In its season opener at Richardson Auditorium this past weekend, Princeton Pro Musica returned to its roots in the great choral masses of music history. Pro Musica Artistic Director Ryan James Brandau centered Sunday afternoon’s concert on one of the more dramatic masses of Franz Joseph Haydn, combined with smaller choral works similarly grounded with Classical melodies and clear-cut structures. Dr. Brandau combined the 100-voice Pro Musica with a Classically-sized orchestra and the established Polydora Ensemble, whose members doubled as soloists for the Haydn mass. more
Growing up in Princeton, Brian Sanders was captivated by two things: ballet and gymnastics. The 1984 graduate of Princeton High School divided his time between Princeton Ballet School and Alt’s Gym.
Initially, ballet won out. Mr. Sanders spent several years studying at Princeton Ballet with the late Alexei Yudenich, who was a principal dancer with The Pennsylvania Ballet. So there is something gratifying about the fact that a piece by Mr. Sanders, now a choreographer with his own company, is being performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet next weekend. Chicken Bone Brain shares a program with works by George Balanchine and British choreographer David Dawson at Philadelphia’s Merriam Theatre November 10-13. more
“ONCE”: Seniors Sam Gravitte and Maddie Meyers in rehearsal for the Lewis Center for the Arts’s production of the musical “Once.” The show runs November 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19 at 8 p.m. in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. Tickets are available at (609) 258-2787 and online at arts.princeton.edu/once. (Photo Credit: Graham Phillips)
The Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University presents the Tony Award-winning musical Once, directed by senior Graham Phillips and featuring seniors Sam Gravitte and Maddie Meyers, on November 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. more
HOSPITALITY TO HOSTILITY: (L to R) Amir (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), Emily (Caroline Kaplan), Isaac (Kevin Isola), and Jory (Austene Van) enjoy a cordial dinner before resentments surface and the mood turns dark in McCarter Theatre’s production of Ayad Akhtar’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Disgraced,” at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre through October 30. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
If Ayad Akhtar’s characters had followed my grandmother’s warning, “We never discuss politics or religion at social occasions,” his 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Disgraced would never have been written.
Now playing in a riveting production at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre, the 90-minute uninterrupted, four-scene exploration of identity, Islam, and what it means to be Muslim in contemporary America, as seen through the interwoven lives of five New York City characters, was the most often produced play in the United States in the 2015-16 season. more
No one has ever accused Tyler Perry of being short on ideas. The prolific writer/director has been the brains behind plays, movies, and television shows. But he would be the first to admit that he was not the source of inspiration for Boo! A Madea Halloween, the ninth in the Madea series about the sassy sermonizing granny.
The idea originated with Chris Rock, who featured a fake poster for a film with the identical title in his 2014 comedy Top Five. Because the joke went viral, Tyler decided why not get back in drag and make a movie to meet the demand generated by the buzz.
However, Boo! definitely has a different feel from the previous Madea movies. It is not a typical Tyler Perry morality play but instead is a rudderless, kitchen sink comedy that seizes on any excuse for a laugh. Madea is no longer a Bible thumping role model who interferes on behalf of an underdog in distress. True, one minute, she’s promoting old-fashioned values. However, in the next scene she is exposing her breasts to frat boys.
The film does have a rudimentary plot about Madea’s 17-year-old grand-niece, Tiffany (Diamond White). However the idea is presented at the opening of the film and promptly abandoned. It’s Halloween, and the headstrong high schooler and her girlfriends hope to attend a party at the Upsilon Theta frat house.
Since her divorced father (also played by Perry) will be otherwise occupied, it falls to Madea to babysit Tiffany, to make sure the rebellious teen never leaves the house. Madea arrives with an entourage of amusing misfits, including Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), Hattie (Patrice Lovely), and Uncle Joe (also played by Perry).
Soon, silly Halloween one-liners, non sequiturs, slapstick, and sight gags appear at a fast and furious rate. Unfortunately, many of the punchlines are likely to be lost on those unable to decipher the often inscrutable exchanges.
Good (**). Rated PG-13 for drug use, suggestive content, profanity, ethnic slurs, scary images, and mature themes. Running time: 103 minutes. Distributor: Lionsgate Films.
