January 29, 2020

The play “Midwives” by Chris Bhojalian, based on his best-selling novel of the same name, is a story about a pregnancy that goes wrong, but not in a hospital — in a home. Pictured, from left, are cast members Michael Cullen, Molly Carden, John Bolger, Ellen McLaughlin, Lee Sellars, and Armand Schultz. The play is on view at George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, through February 16. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

“BLUE BONNETS”: Paintings and calligraphy by artist Peter Chung will be on view in the Gallery at the Plainsboro Public Library from February 1 through February 26. An artist reception is scheduled for February 8 from noon to 2 p.m.

Artist Peter Chung will exhibit paintings and award-winning Chinese calligraphy in the Gallery at Plainsboro Public Library from February 1 through February 26. The subjects of his paintings — both Chinese paintings and Western- and Eastern-influenced oil-based paintings — include landscapes, wildlife, figures, still lifes, and architectural subjects.

An artist reception on Saturday, February 8, from noon to 2 p.m., will kick off the library’s 2020 Chinese New Year celebration.

Chung’s calligraphy has been described as “fluid, poetic, and elegant artistry.” His oil paintings, ranging from realistic to semi-abstract, capture a light that can be softly focused or sharply edged. Another artistic interest includes Chinese seal engravings (referring to the carving of a seal or stamp traditionally used as a signature on artwork or other documents). more

“AMERICAN DREAM”: In “Creation Myths,” on view through June 7 at Art@Bainbridge at the historic Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, artist Hugh Hayden explores history, slavery, and the creation of the America we know today through a series of site-responsive surrealistic installations.

Artist Hugh Hayden explores history, slavery, and the creation of the America we know today through a series of site-responsive installations at Art@Bainbridge, the Princeton University Art Museum’s gallery space in downtown Princeton featuring the work of emerging contemporary artists.

Challenging issues of home, craft, and the politics of materials, Hayden reimagines the domestic spaces of Bainbridge House, which dates to 1766, through meticulously constructed surrealistic sculptures.

Titled “Creation Myths,” the installation responds to the history of Bainbridge House by creating distinct but interconnected domestic spaces. In the “kitchen,” iron skillets fused with casts of African masks consider the enslaved cooks who helped create American cuisine; in the “study,” a claw-machine arcade game filled with cotton bolls references the quintessential act of slave labor; and in the “dining room,” an oak table covered in large-scale thorns evokes the unattainability of the American Dream. Together, these spaces craft a narrative — part fiction, part history — that evokes themes of cuisine, leisure, and education and explores the intersections of these themes with slavery’s complex legacy. more

January 22, 2020

By Nancy Plum

Nothing says a dark winter’s night like the more sinister music of 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner, and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra took full advantage of Wagner’s rich orchestration and lush harmonies in a concert in Princeton this past weekend. Conducted by NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang, Friday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium introduced the audience to both an innovative approach to the operatic Wagner and a virtuosic pianist from one of Europe’s more unknown regions. Zhang led the Orchestra in two principal works, which although significantly different in length were equal in impact. Lorin Maazel’s orchestral reduction of Wagner’s towering Ring cycle made up the entire second half, yet Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2, even though a third as long as the Wagner piece, was just as mesmerizing for the audience.  

In 1987, former Cleveland Orchestra conductor Lorin Maazel created an hour-long “greatest hits” orchestral arrangement from Wagner’s four operas which make up Der Ring des Nibelungen, a musical tetralogy more than 20 years in the making. Based on Nordic legend and the medieval epic poem “Nibelungenlied,” Wagner’s Ring cycle has been renowned for its characters and their arias, but the dramatic motion is often carried by the orchestra. In The Ring Without Words, Maazel recreated nine musical scenes with a storyline drawing from all four operas. Beginning in the lowest of the strings, NJSO’s performance of Maazel’s Ring presented much of the most recognizable music, and Zhang kept the musical thread moving along with steady tempi and effective use of silences. Especially in leading up to the familiar “Ride of the Valkyries,” Zhang and the Orchestra set the drama well.   more

“GOODNIGHT NOBODY”: Performances are underway for “Goodnight Nobody.” Directed by Tyne Rafaeli, the play runs through February 9 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. While discussing the frustrations of parenthood with a new mother, K (Ariel Woodiwiss, right), Mara (Dana Delany, center) tells a story that embarrasses her grown son, Reggie (Nate Miller, left), who was friends with K in high school. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Goodnight Nobody is receiving its world premiere at McCarter Theatre, which commissioned the show from playwright Rachel Bonds. This tragicomedy depicts a weekend during which artistic friends reunite, but an initially affable atmosphere becomes contentious when buried feelings erupt.

