MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
The Arts Project of Cherry Grove was founded in 1948. The first event was the 'Art Show', an exhibit of local artists and artisans. Since that time The Arts Project has grown to encompass a multitude of events and productions designed entertain, involve and raise money for various organizations in Cherry Grove. Back in the forties, fifties and sixties it wasn't easy to be gay and strut your stuff. In many cases it was down right dangerous. If it wasn't for those 'limp-wristed queens' and 'tough dykes', we wouldn't be here today all these years later. All those angels in Heaven who paved the way for Memorial Weekend's 'Homecoming', where we elect our very own Homecoming Queen, who rules our season with her beauty, wit and good humor. Each person who has volunteered their time to either be on the Board of Directors of the Arts Project or participate in the shows on stage or backstage does so because of their desire to continue this legacy. It is also important through the Arts Project Archives, each production, and each ensuing year that we never forget those who paved the way for us today. I am so proud at this moment in time to be the current President of the Arts Project of Cherry Grove. Ceejay Rosen
THE HISTORY OF THE ARTS PROJECT OF CHERRY GROVE
by Harold Seeley
Way back when, probably in the mid-1940s, there was a group of
people in Cherry Grove - part of the Property Owners Association -who liked doing shows and events. The Property Owners formed a committee called "The Arts Committee" to deal with all the social
events. I can relate to this by a letter in the Cherry Grove
Archives that was sent in the winter of 1948 by chairmen, Helen Ely and Earl Blackwell, saying that they were going out to the
Grove to check on the progress of the new Stage House being added to the theater building.
I'm not sure when the Property Owners and The Arts Project
separated, but I do know that The Arts Project did not incorporate
until some time in the 1960s. The big problem was the theater.
Since The Property Owners needed money to pay taxes, insurance and other costs a deal was worked out where The Arts Project would pay rent to The Property Owners Association for use of the theater.
By the time I came to The Grove in the mid 1970s The Arts Project was firmly established and sponsored almost all of our community's events with The September Ball being by far the grandest.
In the mid 1980s The Property Owners Association needed more funding to cover their overhead costs, so we all agreed that since the rent for the theater was the Property Owners only income the rent needed to be greatly increased. An official third show was then added to help cover an increase in rent. After just a few years this was not enough and a rent increase only was worked out and the third show was dropped. This started to add pressure on the APCG board to do more things to bring in money to cover the rent.
The Art Show is another big event that goes back in Cherry Grove's history. When I first came to the Grove in the mid 1970s The Art Show was slowing down and at one point had been moved to early September. In the early 1980s Henry Riviera and I took over the running of The Art Show and it was moved to mid-summer where it remains. We ran it for 4 or 5 years and were joined by many enthusiastic new volunteers who eventually took over The Art Show. Since then it has grown into one of Fire Island's best art shows.
The September Ball, which ends our season, was always a big event although in recent years it had begun to falter. This year it will be getting one of its earliest starts when the Ball's theme will be announced at the APCG's Membership Party on Memorial Day weekend in May.
The APCG Membership Party is the big kick-off event of Cherry
Grove's season where APCG's Homecoming Queen is elected.
It is the Homecoming Queen's duty to open all APCG's shows and
events and also to lead the Cherry Grove invasion of Fire Island
Pines on 4th of July weekend. The invasion has now become the
biggest event of the season.
Now for our shows: In the beginning there were 2 or 3 shows a year with names like "The First Little Show" and "The Follies of 1949". When I arrived in the mid-1970s, we were down to 2 and sometimes 3 shows per season but then in the mid 1980s we were doing 3 shows on a regular basis. In recent years the APCG boards have sponsored a greater variety and number shows including APCG's casino night, bingo, art show, archive presentation and flea market among others.
To say that our board is working their tails off is not to give them
full credit. Along with APCG's board, there is also a whole host of
volunteers who help bring to the Cherry Grove community a full
calendar of events every season. We do have community meetings, but the board has monthly meetings all during the year and, in season, sometimes even weekly. With all they bring to us at Cherry Grove we are truly blessed with their hard work and dedication to us all.
