October 4, 2017

By Nancy Plum 

Princeton University Concerts has innovatively combined different forms of media in the past, most notably a concert a few years ago featuring actress Meryl Streep and the Takács String Quartet fusing literature and music in one performance. To open the 124th season of Princeton University Concerts, The Emerson String Quartet joined forces with seven well-established actors for a “multimedia theatrical realization” of Anton Chekhov’s story The Black Monk in a fantasy also exploring the lives of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and Russian leader Josef Stalin.  more

September 27, 2017

By Anne Levin

After a decade of planning and four years of construction, the studios, rehearsal rooms, and theaters at Princeton University’s ambitious Lewis Center for the Arts have opened on schedule. Music, dance, and drama classes are underway in the three buildings along Alexander Street and University Place, part of the University’s $330 million Arts and Transit development.

“It’s rare to have a project to work on that is transformative on a performance level and on the programs housed within,” said Noah Yaffe of Steven Holl Architects, during a press tour of the complex on Monday. “What is so fascinating is that we’re maximizing the visibility of the arts while maximizing the porosity of the place.” more

NEW MUSIC: Sandbox Percussion (pictured) will be among the twelve acts performing at this Sunday’s Unruly Sounds festival. Now in its third year, the event features composers and performances by local artists and Princeton University affiliates.

By Doug Wallack

On Sunday, October 1, Hinds Plaza, adjacent to the Princeton Public Library, will play host to the third annual Unruly Sounds festival — a showcase of composers and new music from local artists and from the Princeton University Department of Music.

Mika Godbole, the festival’s organizer, says that this year’s lineup has more of a singer-songwriter focus than in past years — more of an emphasis on groove-based music than on the highly experimental music that has been Unruly Sound’s signature in past years. But it will hardly be a pop lineup. Acts will include smpl (an electronics and percussion duo, joined by dancer Ursula Eagly), the electro-country group Owen Lake and the Tragic Loves (equal parts synthesizer and slide guitar), and compositions by PU Professor Dan Trueman for prepared digital piano — full of otherworldly pitch-bending, delay, and waveforms played backward.  more

“SIMPATICO”: Performances are underway for A Red Orchid Theatre’s production of “Simpatico.” Directed by ensemble member Dado, the play runs through October 15 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. Vinnie (Guy Van Swearingen, left) threatens to sabotage the veneer of respectability that is carefully maintained by his ex-partner Carter (Michael Shannon. (Photo by Richard Termine)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter Theatre has opened its season with Sam Shepard’s Simpatico. Asked by The New York Times what makes actors good in their work, the playwright — who died July 27 —responded, “Adventure. An actor who’s willing to jump off the cliff, he’s going to go anywhere.” This production proves Shepard’s point.  more

September 20, 2017

“CHAPTER TWO”: Performances are underway for Pegasus Theatre Project’s production of “Chapter Two.” Directed by Jennifer Nasta Zefutie, the play runs through September 24 at the West Windsor Arts Center. Left to right: Leo Schneider (Frank Falisi, standing) and Faye Medwick (Sarah Stryker, standing) attempt to make — then stall — a match between George Schneider (Peter Bisgaier) and Jennie Malone (Heather Plank). (Photo by John M. Maurer)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Pegasus Theatre Project is presenting Chapter Two at the West Windsor Arts Center. In Neil Simon’s bittersweet romantic comedy, a widowed novelist begins a relationship with a divorced actress. The match is facilitated and encouraged by the novelist’s brother and the actress’s friend.  more

NEW ERA AT PASSAGE: C. Ryanne Domingues has taken over as artistic director at Trenton’s Passage Theatre, replacing June Ballinger, who guided the company for more than two decades in creating and producing socially-relevant new plays and community-devised arts programming.

By Donald Gilpin

Trenton’s Passage Theatre Company has a new artistic director as it prepares for the opening of its fall season.

C. Ryanne Domingues, co-founder and former producing artistic director of Simpatico Theatre in Philadelphia, has taken over the leading role from June Ballinger, who announced last month that she would be stepping down after 22 years at the helm. Ballinger will return to her career as a writer, actor, and teacher, continuing her association with Passage as an artistic advisor for this season and teacher of adult acting classes. more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) has never been an ensemble to sneak into the new concert season, but especially this year, when the orchestra is riding a wave of high attendance, Music Director Rossen Milanov chose to open the year with a musical tour de force. Joined by the Westminster Symphonic Choir (of Westminster Choir College) and four up-and-coming vocal soloists, Princeton Symphony filled both the stage and seats  this past weekend with a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s towering Symphony No. 9, a work not often heard in Princeton for the understandable reasons of expense and musical demands. The expense portion of Saturday night’s performance (the concert was repeated Sunday afternoon) received a helping hand from the Edward T. Cone Foundation, and the musical difficulties of this work were well met by all involved. more

