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Category: Entertainment

One Tank Trips: Piermont, N.Y. – Too nice to be ignored

Photos by Jeff Bahr/ A bird’s eye view of the Hudson River. Bottom left: Statue honoring WWII veterans and their departure from “Last Stop U.S.A.” Bottom Right: River estuary at Piermont, N.Y.

 

By Jeff Bahr

REBIRTH ON THE HUDSON

Commuters crossing the Hudson on the Tappan Zee Bridge are often surprised to learn that a genuine tourist destination exists on the river’s western bank, just south of the span. It’s understandable. Piermont, N.Y., hasn’t always been a day-trippers’ haven. In fact, not too long ago, Piermont was just another struggling river community whose best days had apparently passed it by.

But then, as if saved by the hand of providence, gentrification began to occur. Old, sometimes dilapidated homes were renovated; boutiques and art galleries found their way into town; and new restaurants and cafés came along for the ride. Now, rather than just passing through, discerning visitors come to linger for an afternoon, a weekend, or even longer at this delightful hamlet on the Hudson. Can you say “full-circle?”

PUTTING THE ‘PIER’ IN PIERMONT

For newcomers, the reason for the turnaround is obvious. Piermont offers truly sublime views of the Hudson River, surrounding estuaries and towering bluffs. Nowhere is this view more arresting than at Piermont Pier, the town’s namesake – a nearly onemile- long jetty built in 1839 to carry the Erie Railroad to the river. From this vantage, visitors can see the river and its vessels to the east, Tallman Mountain to the south, and the staggering cliff face of Hook Mountain – one of the highest promontories along the Palisades Ridge – to the north. During World War II, some 40,000 troops boarded ships at this deepwater dock – referred to as “Last Stop U.S.A.” – and sailed off for the shores of France. A statue and plaque in town honor these veterans – many of whom paid the ultimate price to help ensure our freedom.

 

 

 

TRAIN BUFF’S DELIGHT

The circa 1873 Piermont Railroad Station, located on a rise just above town, stands as a reminder of the way things were in the days of horsedrawn carriages and hoop skirts. This architectural delight, recently restored by the Piermont Historical Society, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is periodically opened to visitors.

Once a stop along the Erie Railroad’s mainline, the eyepleasing building is the very model of Victorian style and quaintness. Today, the former railroad right-of-way has morphed into a rail trail that sees regular use by hikers and bicyclists.

BICYCLISTS’ PARADISE

In a nod to the network of inviting roads and trails that surround it, the village of Piermont features bike rental stands and a well-stocked bicycle store. The 3-mile-long Old Erie Path runs high above town, passing the railroad station as it goes, and links with the Raymond G. Esposito and Joseph B. Clark Trails. This off-road combo creates a 7-mile-long scenic path that features spectacular views of the Hudson River, especially in the fall and spring when obscuring foliage is at a minimum. Road bicyclists also frequent the area, regularly riding into town for a break from their rides along scenic Rt. 9 and other points.

EATERIES, BOUTIQUES AND THE ARTS

While Piermont offers a small assortment of unique shops, mostly situated along Piermont Ave., the town is perhaps better known for its relaxation opportunities. This likely explains why indoor/outdoor restaurants have sprouted here at a level surpassing that of all other businesses.

The Sidewalk Bistro is a Piermont Ave. mainstay, offering the perfect place to dine alfresco while watching the comings and goings of folks at the Community Market, located just across the street. Bicyclists regard the market as something of an oasis and often stop here to refill their water bottles or to nosh on ice cream cones. Then they move along renewed, ready to attack the road once more.

Situated even closer to the river, The Shops at Piermont Landing represent the latest addition to the commercial rebirth occurring in town. Here, visitors will find Slattery’s and Confetti, two restaurants that, in addition to scrumptious morsels, offer a view of the Hudson River to the north and the eclectic parade of humanity that regularly filters through. For dessert, the Flywheel Creamery offers truly tasty hard ice cream in a 1950s setting that recalls the days of sock-hops and drivein theaters. Also featured at The Shops are a handful of art galleries. The works featured here span many different styles and an equal number of price points.

Tasty Italian cuisine is the order of the day at Confetti restaurant.

 

Peaceful solitude at Piermont Pier.