Billie Ann Miller
I went to Cherry Grove in 1965 to look for a house to buy and found one I have been there ever since. I met some people involved with the arts project and I joined, doing things with them and doing shows. I created my drag character because I used to do male parts and soon realized drags get more attention so I chose Ann Miller and added my first name to it. For many years I have been doing her and still do. I produced a show a number of years ago for the APCG called You Are A Star featuring many Grove notables. I had been treasurer for the APCG for twenty four years then I retired about nine years ago. In all the years in the Grove I was in so many shows. The experience was great. I have been a part of so many Grove legends' lives and saw quite a number pass away. If my records are correct I am one of two people to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from the APCG. The impact it had on my life is a feeling of togetherness with family and friends and reaching out to people. Bill la Monica aka Billie Ann Miller
In 1972 Dick Addison, one of the most colorful people in the Grove, and whose entertainment at the Community House was always fun, laughs and full of sharp wit, saw me perform at a club in New Jersey. He asked me to do a number in his show at the Community House and that was it for me .I fell in love with Fire Island. The Arts Project has always been home for me. I came and never left this magical place, a community that WE are ALL proud of. Peter Pan has Neverland and WE have Cherry Grove. Love, Bella XXX
Bruce Michael Gelbert
I first became aware of the Arts Project of Cherry Grove in 1986, when, during an early visit to Fire Island, I saw its production of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at the Community House. I've been an APCG member since 1998, appearing in 11 shows, beginning with Sal Piro's You Go Girl!!; have also bartended since then at the Homecoming Parties, Casino nights and other events; and helped with set-up for the end-of-season ball and so on. I've also been reporting on and photographing Arts Project events for Fire Island Q News.com and other publications since 2001 and, with my partner, Joe Saporito, have contributed many photos to the APCG web site. So often I hear people, who don't come to Cherry Grove fulltime, ask, "Don't you get bored?" With the full slate of events that APCG plans helping to organize the summer and keeping us extra busy, who has time to get bored? It's a commitment, to the organization and the community, with continuity, as some plans for the next season are already in place before the current season is over!
I have been a member of the APCG in the past and have always enjoyed being part of a talented and vigorous group. Since being the Homecoming Queen in 2003 I have been somewhat naughty but nice and have neglected renewing my membership. So, I have decided to open my Gucci bag and let the moths fly out this season and plan on giving up the dollars for the cause once again. CJ will be most pleased with me I am sure. Here's to a happy and exciting new season!
Donald & Evan
We started coming to Cherry Grove in 1985. We both wanted to take an active part in the Community. Joining the Arts Project gave us that opportunity. Through the years we've either together or separately served on the board of the Arts Project, co-chaired two community dances, co-chaired the annual end of season ball and, of course, appeared in many Arts Project shows, as well as, co-direct the last of the "Golden Girls" series of Arts Project shows in 1992. For the past ten years, we have directed our energies in raising dollars for the Cherry Grove Doctors Fund by putting on an annual show as a fundraiser. For the past four years, the Arts project has graciously invited us to perform the Doctors Fund Benefit at the Community House. In the ten years that we have been doing this, we have raised almost $50,000 for the Doctors Fund. The Doctors Fund Benefit has made people more aware of the importance of raising funds in order that we may have a doctor and a well-supplied doctors office in Cherry Grove each season.
Donald & Evan
Jacqueline Jonee & Gefil Tefish
My husband, Rick Reder, and I joined the Arts Project of Cherry Grove about ten years ago, when we first started coming out to the Grove. My first experience in a show was with a man named Lefebvre. I did two numbers in that show. "Miss Otis Regrets," where I think I forgot my lyrics I was so nervous, and "Guess Who I Saw Today." I had a great time, and was so pleased with the opportunity to perform. Then I was in a Sal Piro show--I am not sure which one. I won the best new Show Girl Apple Award. That was a thrill. I still have that plastic green apple and I will always cherish it. I was in a number with Luisa Verde, Panzi, Freeta Chews, Barbara Hirsch and Angela Mercy, Cell Block Tango choreographed by Brett Oberman. This has to be back in 1997-98. Great times. I returned to Cherry Grove with my show, Jacqueline Jonee Comes Out to Play, directed by Brett Oberman, which was presented at Don't Tell Mama in New York. I was invited to perform part of the show for the APCG with Panzi and Philomena, Freeta Chews and Angela Mercy in Even Ze Orchestra Eez Beautiful. What a thrill that was! I performed in several other Sal Piro shows including a number "At The Ballet" from A Chorus Line with Angela and Freeta." That was a great time and great thrill. I performed another number, "Dancing In The Dark," Vernon Larson was the Musical Director, Brett Oberman was the choreographer, a specialty number. That was great fun too. Sal always had an idea for a number for a specific individual. He always knew what kind of number you could do and be good and funny and sparkle in. That was the start of everything. It was great to be in Rose Levine's 50th Anniversary show two years ago with Billy Anne Miller. "Bosom Buddies" and "You Gotta Have a Gimmick"
Last year I performed my New York cabaret show, "A Date With Liberace" at the APCG for the June Gay Pride weekend. I guess everyone liked the show because I
was invited back this year with another show, Jacqueline Jonee and Friends in Cabaret with special guests Uptown Express. It's my "Cabaret de Soleil" show! I can't wait.
