January 18, 2017

For one semester, Princeton University’s Music 219, an opera performance class in the music department, put its small class through the paces of preparing operatic excerpts for public performance. The students and faculty selected the music to be prepared, and the class culminated last Saturday night in an evening of operatic selections accompanied by an orchestra.  more

BURIAL BATTLE: Laertes (Edmund Lewis, on bottom) and Hamlet (Eric Tucker) fight over the corpse of Ophelia (Andrus Nichols) in the graveyard, as Hamlet prepares for his final revenge in Bedlam theater company’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 12. (Photo by Elizabeth Nichols)

A New York-based theater company founded in 2012, Bedlam, currently presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Shaw’s Saint Joan in rotating repertory at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre, has received much acclaim from New York critics and others for its productions over the past four years. McCarter artistic director Emily Mann saw their Saint Joan a few years ago in New York City, and “was determined to bring Bedlam’s work to Princeton.” more

January 11, 2017

PHS graduate Damien Chazelle met recently with Town Topics film reviewer Kam Williams to  talk about his latest movie, La La Land, which swept the Golden Globes Sunday, winning a record seven awards.

Damien wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning Whiplash which landed five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for Chazelle. The movie won a trio of Oscars in the Film Editing, Sound Mixing and Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons) categories.

In 2013, his short film of the same name won the Short Film Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Previously, Damien wrote Grand Piano, starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack, and co-wrote the horror sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane, starring John Goodman. His screenplays for Whiplash and The Claim both appeared on the “Blacklist,” the annual survey of the most liked motion picture screenplays not yet produced.

Damien shot his first feature film, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, while still an undergraduate at Harvard University. The critically-acclaimed debut was named the Best First Feature of 2010 by L.A. Weekly and was described as “easily the best first film in eons” by Time Out New York. more

Williamson Hall overlooking the Princeton campus of Westminster Choir College.

At a packed meeting of Princeton’s Historic Preservation Commission last week, a group of students, alumni, and friends of Westminster Choir College of Rider University asked that the Westminster campus on Walnut Avenue be registered as a historic district. The request is part of an effort to keep the music school’s operations in Princeton, instead of relocating to Rider’s Lawrenceville location, a move the financially strapped University is considering. more

January 4, 2017

Photo by Mitsu Yasukawa

As it pursues its mission to support playwrights, new plays, and the future of the American theater, McCarter Theatre Center’s LAB program will be putting to work a $35,000 grant, announced last month, from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The future of the American theater rests with the American playwright,” McCarter artistic director and resident playwright Emily Mann stated. “We take it as a core mission of this theater to develop and support new works and the playwrights who create them.”

LAB offers readings, workshops, a 10-day artists’ retreat in the spring, commissions and the annual LAB Spotlight Production. It also provides McCarter audiences with a window into the creative process. New works developed in the McCarter LAB have included pieces by Christopher Durang (Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike), Danai Gurira (Eclipsed), Nilo Cruz (Anna in the Tropics), Regina Taylor (Crowns), Tarrell Alvin McCraney (The Brother/Sister Plays) and more.

Noura, a new play by Iraqi-American playwright and performer Heather Raffo (9 Parts of Desire), will be featured at the end of this month as a LAB Spotlight Production. Created after years of work in Arab American communities in New York City, where Ms. Raffo discussed A Doll’s House with Middle Eastern women, Noura is “a timely re-imagining” of Ibsen’s play “through the lens of an Iraqi refugee family” and “a passionate exploration of contemporary feminism that reflects the dilemma facing modern America: do we live for each other or for ourselves?” more

The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank will host an epic Elvis Presley Birthday Bash starring expert impersonators, musicians Scot Bruce and Mike Albert on Saturday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. Both are known for their uncanny resemblance to the young “King” and have earned endorsements by Elvis’s former back-up singers. Special requests will be taken by the audience. Ticket prices range from $20-$40. To purchase, visit www.countbasietheatre.org.

CONTEMPORARY PIANO MINIATURES: Westminster Conservatory’s faculty recital series continues with a performance  by pianist Marvin Rosen of works by contemporary women composers on Sunday, January 8 at 3 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton.  Admission is free.

Westminster Conservatory’s faculty recital series continues with a performance by pianist Marvin Rosen on Sunday, January 8 at 3 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton.  Admission is free. more

Cirque Éloize Saloon visits the State Theatre of NJ in New Brunswick on Wednesday, January 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, January 12 at 7:30 p.m. Through gravity-defying acrobatic prowess, inventive choreography, and live music (including renditions of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and “Crazy” by Patsy Cline), Montreal’s Cirque Éloize brings the rollicking world of Saloon to the stage, inspired by stories of America’s Wild West. To purchase tickets, visit www.statetheatrenj.org or call (732) 246-7469. State Theatre of NJ is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick.

