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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 26, 2007

The boy who wouldn’t grow up lights the stage"
Othello’s dark tale unfolds

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Community theater draws people together, says Ed Bablin of the Classic Theatre Guild.

The four-year-old guild will perform Othello and Peter Pan as part of the first outdoor Helderberg Theater Festival at Indian Ladder Farms this weekend and next.

The English plays bookend three centuries – the early 1600s to the early 1900s – and embrace two genres – the adventurous comedy and the weighty tragedy.

Bablin hopes the festival, which is free to the public, will become an annual event.

Bablin is the producer for both Othello and Peter Pan and has been involved in theater for 35 years, he said.

He remembers acting in A Christmas Carol when he was 9. His sister was involved in the production, he said, and the cast needed boys to fill the parts of the Cratchit sons.

"I got hooked, and have been doing it ever since," Bablin said of his passion for theater.

"I’ve done pretty much all aspects of theater," he said. "A good producer has to do everything" You have to be a jack-of-all-trades."

Theater is a "transitory art," said Bablin. It just happens at the moment, he said. "That’s kind of the magic of it."

In the four years of its existence, the Classic Theatre Guild has grown in popularity, Bablin said. Both the town and the village have responded positively to the group, he said.

"We’re gaining ground, certainly," Bablin said. "Community theater has to grow with the community."

Never-Never Land

Jane Nielsen has been involved in theater since she was in high school. She joined the guild about a year-and-a-half ago to play Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame, a play she had previously been in, about an eccentric woman raising the son of her deceased brother.

She is now directing the upcoming production of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie’s classic about a boy who wouldn’t grow up.

Nielsen enjoys directing children, she said, because she likes to teach them basic things about being in front of people, such as looking at the audience and not speaking too fast.

"I find they’re creative, they’re honest, they’re fun," Nielsen said of the children, adding that they are "very teachable."

Nielsen’s cast of 35 includes four adults and 31 children between the ages of 7 and 15. The group has been rehearsing since early May.

Jolie Siegel, 13, and her sister, Phoebe, 9, are excited about their roles in the production. Jolie plays Tiger Lily, and Phoebe is Panther. Their sister, Chloe, plays a Lost Boy.

"It’s a lot of fun," Jolie told The Enterprise about acting.

Nielsen used to teach at a small school district that housed all the grades in one building; there she directed three elementary-school productions. She enjoys showing the children that they can do anything, she said. "I like to give them the full ride," she said.

She likes to see the kids perform in front of an audience. She also enjoys their reaction, and the reaction of those in attendance, she said.

The actors will frequently come off stage after a performance, and say that audience members told them, "You did a great job – I don’t think I could have done it," said Nielsen. "That’s really cool.

"I think some of them are in for a real treat when they start doing it in front of the audience," she said.

Nielsen believes that her cast is well prepared for the upcoming performances. "The worst thing I could do is put them on the stage ill rehearsed," she said.

"We have addressed nerves," Nielsen said, adding that she advised them to turn nervousness into energy.

"That’s the only way you can have fun on stage – when you’re no longer worried," she said.

"The green-eyed monster"

Kathleen Broadus is a 19-year-old theater major at the University at Albany. She is directing the Classic Theatre Guild’s production of Othello, and is also playing the role of Roderigo.

"It is the tragedy of Othello, general of Cypress," said Bablin of the play.

The play tells the story of a noble Moor who elopes with the daughter of a Venetian senator but is ultimately twisted by his jealousy and, unfairly believes her to be unfaithful and kills her.

The Classic Theatre Guild had done three comedies in a row, Bablin said. "We decided we should do a tragedy," he said, adding that Broadus had expressed interest in Othello.

"I love Shakespeare," Broadus told The Enterprise. "I’ve been reading Shakespeare since I was 9. Othello was the first one I read."

Akil J. Sandy, who plays Othello, and Dan Dudden, who plays Iago, provide "an incredible centerpiece to the play," said Broadus.

The show is "shaping up really well," Bablin told The Enterprise. "It’s going to be a wonderful tragedy," he said excitedly.

"I think she’s done a very good job," Bablin said of Broadus, who is originally from Loudonville.

"When I was 19, I could barely spell my own name," Bablin joked. "She’s a very accomplished actor and director," he said.

Veggie Booty is no treasure

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — When Elex Scheels bought her triplets a snack billed as health food, she didn’t expect to end up at the doctor’s office.

After eating a bag of Veggie Booty, a puffed rice snack, earlier this year, though, two of her children came down sick. The Centers for Disease Control found that the food was contaminated with salmonella and Robert’s American Gourmet, the company that produced the product, issued a recall on June 28.

The contaminated food is now leading the Scheels family to the courthouse as their lawyer and federal agencies seek the source of the poison.

The first sickness from the contaminated Veggie Booty was seen in March, said Anandia Sheth, an epidemiologist for the CDC. As of July 18, she said, there had been 65 total illnesses in 20 states due to the product.

Thirty-six of the families who were affected are suing Robert’s, including the Scheelses. Most cases of this sort take six months to a year and are usually settled before going to trial, said William Marler, the Seattle-based lawyer who is representing the families.

