December 11, 2019

Palmer Square’s first outdoor skating rink is now open on Hulfish Street behind the Nassau Inn. It features a non-refrigerated surface called Glice, which provides an eco-friendly skating experience. Participants share their impressions of the new rink in this week’s Town Talk on page 6.(Photo by Erica M. Cardenas)

CLIMATE STRIKERS: About 40 students and other local residents gathered in Hinds Plaza on Friday, December 6, joining an international strike to protest inaction in the face of climate change. A lockdown at Princeton High School due to a swatter threat prevented many students from attending the rally.

By Donald Gilpin

Combating both “generalized violence” and climate change, all in the same day, may have become the new normal for high school students.

At least that’s what many at Princeton High School (PHS) faced last Friday, as students, slated to lead a mid-day climate strike in downtown Princeton, found that a call to the school threatening “generalized violence,” according to the Princeton Police Department (PPD), necessitated a shelter in place until the school’s 3 p.m. dismissal time.

The announcement of a district-wide lockdown came at around 11:15 a.m. during lunch at PHS, where Junior Nate Howard, Princeton Student Climate Initiative member and a leader of the climate rally, was, ironically, attending a lunch meeting of the PHS branch of March For Our Lives, a student-led group that supports legislation to prevent gun violence. more

By Anne Levin

The release last week of Princeton University graduate student Xiyue Wang, imprisoned in Iran for the past three years, was reason to rejoice for his family and members of the University community.

Jailed on espionage charges after traveling to Tehran to study Farsi and do research for his dissertation on 19th and early 20th-century Eurasian history, the 38-year-old, third-year doctoral student was freed in a prisoner exchange with Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist arrested last year and convicted on charges he violated trade sanctions against Iran.

““The entire Princeton University community is overjoyed that Xiyue Wang can finally return home to his wife and young son, and we look forward to welcoming him back to campus,” University President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in an issued statement. “We are grateful to everyone, at Princeton and beyond, who has supported Xiyue and his family throughout his unjust imprisonment, and for all the efforts that have led to his release. We would like to especially extend our thanks to the United States government, the government of Switzerland, and the students, faculty, and staff who continued to advocate for Xiyue’s freedom throughout this ordeal.” more

PROMOTING EQUITY: In one of the district’s equity workshops Monday afternoon, featured guest speaker Fatema Sumrein urged John Witherspoon Middle School teachers to make sure to really “see” all of their students.  (Photo courtesy of Princeton Public Schools)

By Donald Gilpin

Two years ago the Princeton Public Schools undertook an equity audit conducted by an outside expert. The results of that study continue to drive many of the district’s ongoing efforts in the quest for equity, most recently in a series of in-service training workshops that took place during a half-day professional day on Monday at all the schools.

“It’s not a theme of the year. It’s not an add-on to the work we are doing. It is the work,” said Superintendent Steve Cochrane at last week’s PPS Board of Education meeting.

Describing the PPS as “an ideal environment in which ”to strive for both equity and excellence,” the audit report cited the PPS “stated commitment to equity, strong academic outcomes, and a budding commitment to culturally responsive curriculum and instruction” as “a base on which more effort around educational equity should take place.”  more

BEAUTY IN NATURE: In his new book of essays and photos about the Sourlands, Jim Amon hopes to make local residents aware that this unique region of forests and wetlands is just a short drive away. All sales of the book benefit the Sourland Conservancy. (Photo by Jim Amon)

By Anne Levin

Jim Amon had been leading nature walks through the Sourlands for 20 years when it occurred to him that visitors might not be learning as much as they could about the treasured region encompassing parts of Mercer, Somerset, and Hunterdon counties. He decided it was time to write a book.

“It became clear to me that a lot of people just see green, and they don’t know what they’re looking at,” said Amon of Seeing the Sourlands, a coffee table book-style collection of essays and photographs. Newly released, the book’s sales will benefit the Sourland Conservancy.

