10/18/13 11:07am
10/18/2013 11:07 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Suffolk County Community College’s alumnus, Keith Dinielli wins an Emmy as one of the producers for “The Voice” in the Best Competition Reality Series category.

From shooting a film about downtown Riverhead’s Suffolk Theater to shooting live TV in Hollywood, Suffolk County Community College alumnus Keith Dinielli recently won an Emmy Award as one of the producers for NBC’s “The Voice” in the Best Competition Reality Series category.

In 1990, Mr. Dinielli of Port Jefferson, received his Associate Degree in Radio and Television Production from SCCC. He went on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree from The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in 1996, but credits much of his accomplishments to his education at SCCC.

“I can credit the success I have had to hard work, perseverance and to the sound advice I received from my Suffolk County Community College professor, Alan Bernstein,” Mr. Dinielli said in a press release. “In a moment of caring and candor, Professor Bernstein pulled me aside and informed that while I had talent, I wouldn’t be successful unless I could learn to work with people.  It was a life changing moment and a piece of advice that I practice to this day.”

The summer after he received his degree from USC, he returned to Long Island where he co-wrote, produced and directed the feature film, “Changeover”, shot on location in Riverhead. According to IMDB.com, the film, centered around a group of ushers working their last days before the downtown anchor closed its doors in the late 1970s.

The low budget production featured SCCC students in front of and behind the cameras. The film premiered at Theater Three in Port Jefferson in 1998, proving as a jumpstart to Mr. Dinielli’s career.

Since then, he landed production assistant work on several TV shows before a long stint in feature film development, where he worked on the “Fast And Furious” franchise, “SWAT”, “Vantage Point” and “Click.” He also continued to write and direct his own films.

In 2010, Mr. Dinielli took a producer position on a reality show called “Your Own Show” for the fledgling Oprah Winfrey Network, which eventually led to his joining “The Voice” in 2011. The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards was held Sept. 22 at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.


10/09/13 2:30pm
10/09/2013 2:30 PM




Smack in the middle of mental illness awareness week, a group of individuals will be spending Thursday combining art and mental health advocacy on Thursday at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall.

Creative Explorations Network, a group who seeks “to self heal and build connections through artistic expression” according to their website, will host an artists’ exhibition and mental health awards luncheon from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The daylong event is open to the public and features an art gallery with works from nearly 20 artists, live music, and a presentation of two short films. The Mosaic Voices Show, an original one-act play, will be performed in the evening, and awards will be given to people who have performed outstanding advocacy work, particularly in the mental health field.

“It’s really more of a human rights celebration,” said Julie Burroughs Erdman, the group’s founder and associate director. “That’s the crux of what we’re doing.”

Founded in 2011, Creative Explorations Network is composed of artists, writers, filmmakers, photographers, musicians, and other craftspeople, according to their website. They meet primarily at members’ houses, usually on the East End.

“Flashbacks From My Past,” an animated documentary produced by artist and filmmaker Irra Verbitsky, is one of two short films that will play at Thursday’s event. Ms. Verbitsky, who lives in New York City and has a studio in Baiting Hollow, said the 13-minute movie is a blend of three of her other short films — “Starry Night, “Departure,” and “The Portrait.”

“Flashback From My Past,” Ms. Verbitsky said, is based on events from her life, such as the experience of being a little girl during World War II. An animation professor at New York City’s School of Visual Arts, Ms. Verbitsky drew each scene in “Flashback From My Past” by hand.

“It’s about my life, but it’s my life within the scope of what is going on in the world,” Ms. Verbitsky said of the film’s theme. Some of her paintings and drawings will also be displayed at the event’s art gallery, she said.

“Her films are so moving,” Ms. Burroughs Erdman said of Ms. Verbitsky’s work. “Part of what we want to do is kind of show the resilience of the human spirit, and part of the way to do that effectively is to sort of contrast what’s worst about humanity with what’s best.”

Guests can register for the exhibition and luncheon at www.creativeexplorations.org. If attending the luncheon, the event is $15 per person. All other guests are asked to make a suggested $10 donation, Ms. Burroughs Erdman said.


09/15/13 10:00am
09/15/2013 10:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Charlie Scheer, member of the North Fork Community Theatre board of directors, in front of the two original stained-glass windows long believed to be broken.