 

A BRIDGE RUNS THROUGH IT

Piermont features an obscure claim to fame certain to appeal to bridge fans. The Bridge St. Bridge, a handcrank drawbridge crossing the Sparkill Creek, has stood in town since its erection in 1880. It represents an extremely rare example of a manually operated vehicular crossing that used a clever array of drums, chains and counter-weights to get the job done. Back in the day, fisherman in sloops would depart their vessels here, open and close the span to permit their passing, and then continue on their way. Restored to its original grandeur in 2009, the bridge has never looked better.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE FORMER ‘DOWNTRODDEN’ VILLAGE

Movie buffs may or may not recognize Piermont in two movies that used the village for location shots. In 1985, director Woody Allen filmed “The Purple Rose of Cairo” here. At the time, the village was in such sorry shape that the film crew joked they’d need to spiff it up to approximate the Depression-era town called for in the film. In 1999, Piermont was again used as a backdrop, this time for the movie, “At First Sight.” When featured actors Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino walk down Piermont Ave., the-then ramshackle street appears lifeless and dreary- a far cry from what it would become in the not-too-distant future.

The ‘Cameos’ – far more than a cameo band

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Nutley residents will welcome one of their own, John Basilone, when The Cameos perform at Nutley’s Summer Concert on Aug. 1.

“It’s a nice feeling,” Basilone said. “I really enjoy watching everyone have a good time… I’m more excited when I’m playing in front of friends and family.”

Basilone will perform at Memorial Park with The Cameos, a group whose history dates from 1957.

Led by drummer Paul Stuart, the band’s most recent incarnation has been performing for the past seven years. Stuart took over the reins from Roger DelRusso in 2005.

Since DelRusso’s passing that same year, Stuart has made it a point for the band to keep the same approach.

“He was a firm believer in presentation,” Stuart said. “I respected that because I’ve been in the business for a long time. He always had the band in proper attire like an oldies group should be. He ran the group very well.”

With Stuart at the helm, the band has ascended to new heights, opening itself to thousands of people all across New Jersey. When asked about their favorite venue to perform, both Stuart and Basilone had the same thought.

“PNC Bank Arts Center,” they said.

“We’ve had over 10,000 people in attendance,” Stuart said. “They keep asking us to come back.”

Basilone recalled: “When I told a friend of mine where we were booked (at PNC), he asked me, ‘What parking lot are you playing at?’ ”

The group’s repeated performances at the Arts Center are a testament to the band’s success.

“(This year) will be our fourth year back and that’s unheard of,” Basilone said. “Literally 10,000 people show up and we perform for an hour and a half. It’s just awesome. It’s a dream come true for anyone who made it big.”

For Stuart, performing at the Arts Center is a welcome challenge. “They keep asking us to come back, and that makes us work hard,” he said.

While performances at large stages such as the Arts Center are treasured experiences, the band says that playing smaller venues still offer value. “We were in Summit for the Fourth of July and there was about 5,000 people in attendance,” Stuart said. “(Seeing that many people) kind of inspires you. It’s a good thing to make people happy. That’s the reward in this business.”

Basilone added, “Nothing’s more enjoyable than when you do a song and you see a bunch of people dancing in front of you.”

For both Basilone and Stuart, performing isn’t a new hobby: it’s a passion that has been with the two men since they were young.

“I got into it when I was a kid,” Basilone said of his start in music. “My older brother was in an acapella group in Newark’s Steven Crane Village. Being infl uenced by Frankie Valli, (my friends and I) started a group called the Five Reasons. Singing’s really been in my family. We all sing. We’re a typical Italian family from Newark.”

Stuart’s music career also started with family roots.

“It actually started when I was about six years old,” Stuart said. “My uncle was a drummer and I was fascinated with it. They have pictures of me behind his drum set. He gave me that push and here I am at sixty years old still playing.”

As for what keeps the two men going in the tough music world, the two performers simply believe that it is a passion for music that drives them.

“It gets tiresome when you’re very busy,” Basilone said. “You get tired, but it’s something you enjoy so much. It’s something that a lot of people in the business wish they can do.”

