Author Archives: Amy Ellis

“Fiddler On The Roof” At The Goodspeed

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It was a family affair Friday night at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam as Stephen and Abbey Kreinik of Hartford watched their daughter, Barrie, make her Goodspeed debut as Tzeitel in “Fiddler On The Roof.”Goodspeed 2014 021

“She has know since she was a young child that this was what she wanted to do with her life,” said Abbey Kreinik. “’Fiddler on the Roof’ was the first Broadway show we took her to see when she was five years old.”

Barrie holds an MFA in Acting from Brown/Trinity Rep and a BA in Theatre and English from Cornell University.

“This is a dream come true, she grew up going to [The Goodspeed],” said Abbey.

ChoreographerEsseAlso at the show Friday night, choreographer Parker Esse, wife Maria and their 15 year old son Jaden; Henry M. Zachs; and Jef Wolter, Goodspeed board president, and wife Kate of East Haddam.

Goodspeed 2014 011“It’s our third collaboration,” said Esse, of working with director Rob Ruggiero. “We did ‘Carousel’ together two seasons ago and this past season we did ‘The Most Happy Fella.’…We enjoy working together.”

Java wanted to know, besides “Fiddler,” if Barrie has a dream production she’d like to act in.

“My Fair Lady,” she said, without skipping a beat.

Goodspeed 2014 017“Fiddler” opened in previews Friday, June 27, and runs through Sept. 12.

Amistad Center for Art & Culture Gala In Hartford

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The Amistad Center for Art & Culture celebrated in a big way Friday night with an elegant party at The Society Room of Hartford, honoring three well-known members of the community: vocal artist and producer Jolie Rocke Brown; entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker June Archer; and consultant and community leader John Motley.Juneteenth 2014 028

“First of all they have a phenomenal collection [at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford] that’s very diverse…..And they are doing a lot in the community, a lot with education,” said Rocke Brown of what she admires about the Amistad Center for Art & Culture.

The gala, called “Jubilation,” was just one event during a weekend recognizing Juneteenth and African American achievement and history. Saturday featured the annual Juneteenth Family Day at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford.

“It’s a community event…I think it’s the way that Hartford kicks off the summer,” said event co-chair Andrea Hawkins of the gala. “It’s a great party, it has great historical significance and it’s just a really good time.” Hawkins co-chaired the event with Tisa Rabun-Marshall.Juneteenth 2014 023

Among the 300 guests Friday were Olivia S. White, Amistad Center Executive Director; board member Joelle Murchison (Vice President, Enterprise Diversity & Inclusion) with mom Jeanne Murchison; Tiffany and Doug Glanville; and Sara and Luke Bronin. Mistress of Ceremonies was Audrey Washington, of NBC Connecticut, who attended the event with Josh Bruneau.Juneteenth 2014 034

“I’m working on doing a lot of education stories for New Haven public schools,” said Washington, who also anchors the Saturday morning show, NBC Connecticut Today. “I always love coming to events like this, especially the Juneteenth event. It draws a great crowd and it’s remembering something very important.”

Hartford Symphony Celebrates 70 With Platinum Gala

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Four hundred guests gathered at the downtown Marriott in Hartford to celebrate the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s platinum gala, “A Celebration of 70 Seasons,” Saturday night. April 2014 198

“The things that Carolyn [Kuan] and the musicians have done over the last few months have been really perfect for a celebration of this magnitude,” said Jim Remis, HSO board chairman, who attended the event with wife Nancy Remis. “Seventy years in this town with great music. And 70 more coming.”

April 2014 187In true Hartford Symphony fashion guests were treated to music by several students (current and past winners of the HSO’s Young Artists Competition) during the cocktail hour, and then a special performance by the orchestra later in the evening in the grand ballroom, conducted by music director Carolyn Kuan.

Among the 400 in attendance were Jeff Brown, Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts board member and wife Virginia; Susan O’Brien, HSO’s assistant director of individual giving; Dr. Gary Rhule, who is currently working on his second novel; and Esther Pryor, HSO board member and mom Claire Pryor of West Hartford (Claire and her late husband were involved with the symphony since the 70s).

TV and radio personality Jim Masters was the evening’s emcee.April 2014 195

And proving that the symphony is truly for all ages, board member Mark Hayes tells Java that he’s been taking his daughter Raegan, 7, to the symphony since she was 2 years old.

“My father took me to the symphony,” said Hayes. “The most special thing about the symphony, for me, is being able to share that moment with my daughter.”April 2014 202

More photos from the event here



Sold Out Greenhouse Party Benefits KNOX, Inc.

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You couldn’t help but notice the purple hue of the lights coming from the KNOX, Inc. greenhouse Friday evening as guests made their way past tiki torches to KNOX’s sold-out Urban Greenhouse Party in Hartford.