“If people knew more about what they were seeing, they would get more out of it,” Amon continued. “I wrote the book in the style of someone who says, ‘I’m not really an expert but I’ve done some research and this is what I found out, and isn’t it wonderful?’ And that’s an accurate representation of who I am.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Dina Paulson-McEwen

Dina Paulson-McEwen, a writer, educator, and editor, will be taking over this month as executive director of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF), based in Trenton and serving 3,000 clients annually throughout Mercer County.

She succeeds Adriana Abizadeh, whose three-year tenure saw an unprecedented period of growth at LALDEF. With 15 paid staff and more than 40 volunteers, LALDEF provides English-as-a-Second Language classes, legal representation in immigration matters, tax preparation assistance, supports for victims of domestic violence, community identification cards, and education programs for youngsters in transition to college.   

A Queens, New York, native of Ecuadorean and Jewish descent, Paulson-McEwen is the founder of Aqua Editing LLC, a story developer for creative thinkers. She has worked as a communications leader, a fundraiser for nonprofits, and an LGBTQ staff liaison in a Detroit early education and day care center.  more

By Anne Levin

Princeton may finally have an affordable housing plan in place. Mayor Liz Lempert said Monday, December 9 that the town is close to reaching a settlement with the advocacy group Fair Share Housing Center.

Should all go as planned, Princeton Council will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Witherspoon Hall to present the settlement agreement to the public and vote on the first set of items needed to act on in coming months.

“One of the most difficult aspects of pulling together this plan has been operating under the constraints of a legal process directed by the courts instead of an open planning process prescribed under regulations that should have been established by the state legislature,” Lempert said in a statement on Tuesday. “We have tried our best to protect the interests of the community by following the advice of legal council to keep negotiations confidential while communicating with the community as fully as possible under these constraints.”

Under a ruling by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson in March, 2018, Princeton is required to build 753 new affordable units by 2025. The town will receive credits for affordable homes built between 1999 and 2018. That obligation has not changed, Lempert said. more

By Stuart Mitchner

Making room for Monday’s New York Times in the chaos of my work space are Berlioz the Bear, a slender storybook for children written and illustrated by Jan Brett, alongside a copy of The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz, who was born on December 11, in 1803 and died on March 8, 1869, making this his sesquicentenary year.

Late the night before, I’d left the Memoirs open to a paragraph in which the famously tempestuous French composer is expounding on a caricature of himself as “a colossal nightingale, a lark the size of an eagle.” Thus the presence of the Times on my desk, folded open to a photograph of Sesame Street’s Big Bird reading a storybook resembling Berlioz the Bear to a couple of kids. While it’s unfortunate that the cheery image accompanies an obituary for the “whole-body puppeteer” Caroll Spinney, it’s not often lately that page one of the Times has roused something sunnier than a grimace or a groan.

Besides the fun of imagining Berlioz embodied in a double-bass-playing bear who would be at home on Sesame Street, the coincidence encourages a closer look at the passage where even as he seems to be taking issue with Heinrich Heine’s hyperbolic portrayal of his music, Berlioz obviously enjoys repeating the poet’s vision of its “fabulous empires of preternatural depravity, and many a cloud-capped impossible wonder,” and the way “its magical strains conjure up Babylon, the hanging gardens of Semiramis,” and “the marvels of Nineveh.”

But what actually bothers Berlioz is Heine’s claim that his music has “little melody” and “no real simplicity whatever.” After receiving a profoundy apologetic letter from the poet praising his oratorio L’Enfance du Christ as “a masterpiece of simplicity” with “the most exquisite blooms of melody,” Berlioz scolds Heine for behaving “like a critic” and making “a categorical statement about an artist when you only know part of his work.”  more

By Nancy Plum

In a concert taking place as University students are preparing for Christmas vacation, the Princeton University Orchestra presented a program which certainly entitled its members to enjoy their holiday break. Led by conductor Michael Pratt, the Orchestra performed two large-scale Romantic symphonic works which showed the strength and power of the ensemble, even before the school year is half over. Friday night’s performance at Richardson Auditorium (the concert was also presented Thursday night) featured Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major. Both in the prime of their compositional lives when these works were composed, Rachmaninoff and Bruckner were archetypes of the lush orchestration and emotional drama which marked 19th-century music.

