A View from Backstage

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A View from BackstagePeter Carrozzo

We rarely hear the voices of those who work backstage. Before the show, we’re too busy to talk, during the show, we’re not allowed, and after the show, we’re too tired.  I’m one of those voices. I’ve been addicted to set design for years.  Except, I don’t call it set design because that would make me a set designer and that sounds pompous.  Especially since the majority of my work involves digging splinters out of my hands and sweeping the stage. But set construction is something that I love.  When I go to see a show I can’t help but focus on the scenery.  For example, when I saw Hamilton on Broadway, my favorite performance was by the blue trunk.  The blue trunk appeared in as many scenes as Jefferson—it was a box for people to stand on and give speeches, it acted as furniture, as a suitcase.  The blue trunk was the unsung hero of that show.  Of course, I don’t want to snub the two rolling lampposts which were beautiful pieces that depicted the streets scenes expertly.  I try my best to build these types of pieces.

This issue I’d like to spotlight (attempt to use theatre lingo) the all important shower from South Pacific,  specifically the one featured in the St. Mary’s High School 2018 production. When Mr. Koslosky asked me to build it, a number of thoughts cascaded (attempt to use shower lingo) through my brain.  Did it have to work?  How would the water come out if it? What would catch the water?  Can I keep it after the show and turn it into a backyard fountain?  If so, how would I get it home?  If I put it in my backyard, will animals turn it into their nest and will I need to hire an exterminator? 

 

After day dreaming for hours, I realized opening night was near so I rolled up my sleeves. The process usually begins by Googling something like “image of the shower in South Pacific” and then drawing a sketch on a napkin.  Then construction begins.  For the base, I built a box made of 2 by 6s around a hot water heater overflow pan and added a plywood bottom to hold it all together.  Two by four legs attached by 2 by 3s, some for support and some just for show, made up the body.  Luan worked well for the sides, as it does for most everything.  For the shower itself I used a solar shower for camping that works on gravity. That makes it simple to use and not dependent on a power source.  Extension cords aren’t practical on a moving piece of scenery and batteries are notorious for failing during performances leaving the actress playing Nelly singing “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair” with a head full of shampoo and burning eyes.  As for the appearance of the structure, this would be an item built by Navy engineers from excess material.  It should look as such.  But should it look poorly made or well-constructed? I figure Navy engineers would build it well—they had nothing but time on their hands and they were engineers.  If poorly done, will the audience just think I don’t know what I’m doing, which is partly true, or understand that I’m going for a “look.”  Will the audience think about it this much?  Will they care?  It doesn’t matter—I will.  Ideally, military type material (corrugated metal) looks the part, if available.  The wood should look distressed.  Funny messages such as “Billis’ Hot Showers: 25 cents” should decorate it.  How will I hide the solar shower?  An old wooden bucket last featured in Fiddler on the Roof works well.  But wouldn’t Billis use an oil drum?  Maybe I can go on eBay and find one.  But how much time do I have to wait for it to be delivered?  Am I cutting it too close to opening night?  Wait, I’m late to pick up one of the kids from soccer practice–let me finish this piece of scenery and start the next one.  Those are some of the thoughts that go through my mind when building scenery.  If you’d like to hear more, please read our next issue, or better yet, come down to build the next piece of scenery with me.

Thank you for your support.

Sincerely

Peter

Festival of the Trees

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In December 2017, Saint Mary’s High School in conjunction with The Josephine Foundation hosted its first annual Festival of the Trees, “A Christmas Carol”. The major attraction to the festival was a brilliant display of Christmas trees. Thirty beautifully decorated Christmas trees were sponsored by families, organizations and local businesses. Each tree’s decoration was uniquely themed based on the sponsor’s favorite Christmas Carol.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Claus
Our tree sponsors, along with the administration, teachers and staff of the Schools of St. Mary were invited to celebrate the season with friends and enjoyed exceptional entertainment, food and wine as they got a chance to preview the trees on Friday, December 1st at the Opening Night Gala.

The festival was officially opened to the public on December 2nd and 3rd. Guests had the opportunity to meet/greet and take pictures with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus in front of their cherished fireplace. Guests also enjoyed live entertainment by students from the SMHS Performing Arts Department and by various choirs from the surrounding area. They also had the opportunity to purchase beautifully decorated wreaths and other Christmas crafts, along with delicious holiday desserts from the Sweet Shoppe.