When North Fork Community Theatre volunteer Charlie Scheer removed the building’s rotting marquee for repairs last month, he thought he’d find a lot of broken glass.

That’s because, he said, people said that over the years, while building sets, they’d hear the “tinkling” of breaking glass as they nailed into the plywood that covered a window on the Mattituck theater’s front wall, behind the marquee.

As Mr. Scheer and his son, David, worked with a bucket truck and a sawzall to remove the marquee — piece by piece — more and more of a stained-glass window was revealed.

“I kept saying, ‘It must be broken further up,’ ” Mr. Scheer, a member of the theater’s board of directors, recalled during an interview last week in front of the window. “It’s quite the surprise.”

The colorful window, more than 15 feet tall, has an intricate design that includes religious symbols: a cross and crown and alpha and omega. The window has suffered only minimal damage, only a few nicks and a small hole toward the bottom that’s believed to have been created by a squirrel. Mr. Scheer believes the squirrel had been trapped there for a very long time because he found its petrified remains.

A second, smaller stained-glass window uncovered during the renovation also appears to be in good condition.

The theater occupies a former church on Old Sound Avenue, near Love Lane, and the 19th-century structure is undergoing its most intensive renovation since an arsonist set fire to the back of the building in the mid-1980s, Mr. Scheer said. Since then, theater officials have offered scholarships to local students as a way to thank the community for helping them rebuild after the fire.

The amateur theatrical group, which started in Greenport about 56 years ago, moved to its current location in 1961.

Last year, with the help of donations from community supporters, the group was able to purchase the building from Mattituck Presbyterian Church for $465,000. Then last month, the theater received financial support from Emilie and Michael Corey. The couple donated $100,000 outright to help fund the theater’s much-needed renovations and agreed to match all other donations, up to $300,000, through December 2015. That means as much as $700,000 could go toward the theater’s “Building on Tradition” renovation campaign.

“The outside is the first thing we worked on and a treasure pops up,” said NFCT president Mary Motto Kalich. “It’s a really good talisman that good things are coming.”

Ms. Kalich said the window’s trim will be painted white when Bryan Danstrup, owner of Bryan Danstrup Custom House Painting in Riverhead, repaints the building’s exterior this month.

Another marquee or sign will also be constructed, since the old one couldn’t be salvaged.

As the theater’s board continues to discuss the newly discovered windows’ future, Mr. Scheer said he’s visited local churches to learn how they protect their stained-glass features.

“Personally, I’d like to see them preserved,” he said. “It would be a shame to see them destroyed.”


08/11/13 2:20pm
08/11/2013 2:20 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Dan Yaiullo, center, leads a song and dance in a scene from Oklahoma!

A couple has given $100,000 to help fund renovations at the North Fork Community Theatre building in Mattituck.

On top of that, Emilie and Michael Corey have pledged to match all other donations to the theater, up to $300,000, through December 2015. That means as much as $700,000 could go toward rehabbing the facility.

The theater’s president, Mary Motto Kalich, called the donations “inspiring.”

“This really inspires all of us to work together and contribute,” Ms. Kalich said. “It makes it easier, if you will, for the community to say, ‘Hey, now my $100 is really $200.’ They are reaching out in a tremendous way to help us do these renovations to the theatre.”

The Coreys were not available for comment this week but, according to published reports, Ms. Corey is a retired social worker and Mr. Corey is a retired managing director of JP Morgan. The couple has a home Riverhead Town and ties to the East End and New York City.

The money will be used to purchase and install a new cesspool, curtains, as well as lights and rigging for the theater. The structure was built in the 19th century as a church and has been used for performances since 1957. The theater’s 166 chairs — hand-me-downs from the 1980s, Ms. Kalich said — will also be torn out and replaced for an estimated cost of $35,000. The theater’s exterior will be painted and re-shingled.

“The curtain has some sort of tape on top of it because there’s a big rip in it,” Ms. Kalich said. “You make do and you fix what you can.”

This isn’t the first major donation the theatre has received. Last year, with the help of donations from community supporters, the group was able to purchase the building itself from Mattituck Presbyterian Church for $465,000. The amateur theater group had been leasing the theater since 1961.