Rachmaninoff based his 1934 Rhapsody for solo piano and orchestra on a melodic theme from the last of Niccolò Paganini’s 24 violin “Caprices,” likely composed in 1807. Beyond a virtuoso violinist as well as composer, Paganini was alleged to have cut a deal with the devil in return for his extraordinary talent. In particular, “Caprice” No. 24 was considered one of the most technically difficult pieces ever composed for violin, and Rachmaninoff brought the same demonic virtuosic requirements to the piano soloist. Pratt and the Orchestra began the Rhapsody decisively, with the theme’s fiendish quirkiness evident from the outset. Precise in rhythmic punctuation, the Orchestra continually demonstrated graceful lyricism and delicate ends of phrases. more

“MEASURE FOR MEASURE”: Theatre Intime and the Princeton Shakespeare Company has presented “Measure for Measure.” Directed by Naomi Park ‘21, the play ran December 6-8 at the Hamilton Murray Theater. Angelo (Colin Vega, right) is briefly, and unwittingly, reunited with his former fiancée, Mariana (Eliana Abraham), in a pivotal scene that contains one of the play’s multiple uses of dual identity. (Photo by Nora Aguilar ’21)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Theatre Intime, whose cast and production team consist of Princeton University students, has continued its season with Measure for Measure. Presented with the Princeton Shakespeare Company, the production has offered a resolutely contemporary interpretation of Shakespeare’s play (1603 or 1604), which explores themes that include piety, lust, and hypocrisy.

Although it is classified as a comedy in the 1623 First Folio, Measure for Measure is a “strange mix of comedy and serious topics,” director Naomi Park acknowledges in a program note. “I’ve tried to work through these issues, cutting and mixing up the text. I brought the show into the light of the Me Too Movement, highlighting women’s issues and homophobia.”

“However, it is still far from a perfect play,” Park continues. “I chose, therefore, to use the framing device of a staged reading — reminding you that this is a play, not a thing to take at face value, and not an art piece whose message I fully endorse.” more

THE TALLIS SCHOLARS: The beauty of the human voice is the focus of this ensemble, who perform at Richardson Auditorium on Friday, December 13 at 8 p.m.

McCarter Theatre Center will present three special concert events on December 13-15, showcasing musical range and styles to celebrate the holiday season. On December 13, McCarter hosts The Tallis Scholars at Richardson Auditorium with Reflections, a special holiday program of a capella Renaissance sacred music, co-presented with The Princeton Singers. On December 13 and 14, McCarter’s Berlind Theatre hosts a holiday program from Catherine Russell and John Pizzarelli. more

“IF I WERE A RICH MAN”: Israeli theater, film, and television star Yehezkel Lazarov stars as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” coming to State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick December 20-22. For tickets, call (732) 246-SHOW (7469), or visit STNJ.org. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

State Theatre New Jersey presents the musical Fiddler on the Roof for four performances on Friday, December 20, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, December 21, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, December 22 at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $40-$98.

A theatrical classic from Tony Award-winner Joseph Stein and Pulitzer Prize-winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, this Tony Award-nominated production is directed by Tony Award-winner Bartlett Sher (To Kill a Mockingbird, South Pacific, The King and I) and choreographed by acclaimed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter.

Fiddler on the Roof is the heartwarming story of fathers and daughters; husbands and wives; and life, love and laughter. This musical is rich with Broadway hits, including “To Life (L’Chaim!),” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise Sunset,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” and “Tradition.” more

DYNAMIC DUO: The Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo will perform a “Christmas Pastorale” on Sunday, December 15 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 50 York Street, Lambertville. The concert will feature music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras with works by Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn, Pachelbel, Brahms, Corelli, and Luther, among others.

The Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo will perform a Christmas Pastorale on Sunday, December 15 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 50 York Street, Lambertville. This special concert celebrates the rich musical tradition of the Christmas season.

The program includes music from their critically-acclaimed CD, A Christmas Pastorale – 600 Years of Carols, Chorales, Preludes & Pastorales for Two Guitars, featuring music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras with works by Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn, Pachelbel, Brahms, Corelli, and Luther, among others.

Hailed as a “revelation to hear” by The Washington Post, the Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo’s musicianship places them solidly at the top of their field. Their concert tours have taken them to world cultural capitals and premiere venues across five continents, the Caribbean, and South Pacific. In addition to their international engagements, they have performed at Carnegie Hall, aboard the Queen Elizabeth II, Caramoor, and the Grand Canyon. more

“MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, THE PLAY”: Presented by Acting Naturally Theatre in Langhorne, Pa., performances begin on Thursday, December 12 at 8 p.m. and run through December 21. Call (267) 798-9165 or visit www.ActingNaturally.com to purchase tickets. ( Photo courtesy of Acting Naturally Theatre)

Miracle on 34th Street, The Play, adapted by Mountain Community Theatre from the novel by Valentine Davies and based upon the Twentieth Century Fox motion picture Miracle on 34th Street, will be performed at Acting Naturally Theatre in Langhorne, Pa., from December 12-21.

The play tells the tale of a retired man named Kris Kringle, played by Paul Cottone of Yardley, Pa., who begins a job working as Santa for Macy’s. Kris unleashes waves of good will with Macy’s customers by referring parents to other stores to find the exact toy their child has asked for. more

“ROCKY POINT ON THE SAND”: Seascape and still life oil paintings by Christine Lafuente are on view at Morpeth Contemporary in Hopewell through January 4. The exhibition celebrates the gallery’s 20-year working relationship with the artist.

Morpeth Contemporary in Hopewell presents “Looking Into Water,” a new body of seascape and still life oil paintings by Christine Lafuente, on view through January 4. The exhibition, which explores how painting seascapes has influenced her shimmering floral arrangements, celebrates the gallery’s 20-year working relationship with Lafuente.

In her paintings of harbors, rocky coasts, and the islands of Acadia, light plays through varying atmospheres of fogs, mists, and clear sunny days. “Looking into water changes how I see nature,” says Lafuente. “It becomes abstracted and mysterious, as in the way form falls apart and coalesces again in a reflection on the water. As I begin to express this transformation in paint, I also seek to recreate this visual experience in my still life compositions. Inside a glass water-filled vase is a microcosm of how the world reveals itself in paint.” more

“REVEAL PARTY”: A close-up view of one of the objects that is part of a gallery-wide circuit creating surprising hidden sounds in the installation by artist Jess Rowland. It is on view at Hurley Gallery at Lewis Arts complex at Princeton University through January 3. (Photo courtesy of Jess Rowland)

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University presents a sound installation by artist and Princeton Arts Fellow Jess Rowland in the Hurley Gallery at the Lewis Arts complex. The interactive exhibition, free and open to the public, is on view through January 3.

“Reveal Party” transforms the gallery space into one large connected audio circuit with the generation of sound created by visitors to the exhibition interacting with objects and elements created by Rowland. As the artist suggests, “Sound lives in everything. There is a power in keeping your sound potent; and an equal power in allowing it to be revealed.” more

“SACRALIZATORS”: This graphite and watercolor on paper work by Viktor Pivovarov is featured in “Dialogues — Ilya Kabakov and Viktor Pivovarov: Stories About Ourselves,” on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers through March 28. A free exhibition celebration is Saturday, December 14, with a curator-led tour at 4 p.m., followed by a reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

A new exhibition invites visitors to delve into one of the hallmarks of unofficial Soviet art from the height of the Cold War. “Dialogues – Ilya Kabakov and Viktor Pivovarov: Stories About Ourselves,” on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers through March 28, focuses on the two artists’ work created in the format of the album: an innovative genre of visual art popularized in the 1970s by conceptual artists in Moscow. more

“SELAH”: This oil painting by Maxine Sheaffer is part of “Young Visions,” on view at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie in Cadwalader Park through January 12. The exhibition features the works of ten emerging artists.

