.com or 516-694-3330. Tickets range from $20-$27. Group rates and fundraising available.

A World of Pink: Nonprofit Donates Prosthetics to Breast Cancer Survivors

Christine Guarino, founder of A World of Pink, hugs a survivor, who walked in their annual fashion show. photo by Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com © 2016 robwayne1@aol.com 516-676-3939

In 2016, Shawand Marquez’s world fell apart. First, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then her mother passed away a day before Marquez’s double mastectomy. Marquez’s wedding was a month later.

Marquez’s doctor recommended A World of Pink, a Long Island health facility that helps women recovering from breast cancer get the help they need. Christine Guarino, its lead mastectomy fitter, met with Marquez and fitted her with a prosthetic and a bra to wear at Marquez’s wedding.

“Christine was there for me every step of the way,” says Marquez, 38. “I wore the prosthetics and the bra, and it felt so good. I was able to walk down the aisle feeling confident.”

Marquez, who had all her expenses taken care of, is one of the 5,000 women that the nonprofit has supported since Guarino a former dental hygienist who became a certified mastectomy fitter purchased All Island Prosthetics and invested $1 million of her own money into the organization. She  founded the group in 2016.

“I had an amazing dream … that I could help women all over the world,” says Guarino. “If you come in my door and your insurance company doesn’t cover something and you need it, you are getting it through my [nonprofit]. That is why people donate and give to the World of Pink Foundation and help raise money, because they see the results.”

Most insurance companies cover at least part of the cost of breast prosthesis, a specially designed artificial breast form that fits into a bra pocket. If a woman does not have insurance or only a percentage is covered and it is still a hardship for them to pay the difference, the World of Pink Foundation steps in.

This fall, Guarino is launching a new first-of-its-kind prosthetic. And this month brings the grand opening of her new 2,000-square-foot Melville location that will offer educational seminars, fundraising events and personalized fittings by appointment.

“My goal was to open the first aftercare center of its kind for women everywhere,” she says.  “It’s like Victoria’s Secret on steroids. It’s beautiful.”

A World of Pink’s annual fashion gala is on Oct. 29. Tickets are $125. For more information visit aworldofpink.com or worldofpinkfoundation.org.

Lloyd Harbor Locale: A Stately Victorian In All Its Splendor

The elegant house at 405 West Neck Road in Lloyd Harbor, originally a Dutch farmhouse built in 1830, was transformed into a Victorian.

Once owned by the Axe family, who also owned Tarrytown Castle, the home features exquisite details on the exterior and interior, bringing us back to a time when men wore top hats and women corsets and rode in horse-drawn carriages. Today, that very same home is on the market for $1,495,000.

Set on 2.1 acres, the 12-room house includes seven bedrooms, three full and two half baths, great room with fireplace, study, gourmet eat-in-kitchen with breakfast area, master suite with bath and partial basement. There is also a private driveway and two-car garage with brick patio and brick deck.

“It’s a romantic house with high ceilings, big rooms, plenty of natural light,” says Peggy Moriarty of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, the realtor representing the home. “It’s located in the historic district in Lloyd Harbor.”

The homeowners who have been living in the house for the last 40 years made some significant improvements over the years, says Moriarty. Within the last year,  they replaced the slate mansard roof with hand-cut Vermont slate and put a new roof on the garage. They also regraded and regraveled the bluestone on the driveway, converted from oil to a natural gas heating system and installed three-zone air conditioning.

Additional improvements include a gut renovation on three full bathrooms that all have radiant heat floors. The half bath on the ground level was also redone. A great room was also added onto the home with a fireplace that has a separate heating and air-conditioning system.

All the more room for the next owners.

For more information contact Peggy Moriarty at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty; office 631-692-6770; mobile 516-769-2843 or peggymoriarty@danielgalerealty.com.

Sid Jacobson JCC: A Center That Inspires

The rain couldn’t keep away hundreds who came out to support the 2017 Sid Jacobson JCC’s annual Stronger Than Cancer 5K benefiting their Nancy Marx Cancer Wellness Center. This year’s race will be held on Sunday, October 7.

The Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in East Hills epitomizes what community is all about.

The center founded in 1960 to offer early childhood and adult programs has grown to become a thriving multipurpose programming facility answering the needs of every age and population.

“We are not a religious institution,” says Executive Director David Black. “we operate out of Jewish values and are open to the entire community. Our function is to enable life to flourish. We are connecting, giving back and creating connections.”