“Everyone in the group loves what they do,” Stuart said. “We have something very unique with our chemistry. Having nine members in our group and handling that many other people isn’t easy, but it all works out because we all love what we do and we know we have something good.”

The Cameos perform at Nutley’s Memorial Park on Aug. 1. The rain date for the show is Aug. 15. Food concessions open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.

Hip oldsters continue to be a ‘hit” with fans

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski 

For six men in their 60s, the passion of performing in front of a live crowd never gets old. On Friday, July 13, The Hit Men will fulfill their passion at Town Hall Park in Lyndhurst, showcasing three decades of experience in the music business.

The performance is part of Lyndhurst’s Summer Concert Series that extends from July 11 to 14.

“It’s no different,” Hit Men lead singer Lee Shapiro said, when asked about his opinion on performing in front of both larger and smaller crowds. “As a musician, it’s your responsibility to make everyone happy. It’s about whoever is at the show having a great time.”

The Hit Men formed over a year and a half ago, with members culled from such notable bands as Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Barry Manilow, Sting, Phoebe Snow, and Cat Stevens collaborating on the project.

“The group came together because people had been asking Gerry (Polci), Don (Ciccone) and me to get together for years,” Shapiro said. “When (the Broadway musical) ‘Jersey Boys’ came out, we said we were going to do it and we assembled friends and other people from the industry to help us.”

Since its inception, the group has moved quickly from a small show they performed for free to larger concerts across the state, with national tours anticipated in the near future. Shapiro got his start in the music business after he saw a relative play the piano.

“I loved what it sounded like,” Shapiro recalled. “I said to myself, ‘I can do this.’”

In a bit of foreshadowing, Shapiro and his mother watched the Ed Sullivan show when Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons performed.

“I was watching the show thinking, ‘See? This band has a piano player, so I know can do it,’ ” Shapiro said. Ten years later, Shapiro would be playing piano in that same band.

Through nearly three decades on the road, Shapiro was able to help form the band by creating a tightly knit group of musicians who have known each other for years.

“Our bass player and I go back to when we were eight years old (nearly fifty years ago),” Shapiro explained. “Jimmy (Ryan) and I go back at least 28, I’ve known Russ (Velazquez) for 20 years. It’s a fun thing to recreate our biggest successes.” Larry Gates completes the band.

With this chemistry, it’s easy to recognize why the group has had such longevity in the harsh music industry. Even though this band has traveled together decades ago, its newest travels continue to bring a lot of excitement.

“I love Frankie and the guys, and we can attach all of our credibility to them,” Shapiro said, explaining the value of his experience with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. “Now that everyone is hovering around 60, we can have the best times on the road. It’s truly like a brotherhood.”

The band has continued to wow crowds across the region by performing many of the Four Seasons covers that made them famous many years ago, including, “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Mony Mony.”

The creation of The Hit Men has spawned a new life for this group of dedicated musicians.

“This experience has been ridiculously good for me. Now we are actually playing the circuit,” said Shapiro, who, along with the band, will play in several states including Florida, Louisiana, and California in the coming months.

While all the members of the group continue to thrive working with their life’s passion, the group would still perform, even without the acclaim attached.

“I said to Frankie (Valli), ‘Had nothing happened, would you still be singing?’ and he replied, ‘Yes,” Shapiro said. “This is what we do, you wake up in the morning and music is your career.”

The Hit Men will take the stage at Lyndhurst’s Town Hall park on July 13 at 7 p.m. The Summer Concert series will also feature such acts as the Four Tops, Kenny Vace and the Planotones, and Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses performing throughout the event. For a full listing of bands, go to www.lyndhurstnj.org/calendar.

The brains behind the boom

Photos courtesy Garden State Fireworks

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

This week, millions of Americans will take to their local hillside or open field in order to celebrate the 236th birthday of America to watch an aerial spectacle as big as the birthday it honors.

Fireworks date back as far as possibly the Han dynasty in China around 200 B.C., but the Americanized version celebrating our country dates to America’s first birthday in 1777. According to history.com, Founding Father John Adams said that the Fourth of July “ought to be solemnized with pop and parade…bonfires and illuminations (a term for fireworks)…from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Fast forward 236 years and the art of fireworks is as vibrant as ever, with aerial displays that artists of the 1700s couldn’t even dream of.