The visions of ten emerging artists are now highlighted in the galleries of the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie in Cadwalader Park through January 12. “Young Visions” highlights the interpretations of these young, creative individuals as they balance the line between traditional, industrial, and contemporary work.

Several of the artists have shown recently in Ellarslie Open 36 as up-and-coming artists to watch. Patrick Seufert was awarded the top prize in oils for Duel Extension and Cassaundra Flor won Best in Show Overall with her large etching Aeolian Cityscape. The large, abstract paintings and sculptures of Vincent Hawley occupy the Malloy Gallery. The hyper-detailed animal portraits of Maxine Sheaffer fill the Holland Gallery. more

RISING FORCE: Princeton University wrestler Mike D’Angelo, bottom, battles a foe from Lehigh in a match earlier this season. Last Sunday, 14th-ranked D’Angelo dropped a 3-2 decision overtime to No. 3 Pat Lugo at 149 pounds as No. 12 Princeton fell 30-9 to top-ranked Iowa before a throng of 2,284 at Jadwin Gym. The Tigers, now 1-2, host No. 20 Rider on December 19 at Dillon Gym.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Mike D’Angelo had never seen a crowd at Jadwin Gym like the one that showed up to see the 12th-ranked Princeton University wrestling team take on No. 1 Iowa last Sunday.

“It was awesome,” said the Tiger senior captain D’Angelo, a native of Commack, N.Y.

“When I started, all of our matches were at Dillon Gym. That’s one thing that was different. (Sunday) was the most packed I’d ever seen Jadwin. They actually had people in the upper decks and we also had the bleachers on both sides. That was by far the most fans that I’ve seen. We also had more students. It was just a great environment. I love competing in environments where there’s a lot of people. It inspires me to really go out there and wrestle my best and try to put on a show.” more

December 4, 2019

The Princeton High School Choir, with help from Santa, helped kick off the holiday season at the annual Palmer Square Tree Lighting on Friday evening. Princeton School of Rock also joined in the festivities. Participants share what they’re looking forward to this holiday season in this week’s Town Talk on page 6. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Donald Gilpin

Teachers, administrators, and parents are hoping to see drops in students’ high levels of stress and sleep deprivation and increases in levels of joyful engagement with learning, as Princeton High School students participated Tuesday in a three-year update of a survey originally conducted by Stanford University researchers in December 2016.

PHS Principal Jessica Baxter, as assistant principal over the past two years before taking the reins as principal this fall, was a leader in implementing and following up on the survey. “We were a strong school academically, but we weren’t so healthy,” she said in an interview last spring. “We were trying to focus on wellness, and our kids were not feeling well. They were feeling over-scheduled, overworked, and stressed out. It was manifesting in different ways. We were seeing kids missing school, kids not enjoying classes, and lacking engagement in the learning process.”

The Challenge Success survey reported three years ago that of the 1,417 PHS participants, 81 percent were often or always stressed by schoolwork, 47 percent stated that a stress-related health or emotional problem had caused them to miss more than one day of school, and 41 percent had experienced exhaustion, headaches, and difficulty sleeping in the past month. Students estimated spending more than three hours a night on homework, getting less than six-and-a-half hours of sleep each night, with 64 percent usually going to bed later than 11 p.m. more

By Donald Gilpin

An application to expand preschool, with the addition of a general education class of 15 3- and 4-year-old children, was prominent on the agenda at last night’s Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

At the special Board meeting, which was to take place after press time Tuesday night, PPS Superintendent Steve Cochrane was scheduled to recommend that the BOE submit a one-year preschool plan for 2020-2021 to the Early Childhood Division of the New Jersey Department of Education. The district’s plan is a targeted preschool program for “at risk” children.