Two different strains of salmonella were found in the Veggie Booty by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Laboratory. According to the CDC, the lab isolated both Salmonella Wandsworth and Salmonella Typhimurium.

"In 15 years of doing these cases, this is the first time I’ve ever seen two forms of salmonella isolated out of a product," Marler said.

Sheth, at the CDC, said that the center has found multiple strains in contaminated foods before, although it’s not common.

Having two different strains of salmonella indicates that there was more than one contaminated ingredient, which is significant, Marler said.

"To just simply have the company say, ‘Well, the spices came from China and we got them from this other company,’ doesn’t absolve them," he said of how Robert’s has handled the situation.

Robert’s American Gourmet declined comment this week and referred questions to its lawyer, Andrew Cooper, who did not return calls. In a release dated July 12, though, Robert’s named Atlantic Quality Spice and Seasonings, a division of Van de Vries Corporation of Edison, N.J., as the company that sold the contaminated ingredient. The release also states, "It is believed that the ingredient at issue was obtained from China."

Both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration said that the spice’s country of origin hasn’t yet been identified.

A spokeswoman for Atlantic, who would only identify herself as Jennie, would not answer questions, but said that the company had recently been sold. She would not give the name of the company that had bought Atlantic because it did not want its name to be associated with the salmonella outbreak, she said.

According to a Feb. 2, 2004 release from India Brook Partners, the New York City financial advisory firm that brokered the deal, Cinnamon Acquisition Company purchased Atlantic. India Brook’s chief executive officer, Jeffrey Tarplin, is quoted in the release as saying, "With the Atlantic Spice acquisition, we continue our focus in the food industry. Atlantic is a highly successful and well established company with a blue chip customer roster that includes Kraft Foods, Starbucks and Williams Sonoma."

Cinnamon Acquisition Company was "organized by Stanley Gorski, Jr. and the senior management team," the release says. This week, a spokesman for India Brook said that he hadn’t heard of Cinnamon Acquisition Company.

Part of the larger problem with distribution of contaminated food is the lack of information available to the public, Marler said.

"We do know that the Veggie Booty company is located in Long Island, N.Y., but they don’t actually puff the product and mix the spices there. It’s made somewhere else, but yet we don’t know where that is," he said. "I don’t know if it’s in Pennsylvania or Guatemala."

According to a 2002 FDA report recalling Pirate’s Booty, Fruity Booty, and Veggie Booty, the manufacturer, Keystone Foods, is in Easton, Pa. Those snacks, all distributed by Robert’s American Gourmet, were recalled because some of the nutrition facts on the label were incorrect.

"In this instance, there was something in the system that allowed fecal material from some animal to get into the Veggie Booty," Marler said. With the number of ingredients that go into making Veggie Booty, it would be hard to determine which one was the contaminant, he said.

Most salmonella cases are worth in the $100,000 range, Marler said of the typical amount awarded to victims of food poisoning. As for the effect it might have on the company, he said, "I think it could be devastating."

Special occasions a piece of cake for La Pasticceria

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Cake is more than just another confection for Giovanni Morina; it’s a canvas.

"This is butter cream country now," he said. "People don’t realize what you can do with cake."

The local baker, who recently opened up shop in the village, has made cakes for all occasions. One couple, a pair of architects, sent Morina blueprints for their wedding cake — a tall, Deco building in pristine white.

Grooms’ cakes are often the most fun, Morina said, because they usually illustrate the man’s biggest interest. Recently, he made a groom’s cake in the shape of a guitar and used spaghetti for the strings.

For a homecoming celebration, he made a suitcase cake, with shirt sleeves and pant legs hanging out of its overstuffed sides.

Morina made the welcome-home cake for Laurie Michaud’s sister, who was coming back from California. Michaud works in the shop; the two met while Morina was working at her computer business.

"I was his boss; now he’s my boss," she said with a chuckle. "He taught me everything I know," she said. "I was an out-of-the-box baker."

Morina started cooking in his grandmother’s kitchen, he said. Now, he has a culinary degree from Schenectady County Community College. "Baking is more of a science than cooking," he said of why he chose to open a pastry shop. "Everything has to be exact."

He’s an excellent cook as well, though, said his wife, Angela. "I won’t eat it any place else because it’s not going to be his," she said of his chicken marsala, her favorite dish.

Of his confections, the canolies are the best, she said. It took him years to perfect the recipe, and now they’re the biggest seller at La Pasticceria.

The couple bought the building at 22 South Main St. four years ago. There had been an Elks’ lodge upstairs, which they’ve made into an apartment, and Smitty’s Pizza Run was downstairs, which now has all the trappings of an Italian bakery and coffee shop.

The Morinas live above the shop with their two children, Francesca, 2, and Enzo, 5. At this age, their son prefers chicken nuggets and French fries, Mrs. Morina said, but he has a little chef’s coat and loves to spend time in the bakery.

"For now it’s fine," Morina said. "I think his palette will change when he gets older."

Mr. Morina’s palette was schooled on family fare.

Flavors of Sicily, where much of his family still lives, show up in his dishes, he said. "I use a lot of almonds and orange," he said, and his Sicilian family is in the orange business.

"When you’re a chef, you don’t usually have a favorite," Morina said when asked what he liked to cook best. "Just the joy of cooking."

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