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December 03, 2016
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The greatest love of all

Monticello HS senior Jake Cohen plays a mean guitar at the Harvest Festival.

At the risk of sounding cliché, “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” These sage words (written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed) reverberated all week as I made my way through the Catskills, observing young people and sensing “all the beauty they possess inside.”

The Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop (www.scdw.net) is currently presenting Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett’s dramatization of “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Rivoli Theatre in South Fallsburg, NY. Director Sally Gladden’s personal note in the program states that, inspired by 13-year-old Frank’s diary (written during the Holocaust), “Our presentation is dedicated to people who are trying to change hatred in this world one person at a time.”

A fairly solid production, Gladden’s insight certainly lifts it up and the show is (IMHO) successful largely due to the youngsters involved. Linda Seminario (as Anne) and Adam Dohrenwend (as Peter) seem to have an understanding of the material beyond their years. Sullivan County Community College student Rosalie Siciliano (as Margot) began her journey with the SCDW at the age of ten and works hard alongside the younger actors, as they represent the work with maturity and skill that hopefully will inspire some of the adults on stage as well. One of them, Heather Strauss, stood out with her understated dramatic turn as Mrs. VanDaan, and there are those who could look to her as well for a bit of inspiration.

Offstage, recent SUNY Plattsburgh graduate Aaron Kaplan designed an excellent working set for the performers to trod and once again, I was reminded that there is a new generation of talented kids coming up and making their mark. Gladden’s choice to assign this task to a newbie must certainly aid in “giving them a sense of pride.” If the song is true and “everybody is searching for a hero; people need someone to look up to,” Anne Frank is certainly a hero to admire.

For students looking to learn more about this horrific period in history, seeing this show is a good start. I discovered a web site (www.holocaust.hklaw.com), which is specifically designed for kids in high school and sponsors the “Holocaust Remembrance Project,” now in it’s 18th year, which provides scholarships and educational resources and helps young people who need to understand that “learning to love yourself is easy to achieve.”

Strolling the Harvest Festival on the grounds of Bethel Woods (www.bethelwoodscenter.org) this past weekend offered more inspiration from the youth of America. In addition to observing families having a swell time, there were kids performing as part of Dancing Cat Saloon (www.dancingcatsaloon.com) proprietor Stacy Cohen’s “Musicians Gathering—The Next Generation.” Cohen’s mentoring and encouragement has inspired many youngsters to follow their dreams and “never to walk in anyone’s shadows,” and they hit the main stage with verve and talent that is admirable and should absolutely be fostered.

Sixteen-year-old Jake Cohen (no relation) is just beyond TNG age and the Monticello High School senior was also at the festival with his guitar, jamming with adults and displaying his burgeoning talents for the crowd as he continues his musical education. This kid has a promising future and seems intent on following his dream, having already discovered that “If I should fail, if I succeed, at least I will live as I believe.”

Although the final curtain has fallen for the season at the Forestburgh Playhouse (www.fbplayhouse.org), its Theatre Arts Center is also encouraging young people interested in the arts as they “continue to bring live theatre to the underserved area high school students” in its New Audience Project, with an upcoming tour of Tennessee Williams’ classic “The Glass Menagerie” in October.

Associate managing director Sarah Norris is “excited to be entering the project’s fourth year of producing shows and workshops to the schools” and most certainly can be counted among those who believe the children are our future and (I believe) is instrumental in “giving them a special place that they’ve been dreaming of.” As parents, educators and adults, I absolutely feel that it is important to “let the children’s laughter remind us of how we used to be” and hopefully help us to teach them, by example, that “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”