Sep 032014

Posted in SmyrnaLife Magazine 2014 July/Aug Vol. 1 – Issue 4

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word hammy (adjective) means marked by exaggerated and usually self-conscious theatricality.  In June the Little Theatre of New Smyrna Beach did just that; presented the 2014 Season Hammy Awards.  The event took place at the Sugar Mill Country Club. 2014 Hammy Awards NSB FLSix pm the doors opened; Barbara and Jim O’Connell greeted both men in tuxedos and women in various semi-formal outfits (from short dresses to pant suits). Once checked in, you were free to mingle; enjoy appetizers and join the line at the bar.

New to Florida and no idea what the heck the Hammy Awards were, I soon found out.

Barbara O’Connell told me she’s from South Florida (Hollywood) and loves it here. “We’ve been here about 3 years,” she says “we fell in love with the theatre. My husband’s the director and began in the fall. We’re just enjoying all the nice people. Good sense of humor, fun. If you’re not having fun you better not be doing this.”

Another couple told me this was their first Hammy Awards but the Little Theatre has been there for years and years. Now in their second building because they’ve enlarged it. It’s a community theatre and it has strong following.  “The last musical was my first one for the little theatre,” says another gentleman at the table. “I tell my friends I finally got to play the villain,” says a second guy who joined us.  “And he did a hell of a job,” commented the first guy.  “I wonder if the reason their doing the Hammy awards tonight,” asked the gentleman’s wife “is because the Tony awards are to2014 Hammy Awards NSB FLmorrow night.” She also told me tickets sell out fast.  The theatre is on 3rd avenue; a nice facility.  “The hurricanes in 2004 or 2005 came through and tore the place up really bad,” they said “it was perfect timing. The Little Theatre already planned to remodel. Between the insurance money and the money they already had for the construction we have a nice place for the community.”  Now in its 67th year, the Little Theatre is still strong.    They have six productions in the winter season (September to May) and one production in July.

At 6:30pm the buffet opened; table of salads, coffee and mini pastries, and a pasta station. In the background DJ Thom played a variety of tunes. A packed house, opening ceremonies started at 7:00pm to swear in the new board.  Karen Poulsen then presented the life membership award.    However, not before the new board (Paula, Steve, Noel, Al, Rick, and Tom) gave us the top ten reasons why.  “She describes herself as a multi-dimensional person, she loves learning,” says Karen Poulsen “I can say personally that she’s taught us a lot. Even though we can give many reasons why we nominated her for life membership, we’re going to give the top ten reasons.”

“10. She served on the board for 10 years.   9. She’s a real traveler but a Jersey girl at heart. 8. She’s been a member since 1998. 7. She’s given significant and substantial service in all seven categories to qualify as a life member; acting, directing, production, board member, special events, usher and lobby, and regularly attended membership 2014 Hammy Awards NSB FLmeetings.  6. She has directed six times including Wonderland Children’s Programs.  5. She’s been President of the Board for five years.  4. She’s an educational leader; VP for her two computer companies, college professor, high school teacher, and instructor for beginning acting. This woman cannot keep a real job.  3. Even on days when she’d rather be playing Mah Jong she’s at the Little Theatre with her husband taking out the trash.  2. She’s got more than a dozen acting credits to her name including everything from sexy senior to cemetery plug to one of the victims of an axe murderer in Defending Lizzie.  1. She got a hole in one when she joined the out team.”  Dear readers, the Little Theatre’s 2014 Life Membership Award went to Dr. Harriet Winokur. Dr. Winokur was present with an exquisite decorated glass bowl.

The ceremony opened with a parade of outfits from Karin and David Jenkins. Karin wore a strapless evening gown and David wore a black tuxedo. Next Karin began to walk us through what to expect for the evening; especially for us newcomers.   “First, a long time tradition,” says Karin “is to have a trophy girl or guy here to help present the awards. Tonight we’re very proud to announce we chose a trophy guy; John Walker.”  John Walker walked out in a long-tail black tuxedo.

To keep in tradition with the Tony Awards, David ran through the instructions quickly on how one receives their trophy.  “There’s a little acting involved,” he said “a little blocking, posing, and some impromptu speaking.” They announced the top five highest scored nominees in each category; cast and crew, running lights, actor playing a lead in a drama, comedy or musical.  There were fifty plus trophies and eight coveted piggy awards.  The piggy awards went to one lucky memorable winner from each of the seasons shows.  Five awards went to young Thespians.

