Ridgewood artists premiere play at the Windjammer

By Stephanie Meditz


On Friday, March 3 at 9 p.m., Footlight Underground at the Windjammer will present the play, “A Ladder Meets a Cloud.”

“A Ladder Meets a Cloud” is a satirical series of vignettes that address several themes related to the realities of living in New York City.

Each scene is staged around a single main set piece: a ladder leaning against a cloud with a window.

One of the opening scenes is set in a coffee shop, except there is a door person who refuses to let anyone inside without showing ID or meeting other increasingly absurd criteria, such as verification on social media.

“We started out in a cafe, and then we’re in a suburban home…then we’re in an office building, and when the play ends, we’re out on a boat,” playwright Stephen Ocone said.

Although the show is scripted, actors were told to improvise during certain scenes.

The work is a collaboration between Ocone and several other artists who share a studio space in Ridgewood.

“Basically, we workshopped the first scene with a lot of people in the cast,” he said. “So it’s a collaborative effort. I think because it was a cooperative effort, there’s no central person who’s directing or writing or any of that stuff.”

The play was inspired by a drawing by Red Hook artist Franz Landspersky, who encouraged Ocone to write a play based on the concept.

“So I wrote a couple of scenes and told other people, and anyone who wanted to, wrote a scene. And then we got together, we read them, and other people got interested,” he said.

After two years of workshopping, Ocone contacted Footlight Presents’ Laura Regan to inquire about a premiere at the Windjammer.

Footlight Underground at the Windjammer is a community-based creative venue that provides a platform for emerging artists in the Ridgewood area.

“I thought the Windjammer was perfect because it’s a nice space and community. They’re doing a variety of events,” Ocone said. “We don’t have to go through a proper theater and figure out how to do a run of shows.”

Although the play includes some strong language and depictions of drug use, Ocone said that there is something for everyone in the show, regardless of age.

“We’re hoping to engage a variety of people from young and old to come and see the production,” he said. “I think that people should come out for enjoyment. This play is a satire, so it’s supposed to be fun. It should be thought-provoking, so we are addressing themes of living in the city or living in modern life right now.”

Following the premiere of “A Ladder Meets a Cloud” will be a live performance by improv band Platypus Revenge. The band will also provide live musical accompaniment for the play.

Tickets are available on a sliding scale from $10 to $15 at https://withfriends.co/event/15617763/a_ladder_meets_a_cloud.

“It was fun for us to make it, we hope that it’s fun for people to watch,” Ocone said. “Engage in a conversation about the themes of the play or bring people out to do something that’s different than just a musical show.”

To learn more about Footlight Presents and become a member, visit https://withfriends.co/the_footlight/join.

Jamaica student wins Scholastic Award for animation

By Stephanie Meditz


Hanna Vojar’s “Schola Vita Sanguinis” earned a Silver Key for mixed media.

For the first time, a student from The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica won a Scholastic Award for film and animation.

Sophomore art major Eliza Pikulinski earned a Silver Key for her piece, “Awestruck.”

The animation is roughly a minute long, and it follows a girl in an art gallery who falls in love with a painting and literally enters its world.

“She’s so awestruck by this artwork that she feels like she can almost step into it, and she does,” Pikulinski said. “She goes into this painting, and she’s transported to this world, which is now 3D, and it’s full of flowers and a night sky and stars.”

Pikulinski’s inspiration for this piece was the transformative effect that art often has on its viewer.

“When you see a beautiful art piece, you are just so taken aback by it, sometimes,” she said.

Although she has never taken a class in animation before, Pikulinski thinks that her drawing skills helped her with the animation.

“There’s a lot of similarities, actually. I think you get better at 2D when you work in 3D and vice versa,” she said. “A lot of lessons I learned in 3D, I use in 2D drawings on paper, and it was just all around pretty interesting to see how they compare.”