The center has a program for young people on the autism spectrum, those recovering from opioid addiction, people with Alzheimer’s, those with young-onset dementia, an early childhood center, and a cancer wellness program that is part of a consortium of hospitals treating patients with cancer and staffed with certified trainers and social workers.

“The hospitals know that their patients don’t want to recover in a hospital setting but, want to recover in a life-affirming setting and this is what we are providing,” says Black.

The center that Black describes as “exploding with activities and members” is already growing out of its 100,000-square-foot space and is in the midst of a new capital campaign to expand its space and modernize the campus at the Bernice Jacobson Day School and Camp.

“We went from a JCC without walls at the beginning in 1960 to a JCC with walls in 1988 to a JCC beyond walls in 2018,” says Black.

The Sid Jacobson JCC has a community theater program, a cultural center that features prominent speakers and authors, and an annual film festival. There is also an aquatic and health and wellness center.

“On Sundays there is something called Shooting Stars,” he says. “Volunteers teach teens who are on the spectrum basketball, and the teens get community service. Our 4-year-olds will go sing to the seniors on Shabbat. Our teens will take the music of the ’40s and ’50s and put the tunes on iPods because people with dementia relate to the music they had in their era.”
Black adds enthusiastically, “My program guide alone is close to 60 pages.”

The center also has a vibrant volunteer community with more than 400 people volunteering through 35 partners across Long Island. It has a center for Israel, the only one that exists on Long Island, according to Black, with a staff of Israelis who work in different area synagogues, day schools, and JCCs. The five camps available include a special needs which gives those young people who might not survive in an inclusive environment an exclusive environment and a chance to thrive, explains Black, adding, “It is a beautiful thing to see.”

For more information on the Sid Jacobson JCC visit sjjcc.org

Eclectic Estate: Glen Cove Home Revels In Old-World Charm

On a sweltering summer day with temperatures soaring well into the 90s and local weather reports of a heat wave, Jovon Tomaselli sits in his library enjoying the views of his majestic gardens. On days like this, he does not mind very much at all that he doesn’t have central air-conditioning.

“The house is made from brick and plaster, they didn’t use sheetrock back then,” laughs Tomaselli. “We have window units. The house keeps everything cool.”

An old-fashioned way of living for some, but for Tomaselli and his wife, Sanam, that’s all part of the charm when you are living in a historic mansion that dates back to 1888.

The home that was once the estate of John Coles Tappan, a prominent business leader has been a labor of love for the couple, who share an appreciation for old-world style. For the last few years, they have spent time restoring the home’s integrity while adding their own personal touches along the way.

“I love that time that takes us way back,” says Sanam. “We have preserved the whole look of the house because you cannot find houses like this anymore. We really wanted to make this house a home.”

And so they did.

Each level of the four-story Victorian Colonial set on 1.5 acres features a different aesthetic with ceilings that soar 12 feet high and architectural details that for many homes on Long Island are now a thing of the past. The main floor boasts a formal living room, gourmet-style kitchen with the original pantry, a billiards room, library and dining room, aka the “tea room,” or “the ladies parlor,” as Sanam calls it.

There’s also an outdoor patio and music room filled with antiques, including an original telephone booth and birdcage. Three bedrooms and a master suite are located on the upper level. The third story features an attic with three additional rooms used for storage and a full basement that Jovon explains “is as long as the house, 100 feet.”

Most of the renovations were done on the home’s interior, says Jovon. That included securing the foundation, restoring the outdoor porches, replacing some of the windows and updating the kitchen with modern amenities.

The gardens are so spectacular that Jovon, a professional photographer, remembers the days when they were often used as a backdrop for photo shoots.

“In 2004, we took more than 300 family portraits here,” he says. “It was before the digital era.”

It is still a tranquil place that brings great enjoyment to the couple.

“It’s really a beautiful haven for us,” says Jovon. “We like to sit outside on the patio and listen to music and look at the pond. It’s our meditation.”

Sanam, who works as a banker, describes her style as eclectic. An admirer of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, she draws inspiration from them and the beauty that surrounds her.

“I love the color yellow,” she says. “I love butterflies. I love rabbits, and I love sunflowers.”

A collector too — she and Jovon enjoy collecting teacups and picking up souvenirs from their travels to display — doesn’t take herself too seriously.

“I don’t follow the rules,” she points out. “I break the rules nicely.”

Novelist Jodi Picoult Brings ‘A Spark Of Light’ to Long Island

Best-selling author Jodi Picoult will be at the Landmark on Main in Port Washington, sharing her latest book, A Spark of Light. Long Island LitFest is presenting this October event.

