2008-11-21 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

The Write Stuff
Commentary by Susan Hartenstein

"Roost," by Dan Guarino. Medium: Photography. See the piece, in person, at RAA's "Gifted" exhibition on display at sTudio 6 Gallery at Fort Tilden. "Roost," by Dan Guarino. Medium: Photography. See the piece, in person, at RAA's "Gifted" exhibition on display at sTudio 6 Gallery at Fort Tilden. A new weekly feature of "From the Artist's Studio" will be, "kidsmART corner," providing the latest information and special events of RAA's great arts education program. Watch for it at the end of each column.

The RAA Writers Group continues to grow in membership and in vision for the future. At its second meeting on November 16, the discussion included ways to promote one's writing, venues at which to present it to the public, encouragement of the work of others through feedback, establishing interdisciplinary events and workshops with visual and performing artists, all of which are expressed goals of the group. Information concerning funding sources and fellowships was presented. Also discussed were techniques to stimulate the writing process, to be used at future meetings/ workshops or by individual members on their own. Several attending read from their work, including acclaimed author Thomas O'Callaghan, a Rockaway resident whose first two successful suspense novels include "The Screaming Room." He read from the as yet unpublished third in the series. But don't be intimidated by a wellknown name.

The group consists of writers who have published, are interested in learning how to get their work published and those who write exclusively for the love of it. All of the above are welcome. Learn from the talents and experiences of the others. Receive supportive feedback about your work from those who share your passion. O'Callaghan expressed the thoughts of many when he said that he finds that the more he is around people who like writing, the more he "stays on the job" - the more he remains motivated. For him, a group such as this acts as a "writing fountain." Stuart Mirsky, who organized the Rockaway Music and Arts Council's Rockaway Literary and Film Festival, concurred. Writing is a very isolated pursuit; it is important to have a surrounding, supportive community of writers. Several attending commented that they were not aware how many writers live in Rockaway - indeed, a rich "fountain."

The next meeting of the RAA Writers Group is Sunday, December 14 in sTudio 6 Gallery at 4 p.m. If you wish, please bring some of your work to read. And bring your ideas for what you think the mission of this new group should be. Don't sit isolated in your lonely garret any longer. Benefit from and help form an entity that will answer the needs and aspirations of the literary artists of our community. And write, write, write - even if (especially if) it is just for yourself (because you would explode if you didn't) - you will find kindred spirits at the RAA.

I highly recommend the Rockaway Theatre Company's production of Neil Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue." In performances that are both hysterically funny and heartbreaking, lead actors Lynda Browning and David Risley interpret the lives of a married couple residing in a Manhattan apartment, trying to cope with the suffocation and absurdities of urban life, and the woes of the recession of the early 1970s. Indeed, the play could have been written today. Simon has a special gift for exposing the neuroses of the modern urbanite. But here, he provides poignant insight into the extreme pressures that could turn any one of us into Mel and Edna Edison. This is a late 20th century and early 21st century cry in the wilderness of a world over which we feel we no longer have control, and in which morality appears to have, inexplicably, disappeared. If the timing of some of this very funny dialogue were changed just a little, we could be watching a Chekov play. (Simon is a great admirer of the Russian playwright.) Kudos, as well, to the talented supporting cast.

Perhaps we are reminded that laughter and a sense of humor are indispensable weapons against the worst of times. Simon knows, here, exactly how to balance the masks of comedy and tragedy, never sinking too deeply into the latter. Praise for Browning and Risley comes from codirector Peggy Page for taking on the "Hedda Gabler and Hamlet of comedy parts," in what is "essentially a twocharacter play." Co-director Michael Wotypka says of Risley in his most touching, funniest moments, "He has a face like a silent film comedian."

Praise goes to co-directors Page and Wotypka for orchestrating and conducting the comic hysteria of our age in a marvelous, finely modulated production. Page thanks all the cast members and the entire "incredible" technical crew for making the production a "family" affair. Of particular note are Tony Homsey, "master builder and snowmaker, unbelievable in what he has done." She also thanks set decorator Cliff Hesse, and George Hoffer for his assistance to Homsey. Page is extremely grateful to stage manager Susan Corning, "without whom this show would not have been possible."


Phone: 718 474-0861; Fax: 718 474- 4373; e-mail: rockart116@aol.com; website: www.rockawayartistsalli ance.org

Fort Tilden Highlights

"GIFTED," RAA's holiday member exhibition, is on view through Dec. 14 in sTudio 6, RoCA, Fort Tilden. Gallery hours: Sat. 12-4 p.m., Sun. 1-4 p.m. and by appointment. Free admission. BAKE-OFF: Nov. 22, 2 p.m. in the RAA galleries. Prizes, treats, special guest judges. And you will sample and judge "People's Choice Award." Come with an empty stomach. NEXT GENERAL MEETING: Monday, December 8, 7:30 p.m. in sTudio 7 Gallery, Fort Tilden. All are welcome. RAA Board of Directors elections; holiday party; grab bag. NEXT MEETING OF RAA WRITERS GROUP: Sunday, December 14, 4-6 p.m., sTudio 6, RoCA. PAINTING CLASSES FOR ADULTS: Tuesday nights, 7-9 p.m.; Thursday mornings, 10 a.m. - 12 noon. sTudio 7, RoCA @ Fort Tilden. $15 per class, supplies included. Instructor: Geoff Rawling. FREE THURS. NIGHT MUSIC: Open mic and scheduled bands every Thurs. night, sTudio 7 stage, RoCA, Fort Tilden. "THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE:" Rockaway Theatre Company, Post Theater, Fort Tilden. Performances: Nov. 21, 22 @ 8 p.m. Info and tix: 718-850-2450.

kidsmART corner

The kidsmART after-school program is held on Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 - 6:30 p.m. in Building T-149 in Fort Tilden. It will be closed Thanksgiving Day. kidsmART will be open on Friday, November 28 in T-149. Children may be signed up for either the morning session, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., or the afternoon session, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. E-mail marinarockart116@ aol.com or sign up on site at kidsmART on Tuesday, November 25. Children must sign up by close of kidsmART on November 25 in order to attend. For children registered at the PS 104 program, this week's schedule is Monday - Wednesday, 3 - 4:45 p.m. RAA is continually accepting inquiries for positions as Junior Counselors and Teaching Artists. Please send resumes to: chrisrockart116@aol. com. For questions regarding after-school programming, please e-mail: marinarockart116@aol. com.

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