“We were a couple of weeks before the opening of the show when Sandy hit,” said Barbra Rubin-Perry, co-producer of Island Park Theatre Group’s “Smokey Joe’s Café,” a lively community theater musical that was set to open last November. But Mother Nature and her fury had other plans as the fast-paced production quickly got put on the back burner while the cast, crew and their families worked to put their homes and lives back together.
“I lost my house, my cars, my business,” said Rubin-Perry, an Island Park resident, who, along with her husband, is living in a friend’s basement until her house is livable again. “Everything is gutted,” she added. “We might have to tear it down. The entire basement is toast … we really don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Many cast members suffered Sandy’s wrath, coming from waterfront and near-coastal communities themselves. “We lost a lot of people from the original show — but we’re coming back!” Rubin-Perry said. The theater group rescheduled the show for April and turned it into a fundraiser for Lincoln Orens Middle School — the production’s venue — which was damaged in the storm. Lincoln Orens and Francis X. Hegarty schools were both heavily hit, and Lincoln Orens School was closed for a time (Hegarty has yet to reopen).
After the decision was made to continue on with the show, Rubin-Perry said, many people rallied to make it work. “Island Park’s Superintendent Dr. Rosemarie Bovino, principals John Barnes and Jacob Russum and Island Park Recreation Director Rich Pescatore played a big part.” Pescatore, she said, sat down with teachers and moved classrooms around so the IPTG could have access to the theater since the stage is being used as a classroom since the storm.