“I taught myself how to use the programs, and so I wanted to just kind of use the skills that I had to create animation,” she continued. “It was a really lengthy process. I worked for over two months every day after school from my computer. A lot of technical problems, a lot of creative challenges I had, but I’m very happy with the way it turned out.”

In addition to her work as an art major, Pikulinski is learning coding and computer programming.

She was recently recruited to be a designer for TMLA’s robotics team, the Steampunk Penguins.

“I kind of dream of working someplace like Pixar or Disney making full-length animations one day,” she said.

TMLA art teacher Kathleen Lynch could not be prouder of Eliza and her self-motivated work, especially as a sophomore.

“For a sophomore to win is not a very common thing because it’s across every high school in the region. Usually, it’s juniors and seniors,” she said.“Everything that she did, she did on her own.”

During her two years teaching drawing, digital art and AP art history at TMLA, Lynch has worked with many talented students.

“I am constantly in awe of them, every single day,” she said. “I am very lucky, my kids are awesome. It makes it very easy getting up and going to work in the morning…they’re so passionate, and they’re so creative in ways that are so surprising, honestly.”

Lynch told her students to come up with their own projects to submit to the Scholastic Awards, and she was delighted by their dedication and initiative.

Several other TMLA students won Scholastic Awards – Alina Charles and Fiona Sheahan won Silver Keys in drawing and illustration, and Hanna Vojar won a Silver Key for mixed media.

Charles and Sheahan received honorable mentions for their other works, as did Ciara Davila, Dalia O’Keeffe and Ariana Tolentino.

Pikulinski is honored to represent TMLA for the first time in the film and animation category.

“It means a lot. I didn’t think I would be the first. I didn’t think that I would ever win anything, to be honest,” she said. “I was very surprised to see all the reactions to the projects, since they’re something that I always loved doing.”

Witness to Our Time

A Nonagenarian and WWII Veteran Looks Back at His Life

By David Paone

They call them the Greatest Generation: those who lived their childhoods during the Great Depression, only to have to fight the Second World War when they came of age.

Bill Isaacson, a resident of North Shore Towers, can check both those boxes. The Navy veteran sat down with The Queens Ledger and looked back over his 97 years.



Isaacson was born in the Fort Hamilton section of Brooklyn on May 5, 1925, the second of five children of Russian immigrants.

His father owned a furniture manufacturing and sales company, but during the Depression, lost the business. He also lost the family house, which he owned.

Isaacson said his family survived, “as best we could.”

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and America entered World War II. Isaacson remembers the day.

“I was in a basement socializing with a group of teens,” he said. “And we heard about the war breaking out. And I went to enlist. My father wouldn’t sign the papers.”

Isaacson was only 16 at the time but sensed the need to volunteer. “I felt I wanted to do my part,” he said.

His friends were eager to enlist and all were later drafted. “Likewise, they wanted to do their part, of course,” he said.


Uncle Sam Wanted Him

When Isaacson turned 18 in 1943, the war was not over, making him eligible for the draft.

“I didn’t get drafted right away because I had pneumonia at the time of my 18th birthday, and the draft board gave me 90 days to get well,” he said.

By this point Isaacson had one friend from the neighborhood – also 18 – who was in the service and had died in Italy.

Isaacson chose the Coast Guard, but the draft board had a different plan for him and he was inducted into the Navy in April 1943.

As an honor graduate from signalman school, Isaacson was a Signalman Second Class and appointed to Flag Command, which is the personal staff of admirals.

“I served with Admiral Sherman aboard the USS Missouri and with Admiral Fechteler aboard the USS Wisconsin,” said Isaacson.

“I was on all the biggies,” said Isaacson, regarding the ships on which he served. These included the USS Wisconsin, the USS Missouri, the USS Enterprise, the USS New Mexico and the USS Guadalcanal, which brought back 495 former prisoners of war from Japan.

“I was on duty when five of them jumped overboard,” said Isaacson.

He saw each of them light a cigarette and jump, in what Isaacson believes were definite suicides. “This was in the middle of the night,” he said. They circled until daylight but never found them.