“We had never really done much fundraising before,” Ms. Kalich said. “Then we realized we needed to buy the building. About five years ago we started a campaign, reached out to the community and received wonderful support from a wide variety of people.”


08/11/13 10:00am

COURTESY PHOTO | Actor and Aquebogue native Matthew William Chizever. (seated) in a still from a season seven episode of USA Network’s “Burn Notice” with actor
Charles Mesure.

You may only know him from the time you saw him get into a fistfight with himself in Mitsubishi Electric’s popular “Shadow Boxer” commercial, but Matthew William Chizever isn’t a violent guy. The Aquebogue native is just doing his job.

The 30-year-old got his first taste of acting when he starred in productions at Riverhead High School and North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck. After graduating from Riverhead in 2001, Mr. Chizever studied at Manhattan’s American Musical Dramatic Academy, graduating in 2006. Since then, he has appeared in numerous shows in south Florida, including “The Turn of the Screw” and “Evil Dead: The Musical.” Recently, he’s added a healthy dose of television work to his expanding résumé.

Mr. Chizever lives with his fiancée, Erica Bunn, and their 19-month-old son, Lawson, in Margate, Fla.

COURTESY PHOTO | Matthew William Chizever.

Q: How did you get into acting?

A: One of the main reasons I got into acting was I was very competitive with one of the guys I went to Hebrew school with who was always the lead in local shows. I was very jealous of the attention he would get. I think that competitiveness kind of came out from my grandpa and my father, who are both awesome tennis players.

Q: What was your first big acting job?

A: Right after school I got a gig at the American Girl Theater at Rockefeller Center performing in a show called “Circle of Friends: An American Girl Musical.” I did that show for a few months before I started going out on the road. That was really cool because they only had two adults in the show, and the adults played all the kids’ parents.

Q: You live and work in Florida now. What prompted the move?

A: I started auditioning for a lot of different regional theaters outside New York, mostly Florida theaters. I started going out on the road. Once I stayed down in Florida I started getting noticed pretty quickly by some larger theaters. I’ve made a name for myself.

Q: You recently appeared on a season seven episode of USA Network’s ‘Burn Notice.’ What was that experience like?

A: I got to meet Jeffrey Donovan, the lead, who’s a really awesome guy. When you get to that point, with guys like that, it’s awesome to be around them just to watch them work. The caliber of work going on around you is amazing to be around.

Q: You fight your own shadow, and lose, in the ‘Shadow Boxer’ commercial. How did you prepare for that shoot?

A: At the American Musical Dramatic Academy a lot of our training was in stage combat and weapons. It was nice to be able to pull from something I had such a good time doing in school; my teachers really got me into it. I performed my own stunts for the commercial and went through a balsa-wood table a few times — it was a blast. So much of what I do in theater gets really physical that doing that commercial was almost like a culmination of everything I’d done and loved about my career beforehand.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

A: I’m working on a local law group commercial. Nothing theaterwise. I’ve been trying to keep my schedule open for a lot more camera work.

Q: What would you like your career to become in the future?

A: I’d like to step away from the theater a little bit and see what happens with some television and commercial work.


07/23/13 5:00pm

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Sydney Campbell of Southold plays sorority sister Elle Woods in  North Fork Community Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde,” which opens Thursday.

“Legally Blonde,” the musical based on a novel by Amanda Brown and a 2001 movie, is this summer’s Youth on Stage presentation at North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck.


The story takes sorority sister Elle Woods (Sydney Campbell of Southold) from UCLA to the halls of Harvard in pursuit of love and a law degree. The NFCT production is directed by Jessica Raven and produced by Susan Hedges, with musical direction by Jacob Boergesson and choreography by Meagan Schmid.

Performances are Thursdays through Sundays, July 25 to Aug. 11. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. A free reception will start at 7 on opening night, Thursday, July 25.

Saturday, Aug. 1, will be a special “Think Pink” night, with all refreshment stand proceeds going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Tickets are $20. Go to nfct.com or call 631-298-NFCT (6328).

07/02/13 10:00am
07/02/2013 10:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The theater marquis and the sky above downtown Riverhead.

