If the Muppets are all you know of puppetry then this episode will be an eye opener. Beyond the antics of Kermit the Frog and earlier popular acts such as Kukla, Fran and Ollie lies a history of dedicated professionals intent on developing a distinct theater of puppetry. They have their own traditions and icons and yes, their own Stanislavski.
Rob Boehm, past president of the Puppet Guild of Long Island, walks us through the world of puppetry and puppet theater since the 1950s, including his early interests and later experiences as a puppeteer. Both he and our own Connie Currie studied with Carol Fijan, the Great Neck-based master puppeteer who greatly influenced the development of puppet theater. They discuss Carol’s teachings and writings, her early days with the WPA and the enduring challenges of bringing puppets to life.
“You are on the Merrick Road, not far from Blue Point, the place that made the oyster famous. You look to the right and to the left, and, tacked to a tree, you see a sign and you try to read it, but the top of it has been shot off by a quail hunter. However, on the lower part you decipher, between the birdshot: ‘An inn what is an inn.’ ”
Welcome to Ye Anchorage Inn, as described in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1908. Your host is Capt. Bill Graham: huckster, artist, impresario, and roadside entrepreneur. He and his wife Molly ran the Inn from 1897 to 1920, creating a unique amalgam of tavern, hotel, hunting lodge, picnic ground, and Bohemian hot spot on the northwest corner of Montauk Highway and Kennedy Ave.
Graham’s clientele ranged from vaudevillians and silent movie stars to politicians, philosophers, and artists. Winsor McCay and Montgomery Flagg left sketches on the walls while early motorists made Ye Anchorage a must-see destination on their Long Island jaunts. Graham kept up a constant parade of promotional events, from his famous Sphinx statue (now in Bayport) to faux bullfights and horse raffles. He chronicled it all in his own personal magazine, The Log, full of stories, poems, artwork, and anything else he could think of.
In this episode, Blue Point historian Gene Horton details the history of Will Graham, the Irish immigrant who became a part of the history of the Great South Bay. Drawing on his vast research and collection, Gene paints a vivid picture of the man and his times.
Retired from a life in radio and television, Stuart Chamberlain can look back on the long hours, overnight shifts, small town stations, and manic deadlines with a smile. In this interview he recounts his path from WMAJ in State College, PA to ABC where he wrote and produced “World News This Week.” One of the highlights, however, was his time working with Paul Harvey in Chicago. Stu discusses his forays into acting and reveals an old connection to the Sayville Musical Workshop. Throughout Stu delivers a thoughtful disquisition on the state of radio and the news media along with a look at the work of Long Island stations like WLIM and WLNG.
Tove Hasselriis Abrams was there at the beginning, four-and-a-half years old and watching her mother Karen perform in H.M.S. Pinafore at the old Sayville High School on Greene Avenue. That first group of performers went on to found the Sayville Musical Workshop. Tove soon joined in, starring as Gretel in Humperdinck’s opera of Hansel and Gretel. After a break for college and work, she returned to catch the eye of and marry Steve Abrams, the Workshop’s pianist.
One of the first community theaters in the country, the Sayville Musical Workshop produced musicals, dramas, and operettas until 1985. There’s a lot of theater lore in this interview, including the major impact Rodgers and Hammerstein had on community theater , Troy Donohue and Brian Dennehy’s time with the Workshop, and the role of community theaters in the post-World War II era.