After struggling as a professional actor for almost twenty years; I was quite sad when I changed careers and left the business. Who would imagine that just a few years later, I would discover the Arts Project Cherry Grove, and be welcomed with open arms into their exciting theater community? I have had the privilege of performing in numerous shows, and this summer will once again be playing opposite Philomena in Sal Piro's extravaganza, "Panzi and Philomena Meet Frankenstein". The thing I find most amusing is that all through my professional career, I was told time and time again "You are a character actor, you will never be a romantic leading man!" Well guess what folks, in Cherry Grove, I am always the romantic leading man!
I had been doing the Miss Fire island contest for a few years after which in 1996 decided to work in Cherry Grove for the summer. I soon then joined the Arts Project,been in numerous plays and won Homecoming Queen!. The people of Cherry Grove are loving, caring and always make you feel like a star even when you're not shining. It's been ten years now since I first started working here in Cherry Grove and I love it!
John De Marco
I joined about 10 years ago. I had not started doing shows until 7 years ago. We all need to support such a great organization. If you attend all of the events, the savings are more than it cost to join. These are a very dedicated group of people and give up most of their summer playtime to help with the APCG. They all need to be praised for their timeless help... thanks, john
Looking back over 15 summers as full-time residents in Cherry Grove, the APCG invited all of us to partake in many activities. Jon Andersson and I found there was a pot pourri to choose from. Whether it be setting up tables and chairs for Bingo or being in the various shows.
In 1991 I entered my first Cherry Grove Art Show with a body of my sculpture and drawings. Those early years entailed not only bringing my life size work in from New York City but painting paneling for hanging work, hauling bases, building bases and generally helping out where it was needed. Through the years there were others who took over the heavier work, freeing me to just show my work. It was always well received and I enjoyed the community's appreciation.
Then there came other "opportunities". First there were the shows. John DeMarco's Celebration was the first one Jon and I appeared in. Summer camp! It's amazing what extent this little community goes to in order to put on terrific shows. Eventually, I even presented my own show "Smoke and Mirrors", a morality musical.
The talent that is abundant in the Grove never ceases to astound: wonderful voices, multiple talents. I even had the opportunity to accompany Jon Andersson on the piano as he sang classical songs in the "Ocean Aires".
A community that, at its very best, works and plays well together.
I've always loved the Arts Project and feel like it's importance to the quality of life in Cherry Grove can't be over emphasized.
The year we shared a unit with Betty Ward and Randy was my first encounter
with the Arts Project. It was the year that Bill LaMonica was the treasurer
of almost everything, and the Monster and Top Of The Bay were the really in
places to have dinner. Betty really introduced me to the workings of the
Arts Project, and I started volunteering my time. When she became the
second woman president I got even more involved. There were times that
earning a living didn't seem as important as the volunteer work for the
APCG. In 1992 I was asked to join the Board. Little did I know that in
1996 I would be elected to serve as president, and again the following year.
The arts project raises money for many charitable and service
organizations, such as the Fire Department. As far as I'm concerned the
APCG is the backbone of all that is good and going on here. In that same
year that I joined the board, Lynne Tunderman asked me to be in the first
show she ever directed, and the rest is history. Now try and get me off the
It was 1970 when, with my sister Ruth, I took a seasonal share for the first time and Amelia Migliaccio stated quite firmly that we had to join the APCG as that was what full time renters did and that way we could find things to do and meet people... she told us they put on shows and events to raise money that they then used to improve, maintain, and entertain the community... the Doctors Fund, the Dunes Fund, the Community House itself, the beach warden, the Dock Master, etc., etc.