More than 300 gathered in the warmed (to 75 degrees) greenhouse for the carnival-themed party, a fundraiser and community building event for the environmental nonprofit on Laurel Street in Hartford.
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“I bring the people to the programs,” explained Charmaine Craig, director of Community Outreach for KNOX. “We have five core programs here at KNOX and I manage four of them.”

Craig jokes that folks may think she hibernates in the winter, but she’s far from hibernating. Once March comes, Craig says they run non-stop until October.

“For me it’s a spiritual journey,” said Craig. “This is what the Lord has directed me to do. I’ve always wanted to be a healer and I feel like I’m healing the city of Hartford by what I do.”

And kudos to Craig who was recently recognized for her environmental work and featured in Aetna’s African American History Calendar as one of 12 urban sustainability heroes.
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Among the 300 guests enjoying music, cuisine and beer and wine were Ron Pitz, KNOX executive director; board member Rita Decker-Parry; board president Camielle Griffiths; Cheryl and Hank Stephenson of East Hartford; and Mayor Pedro Segarra. Guests were even treated to a carnival dance performance during the party.
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“I’ve been with KNOX for close to three years, it’s a wonderful organization” said Griffiths. “I wanted an opportunity to help KNOX further it’s mission in the community.”

View more photos from the party

Hartford Hospital Gala Benefits Institute of Living

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It was a sold out event Saturday evening at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford as Hartford Hospital celebrated with their Black & Red Fundraising Gala. The evening’s theme was “Stop the Stigma” of Mental Illness.

Jan2014 924“For Hartford Hospital to recognize the importance of behavioral health, by recognizing the Institute of Living, reflects the enormous change in our consciousness in terms of mental health issues in American life,” said Dr. Harold (Hank) Schwartz, Hartford HealthCare regional vice president, psychiatrist-in-chief for Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital. “We’re really pushing this anti-stigma campaign to get everybody to recognize how important mental health issues are and to work against the stigma that keeps so many people from seeking the help and assistance that they need.”

Jan2014 929Among the 1,200 guests at the gala were Jonathan and Robyn Gengras, event co-chairs; Carol Garlick, VP Philanthropy, Hartford Hospital; Dr. Stuart Markowitz, M.D, president, Hartford Hospital and wife Deb; Elliot Joseph, president of Hartford HealthCare; and Henry Dominioni and Monica Georgeo of The Hartford. Java also spotted Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

“We are raising funds, but we’re starting a campaign that will run essentially forever. It’s about stomping the stigma around mental illness” said Markowitz. “And really facilitating the ability for people that need help to get help. And so it takes money, it takes funds to do that and begin that project, but really the night is something so much bigger than that.”Jan2014 941

Jan2014 933During the event guests dined on butlered hors d’oeuvres and other cuisine, and the Barenaked Ladies provided the entertainment.

Additional photos here

University of St. Joseph Gala In Hartford

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The University of St. Joseph’s black-tie gala Friday night in Hartford honored the Most Reverend Henry J. Mansell, D.D., Hartford’s Archbishop, and commemorated three women in service to others (who also happen to be USJ alumni) Bonnie Gauthier, Hebrew Health Care; Molly Rees Gavin, Connecticut Community Care, Inc.; and Sister Beth Fischer, The Wellness Center.
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“I share the honor with the students and the faculty who are involved with the program,” said Fischer.

The Wellness Center on Church Street is a partnership between the University and the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry. Nursing, nutrition, social work and graduate counseling students serve as volunteers in the Wellness Center’s outreach programs.

“What makes it unique is it’s not just the academic year, it’s 12 months,” said Fischer. “They are there for vacations…They are awesome.”

Among those at the “Imagine…The Sky’s The Limit” gala, held at the Connecticut Convention Center, were Jeanne Merola, chair of the board of trustees at the University and Senior VP at Hartford Steamboiler; board of trustees members Paddi LeShane and Michael McDonough; board member (and former honoree) E. Clayton “Skip” Gengras, Jr. and wife Edie; and Laura and Geoffrey Sheehan. The elegant evening featured a cocktail reception, dinner, dancing, music by Shaded Soul and a silent auction.
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“Both the Archbishop and these women, our alumns, are doing all these things in the community and really providing a leadership for the Greater Hartford area,” said St. Joseph president Pamela Trotman Reid.

Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Pope Pius XII Library Renovation Fund at USJ.

Wine & Roses At Elizabeth Park

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The 32nd Annual Rose Weekend at Elizabeth Park kicked off Friday, June 21, with the annual Wine & Roses fundraiser at the Pond House Cafe. The garden casual evening was attended by almost 200, and included a cocktail party with a live and silent auction.

RoseWeekend 057“It’s such a fun event, it’s a garden party,” said Kathy Kraczkowsky, Elizabeth Park Conservancy president. “It’s not black-tie, it’s not a sit-down dinner. People really get to talk.”

Guests included John Morgan, board member and event chair; executive director Karen Tomasko; Ellen and Tim Hollister of Bloomfield; Mark Pazniokas, CT Mirror Capitol bureau chief and wife Laura Post; Michael Antisdale, Mark Melanson (both of West Hartford Center) and Mark McIntyre of the West End of Hartford; and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and first lady Cathy Malloy. Auctioneer was NBC Connecticut anchor Brad Drazen.

