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Staging Culture In Plainview

When a school district tightens its budgetary belt, arts education is usually the first to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.

That is why organizations like the Cultural Arts Playhouse in Plainview exist — to fill in the gaps left by cash-strapped schools.

Founded in 1995, the Cultural Arts Playhouse in Plainview is a year round regional, off-Broadway theater that has produced more than 500 productions including educational and touring shows. The playhouse serves thousands of people each year with its profesional adult productions, children’s theater performances and theater education class for youngsters ages seven through 18.

Tony Frangipane, associate artistic director at the playhouse for more than a dozen years, said the playhouse has staged productions from all genres, including Bye Bye Birdie, In The Heights, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Seussical. For Frangipane, providing a source of arts in the community is the playhouse’s top priority.

“It’s important for the community at large, not just the children,” he said. “Life is different now than when I was a kid. Children stay indoors more and they lack that face to face social communication. We believe it’s important to get out and be part of a group. In theater, people build communication skills, self-esteem; it teaches people to look at the world with a different set of eyes.”

Growing up in Connecticut, Frangipane joined his high school’s theater program and grew up doing summer theater shows. He said he believes local theaters like the playhouse need support because the very existence of the playhouse signifies a healthy local business scene.

“The arts need advocacy because it makes good business sense,” he said. “The theater is another business in the community, but of course it is so much more because it can help draw people into a community. And without the community, arts wouldn’t exist.”

The community can find the Cultural Arts Playhouse at 625 Old Country Rd., around the corner from a Ralph’s Italian Ices in a small shopping center. Frangipane said plenty of residents discovered the playhouse purely by chance; strolling with Italian Ice in hand and looking fairly surprised when the theater pops into view.

“We’ve done some really quality stuff here and often people are amazed when they hear about us,” said Frangipane. “We put our heart and soul into all of our productions, from young actors to adults. It is an incredible experience to see these type of quality shows in a live, intimate setting like this. It blows my mind sometimes.”

And a lot of work goes into each and every show, with that heart and soul poured into every aspect of production. Frangipane said stress is a normal part of production; and the ability to work through the stress, pushing against the odds, is a quality necessary for success in the theater world.

Frangipane said all the sweat equity is worth it to help audiences experience escapism in the friendly confines of a local theater.

“There is always a deadline in this business. And no matter what, when a show is set to open it must open,” he said. “We try to pick shows that are diverse, that tell a good story and are entertaining.”

The Cultural Arts Playhouse is set to stage Ragtime on March 21. The mainstage production will run through April 13 and features a collection of actors from the city and across Long Island. Frangipane said the theater’s most expensive ticket is $25, so it is an enriching Broadway experience without assaulting the wallet.

For aspiring performers, Frangipane said to always check the website,, for audition notices. He said casting is open to everyone, from children to adults and amateurs to experts.

“We have a woman right now who hasn’t done theater since she was very young, and she is awesome. We love newbies,” he said. “If you’re thinking about acting, be fearless and come and give it a try.”

Frangipane encourages residents from Plainview and beyond to check out the local theater; there is an experience and an escape for everyone.

“Long Island has a great, thriving arts community,” he said. “It is important to nurture a legacy of the arts and make it available to everyone.”

For more information on the Cultural Arts Playhouse, visit or call 516-694-3330. The playhouse also has locations in Roslyn Heights and Wantagh.