I served on the Board of Directors for the first time starting in 1976 and I served again within the last five years... in a number of capacities including Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer... I had in deed met people... the people who care about Cherry Grove... people like the late, great Maggie McCorkle and Thom Hansen and too many more to name... Maggie conscripted Ruth and I into doing our first show in 1978, 'A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum' and it was the camaraderie of the people during rehearsals and the thanks from people I didn't yet know who attended the performances... I was thrilled to be accepted into the ranks of those who love to entertain their friends and neighbors for the best of causes... every year since 1982 I have done at least one, and many times two, sometimes three shows in the Community House for the APCG... I also have been dealing blackjack at casino for as long as it has been a feature on the APCG calendar... I am personally involved in the Art Show and Sale since my life-partner Cathy Eckdahl is an artist and has sold her paintings every year since the first summer we were together and she came to the Grove, 1986... it was perhaps my influence but Cathy has also served on the Board of Directors and Co-Chaired the Art Show for several years...
I believe the APCG is the heartbeat of the Grove... it's soul and conscience...
looking forward to seeing everyone...
best regards, Susan Freedner (Sooz)
Rae de Stephano
Ok. I joined the project at a time in my life when I needed something wholesome and positive to do. But I got more involved when I met Bryce and she wanted to do the shows. Of course I wanted to see them all so I became (what else) an usher. Soon after Linda Dickerman asked me to be on the board..I considered it an honor and took a really good look at the projects projects. I loved what I saw and I began to love the people involved. I became inspired. I wanted to do my best for this community that I loved so much,I threw myself in and had the most amazing experience. Gradually I began to understand the joy of service,the satisfaction of group accomplishments, and an awakening of self esteem for a job well done. I made friends on a level that was here to for unavailable to me,trust,responsibility .respect good humor and unity of purpose,to make the community as great as it could be. Of course I lost the girl , And then it was my turn to be president of the APCG. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. I felt up to the job and I knew it would get the girl back. I never had a better time. The project gave me more than I could ever express and I am very grateful,I love APCG can you tell?LRR
I first discovered the Arts Project when I was assigned to review one of their shows. As a professional theater critic my editor said "don't roll over for them" so, when Panzi started telling jokes in the middle of the show, I gently chided her in print for stepping out of character. At the next show I reviewed she stopped the play, came downstage and said, "This is dedicated to our so-called friendly critics: you just don't get it--we don't need critics! We have 150 of them right here in this room" and then looked straight at me at which point the crowd went bananas stamping their feet and cheering. I wanted to die. But I learned my lesson though I still tread carefully when Panzi is around. Many shows and years later, I realized my lifelong dream to return to the stage when I was invited to perform in Rose Levine's show and then, thanks to John DeMarco, I finally got my solo. I thought, posing on a piano in fishnet, fringes and feathers, and waiting for my cue, "If I have to die let it be now - but AFTER my number."
I adore the Drag Queens who never cease to astound me with their talent and creativity, but, performing in a show, I developed a huge respect for everyone involved, from the shows' creators to the performers, the backstage technicians to the ticket sellers to the bartenders to the ushers. Everyone contributes in his/her own way, takes it very seriously and works so hard. It still amazes me and I will continue to support the APCG in any way I can from this side of the footlights....but a return to the other side would be so cool (hint)!
MESSAGE FROM THE QUEEN MUM
The Arts Project has been providing a wide range of entertainment and activities to Cherry Grove for nearly sixty years. What other entity in the community offers light-hearted shows, full of local color; a classical music concert as well as a modern dance concert; bingo on Sunday evenings and gaming in a theme casino; an exhibition of the plastic arts and crafts; and a costume ball - all without fail, year-in and year-out? And these events and activities are priced at a fraction of what the FIPPOA presentations and the various benefit occasions cost in the Pines! What the APCG needs to do most urgently is to attract new talent and youthful enthusiasm from the next generation of Cherry Grovers who are making their presence felt in our small community....having accomplished that, the Arts Project will be active for another sixty years.