“Our mission is to care for the park, connect to the neighborhoods, Connecticut to Hartford, West Hartford and make it be a place where people love to visit,” said Laura Berman, in-coming president. “It already is a destination place, but we need to make it better and more beautiful.”

RoseWeekend 044Wine & Roses is the main fundraising event for the Elizabeth Park Conservancy. The Rose Garden is the oldest public rose garden in the United States.

Hartford Public Library Welcomes Henry Winkler

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Actor, producer, director, philanthropist, author (and proud grandpa!) Henry Winkler was the featured guest at Hartford Public Library’s “One ‘Happy’ Big Summer Night” fundraising event at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford Thursday night.

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The very gracious Winkler casually strolled into the VIP reception by himself (no entourage!), stopping in the corridor along the way to chat with guests and sign copies of his “Hank Zipzer” children’s book series (comedies about his life as a dyslexic).

“We read to our children. Since reading is so difficult for me, my wife did the reading and I acted them out as she read,” said Winkler. “Books are really important. It took me a long time to read. Not until I was in my 30s did I read my first novel.”

So what kinds of books does Winkler’s grandson like?

“He picks out the books, mostly about trucks,” said Winkler of his 16-month-old grandson Ace (he also has a 3-year-old granddaughter who loves to read).

Guests at the reception included Micah and Ally Murray of Enfield; Kevin Chick and Evan Johnson, both of Hartford; and David Ring, New England Region President and Managing Director, Enterprise Banking, First Niagra Bank.

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“Books give them a window on the world,” said Lisa McLure, Youth and Family Services Director at Hartford Public Library, on the importance of reading to children. “Through books they learn vocabulary, they learn what takes place in the world, they learn how to be literate and find their way.”

For more photos from the event, click here.

The Bushnell’s Ovations 2013

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“Prepare to Jet Set” was the theme of this year’s Bushnell Ovations 2013 fundraiser held Saturday, March 23, at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford.

And if you had your boarding pass for Bushnell Airlines, you were admitted to one of the coolest events of the season.

Many of the 400 guests at the gala dressed to impress, inspired by the Bushnell’s upcoming Broadway show “Catch Me If You Can.” Some dressed in mod chic attire, others dressed as flight crew.GALA2013 048


“You know, every year I myself am totally amazed at one theme after another, after another,” said David Fay, Bushnell president/CEO. “Tonight’s is a lot of fun, I get to dress up like a captain.”

Representing mod chic was Suzanne Langlais of South Windsor, rocking a really cool pair of go-go boots purchased on Amazon.

In the First Class lounge guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and drinks such as The Jet Setter, the Dirty Draper and the Clipper Cocktail.

Guests included Connie Weaver, one of last year’s Ovations co-chairs; Peggy and Joe Schaedler of Chester; Larry Starr, Cindy Starr and daughter Jordana; Kevin and Melissa Roy; Joshua Reese, executive director of Hartford’s Camp Courant and wife Amanda; and Samantha Browning of Grunberg Management with date Stephen Clement. Event co-chairs for the evening were Rebecca Loree and Monica Hoffman.
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“ ‘La Traviata,’ when they used to have the opera, was the first show I came to at the Bushnell and that is what inspired me to get involved,” said Loree, wearing a gorgeous dress from New York Vintage in NYC.

Melissa Roy, project development at Consigli (a fourth generation family-owned construction company), had a busy day on Saturday. Roy and her son ran in the Sandy Hook Run for the Families 5K earlier in the day in downtown Hartford.

“From spandex to fancy dress,” said Roy.

Ovations 2013 benefits The Bushnell’s arts-in-education programs, including PARTNERS (Partners in Arts Revitalizing Schools).

See more pictures here.

VNA Healthcare’s ‘A Taste Of Hope’

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VNA Healthcare’s annual “A Taste for Hope” event, which benefits the organization’s Hospice Program, was held Thursday night at the elegant Town & County Club in Hartford.

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“The greatest thing about my job is I get to ensure that people get the kind of care they need, by us living our mission,” said Ellen Rothberg, president and CEO of VNA HealthCare. “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Guests perused auction items while enjoying wine, spirits and microbrews by Wine Cellars 4 (all for purchase with a percentage of sales donated to Hospice).

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to bring a lot of different people together, who care about VNA, who are connected to VNA in a lot of different ways,” said Bob Nolan, vice president of development. “And really celebrate the work that’s done in our Hospice program.”

Among the 200 guests were Tara Green, VNA HealthCare director of Hospice; Avery Gaddis, board member; Joshua Russman, RN, nurse liaison for Hospice team; Jim Fox, CSW, supervisor for social work for Hospice; and Stacey DiPiazza, event chair.

“This is a fantastic organization, I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Russman.