The effect of motherhood on the life of a creative person is one of several themes that are examined in Goodnight Nobody. The play also offers a more general exploration of inter-generational relationships, including romantic entanglements. It also considers situations in which jovial conversations mask feelings of deep pain that unexpectedly collide.

Mara, an acclaimed sculptor who is in her late 50s or early 60s, lives in a rustic farmhouse in upstate New York. She is dating Bo, a painter who is her age. However, she also has romantic feelings for Nan, a successful artist who is in his 30s — the same age as Mara’s son, Reggie.

To the character of Mara, Emmy Award-winner Dana Delany brings commanding stage presence and smooth, often wry, line delivery. The performance poignantly juxtaposes early scenes, in which Mara bluntly recalls the exasperating aspects of child care, against a later one in which she attempts to be more warmly maternal. more

MUSICAL CLASSROOM FUN: Two showings of the children’s musical “Rosie Revere, Engineer” will run at the MCCC Kelsey Theatre on Saturday, January 25 at 2 and 4 p.m. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel Photography, courtesy of TheaterWorksUSA)

As part of the Kelsey Kids Series, the new musical “Rosie Revere, Engineer” comes to Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Kelsey Theatre Saturday, January 25 at 2 and 4 p.m. The production is presented by TheaterWorksUSA, a company that creates transformative theatrical experiences for youth and family audiences.  more

WILLKOMMEN, BIENVENUE, WELCOME: To “Cabaret,” coming to Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre January 31-February 9. Matthew (Hewie) Swanson stars as Cliff and Jenna German plays Sally Bowles.

The Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) in conjunction with Theater To Go will present the landmark musical, Cabaret, January 31-February 9 at Kelsey Theatre. more

“SEARCHING FOR THE CULTURAL PLUMB BOB”:  An exhibit of works by Uzbekistan native Zahar Vaks will be on view at The Gallery at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) January 27 through March 5. An artist reception, open to the community, is February 5 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

A multi-sensory trifecta of olfactory, tactile, and visual awaits visitors at The Gallery at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) for its latest exhibition, “Searching for the Cultural Plumb Bob,” featuring the works of Uzbekistan native Zahar Vaks, on view January 27 through March 5.

The public is invited to “A Conversation with Artist Zahar Vaks,” on Wednesday, February 5 from noon until 1:30 p.m. in the Communications Building, Room CM107 on MCCC’s West Windsor Campus. A community reception with the artist will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on February 5 in The MCCC Gallery. more

“ART, COMMUNITY & CONVERSATION”: This painting by Carol Johnson will be featured at an event highlighting works by artists in the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen’s (TASK) A-TEAM. It will be held on Friday, January 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton. (Photo courtesy of the TASK A-TEAM)

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton (UUCP) invites artists, art lovers, and members of the community to attend its first “Art, Community and Conversation” event on Friday, January 24, at 6:30 p.m. at 50 Cherry Hill Road, Princeton.

The reception will feature works by artists in the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen’s (TASK) A-TEAM artists’ cooperative made up of TASK patrons who are artists. The art will be displayed at UUCP over the next few months.

The event is sponsored by UUCP’s Racial Justice Task Force, which is dedicated to engaging the congregation and larger community with opportunities to develop and deepen our understandings of and actions against racism. more

January 15, 2020

“WHISKEY & WINE”: That’s the title of a new album by the Americana band Edna’s Kin, appearing at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing on February 14 at 8 p.m.

The Americana band Edna’s Kin will appear at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing on February 14 at 8 p.m., performing old favorites and many new songs from their recently released CD of all original music, Whiskey & Wine.

A diverse blend of folk, country, bluegrass, and blues music, Whiskey & Wine is the band’s first studio effort since their 2009 debut Same Old Lines, and is available for digital download on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and CD Baby. The album has also received airplay worldwide.

Edna’s Kin is a family band featuring brothers Dan and Andrew Koontz and their father, Warren Koontz. Dan is the songwriter of the group, and can be heard singing and playing guitar, piano, banjo, and accordion. Andrew is mostly on fiddle, but can sometimes be heard on bass, while Warren is mostly on bass, but can sometimes be heard singing and playing guitar. While the family members are present on every track, on Whiskey & Wine they’ve been joined by a number of guest musicians to create a much fuller instrumentation than can be found on their earlier recordings. more

FROM PAGE TO STAGE: The cast of “Midwives,” premiering January 21 at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. David Saint directs the play, adapted by Chris Bohjalian from his best-selling novel of the same name.