Japan surrendered in 1945, bringing an end to the war. Isaacson was on the island of Guam at the time. It just so happened his younger brother, Boris, was on a minesweeper in the harbor, and the two were able to connect for four hours.

Once the end of the war was announced, “Everyone was celebrating,” said Isaacson. “Guam was muddy up to your knees and everybody was dancing.”

Isaacson said he served, “Two years, six months and 15 days.”

He was offered the rank of Signalman First Class, if he reenlisted, but decided to pursue his education instead.

Having served in the military, Isaacson was eligible for the GI Bill, which would cover his college tuition. He earned his Bachelor’s with a major in Spanish (inspired by his high school Spanish teachers) from Brooklyn College in 1949 and his Master’s in 1951 from there, too.

Isaacson calls himself a member of the “52-20 Club.”

“We got $52 for attending school for 20 weeks,” he said with a laugh.


A Brush with Death

In 1950, Isaacson was a student at the University of Havana, in Cuba.

On November 1, a student strike was called for 72 hours. At breakfast, his cook told him, “Something happened in Washington,” and there was no school that day.

Isaacson phoned his professor who said he was conducting class nevertheless and he should attend. Isaacson did.

On the steps of the university, Isaacson was stopped by three men who began to interrogate him. “I answered all their questions,” said Isaacson, and then one asked to see his student ID. It was green, which signified he was from the United States.

“One of them pulled out a pistol and held it to my head and walked me to my room,” he said.

One of the others nudged him and said, “We’re not looking for an incident,” which Isaacson interpreted as his desire to avoid an international incident.

Two of them marched Isaacson and his professor to the curb at gunpoint. They were told, “If you come back in the next 48 hours, you will be shot on sight.”

The man who told the gunman not to start an international incident was the vice president of the student union who called the strike, and a law student as well. It was Fidel Castro.

His professor later told him that the man who held a pistol to his head was the son of Enrique Collazo, the Puerto Rican nationalist who attempted to assassinate President Truman in the Blair House on the same day.


The 20th Century

Isaacson was born before the Empire State Building and George Washington Bridge were erected. He remembers when “peddlers” sold their wares from horse-drawn carriages in Brooklyn.

But the 20th Century saw endless advances in modern comforts and Isaacson was there for most of them.

During the Golden Age of Television in the 1950s, he watched TV comedy pioneers Sid Caesar, Milton Berle and Lucille Ball. But it was the moon landing in 1969 that struck him as the greatest achievement.

During his childhood, the “Buck Rogers” serial was a complete fantasy; space travel was only achieved through movie magic.

But watching an actual human set foot on the moon was real life and not a special effect.

“I couldn’t fathom people walking on the moon,” he said.

Isaacson’s family had relocated to Bayside and he met his future wife in Queens. They had a son and a daughter.

In 1959, Isaacson became an appointed Spanish teacher at Bayside High School and remained there working in various administrative positions until 1985, ending his tenure as assistant principal of the Department of Foreign Languages.

Isaacson spent his entire career in education, also teaching on the college level at Brooklyn and Nassau Community Colleges, and as dean of instruction at Five Towns College. He retired in 2020 after spending 70 years in the classroom when Covid-19 struck.


Modern Times

For most of Isaacson’s life, computers were something the government and huge corporations used; nobody owned one. “Software” and “internet” weren’t even words. But Isaacson has embraced modern technology and uses email and carries a cell phone, although he uses it, “very seldom.”

“I feel it’s a wonderment that I will never understand,” he said.

The Isaacsons were married for 52 years.

It took him 77 years, but Isaacson recently joined American Legion Post 103 in Douglaston.

Isaacson is the picture of health. His memory is still sharp and although he sometimes walks with a cane, he’s still very spry.

World War II veterans are passing daily and in a few short years there will be none left.

“All my friends are gone. They were all in the service,” said Isaacson. “That’s the punishment for living to 97.”


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