On Friday (June 7) and Saturday (June 8) nights at American Martyrs Church, a reunion of Rydell Highschool from Grease occurred. Over 200 guests attended as Danny Zuko, Sandy Dombrowski, Rizzo, Kenickie, Roger “Rump”, Jan, Doody, Frenchy, Sonny, Marty, Patty, Teen Angel, Johnny Casino and the rest of the Grease gang performed hits reminiscing of the old days including “Grease”, “Summer Nights”, “You’re the One That I Want”, “Greased Lightnin’ ”, “Hand Jive”, “We Go Together”, and many more.
by Peter Carrozzo
“In Celebration of a Backroom”
The backroom of a theatre is a magical and mythical place. A good one is a well-organized work area with modern tools and catalogued building materials ready to be transformed into any number of theatrical sets and props. A great one is an unmitigated disaster—a Collyers’ mansion of various random props and set pieces of plays from yesteryear whose provenance only a handful remember. The backroom in Andrean Hall falls under the latter category. At any and no particular time during the year, there will be plenty of half-built projects, old costumes, programs and pieces of furniture from past shows. If you set up a camera on the stairs leading down to the Andrean backroom you will find me on any given day carrying down Roman pillars, bales of hay and antique chairs found on garbage day. Recently I found two matching burgundy chairs resembling seats in an old theatre that can be in some show that remains to be determined or that we may never stage. I have built scenery in that backroom for close to thirty years—it’s one of my favorite places.
Before I write more about that backroom, I must tell a quick “back” story (completely accidental and mediocre pun that I won’t delete since by now only the most sympathetic of you are still reading). In 1963, a group of parishioners from St. Andrew Avellino parish in Flushing founded the Andrean Players. This is our 56th year—what better time to stage a revue? Even though 56 does not even have a precious metal affiliated with it, we were determined this year to stage a revue in the spirit of the Andrean Players. That raised two questions: is there a spirit of the Andrean Players and if so, what is it? The process of answering these questions helped us remember the true purpose of theatre—and gave me an opportunity to commemorate some of the denizens of the backroom.
From the outset, Mr. Koslosky said a revue needed an emcee. Although that seemed like a tough part, when he showed willingness to join me, I jumped at the opportunity. We wanted the revue to be about the Andrean Players, in addition to being about the shows we’ve done, and we discussed numerous ways to do that. Selecting quintessential songs is Mr. Koslosky’s specialty. Unsurprisingly, he managed to choose a perfect collection and order of songs representing every production staged by the Andrean Players over the years. My job was to figure out what happened in between the music. This task created a bad case of writer’s block, probably due to the topic’s importance. My father has been involved with the Andrean Players for six decades—well before I was born. How do I honor that history and make it entertaining and accessible to all? Mr. Koslosky suggested we go decade by decade and that I come up with crazy ideas in between the decades that he would dismiss—a straight man-comedian give and take like Abbott and Costello—now, the path of the revue became clear.
One night early in the process, while the cast rehearsed with our esteemed choreographer Rich Masin, I was wandering around the backroom with a laptop trying to get ideas. I came upon a suit of armor named Sir Harold rescued from the garbage over 15 years ago. Sir Harold had been sitting back there waiting for another show since last appearing in “Once Upon a Mattress” in 2007. The song list for the show included “Camelot.” Thus, Sir Harold had his first part in a show in over a decade! With a cowboy hat and a fedora, he made it into songs from “Oklahoma’ and “Guys and Dolls” as well. The idea to cast Sir Harold in the revue opened the door to a colorful cast of my imaginary theatre friends that included a deflated balloon named Shelly the Seahorse from “The Little Mermaid,” Wacky the argumentative puppet from “Annie” and the “bench,” a veteran of three decades that has been typecast in countless productions. Its numerous cameos make the bench the Alfred Hitchcock of our theatre. Such props exist in every small theatre and I was going to take every opportunity to feature these unsung set pieces in the show. When Mr. Koslosky seemed willing to entertain my stupidity, I knew we had something!
To complete the review, we couldn’t resist adding a few scenes for my father, Rocky Carrozzo, a veteran actor whose tenure at Andrean Hall surpasses all of the props combined. Give him a phantom mask and a cowboy hat and you have instant humor. With our colorful and talented cast doing their thing, a revue was born. Rich Masin called it the Andrean’s version of “The Muppet Show.” It was an apt and flattering description.