There again was my lost city, wrapped cool in its mystery and promise. — F. Scott Fitzgerald
The singer songwriter Rosanne Cash was 14 when she recognized New York City in her own image. The moment of truth came at a leather goods store in Greenwich Village where she’d been taken by her father, “who had a lifelong love affair with the city and kept an apartment on Central Park South.” She was standing in front of a mirror trying on the green suede jacket he’d had made to order for her, “light pouring in the windows from busy Bleecker Street” when everything clicked. “That was my real self there in the mirror …. I belonged here. It was more than an idea; it was a sharp ache and a calling that tugged at me … until I pulled my entire life apart to come home.”
She made the move 23 years later, in 1991. She’d been living in Nashville for most of the 1980s, frustrated because she wasn’t writing the songs or making the records she really wanted to make; then she recorded Interiors, which she thought was “the best work” of her life, and the record label “utterly rejected it.” At the same time, her marriage was falling apart, she was despondent: “Only one thing made sense: New York.” more
COMING TO SEMINARY: Called “America’s favorite poet” by The Wall Street Journal, Billy Collins will be reading from his work and conversing with Princeton Seminary President M. Craig Barnes at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 2, in the Iain R Torrance Atrium, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will appear at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 2, in the Iain R Torrance Atrium, Princeton Theological Seminary Library, 25 Library Place in Princeton. He will read from his new book of poems and engage in a conversation with Princeton Seminary President M. Craig Barnes about the nature of poetry, the task of writing, and connections between poetry and faith. more
“MAKAH I”: Michael Madigan will be exhibiting his paintings, like the one pictured here, at Morpeth Contermporary Gallery in Hopewell alongside sculptor, Donna McCullough. Their works are on display until November 13.
Painter, Michael Madigan and sculptor, Donna McCullough are exhibiting at Morpeth Contemporary Gallery and Frame Studio, located at 43 West Broad Street in Hopewell, until November 13. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. and noon–5 p.m. on Sunday. more
“MY NASSAU STREET”: Over 100 completed pages like Anne Brener’s “My Nassau Street” will be on display at the Arts Council of Princeton’s Taplin Gallery as part of “Interwoven Stories,” a community-based stitching project, from October 29 through November 30.
The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) presents Interwoven Stories, a culminating exhibition of the community-based stitching project created by ACP Anne Reeves Artist-in-Residence Diana Weymar. Visitors can expect to view more than 100 fabric “pages” — designed to look like traditional 3-holed line paper — hand-stitched with places, people, and memories. more
“OCTOBER”: D&R Greenway Land Trust will benefit from the artworks sold in their exhibit, “Our Countryside: Paintings, Photographs, and Prints by Mary Waltham,” at Chambers Walk Café on Main Street in Lawrenceville. Pictured here is one of Waltham’s oil paintings, which like most of her work, is inspired by nature.
D&R Greenway Land Trust both inspired and will benefit from the sales from Our Countryside: Paintings, Photographs and Prints by Mary Waltham, at Chambers Walk Café, 2667 Main Street, Lawrenceville, November 1 through December 30. Much of the artwork was made on D&R Greenway’s preserved lands in central New Jersey. Fifty percent of sales will support D&R Greenway’s preservation and stewardship mission. The exhibit is on view during café hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily, and 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. more
The Princeton University Orchestra opened its 2016-17 season this past weekend with a performance of music both rooted in the theater and revolutionary in its innovation. Princeton University Orchestra conductor Michael Pratt described Saturday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium (the performance was repeated Sunday afternoon) as two 20th-century works “sandwiched” around a composer Mr. Pratt defined as the cornerstone of 19th-century orchestral invention, but the three works performed could be viewed as programmatic — telling stories of theater and life in general. With a very full stage of players to open the season, Mr. Pratt also shared the conducting podium in the second half of the program with Ruth Ochs, no stranger to heavy-duty symphonic works herself. more
SHIRLEY: The Lewis Center for the Arts and Princeton Garden Theatre present a special screening of Gustav Deutsch’s “Shirley: Visions of Reality,” based on painter Edward Hopper’s work. The event will take place at Princeton Garden Theatre on Thursday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m.