George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick will present a stage adaptation of author Chris Bohjalian’s Midwives January 21-February 16 at the Arthur Laurents Theater in the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. The world premiere play was adapted by the author from his novel of the same name.

The novel, which has sold more than 2 million copies, was also an early selection of Oprah’s Book Club.

A severe snowstorm breaks out during a routine at-home birth. With no way to contact the outside world, midwife Sibyl Danforth makes an impossible decision to save the life of a baby. But when the sun rises and the blizzard clears, questions arise about what really occurred that icy Vermont night. more

“LIGHT, STILLNESS & BEAUTY”: An exhibition of art by the late Leslie Vought Kuenne is on view in the Olivia Rainbow Gallery at D&R Greenway Land Trust through February 6. Kuenne’s wide-ranging work features unexpected nature subjects. (Photo by Lisa Granozio)

D&R Greenway’s Olivia Rainbow Gallery now features an exhibition of nature paintings and photographs by the late Leslie Vought Kuenne, on view through February 6.

The art space is maintained in perpetuity, honoring Leslie and Chris Kuenne’s late daughter, Olivia Michelle. The exhibit, “Light, Stillness & Beauty,” — named by co-curator Lisa Granozio — evokes the variety of this display of unexpected nature subjects.

D&R Greenway Land Trust notes that it is deeply appreciative to Leslie’s husband, Christopher, and their sons, Peter, William, and Matthew; as well as Leslie’s sister, Victoria; for the privilege of remembering Leslie through this sample of her work. more

“DREAM”: This painting by James Kearns is featured in “W. Carl Burger and James Kearns,” on view at the Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster January 17 through February 29. An opening reception, free and open to the public, is Friday, January 17 from 6 to 8 p.m.

The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster has announced the opening of two new exhibitions, on view January 17 through February 29. An opening reception, free and open to the public, is Friday, January 17 from 6 to 8 p.m.

“REPRESENTING: Artwork of the County College of Morris Fine Art Faculty,” features the work of Clayton Allen, Marco Cutrone, Todd Doney, Patrick Gallagher, Andrea Kelly, Deborah Kelly, Barbara Neibart, John Reinking, Robert Ricciotti, Marisol Ross, Eileen Sackman, Keith Smith, and Leah Tomaino. The work of these 13 faculty members “spans a variety of media and styles, it is linked by exceptional craft and creative competence” says curator Keith Smith, from the Visual Arts Program at the County College of Morris.

The other exhibit highlghts the works of “W. Carl Burger and James Kearns,” who have been making art for seven decades. “Each artist, within his own studio practice, has touched on a number of ideas that helped shape the second half of the 20th century,” say curator Wes Sherman. “Burger’s paintings and drawings explore ideas of abstraction, or more accurately, they deconstruct, examining the external elements that make up an environment. Kearns’ art, in contrast, explores the psyche, mostly through humor, and how it is revealed in the human figure.” more

CELEBRATING DR. KING:  The Arts Council of Princeton invites the community to a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy through hands-on art, music, and history activities on Monday, January 20 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street.

The Arts Council of Princeton invites the community to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, January 20, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts. The event will feature hands-on art and history activities, music, and discussions as they relate to Dr. King’s life, teachings, and civic engagement.

Activities include a free community breakfast from 9 to 10 a.m., with speakers Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Ruha Benjamin, author and associate professor of African American studies at Princeton University. more

January 8, 2020

TRIPLE THREAT: Violinist Isabelle Faust, cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, and pianist Alexander Melnikov play Beethoven piano trios in the first program of Princeton University Concerts at Richardson Auditorium.

Princeton University Concerts resumes its 2019-2020 season programming on Thursday, February 6, 8 p.m. at Richardson Auditorium, with musicians Isabelle Faust, violin; Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello; and Alexander Melnikov, piano, in a program of Ludwig van Beethoven’s piano trios, in celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday.

The three musicians have each appeared on Princeton University Concerts’ stage separately, quickly becoming fan favorites. Melnikov made a debut in 2016 playing Shostakovich’s complete Preludes & Fugues, returning again last season alongside pianist Andreas Staier. Faust performed a J.S. Bach’s complete violin sonatas and partitas in 2016, surrounded by candlelight, at the Princeton University Chapel. And Queyras made his Princeton debut as part of the Arcanto Quartet in the fall of 2015. more

LEARN BALINESE DANCE: Princeton Ballet School is now offering lessons in Balinese dance at its studio in Princeton Shopping Center, 301 North Harrison Street. Classes are held January 8-29, in four sessions.

