Bay Street Theatre Plans Steinbeck Festival in May; Rappaport Hosts Dog Walk

Jill Rappaport and five of her rescue dogs.
Jill Rappaport and five of her rescue dogs. Photo credit: Getty Images

Sag Harbor has been home to many famed writers, chief among them John Steinbeck, who will be honored in May during Bay Street Theatre’s second annual Steinbeck Festival.

Activities to honor the Pulitzer-prize winning author’s contributions will include three days of films, a waterfront cocktail party, and the Travels with Charley Dog Walk in partnership with the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation. This local festival is being held in conjunction with the California-based National Steinbeck Center’s own annual celebration.

“We wanted to do something a little different to honor the National Steinbeck Festival here in Sag Harbor,” Bay Street Theatre Executive Director Tracy Mitchell says.

The Travels with Charley Dog Walk commemorates when Steinbeck set off from his Sag Harbor home in 1960 with his brown French poodle, Charley, to drive cross-country. The pair stayed at campgrounds and Steinbeck talked to the locals along the way. Steinbeck’s account of his journey, Travels with Charley: In Search of America, became a bestseller. This walk will start at Bay Street and go to Havens Beach and back.

In addition to benefitting Bay Street, 10% of the dog walk’s proceeds will be donated to the Southampton Animal Shelter.

Serving as celebrity host at both the cocktail party and the dog walk is Jill Rappaport, the award-winning animal advocate and NBC’s animal welfare correspondent.

“I’m just so honored that they asked me to do the walk,” says Rappaport, who also hosted the inaugural walk in 2013. She was the Water Mill-based Pet Philanthropy Circle’s 2012 Pet Humanitarian of the year and the honoree at Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation’s Unconditional Love Gala last year.

She says the dog walk is a great way for people to show off their pets and have some fun in the sun in a beautiful area. Rappaport has six rescue dogs and she plans to bring as many as she can walk at one time.

“I’m the one who feels rescued—by my rescues,” she says. Anything she can do to raise attention and get a little buzz for shelter pets, whether it’s a walk or a cocktail party, she’ll do, Rappaport says. She also wants to dispel misconceptions about shelter pets. “The only difference between these dogs and Westminster is their situation,” she says.

Participation in the walk, on May 4 at 11 a.m., is $35 per registrant and participants can get sponsors to raise more money. Admission to the cocktail party, on May 3 from 5 to 7 p.m., is included with a $150 festival VIP pass, the proceeds of which support Bay Street’s educational programs. During the party, guests can enjoy short boat excursions by Southold’s Port of Egypt to view Steinbeck’s home and writing studio from the water and Wölffer Estate Vineyard winemaker and partner Roman Roth will pour his Grapes of Roth wine.

Steinbeck is best known from the American literary classics The Grapes of Wrath—which is in its 75th anniversary year—East of Eden and Of Mice and Men, all of which were made into films. During the festival, Bay Street will screen the film adaptations of these three novels plus the films based on Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, The Red Pony, The Moon Is Down and Lifeboat.

Films are $10 each at the door, or for $30 festivalgoers may attend as many screenings as they wish. Call 631-725-9500 for film passes. Call 631-725-0818 for an all-inclusive VIP pass.

Dan’s Papers Literary Prize is among the sponsors of the festival weekend.

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