September 13, 2017

Tanya Gabrielian

NAMI Mercer presents a benefit concert at The Pennington School featuring Tanya Gabrielian performing works by Bach, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Gershwin on Sunday, October 8 at 3 p.m. Goodwill offerings will be solicited, with all proceeds going to support NAMI Mercer programs and services. The Pro Musicis Foundation and The Pennington School are partnering with NAMI Mercer to make all this possible. For more information, visit www.namimercer.org.  more

The landmark Hopewell Theater has re-opened after undergoing an extensive eight-month renovation, that includes a new lobby, box office, and concession stand, as well as a state-of-the-art cinema system with surround sound, prep kitchen, and expanded theater seating area and balcony. Now fully refitted as a deluxe showcase for music, cinema and the performing arts, the Hopewell Theater will serve as an intimate arts venue and gathering place for the greater Hopewell Valley area. more

August 30, 2017

Singer-songwriters Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt will perform at McCarter Theatre on November 18 at 8 p.m. This is a rare opportunity to hear them together. Both artists have broadened the definition of American music incorporating elements of country, swing, jazz, folk, and gospel. Master lyricists and storytellers, Lovett and Hiatt’s songs range in topics from redemption and relationships to growing old and surrendering (on their terms). To purchase tickets, call the Box Office at (609) 258-2787 or visit www.mccarter.org.

August 23, 2017

PHILIP GLASS AT 80: Pianist Paul Barnes (right) will perform music of Philip Glass in a recital titled “Philip Glass at 80: A Retrospective” Saturday, September 9 at 8 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Admission is free.

Pianist Paul Barnes will present a recital titled “Philip Glass at 80: A Retrospective” on Friday, September 9 at 8 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Admission is free. more

Michael Shannon stars in A Red Orchid Theatre’s “Simpatico” coming to McCarter Theatre, September 8 through October 15, 2017. The tragicomedy explores the slippery netherworld of thoroughbred racing from Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Sam Shepard. For tickets, visit www.mccarter.org or call (609) 258-2787. (Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow)

Pianist Clipper Erickson will open the Westminster Conservatory 2017-18 Faculty Recital Series with a performance titled “The Russian American Connection” on Sunday, September 17 at 3 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Admission is free. more

August 16, 2017

Princeton Summer Theater is presenting Appropriate at the Hamilton Murray Theater. Written by Princeton University alumnus Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (who graduated in 2006), this contemporary drama is an apt conclusion to a season that has examined “whether it is better to look to the past for inspiration or to move in the direction of future progress,” as Princeton Summer Theater’s website states.

In Pippin, the title character comes of age and anticipates his future. The affluent heroine of Spider’s Web is a fantasist whose comfortable, orderly world permits her to live for the present. By contrast, The Crucible presents conflict as ever-present, using a brutal historical event as an allegory for more recent injustice.

Set in the present day, Appropriate develops themes explored by all three of these shows, epitomizing the exploration of tension between generations and eras. Princeton Summer Theater has given audiences a season that can be interpreted as a variation on A Christmas Carol in its interplay between past, present, and future.  more

August 2, 2017

Photo Credit: Julia Peiperl

Princeton Summer Theater is presenting The Crucible at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. This production of Arthur Miller’s 1953 classic is raw, artfully anachronistic, and evokes the spirit of a staged reading. Theatrical excess has been removed, leaving the ritual of performance.

Although The Crucible is set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, this production avoids establishing a specific time and place. The set is minimal, and the costumes by Julia Peiperl consist of contemporary clothing. Props are limited to lawn chairs, flashlights, and a cooler that one would use on a picnic. A campfire is at center stage.

On opposite sides of the stage, two women sit at the campfire. The other performers join them as we hear contemporary music and eerie, otherworldly noises synthesized by Sound Designer Joseph Haggerty. An actor opens a script and begins reading the title, stage directions, and opening scene. more

The West Windsor Arts Council (WWAC) presents a free full-day of outdoor music and performances at Nassau Park Pavilion Shopping Center (behind Panera) on Saturday, August 5 from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Latin Grammy nominees Mariachi Flor de Toloache will headline the event. There will also be dance, live theater, circus acts, and craft and food vendors throughout the day. If it rains, event performances will take place on Sunday, August 6.