The Program in Visual Arts in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and the Princeton Garden Theatre will present a special screening of Gustav Deutsch’s Shirley: Visions of Reality, based on painter Edward Hopper’s work, as a part of the new collaborative film series Cinema Today. Followed by an in-person discussion with director Deutsch and the film’s scenic artist Hanna Schimek, the screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 27 at the Garden Theatre. Tickets are available to the public at princetongardentheatre.org. Princeton students, faculty and staff may reserve a free ticket at http://arts.princeton.edu/cinematoday. more
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) looks like your average CPA. The self-employed accountant has his own office in a modest building located in a nondescript strip mall in suburban Plainfield, Illinois.
However, because he was born with Aspberger’s Syndrome, (a form of autism) he is a math savant, which makes him very well-suited to his profession. Nevertheless, looks can be very deceiving, because the mild-mannered loner also has a shadowy side that he keeps under wraps.
Consequently, no one has any idea that Christian’s clients are powerful mobsters whom he helps launder huge sums of cash without attracting the attention of the authorities. Over the years, he has become wealthy in his own right by cooking the books for crooks while resisting the temptation to live beyond his apparent means.
Eventually, Christian’s business does arouse the suspicions of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division that is led by Director Raymond King (J.K. Simmons). Aware that the government agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and her cohorts are on his tail, Christian decides to represent Living Robotics, a respected, hi-tech firm, in order to provide a legitimate front for his business.
However, he and an employee (Dana Cummings) at Living Robotics find their lives threatened when they uncover millions of dollars worth of corruption in the company. But those crooks have no idea that when Christian was growing up, he had been trained to defend himself by his protective father (Robert C. Trevelier), who trained his autistic son to not be bullied. Even though it has been many years since he has had to protect himself, those skills now kick in and Christian becomes a cold, calculating assassin.
Thus unfolds The Accountant that is directed by Gavin O’Connor (Tumbleweeds). The film’s script has been artfully executed by an A-list cast of actors including Academy Award winners Ben Affleck and J.K. Simmons, as well as Oscar nominees Anna Kendrick and John Lithgow.
Excellent (****). Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity. In English, French, and Indonesian with subtitles. Running time: 128 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.
Sure was glad to get out of there alive. — Bob Dylan, “Day of the Locusts”
The “there” Dylan’s referring to is Princeton on the sweltering June day in 1970 when he received an Honorary Doctorate, a month after the shootings of students at Kent State. Hearing himself described as “the authentic expression of the disturbed and concerned conscience of Young America,” he “shuddered and trembled but remained expressionless.” In the words of his memoir, Chronicles Volume One (2004), “It was like a jolt …. There it was again. I couldn’t believe it!” He’s thinking “this kind of thing” could set “the public perception” of him back “a thousand years.” Yet he’s glad he came to get the degree. He “could use it. Every look and touch and scent of it spelled respectability and had something of the spirit of the universe in it.”
There it is again — there he is again. At this writing, almost a week after the news from Stockholm was announced, Bob Dylan has yet to make public how he feels about receiving the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Forty-six years on the other side of “Day of the Locusts,” it’s possible that Dylan’s mind is still attuning itself to such things as “public perception,” “respectability,” and “the spirit of the universe.” As glad as he was to get out of Princeton alive, he made the most of it. Not only did the occasion inspire one of the characteristically ambiguous tropes that make his memoir itself a prize-worthy literary work, it gave him the seed of a song: the locusts that were singing for him are still singing for us. more
Nat Turner (Nate Parker) was born into slavery on October 2, 1800 on a sprawling plantation in Southampton County, Virginia. He was a precocious child and had a thirst for knowledge at an early age. He learned to read the Bible with the help of his masters, Samuel (Armie Hammer) and Elizabeth Turner (Penelope Ann Miller). The couple shielded him from the brutality of slavery by allowing him to live and work in the mansion instead of toiling in the cotton fields alongside his mother (Aunjanue Ellis) and grandmother (Esther Scott).
