Village News

To entertain or to be entertained

Valley Stream grows cultural arts program


Want to be a comic, a band manager or a playwright? Look no further than the Valley Stream Community Center.

The village will be hosting a series of courses to help people achieve success in the entertainment industry. The programs will be led by John Blenn, who has experience in many facets of the arts.

Blenn has been editor of Good Times Magazine, the publisher of Long Island Entertainment, the general manager of the Westbury Music Fair and is professor of music business at Five Towns College. He also written and acted in plays, served as a band manager and publicist, and performed and critiqued stand-up comedy. “I’ve always had two or three jobs at once,” he said.

Beginning Sept. 26, Blenn will launch a series of eight-week courses at the Community Center in Hendrickson Park. The classes will take place on Thursdays through November.

“The Art of the Music Business” will be held from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. Blenn said the course will focus on how to market a band. He will teach skills including how to assemble a press kit and how to build an audience.

With so many bands trying to make it big, Blenn said he will share techniques that can help a group stand out above the rest. “For anyone who thinks it’s easy these days, it’s never been harder,” he said. “There’s so many steps you have to take just to be in the mix.”

Blenn said the course is for both managers and musicians. Often, he said, band members want to know what is expected from their managers.

“Playwriting” will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Blenn, who has written more than 75 staged plays, will discuss how to create a narrative, how to develop memorable characters, and the essential elements of both comedy and drama.

Blenn said the course won’t be him just talking for an hour. Participants will have a chance to write and have their work critiqued. He said the goal will be to make writers aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

This is his first time teaching a playwriting course, though he did lead an informal four-week program at a coffeehouse in Wantagh a few years ago. He also has a new writers series with his theater company.

For the second time, Blenn will be offering a stand-up comedy course in Valley Stream, which will be held from 7:45 to 8:45 p.m. Over the summer, Blenn taught five up-and-coming comics from the area, four of whom will open up for comedian Chris Rush in a show at Village Hall on Oct. 5.

Blenn said he will help participants discover their “voice.” For example, he said his comedic style is observational humor based on the idiosyncrasies of humanity. Additionally, he will help people with their timing and delivery. “There is nothing more difficult than going on a stage and having your material not work,” he said.

Guy Ferrara, president of the Valley Stream Historical Society, was one of the participants in the summer stand-up comedy session. “I loved it,” he said. “It’s a whole new world that it opens up.”

Ferrara said he was always good at roasting people, or telling jokes to one or two people, but wanted to improve his skill set. He learned how to make a connection with the audience, how to be confident and how to handle hecklers.

Citing actors Steve Buscemi, Jim Breuer and Ed Burns, Blenn said Valley Stream has a history of people who have made it big. He hopes his classes can create the next generation of celebrities from Valley Stream. “You can come from here and go all the way and be successful,” he said.

Community Center Manager SallyAnn Esposito said the expansion of cultural arts classes was at the request of Mayor Ed Fare and the village administration. “I’m very excited,” she said. “This is what the community needs. The residents have been yearning for this.”

Fare said that while the village has always offered a lot of programs for children and senior citizens, there has not been much for everyone in between. These new offerings, he said, will change that.

Village officials are looking to host more programs in the courtroom at Village Hall. In addition to Chris Rush’s comedy show, Blenn’s theater group will present “American Dating Catastrophes” from Sept. 20-22. It features nine short pieces developed by five writers based on real-life situations. It stars both members of Blenn’s troupe as well as actors from Valley Stream.

One of the local performers will be Hannah DeLeon, who graduated from Valley Stream North High School in 2009. She used to take part in the Central High School District’s summer theater program, did backyard productions with her friends for many years, and studied acting in college.

DeLeon said she likes having a theater program in the neighborhood. She performed in Blenn’s production of “X’s and O’s” in the courtroom in June, and has also done “American Dating Catastrophes” in Bellmore and East Meadow.

The village courtroom will eventually be moving to Rockaway Avenue, and Fare said the current court facility would be turned into a theater. Money raised from this month’s production will be used toward future renovations.

Blenn said he envisions the theater being used for both local theater productions and performances by internationally known artists.

The cost for each of Blenn’s courses is $200. Tickets for the play are $15 in advance, with a discount available for senior citizens. For more information about these programs, call Esposito at (516) 506-1989 or stop by the Community Center.