Interviewed by phone at her New Hampshire home, Picoult, admitted she can be a workaholic and laughed when asked if she gets cranky when she doesn’t write for a few days. She talked about how much she adores her fans, how she can sometimes be brought to tears while writing her novels, and how you will never see her in a Starbucks typing on a laptop.

At the Landmark event, Picoult will be signing copies of her 25th book and will give her fans an opportunity to take a photo with her. Long Island native and critically acclaimed author Meg Wolitzer, whose latest novel is called The Female Persuasion, will be part of the festivities too.

The Press spoke with the widely popular author as she was gearing up for the book tour that kicks off this month and will take her all over the United States, Canada and the UK.

Did you ever imagine reaching this level of success? No. No one did. I would have been delighted to write books and have my mother and her friends read my books. I never expected to be successful this way.

I need to ask about your fans. You have such a huge following. My fans are awesome and they are devoted. They will pick up a book with my name on the cover without even knowing what it is about. A lot of writers don’t have that freedom. My books are about really tough topics. My readers are really willing to go wherever my brain is going at that particular moment and that is a freedom that is a delight that I never lose sight of.

Your novels address some difficult issues: teen suicide, gun violence, race. Can you tell us about that? A lot of people don’t want to talk about tough topics. It is uncomfortable. Fiction is a terrific vehicle for a contentious issue because when you pick up a book of fiction … you think you are reading about made-up characters and made-up situations and you are — but if I did my job right, by the time you finish the book you are asking yourself a lot of really hard questions and hopefully you are willing to have a conversation with someone about that difficult topic. That is really all I can hope for when I am writing a book.

Are you drawing from any of your own experiences? Where do you get your inspiration and ideas? I don’t really draw from my life. I have a really charmed and wonderful life. I am grateful I don’t live the life of my characters. I draw my inspiration from things I don’t understand and questions I am not able to answer. The act of writing the book for me should be the act of reading the book for the reader.

Is there any particular book you wrote that was more difficult to write than others? Small Great Things was hard for me on a personal level because I was learning a lot of things about myself that I did not find very complimentary. I thought I was a really good person. I thought I was not racist and I definitely had not acknowledged my privilege as a white person until I began to do the research for that book. I live my life very differently now because of the way that book really opened my eyes. On a professional level, A Spark of Light nearly killed me (she laughs). It was my idea to write the book backwards, but oh, my god, was that hard.

How was it growing up in Nesconset? Do you ever visit? I had a great time in suburbia and a great childhood and I’m very grateful for that. I don’t come back very often because my parents moved. If I come back it is usually for a book tour.

Landmark on Main Street, 232 Main St., Port Washington, landmarkonmainstreet.org or longislandlitfest.org. $35. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2.

Spectrum Designs: Business On A Mission

Seventy-one percent of the company's employees are on the autism spectrum.

One mother’s mission to ensure her son with autism would have a promising future has been accomplished beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

After the loss of her husband in 2010, Stella Spanakos wondered, “Should I wallow in self pity, or should I find the strength to make my husband’s life, and our struggle raising a child with autism, mean something?” She founded Spectrum Designs, a custom apparel business where her son Nicholas works with other young people facing similar challenges. The company is now a model social enterprise offering authentic vocational experiences to individuals on the autism spectrum.

“Stella’s story is very inspiring,” says Lee Anne Vetrone, development manager at Spectrum Designs Foundation. “Along with her cofounders, Nicole Sugrue and Patrick Bardsley, she created a business model that will positively impact the lives of individuals with autism and their families for years.”

The need is great. In the U.S., only 14 percent of adults with autism held paid jobs in their communities, according to a 2017 Drexel University Autism Institute report. Each year, 50,000 teens with autism age out of school-based services.

Spectrum’s work environment is designed to help employees excel. Seventy-five percent of its workforce is on the autism spectrum. There are 35 people on staff, 21 of whom have developmental disabilities.

The company generated more than $2 million in sales this year. Clients include Google, Facebook, and Uber.

“Providing meaningful work opportunities leads to greater independence, an improved quality of life and a future filled with hope,” says Vetrone.

The business, which started with one machine in a barn on Spanakos’ Plandome Manor property, is now located in a new 7,500-square-foot facility in Port Washington that houses its custom screen printing, embroidery, and digital printing services. It also houses Spectrum Suds, a boutique laundromat offering 48-hour turnaround, and Spectrum Bakes, creating gourmet, small-batch granola treats for corporate events, party favors and personalized gifts.