Photos courtesy Garden State Fireworks

 

Even technology, as simple as black powder and other formulas, has become so advanced, that even 20-minute pyrotechnics (the average time of many such events in the area), will take several days to perfect.

“Timing is everything,” explains third-generation fireworks expert Nunzio Santore, whose family has been in the business of creating displays for the past 123 years.

Garden State Fireworks, where Santore is the coowner, will be orchestrating the Fourth of July celebration for State Fair Meadowlands on July 3 and 4. The event is another challenge for the company that has won awards in Canada, France, and Spain.

Creating these fireworks is an art form in its own right, and could stack up with many other forms of art in its beauty and brilliance. As Santore explained, it’s not just throwing everything together. “You have to back-choreograph it (working from the back of the display to the beginning) in order to make sure that the shells will explode into the air at the right time.”

The average time spent on preparing displays depends on the type of display it is. Some displays, described as the traditional style by Santore, are organized around an opening, where different effects and displays are used, and a finale, which “always has to be the strongest part of the show.”

Other displays, and often the more time consuming of the styles, are musicals. Musicals combine music with the firework display. Timing is even more crucial during these shows in order to correctly line up the moment in the song with its aerial barrage. These displays rely on computers paired with back-choreographing in order to provide the precision needed to wow an audience.

Photos courtesy Garden State Fireworks

 

Along with the timing goes the creation of the actual firework as well. While every display and firework is different, the construction of the firework is generally the same. Each firework contains a bursting charge, stars, a fuse, and a delay, along with a black powder charge to propel the shell into the air.

The shell of a firework is a strong casing that protects the inside of the firework, a delay ignites the burst charge at the right time, then the burst charge ignites the stars, or effects, which are placed in the exact order that the producer wants them to explode.

Different colors are created by adding a chemical to the formula. Santore explained that among other colors, blues are formulated from a copper base and silvers, from a titanium or aluminum base.

While the technology has advanced since Augustine Santore first opened his fireworks plant in 1890, his descendants still keep many of his original formulas.

“Our formulations are very old, but are much safer than when (my grandfather) used them,” Santore explained.

Over the years, fireworks have become not only a celebration of America, but a metaphor for what America is – an ethnically diverse nation where everyone has his or her own part in the larger display. When watching the several displays across our area, appreciate the artistic freedom each group has, and most of all, celebrate the freedom we have as a nation to put on these displays.

Hot films for a hot summer

By Anthony J. Machcinski

With the 90 degree temperatures our area experienced June 20-22, many people have been searching for ways to beat the heat. One of the easiest ways is by checking out one of the many films coming to area theaters.

With this summer’s load of movie blockbusters as heavy as ever, it’s easy for moviegoers to get lost in the shuffle of what to see. Here are some quick tips on the films you should be seeing.

The Big Names

Among the big budget blockbusters on tap are: “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Amazing Spiderman,” and “The Bourne Legacy.” The most surprising of these big names is “The Amazing Spiderman,” considering this is essentially a remake of the 2002 film “Spiderman.” As we’d expect, the new film chronicles the origins of Spiderman and his transition from nerdy teenager to superhero. However, according to several reviews, the plot of this reboot will be much darker and truer to its comic book storyline. In this adaptation, Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) will play the teenage web-slinger while Emma Stone (“Zombieland,” “Easy A”) is Spiderman’s love interest.

The other major player for the big names is “The Dark Knight Rises,” with Christian Bale returning as Batman. The big challenge for this film will be creating another great hit with the absence of the great acting performance of the late Heath Ledger, whose adaptation of The Joker stole the show in the original film. “The Dark Knight Rises” is easily the most anticipated film of the summer, with some patrons securing midnight premiere tickets for $100.

The other series continuation yet to debut is “The Bourne Legacy.” Matt Damon, who plays Jason Bourne in the first three installments, won’t be returning for the fourth, citing the need for “a different challenge.” In his place, the story centers around Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner. Cross is another assassin from the same outfit as Bourne’s, and, according to director Tony Gilroy (via movie insider), Renner’s character will be “a whole new hero (in a) whole new chapter.” With that in mind, “The Bourne Legacy” provides a whole new start for a series that has remained fresh for more than a decade.