December 28, 2016

The American Boychoir had busy weeks in December, performing its annual holiday concerts at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton (December 18) and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (December 19). Both concerts included performances of Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols with harp, a piece they performed in Princeton earlier in the month for the popular series “What Makes It Great?” with host Rob Kapilow. Interspersed between movements of the Britten work were other popular carols, including “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” “Silent Night,” and “The Holly and the Ivy.” The Boychoir led the audience in a sing-along of “O Come All Ye Faithful” — many of the boys in the choir said that this was their favorite part of the concerts. more

Photo Credit: Sydney Becker

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Mad Forest by Caryl Churchill, with set and lighting design by senior Sydney Becker and directed by junior Nico Krell, on January 12, 13, and 15 at 8 p.m. and January 14 at 2 and 8 p.m. Performances will take place in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio located at 185 Nassau Street. A discussion with Associate Professor of English Tamsen Wolff will follow the January 12th performance.

Mad Forest offers a personal look into the events of the 1989 Romanian Revolution as two families witness the radical collapse of their entire way of life. The play’s three acts occur shortly before, during, and after the revolution. Through these personal stories the play paints an incisive portrait of a society in turmoil to reveal what life is like under a totalitarian regime and what results when that regime is gone. When rebellion brings down a dictator, the characters are left to grapple with what is left in the void and how they will use their newfound freedom. more

Playwright Naomi Iizuka

Award-winning playwrights Naomi Iizuka and Sarah Ruhl have been selected by the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and McCarter Theatre Center as the next Roger S. Berlind ’52 Playwrights-in-Residence. Both writers will engage with Princeton students in the coming year through teaching, master classes, or workshops and will write and develop a new play.

This program, made possible by the support of Roger S. Berlind, Princeton Class of 1952, recognizes exciting established playwrights whose work has had significant impact on the field.

“I’m delighted in welcoming back to Princeton two artists we worked with when they were still ‘emerging,’” commented Michael Cadden, Chair of the Lewis Center. “Naomi was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton in 1998 and our Program in Theater produced Sarah’sMelancholy Play as its Fall Show in 2002. It’s been a pleasure to see them evolve into two of the best playwrights in America today.” more

December 21, 2016

 

The musical holiday season would not be complete without Handel’s Messiah, which can always be heard in the Princeton area at this time of the year. In this 275th anniversary of the work’s composition, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presented their annual Princeton performance of this popular work last Friday night to a full house at Richardson Auditorium. Joined by four vocal soloists and the Montclair State University Singers, a chamber-sized NJSO performed a quick-moving Messiah that featured an innovative and creative interpretation by guest conductor George Manahan. more

DAUGHTER DAYS AT GEORGE STREET PLAYHOUSE: Elise Vannerson (foreground) and Ben Michael (background) play Jerusha and Jervis in “Daddy Long Legs” at George Street Playhouse until December 24, 2016. George Street is offering their “Daughter Days” package on select performances. The package includes buy one, get one free tickets, hot chocolate and candy bar intermission, and the opportunity to go on-stage after the show. “Daughter Days” seeks to promote the importance of female education and creative expression. For tickets, call the box office at (732) 246-7717 or visit www.georgestreetplayhouse.org. (Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson)

Weaved throughout the musical romance of Daddy Long Legs, currently on stage at New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse, are messages promoting the importance of education and the empowerment of young girls and women. So what better way to share those ideals this holiday season than with a special “Daughter Days” package for select performances of Daddy Long Legs December 22 and 24. Daddy Long Legs is appropriate for daughters ages 10 through 100.  more

December 14, 2016

McCarter Theatre is proud to announce its reimagined production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Directed by Adam Immerwahr, A Christmas Carol runs from now through December 31 in the Matthews Theatre. Boasting a gigantic list of Broadway, regional and international credits, the cast of A Christmas Carol features returning McCarter veterans Jessica Bedford (The Mousetrap), Warner Miller (Antony & Cleopatra), Lance Roberts (Sweet+Hot), and JD Taylor (The Understudy). They are joined by first-time McCarter artists Elisha Lawson, Anne L. Nathan, Jamila Sabares-Klemm, A.J. Shively, Sue Jin Song, Greg Wood, and Frank X. Pictured above are Zachary McDevitt, Warner Miller, and Liam McKernan. Purchase tickets online at www.mccarter.org or call (609) 258-2787. (Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson)

END OF SEMESTER DANCE PERFORMANCES: The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance will present a series of showings of new choreography created by students and choreography learned during the past semester on December 14 through 16 and on January 23 in the Patricia and Ward Hagan ’48 Dance Studio and 3rd Floor Dance Studio at 185 Nassau Street and New South Dance Studio. All performances are free and open to the public. (Photo Credit: Larry Levanti)

Princeton University students will perform choreography learned and new student choreography created during the fall semester on December 14 through 16 and January 23 in the Patricia and Ward Hagan ’48 Dance Studio and 3rd Floor Dance Studio at 185 Nassau Street and New South Dance Studio. more

