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The Zabacks of BroadHollow are retiring

The Pat and Jerry show is closing after a 40-year run on Long Island. But BroadHollow Theatre will go on, says Bob O'Neill, Patricia Zaback's anointed successor as executive artistic director.

The Zabacks announced their retirement in a brief statement Wednesday, concluding with: "Break a leg, Bobby." (That's "Good luck," in theater vernacular.)

"Jerry and I just wanted to spend more time together," Patricia Zaback, 72, said in an interview Thursday. She is founder of the BroadHollow theaters, which now include the BroadHollow in Elmont and BayWay Arts Center in East Islip. "We want to do more traveling, more sightseeing and seeing children and grandchildren."

The couple has homes in Florida -- "we'll probably play more golf" -- and in Hauppauge, but hope to move into Manhattan "at some point," says Jerry Zaback, 81, BroadHollow's executive producer since 1979, after he married Patricia. "We still plan to see a lot of theater," he added.

"I think we helped open an entire theater community -- performers, directors and audience -- here on Long Island," said Patricia Zaback. A former English and theater teacher at Half Hollow Hills schools, she founded a traveling dinner theater troupe in 1972, settling into a space in 1976 above a Farmingdale furniture store on BroadHollow Road -- hence the theater's name.

"We had jalousied windows that had to be sealed shut," Zaback recalls. "But they were open for that first performance. Papers blew all over the place."

After she joined forces with Jerry, BroadHollow expanded, first to BayWay and later to Old Bethpage, the upstairs Studio Theater in Lindenhurst, the Maguire Theater at SUNY Old Westbury and finally Elmont.

The Zabacks produced a mixed bag of musicals, comedies and dramas, many of which were Long Island premieres. Until three years ago, when O'Neill took over at Studio, the Zabacks had operated three theaters simultaneously. "They were starting to pare back to retirement," said O'Neill, a former Cablevision human relations director. He plans to fold Studio back into the BroadHollow family. O'Neill, who first worked for BroadHollow as a 16-year-old in the musical "The Boyfriend," said: "I'm honored that the Zabacks have entrusted me with their legacy."

The legacy also continues at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, where Richard Dolce, who, his mother said, "grew up a theater rat," is producing artistic director. "It's been a family experience," she said. Dolce is Patricia's son and Jerry's stepson.

Patricia Zaback, who estimates she's directed "hundreds" of shows, will direct her last for BroadHollow starting tonight: the stage monologue "Shirley Valentine," starring Linda May, at BayWay Arts Center through Jan. 20.

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