This event was a huge success and enjoyed by all who attended! It was truly a magical and beautiful way to celebrate the Christmas season. All proceeds raised benefitted the St. Mary’s High School Performing Arts Scholarship Program

Thank you so much to all our tree sponsors

The Friends of Maple Grove and Josephine Foundation Partnership

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These two organization share a number of goals, with the main focus on encouraging everyone to learn to work together by creating family arts programs in their communities. The programs developed by the Friends of Maple Grove, center around the historical aspects of the 143 year old cemetery and honoring those buried through many diverse programs including themed Walking Tours, various family workshops including Victorian Arts and Crafts, genealogy, robotics, science, historical literary series, Memorial Services, Spirits Alive, Murder Mystery Dinner theater, Trunk or Treat, Teas, Pet Beds, musical themed concerts etc. Yearly grants provided by the Josephine Foundation have made our events possible.

SPIRITS ALIVE

Spirits Alive is an educational event that promotes sensitivity with the past. It was created as a teaching tool for students to better understand historical figures both local and national and helps bring into perspective an understanding of a past era. It engages to actively bridge the past with the present.

Scripts highlight many historical figures buried at the cemetery which focus and highlight significant points in their life. Many volunteer actors from the Josephine Foundation take on these roles and are provided with period costumes at our Spirits Alive event for the community. The actors stand by the graves of those they

represented and told their story to the public. Spirits Alive has allowed for a sense of involvement and participation with the past, a unique teaching tool that benefits the entire community both young and old.

TRUNK or TREAT

Our Maple Grove Trunk or Treat Fall event has grown incredibly over a number of years! Parents have been very grateful to find a safe secure place for their children to trick or treat and know that the candy is safe as well. Each year there is always a nonstop flow of children!

When we started four years ago we had nine decorated car trunks. In 2017 we had over thirty cars with decorated trunks, all vying for best decorated car prize. There were many individuals and groups that come with a caravan of cars include the Josephine Foundation, The Kwanis of Queens Blvd, The Woodhaven Historical Society, The Auxliary Police, The Kew and Willow Book Store, the Lion’s Club of Briarwood and Kew Gardens, The comments by parents and by the children were heartwarming and wonderful! It was overwhelming and words fail to describe how incredible it truly was!!!!

MURDER MYSTERY

Friends of Maple Grove presented their Murder Mystery Dinner Theater for many years! Scripts are written using historical figures from Maple Grove and written by members of the Friends. The Josephine Foundation has provided a group of ten to twelve actors for each of the performances dressed in period costumes. The dinner theater event is usually the highlight of the year with tickets sold out within a few days. Themes vary from A Murder at the Civil War Reunion, Murder at the Racetrack, A Victorian Egyptian Murder Mystery and the last about a Radio Murder Mystery.

MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE

Maple Grove Cemetery has many veterans going back to the War if 18121

Over the years the Memorial Day service has been enhanced by the attendance of The St. Mary’s High School Teen Choir led by Andrew Koslosky and Pat White. The young students assisted in placing flags on the graves of Veterans. They fanned out and, in a very respectful manner, located Veteran graves and placed a flag at each. It was moving to watch such reverence.

The ceremony takes place by the lake facing the flag over the 9/11 Memorial on Presidential Circle.

It has always been a very moving event!

JoFo Halloween Hoe-Down

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Nothing says autumn like crisp air, baseball playoffs, Halloween and one of my favorites, “The Josephine Foundation Halloween Hoe-Down”.

Meeting up at St. Claire’s in Rosedale in the morning, assembling a jailhouse, setting up tables, opening up a bakery shoppe and setting up a Chapel while cool air filled the gymnasium.

Yes it was a lot of hard physical work but the pay off was to come. We would all get dressed up in costume and

enjoy a fun evening. I few “Deputies” and myself would walk around, hawking over our guests, waiting for the

chance to find them break one of the many time released rules. subsequently they would be arrest (except Andrew), brought to the jail where they awaited to be bailed out by one of the Maiden who would pay a fine and agree (sometimes reluctantly), to marry this perp. Then they would proceed to Reverend Red where there was a ceremony and became husband and wife.

There were many competitions and events. Pie eating contest to relay races and oh yeah the Square dance with Caller.

This is myself with three wonderful women who always played an important role in getting these parties done right.

I miss that party but most I miss the special woman in the middle.