Chita Rivera

The ten-time Tony-nominated actress, dancer, and singer Chita Rivera discussed her extensive career on Broadway in musicals such as West Side Story and Chicago with Broadway director John Doyle, a professor in Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts. The discussion took place on Monday, December 12 at 2 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ‘32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street as a part of Doyle’s fall course, “Luminaries of the American Musical Theater.” Presented by the Lewis Center’s new Program in Music Theater. more

More celebratory than a glass of champagne, Salute to Vienna New Year’s Eve Concert at the State Theatre of NJ in New Brunswick is a delight for the eyes and ears. The concert features the Strauss Symphony of America, conductor Imre Kollar (Budapest), soprano Katarzyna Dondalska (Berlin-Warsaw), tenor Zoltan Nyari (Budapest), dancers from the National Ballet of Hungary, and International Champion Ballroom Dancers. Guests are guaranteed to fall for the “Blue Danube Waltz” all over again! For tickets, call (732) 246-7469 or visit www.statetheatrenj.org.

As Princeton University Orchestra conductor Michael Pratt explained in his concert remarks, at first glance the four works performed this past weekend by the orchestra would seem unrelated to one another. Beethoven, Gershwin, and Stravinsky, combined with Princeton University composer Juri Seo, sounded like a set of pieces without a common thread, but conductor Pratt and the musicians of the orchestra found a way to allow four diverse works to speak to one another as well as the audience. Friday night’s University Orchestra performance at Richardson Auditorium (the concert was also presented last Thursday night) featured tight ensemble playing, elegant instrumental solo work, and a display of both compositional creativity and keyboard virtuosity from a composer who premiered her own concerto. more

December 7, 2016

American Repertory Ballet (ARB) brings the beloved classic “Nutracker” to the stage with Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score, new sets, thrilling choreography, and more than 100 performers. A holiday tradition for more than 50 years, ARB’s is one of the longest continuously running “Nutcracker” productions in the nation. Directed by Artistic Director Douglas Martin, ARB’s professional company will be joined by select students from Princeton Ballet School to tell the story of a young girl named Clara and how a mysterious gift from her Uncle brings about enchanted dreams and fantastical scenes. For tickets, visit www.statetheatrenj.org or call (732) 246-7469. (Photo Credit: Leighton Chen)

Simon Morrison was hoping to pursue a career as an orchestral musician when he fell in love with 20th-century Russian music. From that fascination grew an interest in Russian ballet. Soon, these subjects, and their histories, eclipsed his plans to play percussion or tuba in a symphony orchestra. more

December 2, 2016

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Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel, one of the most celebrated voices in American music, will perform at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium on Tuesday, December 13 at 4:30 p.m.

Garfunkel, along with his former partner Paul Simon, has received numerous awards and critical acclaim for his music, including 5 Grammy awards, the prestigious Britannia Award, Rolling Stone’s Best Album of the Year notation, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. more

November 23, 2016

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More than 120 children in the Trenton Children’s Chorus (TCC) prepare to delight audience members during the month of December. TCC is an award-winning nonprofit organization providing Trenton area youth with exceptional choral music training and performance opportunities. TCC has performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama, the United Nations, the South African Embassy, the World Café Live, the Washington Monument, and throughout New Jersey. For additional information, visit trentonchildrenschorus.org.

“Art demands of us that we do not stand still.” So commented Ludwig van Beethoven on his own late string quartets. No one can argue that the world is far from standing still, and the cycle of Beethoven string quartets presented this year by the Takács String Quartet at Princeton University may represent more than just music. Beethoven composed his repertory of 16 string quartets during some of the most tumultuous decades in world history, and the Takács performance of all the composer’s quartets over six concerts both shows promise for consistency in high-quality music and demonstrates the evolution of the string quartet as a musical form.  more

November 9, 2016

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BIRTHDAY SURPRISES: (L to R) Matt (Grant Shaud), Jill (June Ballinger), Carol (Leslie Ayvazian), and Dan (Ken Land) leave the city for a weekend at a bed-and-breakfast in the Poconos to celebrate Carol’s 60th birthday, and they find themselves in unexpected, unsettling emotional territory in Passage Theatre’s production of Leslie Ayvazian’s “Out of the City,” playing through November 20 at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton. (Photo by Michael Goldstein)

At least since A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s “out-of-the-city” play set in ancient Athens and the surrounding forest, leaving the structured, rule-bound urban world for a sojourn in the unconstrained world of nature has been a risky proposition, bringing about all sorts of romantic upheavals, shifting relationships, and surprising transformations of identity. more

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STRING SECTION: Students at Grace A. Dunn Middle School in Trenton are learning the violin from José Gregorio Sanchez Rodriguez, who is a product of the highly successful El Sistema program in Venezuela. Rodriguez also teaches at Westminster Conservatory in Princeton.

In a cluttered classroom at Trenton’s Grace A. Dunn Middle School, seven girls and one boy stand in a circle, violins in hand. It has been barely a month since they began learning the basics of the instrument. But “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” which they are playing along with their teacher, is sounding pretty good. more