“”High quality preschool is one of the most powerful, research-based ways of closing the achievement gap,” Cochrane wrote in an email, noting that his slide presentation for the BOE would indicate some of the positive effects. “We are tremendously excited to be expanding this opportunity to advance the learning for the youngest members of our community.”

If the expansion is approved by the state, the new class would be held at the YWCA. The district is also considering moving the preschool class that is currently at Community Park to the YWCA, which would make a total of three preschool classes at the YWCA and two in district. more

PROVIDING A WARM WELCOME: Newcomers and Friends Club members are shown here at a picnic this past June. The group, which celebrated 60 years this fall, supports programs at the Princeton YWCA and provides long-lasting friendships to Princeton residents who were new to the area at one time.

By Wendy Greenberg

On March 18, 1959, 50 women who had lived in the Princeton area for two years or less gathered at a dessert tea, seeking community. At that event, the Newcomers and Friends Club of the Princeton YWCA was born.

Sixty years later, the club still provides a warm welcome and a sense of belonging. An anniversary celebration of the Newcomers and Friends Club was held this past October. Earliest member Kay Yoder, who joined in 1961, was there, and so were more than 100 women of all ages, many of whom say they found friendships that lasted far beyond their time as true newcomers. more

OPENING THEIR DOORS: Lucia and Vance Smith are among those who will open their doors on Saturday, December 7, as part of the annual Mill Hill Holiday House Tour. The couple, who chaired this year’s tour, say they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

By Anne Levin

It was on a tour of gardens in Trenton’s Mill Hill section 15 years ago that Vance and Lucia Smith fell in love with the neighborhood and vowed to make it their home. Two years ago,  the couple and their daughter, Olivia, finally made the move from Hopewell to a three-story 1886 Victorian on Montgomery Street, right across from a larger-than-life statue of George Washington.

While they are still relatively new to the neighborhood, the Smiths volunteered this season to chair the annual Mill Hill Holiday House Tour. Vance, a professor of medieval and African literature at Princeton University, and Lucia, a therapist in Pennington, have been gently prodding their fellow residents  to open their homes to the public for the fundraiser, which is Saturday, December 7 from 12-5 p.m.

Stops on the tour include an eclectic collection of residences, two churches, the Mill Hill Playhouse, and the historic Douglass House, where a costumed re-enactor will be on site to tell the story of the building. The tour has a theme — “Secret City.” more

NEW BALLET STUDIO: Some of the area’s best-known ballet teachers are joining forces at the Martin Center for Dance, set to open in January at a 5,000-square-foot space on Princess Road. From left are Mary Barton, Maria Youskevitch, Mary Pat Robertson, and Kirk Peterson. Douglas Martin is seated in front.

By Anne Levin

Last July, longtime American Repertory Ballet (ARB) Artistic Director Douglas Martin was unexpectedly relieved of his duties at the company and its affiliated Princeton Ballet School. After 25 years with the organization — first as a dancer, then as a director — Martin and his wife Mary Barton, also a former dancer, choreographer, and popular teacher, found themselves without jobs.

Shocked at first, the couple have decidedly moved on. Early next year, they will open the Martin Center for Dance on Princess Road in Lawrenceville, joined by fellow former ARB and Princeton Ballet School colleagues Mary Pat Robertson, Maria Youskevitch, Kirk Peterson, and Erika Mero. Sample classes will begin in January, after a soft opening later this month. A schedule of 50 classes — ballet for all ages, contemporary dance (including a class for those aged 50 and up), and more, will be available.

Martin admits to a period of recovery from the shock of being dismissed, but he prefers to focus on the future instead of the past. “I just love to work, I love to dance, and I love ballet,” he said. “I am actually quite happy and at peace after leaving ARB [the company is currently led by Julie Diana Hench]. I did experience every portion of the business before I became director, and that was really helpful in getting a handle on what is needed to make a success.” more