Joe Penzel, 26, has worked at Spectrum Designs since 2013.

“I like to clean the screens,” says Penzel. “I also like to sort the shirts.”

Last year, Spectrum completed its largest order: more than 5,000 two-in-one jackets for Metro-North Railroad, imprinted with the agency’s logo.

In turn, the company became a go-to source for large municipal contracts in both imprinting and logistics.

“We receive inquiries every day from around the country and the world,” says Vetrone.

For more information visit spectrumdesigns.org

Long Island Fashion Expo: Fall Fashion Frenzy

Models strut down the runway at the Long Island Fashion Expo 2017. (Photo by Smiley Guirand Photography)

Now that summer has come to a screeching halt, New York City is buzzing again preparing for New York Fashion Week.

Here on Long Island, the fashion buzz has caught on about the September 15 Long Island Fashion Expo, curated by Fashion 4 Purpose, with a guest appearance by Jonathan Fernandez from the VH1 reality series Love & Hip Hop NY. Carmen Colon, the organization’s founder, started Fashion 4 Purpose as a platform for aspiring designers, models, makeup artists, hair stylists and boutique owners to showcase their talent.

“Our Fashion Expo is where designers and business owners meet,” says Colon, who started her organization in 2011. “Each year we are growing, and Long Island has been very supportive. We have an audience of more than 200 and it’s all by word of mouth, social media and our supporters.”

Going into its fifth year, the event will take place at Simplay in Hauppauge featuring designers CJackson Long Island (formal wear); Kro Sha (crocheted designs); Tameless Moons (organic clothing); Reel2Reel Kustoms (custom apparel); Xclusive (boutique) and Mishu Designs NY (wearable couture).

Cofounder Rashad Lawson of Reel2Reel Kustoms, who hand-designs fashion-forward clothing and accessories that he sells at his Riverhead store, will be showcasing his new luggage and backpack collection for Fall 2018.

“These bags are military grade and made of high-grade special canvas material. They are decorative and multipurpose,” says Lawson, who aspires to be the next J. Crew. “We have something for everyone. It doesn’t matter race, color, creed.”

Cynthia Jackson, the woman behind C. Jackson Long Island, will also be making her debut. Jackson, who has worked as a med tech for nearly 20 years, wanted to carry on her mother’s legacy after her passing.

“My mother was a seamstress,” she says. “I took what she taught me and tried to see if I could start my own business.”

It worked.

Jackson will be showing her designs at Long Island Fashion Expo and will also be a featured designer at New York Fashion Week.

“Carmen and Fashion 4 Purpose have paved the way for me so people can see what I do. I never believed something like this could happen to me. I am nervous but excited.”

Aside from all the glamour and glitz, the show will have a second purpose: raising awareness of mental illness at a critical time, when suicide rates are skyrocketing, as with the recent deaths of fashion icon Kate Spade and celebrity chef/television personality Anthony Bourdain. A portion of the proceeds will go towards The Association for Mental Health and Wellness.

Tickets start at $30. To purchase visit LIFashionExpo.eventbrite.com.

A model at the Long Island Fashion Expo poses in one of the hottest looks for the season. (Photo by Smiley Guirand Photography)

Shana Tova: Jewish High Holidays Are Upon Us

A Yemenite Jew blowing the shofar to signal the start of Rosh Hashanah.

The month of September marks the High Holidays, a very meaningful period for the Jewish people.

Rosh Hashanah, meaning “beginning of the year,” starts at sundown on Sunday, September 9 and ends at sundown on September 11. One of the main observances of the holiday is hearing the sounds of the shofar (a ram’s horn). The piercing sound of the shofar has been described as an alarm, a call to repentance, a time to look back at the mistakes of the past year and make changes in the new year.

“Rosh Hashana is not just the Jewish New Year, but we believe the turning point in the year for the entire world,” says Rabbi Charles Klein, the head rabbi and spiritual leader of the Merrick Jewish Centre, a conservative synagogue, and former president of the New York Board of Rabbis. “On Rosh Hashana we really understand that we are citizens of a world and have a responsibility that we are in this together.”

Rosh Hashanah is also a time that commemorates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that culminates in the Yom Kippur holiday.

On Sept. 18 at sundown begins Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people; it ends on the eve of September 19 and is referred to as “The Day of Atonement.” This solemn religious day is a time of prayer, reflection, and fasting. Rabbi Klein, who has delivered hundreds of sermons spanning four decades, explains that on Yom Kippur “the focus is on us.”