The not-so publicized

For those simply looking for a good family movie to go watch, Disney and Pixar are looking to continue their success with the film “Brave.” Brave follows Princess Merida, who defies an age-old custom and unleashes chaos into her kingdom. If “Brave” is anything like the other Disney/Pixar-produced films, there will be plenty of fun for both adults and children alike, potentially making this the family film of the summer.

For adults, the major comedy of the summer looks to be “Ted,” created by “Family Guy” writer/illustrator/ producer Seth MacFarlane. The film follows John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and his childhood Teddy Bear Ted (voiced by MacFarlane). Mila Kunis stars as Bennett’s love interest. MacFarlane utilizes his “Family Guy” experiences and free-range ability of the theatre to make a downright crude comedy that will have audiences nationwide laughing.

For moviegoers seeking something from left field, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” should provide that type of fare. The film takes place during the Civil War, where Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) discovers the real reason behind the war: vampires. While the plot details are vague at best, avid movie fans can expect a good film, as it was written by Tim Burton, who is known for his “different” but quality films such as “Edward Sissorhands” and “Corpse Bride.”

Already released

Several films that have already been released for the summer have created a buzz about the summer movie season. “

Rock of Ages,” based on the Broadway play of the same name, showcases a love story between two aspiring Hollywood stars to the tune of many ‘80s hits. Big names such as Tom Cruise and Mary J. Blige star in the film.

Don’t let the title fool you: another big box office hit, “Snow White and the Huntsman,” is not the same type of joyous movie Walt Disney bestowed upon audiences in 1937. This adaptation of the popular fairy tale is much darker than other adaptations. The film has received great reviews from the moment it was released. Kristen Stewart (Snow White) and Charlize Theron (The Evil Queen) have drop-dead performances that have blown away all expectations.

This article could not be written without mentioning what many are calling the movie of the summer, “The Avengers.” Based on a continuation of the last few summer blockbusters (“Thor,” “Captain America,” “Iron Man,” and “The Incredible Hulk”), the film focuses on the creation of a group of superheroes facing one of their toughest challenges yet. One great part about the film is that while the film is based on the group of superheroes, it still gives equal time to each of the characters comprising “The Avengers.” This isn’t just your normal comic book adaptation; the film is a must-watch, even if you haven’t watched the prequels or read the comic book.

Local film puts watchers in the ‘Danger Zone’

Photos courtesy Ryan Polukord/ The evil, soul-piercing eyes of Alex Valez provide a bit of fright for local moviegoers.

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Imagine waking up in a totally white room while having no recollection of how you got there. While many people may think this is the beginning subplot of the next installment of the “Hangover” movies, it is far from it.

Produced and written by Belleville resident Ryan Polukord, “Danger Zone” tells the story of a man trapped in a white room who slowly realizes that he was abducted.

Polukord got the idea from the film after seeing a sign on the way home from Atlantic City last summer that read, “Speed monitored by aircraft.”

“From there, I started thinking about UFOs and how they’re linked to government conspiracy,” Polukord said. “It just got my mind going and I built from there.”

Polukord got his filmmaking start while a student of Belleville High School. It was during his high school years that he realized this was his dream job.

“I really got into it while I was at Belleville High School during a mass communication class that I took,” Polukord said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue this dream and applied to Montclair’s film making program.”

The cast and crew from the premiere of Danger Zone (from l. to r.) Gianna Giarrusso, Kevin Polukord, Lia Sprechini, Ryan, Polukord, Alex Velez, and Amanda Goscinski.

 

Nearly five years after high school graduation, Polukord has one award winning film under his belt and a good shot at grabbing a second. Polukord first created “Camp 139,” an 18-minute horror film during summer 2010 that was a nominee at the Garden State Film Festival and won “Best New Jersey Based Film” at the Down Beach Film Festival.

For “Danger Zone,” Polukord had the support of a dedicated, familiar cast that helped him complete the film.

“My lead (Frank Serco) and I worked together on a couple of short films,” Polukord said. “I was very familiar with his work and got him in on it. Two of my other actors were Alex Velez and Lia Sprechini, who I went to Belleville High School with. I trusted they would help me get this going.”