Putting together this revue gave us the answer to the question, “what is the spirit of the Andrean Players?” It may sound simplistic but in truth, the spirit is in our shared music, family and joy. Our theatre—really, all musical theatres—should create moments that make you laugh, songs that bring a tear to your eye and a feeling of joy. Specifically, it is the joy of being a part of or watching a group of different people come together as a family (and in many cases, real families) to entertain and distract their friends, neighbors and the community from their lives and troubles for a little while. If the audience walks away smiling and humming a tune, if the cast enjoys old friendships and forms new ones, and if you can throw in a suit of armor, a deflated balloon and a bench, then you might really be onto something.
by Marco Vittozzi
For those that have seen productions for the Josephine Foundation, you will notice many recurring faces. One of the most common faces you’ll see includes that of Pat White, the music director for the Josephine Foundation and JABEN Productions. Most know Pat as a jokester who’s always got a line to make you laugh, but not many know how he became involved in the Josephine Foundation.
Pat White has been in the Catholic School business for 26 years. He originally wanted to be a rock star but settled for church organist. His gateway to theater was his girlfriend at the time that made him help with a production, and he hasn’t stopped since. The first time he got involved with the Josephine Foundation, he went to see his friend Don Gormanly in a Broadway Blockbusters production. Don introduced Pat to Andrew Joseph Koslosky, the director of the show and the Chairman of the Foundation. The following year, when they were doing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Andrew asked Pat to be music director, and the rest is history.
One of the first things that Pat realized about this organization is that he was surrounded by good people doing good things. Throughout the years, he has enjoyed working with everyone who has come and gone in the organization. Some of his best memories happen to be when he played for Les Miserables and Fiddler on the Roof, citing their top-notch quality and terrific atmosphere. But what he treasures most is the camaraderie of working with the cast, crew and everyone involved. One of the many challenges he has faced is being able to get a professional blend out of many singers with varying experience for our productions. He can state for a fact, however, that working with Andrew is the single biggest challenge that he has faced.
When he’s not serenading church audiences or transforming sheet music into a musical, he loves to go on a relaxing bike ride and traveling with his friends. He also enjoys watching his favorite team, the Mets, and he can boast a very impressive 72 mph fastball!
Welcome to our second quarter newsletter!
As summer approaches and the school year comes to a close, we must remember to count our blessings as the seasons change and we move on to bigger and better things.
It has been an honor to work with Chairman Andrew Joseph Koslosky who has given me tremendous support over the years, pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to become the editor. I would also like to thank fellow board member Al Amico for his assistance setting up this newsletter so that I may continue it for our foundation. I greatly appreciate their support and the support of our entire board as I take up this new position.
As we bring to fruition Andrew’s vision for this foundation, we must always remember to be grateful for the gifts we are given. It is easy to forget our beginnings and become arrogant with newfound success. However, this success may quickly come to an end if we forget to be thankful for the support of our peers and those that taught us to bring out our talents for the world to see.
As my mother has always said, “When God closes a door… somewhere he opens a window,” for even when one door closes and we may think another won’t open, being thankful and reflecting on ourselves can help us to see paths that weren’t apparent to us before.
“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well being.” -James E. Faust
Please take the opportunity to visit our site and hopefully we’ll see you at our Gala on June 21, 2019!
The Friends of Maple Grove in partnership with the choir of St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset under the direction of Andrew Joseph Koslosky, the Richmond Hill Boy Scouts with Scout Master Patrick Kearns and many volunteers, gathered to honor the veterans at Maple Grove Cemetery on Memorial Day. Over the years, Helen Day, Joanne Raskin and I, have been creating a database of veterans found at Maple Grove, going as far back as the War of 1812 with John and Stephen Lott. This database includes two Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, George Corliss and Edward Wright and many veterans through history who fought in the two great World Wars, the Spanish American, the Box Rebellion, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam and so forth. Sadly, many did not return to their families but came to rest at Maple Grove. We keep finding more and more of these extraordinary Americans and continue to uncover their exceptional stories.
This weekend was no exception, we were stunned to find another member of the military, whose story had been forgotten for decades. Virginia Smith, from Woodhaven entered the WAF, Women in the Air Force, which was formed in 1948. In 1949, Virginia, and a fellow recruit were walking across their base when a bolt of lightning fatally struck Virginia and injured her friend. Virginia was brought to rest in her family plot at Maple Grove, she was 19 years old. Uncovering Virginia’s poignant story during Memorial Day weekend made things more extraordinary, emotional and memorable.