“We turn the spotlight on our own lives,” says Klein, who has more than 2,500 worshippers who fill his synagogue during the High Holidays. “I know it is very popular to take selfies. I spoke last year about Yom Kippur and about taking a SOUL-fie, a picture of our soul and asking ourselves if we are fulfilling what our souls could do.

“Are we acting morally and ethically as we should in our human relations in what we say and what we do?” he asks. “Are we being honest in our self-evaluation? Are we really facing up to our wrongdoings and our faults or are we just camouflaging them and looking away from things we have done wrong that really need to be done differently and better?”

Other religious holidays this month are Sukkot (Sept. 23) and Simchat Torah (Oct. 1)

Starr Boggs: Legendary Hamptons Chef

Chef-Owner Starr Boggs in the kitchen, left, and one of his popular desserts, the Black Bottom Pecan Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce.

For Starr Boggs, the chef/proprietor of his popular, eponymous Westhampton restaurant, love is all he needs to keep going after more than 40 years in the business.

“It’s like the Kevin Costner film, For Love of the Game,” he says. “You really have to love it to do this business and to do it well.”

His passion stems from his childhood growing up on a 1,000-acre working farm in Chesapeake, Virginia.

“When I was a kid, everything we ate was raised in the gardens or on the farm,” says Boggs. “The chickens, cows, hogs. We ate well.”

He learned at a young age how to make sausage, scrapple, and the different cuts of meats his family cured.

“I loved the gathering of people and eating food,” he says. “I think that is when my love of food started.”

Now, at age 67, Boggs draws on that experience.

“You don’t want to be in this business if you don’t have a passion for it,” he says. “Everyone sees the glamour, but it is tough work and hard to be successful.”

Success is something Boggs has worked tirelessly to attain. Since he opened his restaurant 15 years ago on Parlato Drive, it’s been a Hamptons destination. The menu changes daily with the season and accommodates a variety of palates and budgets — gluten-free, vegetarian, and prix-fixe.

Executive Chef Frank Lucas, who has been working with Boggs for the last 30 years, describes him as “the force behind everything.”

Fresh ingredients, personal service, and a team that goes the extra step are what Starr Boggs delivers daily to its patrons.

“We go out of our way to get the best products,” says Lucas. “We source our fish and fruits and vegetables. We don’t take shortcuts.”

And people notice. Out of the 42 restaurants in Westhampton Beach, Starr Boggs was rated number one by Trip Advisor. Saturday night easily draws up to 400 patrons, says Lucas.

Their Monday Lobster Bake — a Starr Boggs tradition that’s been going on for more than two decades — is downright festive. Regulars and newcomers alike gather to listen to live music and eat a buffet feast of seafood, salads, duck, steaks, and sausages to their heart’s content. The restaurant is also known for its annual Kentucky Derby Parties.

One of the biggest sellers for the past 35 years that’s still going strong is the almond-crusted flounder with sweet potatoes, a banana, and a green vegetable.

“Right now, the fish is unbelievable,” says Boggs. “We have striped bass, blackfish. They closed the fluke season down for a couple of weeks, so we are getting it from the surrounding states. And, the soft-shell crabs are coming up from my home in the Chesapeake.”

The restaurant features two bars, a dining area, and landscaped patio with waterfall. It is Boggs’ sixth location.

“It is my favorite one, and it will be my last one,” says Boggs, who joked that his “dance card has been pretty much punched.”

Boggs’ culinary career on Long Island started in 1981, when he landed at The Inn at Quogue, and The Patio Restaurant, which he co-owned. After running a few other establishments, in 1986 he launched Starr Boggs, a small restaurant that grew when he moved it to the beach and then to its current location.

Boggs gets choked up reflecting on his success.

“Right now I am as proud as my staff as I have ever been,” he says. “They work hard. If you don’t love serving and making people happy, then you don’t need to be in this business. All my kids, the busboy to the chef, they all love making people happy, and I love that about them.

“I have one of the best managers [Joshua Benedict] I’ve ever had,” he continues. “A great line chef. A great sous chef. Between Joshua and Frank, you have to have a lot of right arms in this business.”

He stops for a moment to collect himself.

“Right now it’s a happy place,” he says. “Next year, if something happens, if someone can’t get back, then we have to start all over again.”

Starr Boggs is located at 6 Parlato Drive in Westhampton Beach. They can be reached at 631-288-3500.