The film itself took about 10 months to put together, starting with the concept (July 2011), to a written script (October 2011), shooting (December 2011), to its showcase at Montclair State University on June 8, 2012.

The unveiling of the film turned out to be the moment of success for Polukord, as the film was well received by those who watched it.

“We had a great turnout and had a lot of people jumping (scared) at some points,” Polukord said. “We had a question and answer session after the film and a lot of the (audience members) were asking questions about it. The movie made them think. It was one of those films that made you think in a good way.”

In order to produce the film, Polukord had to raise the money needed to buy props, costumes, and the equipment needed to film the project. Using a website called Kickstarter, Polukord was able to raise $910.

“None of the funding went to paying actors or crew members,” Polukord said. “Everyone was doing it for experience on their resume.”

With “Danger Zone” under his belt, Polukord has plans to get the film to several festivals, including the Atlantic Film Festival, the Toronto After Dark Festival, the Gotham Film Festival and the Screen Horror Festival.

As for the future, Polukord is hoping to continue diving deeper into the filmmaking world, where he hopes to work under a producer and “learn more of the aspects of producing.”

To see more information about the film, visit http:// www.infobarrel.com/Danger_ Zone_Premiere_Ryan_Polukords_ New_Horror_Film.

Returning writer wows kids at alma mater

Photo Courtesy Anna Prokos/ From l., Library Media Specialist Kathleen Smith; students Laura Pinto, Thomas Muller, Charles McBride; author Anna Prokos; and guest Christopher Kontakis.

 

Photo Courtesy Anna Prokos/ Anna Prokos (c.) accepts flowers from Kathleen Smith and first-graders Emma Fernandes-Santinho (l.) and Raquel Cunha.

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

After a 26-year hiatus, Anna Prokos returned to her old grammar school on June 6 as an accomplished author. Prokos, who authored the children’s book “The Lucky Cake,” came to Roosevelt school in Kearny to talk to students about writing and being an author.

“It was really great to go back to my elementary school for the first time in 26 years,” Prokos said. “It was nice to see all these kids excited and how much of a difference my book made.“

“The Lucky Cake,” published in November 2011, tells the story of a Greek tradition where a cake is baked with a coin inside for the beginning of the New Year. The cake is served in order from oldest to youngest and the finder of the coin can expect to have a lucky year.

Prokos and “The Lucky Cake” achieved success, as 1,200 copies of the children’s book were sold in a threemonth span but Prokos is even happier with the reader response that her book has sparked.

“Most of the copies have been purchased by non-Greek people,” Prokos said. “Through the feedback I get, (readers) make this cake not just on New Year’s but at any time. It’s my inspiration to give kids a different cultural experience that they really have embraced.”

What really impressed her during her visit was how both teachers and students reacted.

“I think that the kids really enjoyed it,” Prokos said. “The kids had lots of questions and were very enthusiastic to ask them…The teachers really enjoyed having an author come to their school and talk about what’s its like to be an author and the careers you can have in publishing.”

One student in particular made a lasting impact with Prokos. She recounted the event, saying, “One child (that a teacher later said she didn’t think would be interested due to a disinterest in reading) wanted to talk to me directly. He asked me what were the most and least important things when writing a book. I was really struck by the fact that this child, who has not shown that much excitement in the classroom, had really wanted to ask me a question.”

Prokos answered the child by saying, “(The most important thing is to) keep rewriting as much as possible until you feel that it is done. Don’t ever settle until you’ve done it as well. (The least important thing is) a page or word limit. That’s something you can worry about at the end of it.”

Prokos found her inspiration for writing during her time at Roosevelt School while participating in a literary magazine the school published.

“My teacher created this magazine where they printed everybody’s best work throughout the year,” Prokos explained. “I remember being so excited to see my work with my name on it. I brought (the publication) home and told my parents, ‘I’m going to be a writer when I grow up’ and they didn’t believe me, but here I am today.”

With “The Lucky Cake” published, Prokos is now in the final stages of her next book, “The Lucky Year.” The book will follow the character Billy during his lucky year after finding the coin in “The Lucky Cake.” “

Right now, the book is finished and is in the design and illustration process,” Prokos said. She’s unsure about when the book will be ready for publication.