It’s been nearly four months since the Suffolk Theater reopened in downtown Riverhead after a 26-year absence. In the weeks since, new wall coverings have been hung, the menu has been redesigned and plenty of actors have already graced the theater’s stage. A wedding was even held there last month. 

The theater itself, executive director Bob Spiotto says, is still enjoying its honeymoon phase, but it’s also constantly looking for ways to evolve.

“I don’t know if one can put a definite start and end time to the creative honeymoon period,” Mr. Spiotto said. “The goal in March was to really come out swinging. The transition now is we’re looking to be very careful about what we schedule and how we schedule it.”

What does that mean for theatergoers, who have attended comedy nights, classic film screenings, live musical performances and Broadway-style revues at the restored art deco theater most days of the week for the past few months?

Well, those acts are here to stay — but they’ll mostly be rescheduled as weekend-only events.

“March had a unique menu of offerings,” Mr. Spiotto said. “Like anything else, in that first month it was a lot of — I don’t know if I want to say trial and error, but trial and learn.

“It would appear that audiences are most interested in being entertained and having a unique experience on the weekends,” he said. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t still be open to the occasional weeknight event if it were very unique, very special or celebratory in some way.”

The theater’s new focus Monday through Thursday, Mr. Spiotto said, will be on hosting special benefits, corporate events and meetings.

Other, more subtle changes have also been made since the theater’s return. Healthier offerings have been added to its menu and an unpopular mushroom pizza was nixed altogether. A country music night that did unexpectedly poorly will be reworked. Advance tickets are now available to theatergoers at a $5 discount from the door price.

“People are still learning we’re here,” Mr. Spiotto said. “There wasn’t a great deal of traffic in general [downtown] to begin with. We’re starting to see not only changes around us in terms of businesses but we are, of course, seeing our own business here. We are seeing and have been getting audiences coming to us from as far as Brooklyn.”

Downtown restaurant owners said they’ve noticed a modest increase in business from theatergoers.

“We actually see a little uptick if [the theater] does something Thursdays or Sundays,” said Dennis McDermott, who owns The Riverhead Project on East Main Street.

“It’s kind of trailed off from what it was, but they’re not having as many shows now,” said Ed Tuccio, owner of Tweeds Restaurant and Buffalo Bar, also on East Main Street.

“It’s not easy being everything to everybody,” Mr. Spiotto said of the theater’s initial packed and varied schedule. “We’ve been trying to do that, and there are two schools of thought with regard to that: Is it something we should be doing? Or is it something we shouldn’t be doing? And we are still trying to figure that out.

“What we do know is we want to provide this ongoing sense of diversity and high quality, and a very unique combined experience. There aren’t many locations where you can go and not only sit in a beautifully restored … “ Mr. Spiotto said, his voice trailing off.

He thought for a few seconds before continuing.

“You can’t have this experience [anywhere else] on Long Island,” he said.


06/09/13 8:44pm
06/09/2013 8:44 PM

JOE DOLL COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead Idol winner 2013 Taylor Burgess.

Tonight, Riverhead has a new Idol.

When 16-year-old Taylor Burgess stepped onto the stage to perform, those in attendance saw a calm teenager. When she opened her mouth for the first notes of “Breathless,” a Corinne Bailey Rae song she says she loves, they heard just how talented she is.

By the time she stepped off the stage, the audience was left mesmerized.

The Riverhead High School junior, who hopes to study vocal performance and dreams of one day being famous, was the winner of tonight’s Riverhead Idol competition at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall.

After the performance, judge Dee Martin could only gush.

“That was effortless,” she said. “It was seamless. It was gorgeous.”

JOE DOLL COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead Idol 2013 winner Taylor Burgess, right, with second place finalist Ryan Mancini and third place finalist Megan Schlichting.

Ms. Burgess won a $250 cash prize, a $150 gift card to Tanger Outlet Center, $50 at The All-Star bowling alley and a trophy. Second place went to Ryan Mancini, an eighth grader from Riverhead Middle School, while third place was awarded to Megan Schlichting, a seventh grader.

When asked how she prepared for today’s competition, Ms. Burgess smiled.

“The shower,” she said with a laugh. “I sing in the shower.”

Read more about the Riverhead Idol competition in Thursday’s issue of the News-Review.