Princeton Ballet School, the official school of American Repertory Ballet, is offering Balinese dance classes through its Dances of the World program. The class will be taught from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. on Wednesdays in four sessions, January 8-29, at the school’s Princeton Studio located at 301 North Harrison Street. more

“WHITE HORSE FARM”: Recent paintings by Mark Allen Natale are on view through February 4 at Small World Coffee, 254 Nassau Street. In this exhibit, Natale pays homage to nostalgia, with oil paintings of landscapes and objects representing times passed.

An exhibition of recent paintings by Mark Allen Natale is now on view at Small World Coffee, 254 Nassau Street. The show features detailed oil paintings of landscapes and objects that represent times passed. An opening reception is January 11, and the exhibition runs through February 4.

In this exhibition, Natale pays homage to nostalgia. Old buildings, roadside signage, and objects that have a direct connection to feel-good memories are represented in meticulous detail. The subjects of Natale’s paintings are in stark contrast with today’s fast paced, impermanent, technology-driven world, where the flick of a thumb swipes away images just as quickly as they appeared.

Instead, Natale’s compositions show things that stood the test of time and were built by hand using traditional tools and skills. His images are powerful; yet embody a quiet solitude. more

“URBAN 10”: Art by Felicia V. Bland, along with works by Habiyb Ali, Ronah Harris, and Tamara Torres, will be featured in “Stories of Diversity,” on view at the Considine Gallery at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart January 10 through February 27. An opening reception is Friday, January 10, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart has announced that its winter gallery exhibition in Stuart’s Considine Gallery will feature art by Felicia V. Bland, Habiyb Ali, Ronah Harris, and Tamara Torres. The show, “Stories of Diversity,” shares views of life through artistic perspectives in the United States. It will be on view January 10 through February 27. more

“ROSEDALE LAKE AT MERCER MEADOWS”: This photograph by Susan Jacobsen is featured in “Trailscapes: The Beauty of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail,” on view at the Mercer County Library Branch Headquarters in Lawrenceville through the end of January. An artist reception is Sunday, January 12, 2 to 4 p.m.

The beauty and tranquility of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT) as captured by Ewing Township photographer Susan Jacobsen is now on display at the Mercer County Library Branch Headquarters throughout January. An artist reception will be held on Sunday, January 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the library, located at 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville.

“The photographs capture the LHT in different seasons and at different times of day. I love the play of light on the trail,” said Jacobsen. “I want others to see the trail in its many moods and to enjoy it as much as I do.” more

January 1, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

Only connect…
— E.M. Forster (1879-1970)

In the “only connect” spirit of my approach to these weekly columns, this being the first day of an election year when the stakes are historically high, I’m launching my retrospective sampling of the 2010s with a September 21, 2011, piece on Ginger Rogers (“Pick Yourself Up for a White House Screening”) headed with a quote from then-President Obama’s Inaugural Address: “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

Given the liberties already taken (did I mention that the same column has Ginger Rogers quoting Dickens?), the stage is set for a 21st-century update of the familiar Depression era scenario wherein someone in distress walks into a movie theater looking for a respite from reality and walks out an hour and a half later ready to face the challenges and fight the good fight:

“In 1936, the year Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were dancing across the screens of the nation in Swing Time, the unemployment rate was 16.9 percent. In 2011, when the country is once again struggling economically, the rate’s 9.1, and if anyone is in need of a respite, it’s our beleaguered president. So let’s imagine that after exhausting himself trying to get us out of the hole we’re in, the commander in chief sets about lifting his own morale with a White House showing of Swing Time. At first, he’s yawning, having been awake half the night trying to devise a way to dance his jobs bill around a ‘loyal opposition’ as ruthless as the crippled banker Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. He’s still yawning even as Fred Astaire does pratfalls pretending to be a hapless neophyte dancer goofing a lesson from the pretty dancing teacher played by Ginger. But as soon as she starts singing, the prez comes to attention. She’s telling him to pick himself up, dust himself off, and start all over again. It’s his Inauguration Day pep talk, same words, same idea. How cool is that! All this time he’d thought the line had come to him out of nowhere, and here’s plucky Ginger delivering the same message back when FDR was dealing with the same issues.” more

CRUCIAL VERDICT: Nicholas Pecht (Juror No. 7), Bill Kamps (Juror No. 8), and William Walters (Juror No. 9) in the upcoming production of “12 Angry Men,” January 17-26 at Kelsey Theatre.

