HEARTS announces first recipients of Farasciano Community Theater Grant

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HEARTS of Port Washington has announced the inaugural recipients for grants from a fund in memory of local actress Gina Farasciano. (Photo courtesy of HEARTS of Port Washington)

HEARTS of Port Washington has announced the inaugural grant recipients of a recently created fund to assist local theater programs and memorialize a local actress.

This week, HEARTS of Port Washington said that it will award the first Gina Farasciano Community Theater Grant, a planned annual award meant for a community theater or arts program in Port Washington, to the Community Synagogue Theater Company and the Port Summer Show, which the late Farasciano performed with. 

Both organizations will receive a grant of $1,000 to be used toward performances scheduled for the summer, according to Eric M. Gewirtz, president of HEARTS.

“Gina loved performing, and we as an organization immediately recognized how significant it would be to support these two presentations, annual experiences that she loved and that are bound to bring such joy to the community as we emerge as a community from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gewirtz said. “We are so proud to honor her legacy and passion for the arts and for theater, and to continue recognizing and celebrating her spirit through these theater experiences.”

Farasciano began her theater career early, spending her youth performing with the Port Summer Show, where she first befriended Frank Ullman of Port.

“Gina lived for theater,” Ullman said in a statement. “We performed together in Port Summer Show more than 30 years ago while in high school and, in recent decades, we attended more than 100 musical concerts and theatrical events together, with a special focus on local productions. Gina would attend any type of live performance. I followed her lead. Learning about theater from Gina, and attending theater with Gina, has enriched my life.”

After graduating from Schreiber High School, where she served as a master of ceremonies for the school’s 1989 talent show, and SUNY New Paltz, she joined productions by the Port Washington Play Troupe, the Community Synagogue Theater Company, the Herricks Players, the Landmark Radio Theater, countless karaoke stages and more.

In addition to performing, Farasciano volunteered, helping out backstage at the Daytime and Primetime Emmy Awards and donating hundreds of hours to the Gold Coast International Film Festival.

Before her death, Farasciano, then a resident of Garden City South, had been cast in the Community Synagogue Theater Company’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress,” which was to be performed at the Landmark Theater on Main Street in Port Washington in April 2020. The production was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

This summer, the Community Synagogue Theater Company will present the play “Ha!” by Rich Orloff, a trio of one-act comedy spoofs of classical theater, while the Port Summer Show and its youth participants will present the musical “Grease.”

In a statement, Farasciano’s parents, Donna and Mike Farasciano, said that both the Port Summer Show and the Community Synagogue Theater Company had been special places to her.

“Gina’s love of theater was well known among her family and her peers,” the Farascianos said in their statement. “It never mattered to Gina if she had a starring role or was cast in the ensemble or even if she worked backstage. She simply enjoyed being a part of the whole experience. The stage was where Gina felt alive — the happiest — it did not matter if an audience was large or small! Performing since elementary school, through college and beyond, nothing in Gina’s life filled her heart and soul like getting involved in theater. The added benefit was meeting people who became lifelong friends. Thank you to all who loved our girl and donated so generously, keeping Gina’s memory and legacy alive through the arts! She would feel so very honored.”

Interested parties can donate to the Gina Farasciano Community Theater Grant at heartspw.org/ginafarascianotheatergrant.html.

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