For more information on “The Lucky Cake,” visit www.theluckycakebook.com. To follow the book on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/a.to.z.publishing as well as the book’s Twitter @AZPublishing

Next up for W.H.A.T. is ‘Nunsense’

Photo courtesy Linda D’Isa/ The cast of “Nunsense”: Bottom row: Paula Ribeiro, Joan Hemphill, Melissa Miranda. Middle row: Danielle Pennisi and Danielle Romano. Top row: Elizabeth Camarza and Paula Reyes. Not pictured: Francesca Stokes and Don Flynn.

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) will conclude its first season on June 15 when area residents will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense.”

‘Nunsense’ revolves around Sister Julia, Child of God, cook for the Little Sisters of Hoboken who accidentally poisons 52 of her fellow sisters. In order to acquire the funds needed for the burials, the remaining sisters decide to perform a variety show.

Directing his second show for W.H.A.T. Joseph Ferriero has high expectations for the company’s rendition.

“I’m really excited for the first performance,” Ferriero said. “I want to see how the audience reacts. I don’t watch the show as it goes on; I want to see the audience. It lets me know what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong and what I need to change.”

Ferriero last directed “Frog Princess” for W.H.A.T., a family-oriented performance in April. As Ferriero started working on “Nunsense,” he quickly realized the two plays would be very different.

“It’s just really a different situation,” Ferriero explained. “Adults get it much faster than kids do in terms of understanding the characters.”

Performing in her debut for W.H.A.T. is Joan Hemphill, who will play Reverend Mother in the musical. While Hemphill is excited about the opportunity, she didn’t expect to be thrust into the spotlight so early.

“I was actually shocked to be honest,” Hemphill explained. “I just wanted a role to get me involved and get my feet wet. I’m taking (the role) on as a challenge to deliver a good performance.”

Explaining what those challenges are, Hemphill said, “It will take me more time to get used to. I have to balance my work and my career, but I’m really dedicated to it. I’m not a natural, but I’m up to the challenge.”

Joining Hemphill on the stage at the Grace United Methodist Church on June 15 will be Paula Reyes, who will play Sister Julia, Child of God. “Nunsense” will be Reyes’ second performance with W.H.A.T. after playing Ursula in the “Frog Princess” performance.

“I’m privileged to be in (‘Nunsense’) with (Ferriero) and the rest of the cast,” Reyes said.

One major difference between “Frog Princess” and “Nunsense” has been the ability of the cast to adapt and learn the play, despite the more complex nature of “Nunsense.”

“This is one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with,” Reyes remarked. “It’s nice because people put on productions in a threeto- four month time frame. We’re doing this in five weeks. (Acting) isn’t their main job. It’s an amazing production.”

Ferriero agreed, saying, “(The cast) is really dedicated. Whether it’s music one night, acting another, choreography another. There are things we’ve done seven times and then we say we’re going to change something with two weeks left because it wasn’t working. The cast has dealt with different curveballs very well.”

For this group, acting simply isn’t something they do just to cure summer bordom, it’s a fierce passion that’s been present in their lives for many years.

“I truly enjoy the arts,” Reyes explained. “It’s important to bring it back to the community in an affordable way.”

Hemphill echoed that idea, saying, “Kearny is a town that has a lot of interest in the arts. The people organizing it are talented and have the experience and know-how. It’s good to have that collaboration.”

Aside from the hard work and dedication that takes place to put the performance together, Hemphill points to another factor that has yielded much satisfaction for her involvement in the production.

“(The best part of the whole experience is) getting to know the music and working with people under good direction and meeting new people,” Hemphill explained.

The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense” on June 15 at 7:30 p.m. and June 16 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Grace United Methodist Church at 380 Kearny Ave. in Kearny. Tickets are available by visiting the company website at whatco.org, by calling the box office at 201-467-8624, or by purchasing them in person a half hour before the show or at 570 Kearny Ave. in Kearny.

‘Aim’ing for success

Photos Courtesy of Steve Egoavil

 

Anthony J. Machcinski

Artists from all over the area will converge on the Lithuanian Catholic Community Club on June 2 for “Together”. “Together” is a fundraiser for the “AIM Foundation” put together by North Arlington resident Steve Egoavil.

