Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 6
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
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Grammy Nominee and New Play Highlight Black History Month at PHS

Ellen Gilbert

Terrance Simien and The Zydeco Experience Band will present a Relief Benefit Concert for New Orleans on Friday evening, February 22, at Princeton High School (PHS) at 7:30 p.m. A week later Mr. Simien will head for the Grammy Awards, where he just may win the award in the new “Zydeco and Cajun Music” category for Best Album of 2007.

Mr. Simien will also take part in a musicians workshop and jam session on Thursday February 21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Princeton Regional Schools Performing Arts Center (PRSPAC).

“We’re very excited that they’ve made this commitment to us,” said PRSPAC manager Cory Alperstein. “Mr. Simien has made it his personal mission to share indigenous American Creole culture and music with the world.” Mr. Simien has visited Cuba for the U.S. State Department, and Mali and West Africa for Global Encounters, a distance-learning program sponsored by Carnegie Hall.

The February 22 performance will be the culmination of a three-day residence for Mr. Simien and his band. From February 20 through 22, they will meet with students throughout the Princeton Regional School system in workshops dubbed “informances” that chronicle the history of Zydeco music, and in community dialogues. “Zydeco,” which is derived from the French expression les haricots (“beans”) and, specifically, the expression “les haricots sont pas salés” (“the beans aren’t salty”), is a Creole, accordion-based musical genre.

Play Reading

PHS’s observance of Black History Month will actually begin earlier this month on February 8, with staged readings of The Breach, a new play about the days following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans by Catherine Filloux, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Joe Sutton. Moving back and forth between three stories, said Ms. Alperstein, the play “takes extreme pain and makes it accessible to the audience.” There is, she noted, an “immediacy” about The Breach, as it juxtaposes personal family issues with the rising flood. “Water” is, in fact, a character in the play. In its exploration of the impact of Katrina, she said, “the play asks hard questions about conspiracy theories, the nature of personal loss and the possibility of recovery for the people of New Orleans.” The Breach premiered at the Southern Repertory Theatre in New Orleans last fall, and has evolved in response to feedback from various performances and readings.

Directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde, associate director of the New Georges Theatre Company in New York City and performed by professional actors from the greater Princeton area, the staged readings will be presented twice during the day for PHS students, and again in the evening at 7:30 p.m. for the community. Admission to the evening performance is free, but space is limited, so reservations are recommended: call PRSPAC at (609) 806-4300, or go to

Tickets for the benefit concert are $25 for adults, $25 for senior citizens, and $10 for students. The box office in the lobby of the performing arts center on Walnut Lane will be open for ticket sales Tuesday through Friday, February 19 to 22, from 3 to 6 p.m., and on the evening of the 22nd from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Community Effort

“So many people in the community have been involved in putting together events for Black History Month,” noted Ms. Alperstein. In addition to the Princeton Regional Schools District and District Parent Teacher Organizations, the Princeton and Trenton YWCA’s Racial Justice Institute, the Princeton Human Services Commission, the Princeton Public Library, the Arts Council of Princeton, the Bank of Princeton, McCaffrey’s Supermarkets, and the Nassau Inn are all sponsors of events this month.

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