The life of a young man hangs in the balance and rests in the hands of 12 jurors in a seemingly open-and-shut case. But, can they set aside personal prejudices and preconceptions in the name of justice? That is the question for 12 Angry Men, presented by Forté Dramatic Productions January 17-26 at Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) Kelsey Theatre.

Dates and show times are Friday, January 17 and 24 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, January 18 and 25 at 8 p.m.; and Sundays, January 19 and 26 at 2 p.m. Kelsey Theatre is located on MCCC’s West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. The community is invited to an opening night reception with the cast and crew following the January 17 performance. more

“MAGICAL COPSE”: This polymer clay work by Emily Squires Levine is featured in “Embracing Color/Polymer Clay,” her solo exhibit on view at the Hunterdon Art Museum January 12 through March 1. An opening reception with an artist talk is January 12, 2 to 4 p.m. (Photo by John Carlano)

Artist Emily Squires Levine says that small colorful boxes and bowls have attracted her for as long as she can remember.

One of her first memories is of a colorfully embroidered fabric oval box, a gift from an aunt who traveled to the shores of the Algarve in Portugal. She has kept this memento her entire life. Other recollections include a mother-of-pearl box and a small bowl from Turkey which held tiny seashells.

This lifelong love for colorful vessels has deeply influenced her art. Levine works with polymer clay, creating bowls, vases, and other items that entice the eye with their vibrant colors and diverse patterns. more

“ENDLESS JUNKMAIL SCROLL”: This piece by Vernita Nemec is part of “Doom and Bloom,” on view at the West Windsor Arts Center January 6 through February 28. The exhibition features the work of 25 artists using recycled and reused materials. An opening reception with the artists is Sunday, January 12 from 4 to 6 p.m.

The West Windsor Arts Council presents “Doom and Bloom” — an art show calling attention to the crisis of trash on earth and how artists can have a positive impact on the environment. This exhibition, featuring the work of 25 artists using recycled and reused materials, will be on view January 6 through February 28 at the West Windsor Arts Center.

The juror was Vernita Nemec, artist and director of the Viridian Artists art gallery in Chelsea, New York City. An opening reception with the juror and artists will be held Sunday, January 12 from 4 to 6 p.m. Artists will be at the opening to discuss their work.

Artwork featured in the show transforms common discarded materials into inspiring works of art. It was a requirement of the prospectus that at least 80 percent of the materials in each work would otherwise be trash, if not saved from the landfill in this manner. more

“IF THESE QUILTS COULD TALK”: The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion in Cadwalader Park will host a juried exhibition of quilts by the Friendly Quilters of Bucks County and the Sankofa Stitchers January 19 through April 19. An opening reception is Sunday, January 19 from 2 to 4 p.m.

The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion has announced a juried exhibition of quilts by the Friendly Quilters of Bucks County and the Sankofa Stitchers. Featuring nearly 30 quilts across a range of sizes, styles, and color schemes, the exhibition’s display of artistry, creativity, and story-telling will fill Ellarslie’s first floor galleries from January 19 to April 19.

There will be an opening reception on Sunday, January 19, from 2 to 4 p.m., as well as a closing reception and Quilters Walk and Talk on Sunday, April 19, from 2 to 4 p.m.

The Friendly Quilters and Sankofa Stitchers work to keep the traditions of quilt making alive by creating works of art that tell stories and strengthen historical and community bonds. The members of both groups are experienced quilters and have quilted individually and together for many years, bringing a wide range of styles to this exhibition. more

December 25, 2019

By Stuart Mitchner

“I can’t stop thinking of all the things that I should’ve said that
I never said ….”

I could quote that line from Kate Bush’s song, “This Woman’s Work,” at the top of every column, with a small but necessary change in the title. Until I checked online just now I didn’t know Kate had written it expressly for the climactic moment of the 1988 film She’s Having a Baby, where the woman in question is played by Elizabeth McGovern, known now to millions of Downton Abbey fans as Lady Crawley.

It’s typical of the pleasures and challenges of what I do every week that a Kate Bush song from the late 1980s leads to Downton Abbey. Given the freedom of a weekly writing assignment chosen by no one but yourself, you’re going to be tempted, intrigued, and distracted by more options than you have time or space for; thus the notion of having more to say than you have room for, given the realities of a more or less 1800-word limit and a Tuesday afternoon deadline. Last week at the hour of decision, there was nothing to do but to take a short cut and rethink the format as an open letter to the reader, saying, in effect, “time to go now, see you next week.” more