Saturday morning, all the groups met at the Center and were supplied with over 600 American flags provide by Bonnie Dixon, the President and Executive Manager of Maple Grove. Starting at 11 AM the students, scouts and volunteers started to fan all sections of Maple Grove, finding graves of veterans. Neighborhood volunteers, including Crystal Counts of the Briarwood/Kew Gardens Lions Club came and thanked us for honoring the veterans and were happy to help. Upon finding a veteran, the students paused, knelt in prayer and gave a salute before placing a flag. This continued for a few hours. At 2 o’clock the groups gathered at the lake for a memorial service. It began with the Pledge of Allegiance lead by Andrew Joseph Koslosky. A keyboard which was set up by Giovanni and Marco Vittozzi was played upon by Pat White and the Saint Mary’s High School choir sang a number of wonderful, heartwarming songs. Biographies of a few of veterans were read aloud and a prayer was recited. The end of the ceremony was marked with a trumpet player performing TAPS. Please see the pictures attached.
Over the years, The Friends of Maple Grove have created many wonderful and innovative events, workshops, walking tours, concerts and so on but this ceremony goes straight to the heart of our mission to those who we care for at Maple Grove.
President of the Friends of Maple Grove
It is becoming evident that as I get older, I am without asking to, becoming an elder spokesman for education, performing arts, academic and social development, etc. I suppose with my past experiences I should be honored or I should take the “bull by the horn”, as they say. I should probably be honored to be thought of in such a way…but to do that that without some thought, would be admitting that I am getting old. So let me ponder this for a few moments….Am I ready to admit I am old?
There are some wonderful advantages in thinking I am still young…especially on the stage. But there are equal opportunities for one who ages well, with talent on the stage. I suppose this is a question that will need more thought.
One thing I am sure of…my so called expert status allows me to make an educated opinion of a question that seems to be answered everywhere but never gets put to rest in our present system. How important is the arts in education? How important is social development?
It is about time we state the right arguments for the arts in our lives and schools. The best hope for the arts is to justify what the arts can do that other studies cannot.
The most important reason for arts in the schools and communities is to enable social development. Yes, through the arts we can appreciate some of the most masterful moments achieved such as a Shakespeare play, classical music, a Phantom of the Opera, paintings from Picasso or Michelangelo, etc. etc. But the most important gift is the ability to give our children sufficient skill so that they can express themselves, on the stage of performance and the stage of life. The arts is the only form of formal education in which we recognize and express deep and personal feelings, both in verbal and nonverbal form, in its work and its studies. The importance of this development in our life is immeasurable. Academics/knowledge without social development, without the ability to use what you have learned in a practical way…to be able to express oneself, with confidence and without fear, without understanding…is useless. It is also extremely dangerous. Social development is about improving the well-being of every individual in society so they can reach their full potential. The success of society is linked to the well-being of each and every citizen. Social development means investing in people. Without this investment, we are headed to a future where information will be available at every second, but the ability to process it will be lacking. This can lead to bad decisions for our society.
National studies back this up all the way back to the 1950’s. Yet, today, we still have “academics” who do not understand that to get the maximum results in development you must have the proper balance of knowledge and social development. Of course, you will find that most people who adhere to this argument, tend themselves to be socially unable to fit in. Some are even scholars, and yet they will never maximize their work in society because of their social short comings. People do tend to shy away from things they are not comfortable with.
The Arts are an essential tool in social development. If we as a society, can finally understand that the arts are as important as the academics and sciences, then the arts will take hold in our schools. We will finally catch up to our older sibling countries around the world who have for years believed in academic and social development balance. In fact, it is mandated.
If we let ourselves get brainwashed by today’s increasing attention on testing mentality and cold core academic principles….we will not just be writing the arts right out of the education curriculum, but we will be writing our own future where the norm will be a socially inactive and an unable to function society.
You know, revisiting the topic of my age…the very topic of confronting people who claim to be academics, yet whose results are fake, has made me feel older, especially these last few years. Yet, there are still so many who folks who are worth the fight for the truth that are left out there. It has been said, “Society will take the shape of its youth…and so, if I continue to fight for them and with them…I too will stay young forever.” Wow, imagine if I was not a person who was socially developed? I would not have been able to explain this to you…and you probably would not have had the inclination to read this article. It begs to ask the question…What does the future hold for our society? I guess I have another thought to ponder. Till next time…peace and social development,
Andrew Joseph Koslosky