When Riverhead’s new Suffolk Theater opens on Saturday, March 2 with dining and dancing at “The Party of the Year” gala, it will be the beginning of a full and exciting season of entertainment for the region. But not all the acts are imported from outside the theater. Suffolk Theater’s own Executive Director, Bob Spiotto, is a colorful performer in his own right. This month he will also be on the schedule. Spiotto, who has conceived, written and directed a musical review honoring the life and work of Danny Kaye called Courting the Jester, will perform in honor of Kaye’s 100th birthday. Although Spiotto has performed this role many times, he says it’s a “thrill to be among the first of the live performances to take place here.”
The Executive Producer of Hofstra Entertainment for 22 years, Spiotto is no stranger to the theater world. An alumna of Hofstra, he started his career as the Associate Director of Performing Arts Programs for the Hofstra Cultural Center and also taught in Continuing Education and the School of Communications. While at Hofstra, he also performed, directed and created original theater pieces like the Danny Kaye show, a tribute to Hollywood movie musical composer Harry Warren and a Joel Grey retrospective that will be presented at the theater in the future.
“I never actively pursued a performance career,” says Spiotto, “but I have always created performance opportunities for myself.” His broad theatrical experience reflects his years as a teacher, director, choreographer, clown, mime and master of ceremonies. He has been an active co-producer of events and benefits for Long Island organizations, including March of Dimes and the Long Island Arts Council at Freeport.
A Flushing, Queens native, Spiotto spent a few years in Washington, DC, but returned to make his home on Long Island; and currently lives in Holbrook. As an only child, Spiotto says he is “incredibly grateful for the constant support of my parents,” and thankful for the love, devotion and patience of the woman in his life, Rachelle. He is also a proud father to Nicholas, age 8.
Susan Hackett is also a Long Islander with deep ties to the arts community of the East End. Hackett is the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the theater. Originally from Amagansett, she moved to Maine with her husband while running her own graphic design business. Previously an art director with an advertising company, Hackett got excited about the Suffolk Theater when she saw the space and met Spiotto. It got her artistic juices flowing.
“We have tried to restore it 98% back to what it was…the painters and trade people are so committed. It has changed my life,” says Hackett. “Everyday I walk into the theater, it transforms me. The idea of hope…that’s why people have to come in.”
Owner Diane Castaldi couldn’t agree more. She and husband Bob, builders who summered in Cutchogue for 26 years, had finally moved to the North Fork full time. “We found the theater through a little ad in the paper,” she says. “The town was selling it and we fell in love with it.” They decided to completely renovate and restore the space rather than demolish and rebuild and they have traveled the country looking at other historic theaters to learn about the process of restoration. “The detail was too beautiful not to do it.”
The theater offices hum with excitement as the March 2 opening approaches. Director of Events and Development, Kim Folks, says “I am so excited to be a part of a creative project that will have such a positive impact on the community” and Spiotto is looking forward to presenting a wide variety of “edutainment”—education and entertainment—for all audiences. “My mission phrase is simple,” he says, “There’s always something to celebrate at The Suffolk Theater… and on with the shows!”