2014 Hammy Awards NSB FLThe Little Theatre offers classes for 5 – 18 year olds under Wonderland Theatre. Their goal is to help young people develop: enthusiasm, confidence, self – esteem, and communication and social skills. And to participate in a real live stage experiences then perform before a live audience.

For more information about the Little Theatre go to or call their box office between 1:00pm and 4:00pm at 386-423-1246 Monday thru Friday.


Photos and Story by Robin G Coles

Sep 032014

Posted in SmyrnaLife Magazine 2014 July/Aug Vol. 1 – Issue 4

For Michigan born Richard (Dick) and Lillian Cuchetti, music is still a big way of life.  They’ve carved a brilliant niche right here in New Smyrna with it.  Prior to making their home in New Smyrna, the Cuchetti family spent 15 years on the road as singers; called The Conti Family Singers.   They met Danny Thomas, Lola Falana and other musicians while on stage for Cuchetti School of Music Recital New Smyrna FL 2014St. Jude’s Research Hospital. Danny Thomas took them on the road where the Cuchetti’s spent three seasons living in a Greyhound bus; similar to the old TV show Partridge Family.  Winters were in New Smyrna.  Today, their role is to pay it forward with their music to help gifted children.

Two hours before the recital began; Dick and I met at Cuchetti Family School of Music. As he talked about the past, the school, his students, and notably his family you could sense his passion.

“My daughter, Gina, was a scholarship winner to Berklee in Boston as a vocal major,” says Dick. “In fact she set the record for the most times doing the singer showcase at Berklee. My daughter Mary studied musical theatre at Cincinnati Conservatory.  It’s her recital tonight.  I’m going to be doing a trumpet duet with one of my students, Gerrit Bosma.  He’s All-State in all counties; an 8th grader going into the 9th. Another student, Amaya Stamm (6th grader) and I will be also doing a duet. Amaya plays the flute and has won a national flute competition. ”

“My wife Lillian has some students that are performing at this recital as well. The reason I do that is because so many of my kids are in high school,” Dick comments.  He also works with homeschooled children who don’t have band or chorus.   “That’s the part we play in the community,” says Dick. “A lot of children don’t have as much balance as you would find in schools with a marching band.  They also don’t get any concert music.”  Lillian and Dick did not grow up that way. They went to a gifted school in Detroit.  It’s totally different in New Smyrna with the choice of music.  “It’s sad how many of our students come to the studio culturally starved,” Dick says.

In May they had their first fund raiser at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Gina and her brother, Chris’, group performed. The money raised goes to the Indian River Institute for Creative Arts (IRICA); a non-profit setup by Dick Cuchetti.  The IRICA provides scholarships to both talented and gifted music students locally.  Both music and church directors help identify the children who qualify; for the Indian River program.  According to Dick, schools do not recognize the unusual talent of these kids. The high school lacks a chorus and musical theatre.  “So we really play a role,” says Dick “with gifted children who want to continue on.”

“We’re close to Stetson University,” says Dick “many of those first year players teach here.”  “Then again, our backgrounds are pretty extensive. Lillian was in the Michigan opera company. We try to do the Cuchetti School of Music Recital New Smyrna FL 2014best we can to fill in the gap and we really do. What I’m going to say to you right now is not because we’re such genius teachers or anything but it’s just that the other schools are not doing it. And that is our kids are winning the all county and the all state. When you win an all state and you’re in the all state band there’s 26 trumpet players from the entire state of Florida. You’re going up against Miami, Tampa; well Gerrit is one of those trumpet players at the middle school level. Now, how do you get somebody from a little town like this – it’s because we follow the instructions. They learn to do the scales like Lillian and I did in Detroit. They learn to do all this stuff. ”

Just before the recital began I had a chance to meet Dick’s 2 students and their mothers.  Gerrit Bosma and Amaya accredit Cuchetti School of Music in the many changes in their life; for the better.

It’s not only made me good at music,” Gerrit says “it also helps me have a better understanding in the world around me. Music makes you so much deeper of a person.  There’s so much to it and that ambulance driving by is no longer just a noise – it’s a pitch.”

“I’ve had great experience learning with Mr. Cuchetti,” says Amaya.  “I really enjoy playing duets with him. It’s nice being able to play with other achievers. Like the way he plays the trumpet. Mr. Cuchetti has taught me a lot about playing music with other people; different rhythms, time and key signatures. It’s been a real help. I just really enjoy my time here.”

One thing I learned during my visit is any child who wants to get involved in music should. It will give their life a whole new perspective.  “Music always helps clear the air,” agrees Gerrit and Amaya. I agree too.

Photos and Story by Robin G Coles