As part of the celebration of 115 years of Cadwalader Park, the Trenton Museum Society and the city of Trenton welcome Amazin Grace and the Grace Little Band in a free concert in Cadwalader Park on Sunday, August 27 from 4 to 6 p.m. This dynamic group consists of eight talented musicians, including two lead vocalists, a full rhythm section, and a sax player. Patrons should bring a chair or blanket.  more

July 26, 2017

PERCUSSIVE MULTI-TASKING: A typical performance by Sō Percussion, which concludes its summer institute at Princeton this weekend, is never confined to traditional instruments. (Photo by Claudia Hansen)

In a popular YouTube video from 2014, four men seated on a stage with their backs to the Los Angeles Philharmonic are snapping twigs in carefully timed unison. As the orchestra, led by famed conductor Gustavo Dudamel, continues to play a piece called man made by composer David Lang, the four turn their attention from the twigs to rows of wine bottles, which they clink and plonk with precision. more

IT’S A WITCH HUNT: Princeton Summer Theater cast members Robby Keown and Ben Diamond address a stoic Abby Melick in rehearsal for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Performances will be held at the Hamilton Murray Theater located on Princeton University’s campus, July 27-30 and August 3-8. A talkback will occur after the evening performances on July 28 and August 4 with the director, cast, and creative team. (Photo Credit: Princeton Summer Theater) 

Princeton Summer Theater’s third show of the 2017 season opens Thursday, July 27 with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Regarded as a classic of American theatre, The Crucible uses the proceedings of the Salem witch trials to examine the manic effects of mass hysteria in society. As an increasing number of upstanding townspeople are accused of witchcraft, Mr. Miller emphasizes the contagious nature of fear and the elusiveness of truth. The 1953 Tony Award-winning play invites us to question the importance of upholding morality in times of hardship. more

The repertory for orchestral trio includes music for almost every combination of instruments imaginable, but especially for piano, violin and cello.  The Lysander Piano Trio, formed at the Juilliard School, is less than ten years old, but is nevertheless a major ensemble player on the chamber music scene.  The Lysander Trio came to Princeton last Tuesday night for a concert at Richardson Auditorium which showed that the appeal of these three instruments together has never faded, from the time of Mozart to the present day.   more

July 19, 2017

Julie Diana Hench

American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School announced that, after an international search, Julie Diana Hench has been selected as the organization’s executive director starting September 1, 2017.

“On behalf of the Board and the entire organization, I am very pleased to extend a warm welcome to Julie Diana Hench,” says Chuck Metcalf, chair of the organization’s Board of Trustees. “American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School are recognized as leaders in their respective fields throughout the tri-state area, as well as on the national landscape, and it is imperative we have an experienced leader to maintain and build on the excellent reputation of the entire organization.” more

Some cast members are shown from Princeton Day School’s production of “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen, that will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. From left: Danielle Hirsch ’17 (Newtown, Pa.), Hope Ammidon ’18 (Princeton), Liv Sheridan ’18 (Lawrenceville), Emily Trend ’18 (Pennington), and Nate Jones ’18 (Princeton). (Photo Credit: Matt Pilsner)

In its ongoing commitment to contemporary music, every summer for the past four years New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has created a “laboratory experience” for four emerging composers to develop their craft and produce a unique work of music, subsequently presented to the public in Richardson Auditorium. Guided by Institute Director and Princeton University Professor of Music Steven Mackey, the four composers who participated in this year’s NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute created pieces reflecting diverse backgrounds and talents. Led by conductor JoAnn Falletta, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presented a more casual concert atmosphere last Saturday night than during the regular season, but were no less serious about the music, executing well the sophisticated scores of these promising composers.  more

July 12, 2017

ASPIRING FILMMAKERS: “The Last Playboys,” directed by Luke Momo (son of local restauranteur Raoul Momo), is among the entries in the 2017 Princeton Student Film Festival, on screen at the Princeton Public Library July 19 and 20.

Everett Shen isn’t sure he wants to make filmmaking a career. But the rising Princeton High School senior, who will do an independent study in film next fall, has plenty to think about as he considers his future.

Mr. Shen is among 22 filmmakers showing their work at the upcoming Princeton Student Film Festival, screening at Princeton Public Library July 19 and 20. He also served on the selection committee, helping to decide which of the nearly 60 short films, culled by librarian Susan Conlon from nearly 150 submitted by young people across the globe, would be included in the annual gathering. more

OPERA TRAINING PROGRAM: Opera coach and conductor Kathleen Kelly will lead a master class with aspiring opera singers participating in Westminster Choir College’s CoOPERAtive program on Monday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

The Westminster CoOPERAtive Program, Westminster Choir College’s three-week intensive opera training program, is in full swing at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. The public is invited to attend an array of free recitals, concerts, and master classes featuring talented singers and accompanists from around the world who are taking the next step in their operatic careers. more