“The Art in Motion Foundation originated two years ago with a premise that anyone can make a difference,” Egoavil explained. “It was this idea and seeing what was going on in our world from a local to global point of view that I decided to get started in my quest to make a positive difference in the world.”

Since its inception, the AIM Foundation has been able to raise funds for the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge, Wounded Warrior Project, and several other groups and foundations.

A few months ago, Egoavil started thinking of doing another fundraiser after the outpouring of support after the last event.

“I had so many people offer to help me feed and cloth the homeless on one of our annual street cookouts,” Egoavil explained.

Egoavil saw this response as a sign to take the foundation to the next level, saying, “I knew it was time to prepare and make a move towards taking it all to the next level to a real non-profit organization.”

For this fundraiser, Egoavil has been able to collect a menagerie of artistic talent, from DJs, Musicians, Artists, and everything in between.

When asked what he was most excited to see, Egoavil said, “ To be honest, there are so many artists and musicians that will be there, so I’m actually just excited for it all. I’m curious to see how we interact with each other as well as how the guests soak in all the art and entertainment provided.”

One of those artists who will showcase his material is Justin Carty. Carty, an animator and graphic artist from New York City, will cross the Hudson with two large 36’’ by 84’’ oil on canvas paintings.

“Steve asked me if I wanted to be a part of it about three weeks ago,” Carty said on how he got involved. “Steve is a great guy and he said it was for a good cause so I said yes right away.”

Despite taking time out of his busy schedule to set up the event, Egoavil will also take part in the showcase, showing off some of his own work.

“I will be showing off some of the artwork I’ve been working on, (including) a painting, a few photographs, and a drawing, as well as a portfolio of Tattoo Art that I’ve done,” Egoavil explained.

Local band I Am Fighting will also be a part of the fundraiser.

While many of the artists are just happy to showcase their work in such a forum, one simple idea rings true throughout the participants.

“I think it’s for a very good cause and I enjoy contributing to causes that I know will directly help people,” Carty explained.

“The more people that get involved, the bigger the positive impact we make on what we decide to get involved in,” Egoavil added.

The fundraiser will take place on June 2 at the Lithuanian Catholic Community Club at 6 Davis Ave. in Kearny. A suggested donation of $20 will be collected at the door. The fundraiser will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Art comes in many forms in E. Newark

Photos courtesy of Wendy Born Hollander/ First Grade 3-D artwork based on the book “Bugs in a Blanket”

 

Photos courtesy of Wendy Born Hollander/ Fourth-grade projects from “Rainbow Star Books” suspended in the East Newark School stairwell.

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

A variety of student projects will be featured on May 30 when the East Newark Public School hosts its annual Spring Art Show. The artwork, created by students from the school, will be featured from 5 to 7 p.m. at the school on 501 N. Third St.

“It’s a good way for parents and people in the community to come see what’s happening,” explained East Newark art teacher Wendy Born Hollander.

The art show features a variety of pieces from students from kindergarten through eighth. Some of these projects include Tropical Bird paintings by third-graders, Rainbow Star Books by fourth and fifthgraders, and 3-D landscapes by sixth graders.

The variety of work incorporates what the students are learning in school.

“A lot of times with elementary students, we tie our pieces into books,” Hollander explained. “I can capture their attention.”

For Hollander, who started her art career as an illustrator of children’s books, teaching slowly became part of her life.

“I started working parttime and then found that I liked it,” Hollander said. “I decided to transition from illustration to teaching full time. Being an illustrator, there is never an off-button in trying to find work.”

Now organizing the School’s Art Show, Hollander is looking forward to one thing from the event — “meeting the parents.” “I’ve only met a few parents here and there. The art show is very well attended.”

One special feature about this year’s art show will be the availability of the work online.

“I think it’s great that even relatives in far away locations can see the beautiful work students are doing by just logging onto the website,” Hollander explained.

With the Art Show slowly approaching, Hollander has one main goal for the event.

“I hope that student’s families and friends are able to attend this special event,” Hollander said. “Everyone in the community is invited to come see the creative and exciting art projects students have completed. I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

The East Newark School Spring Art Show will take place on May 30, 5-7 p.m. at the East Newark School at 501 N. Third St. To view the students work visit http:// www.artsonia.com/schools/ school.asp?id=110876.