Nat grew up and became a deeply religious youth. He became a traveling preacher who was told to spread the word of God to his fellow slaves in the neighboring towns. In that capacity, his job was to keep the oppressed African Americans content with their miserable lot in life by reciting scriptural passages such as “Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the cruel.” (1 Peter 2:18).
However, the more he witnessed the atrocities associated with slavery, the more outraged he became. And when he became an adult, he surreptitiously started including verses that proclaimed that slavery was evil — such as “Do not become slaves of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:23).
Nat had a miraculous vision in which he was directly ordered by God to set his people free. That transformative moment became the inspiration for him to mount a bloody insurrection that began with slaying his masters and ultimately claimed about 60 more white slave owner’s lives.
All of the above is graphically depicted in The Birth of a Nation, a biopic marking the directorial debut of Nate Parker (The Great Debaters). Parker also co-wrote the script and stars as Nat Turner in this revisionist movie that effectively recasts an infamous slave revolt leader — who has been denigrated by history because of his resort to violence — as a hero.
The compelling drama received both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and had emerged as probably the Best Picture Academy Award favorite until stories about Parker’s having been accused of rape while in college went viral. Nevertheless, judging The Birth of a Nation strictly on the merits, it undeniably deserves its status as a prime Oscar contender.
The movie is an emotionally unsettling alternate version of a controversial chapter of America’s slave history.
Excellent (****). Rated R for brief nudity and disturbing violence. Running time: 120 minutes. Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
The portrait of Charlotte Brontë by George Richmond (1809-1896), chalk, 1850. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Image courtesy of the Morgan Museum and Library.
As opening sentences of great novels go, “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day” doesn’t make much of an impression, certainly not compared to the upfront immediacy of “Call Me Ishmael” from Moby Dick or the expansive vision of society suggested by “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” from Pride and Prejudice. Herman Melville and Jane Austen head the American Book Review’s 100 Best First Lines from Novels. Charlotte Brontë’s no-walk-that-day opener doesn’t make the list. more
TALENTED TEACHERS: (Left to right) Phyllis E. Wright’s “Ascending,” Deborah Land’s “Umbrella Factory” and Andrew Wilkinson’s “Bonsai Geometry 03” are on exhibit in the Considine Gallery at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, October 16 – November 22, 2016. All the exhibitors are local artists and faculty members. The public is invited to an opening reception on Sunday, October 16 at 2 p.m.
The fall gallery exhibition in Stuart Country Day School’s Considine Gallery will include new work by local artists and faculty members Deborah Land, Phyllis E. Wright, and Andrew Wilkinson. The public is invited to view the art faculty show on display from October 16 through November 22. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. — 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, when school is in session. The opening reception is Sunday, October 16, from 2 – 4 p.m., and a gallery talk with the artists is Tuesday, October 18, from 1 — 2 p.m. The public is welcome. more
With the appointment of Xian Zhang as music director, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) is entering a new era of musical accomplishment. Ms. Zhang will make her Princeton debut later this month, and this past Friday night, the NJSO invited an old friend back to the podium. Former Associate Conductor Gemma New led the orchestra in a concert paying tribute to her homeland and including an audience favorite from the piano concerto repertory. more
On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, located 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded when methane gas, under high pressure, blew out of the drill pipe and caught fire. Eleven members of the crew perished in the ensuing inferno that engulfed the platform.
The accident caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with over 200 million gallons of crude oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico by the time the well was capped 86 days later. Next, authorities turned their attention to the question of who was to blame for the disaster.
There was no shortage of potential villains to sort through because the drilling unit had been built in South Korea — was owned by Transocean Limited, a Swiss company, operated under the flag of the Marshall Islands — was leased to British Petroleum (BP) but maintained by Halliburton, an American field service corporation — and serviced by Schlumberger, a Dutch company. Ultimately, the bulk of the blame would be attributed to BP, and the company was found guilty of gross negligence and ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages to thousands of aggrieved parties.
Directed by Peter Berg (Battleship), Deepwater Horizon revisits the infamous incident primarily from the perspective of the rig’s chief electronics technician, Mike Williams. The picture reunites Berg with Mark Wahlberg with whom he previously collaborated on Lone Survivor.
Wahlberg plays Williams, a working-class man of unquestioned integrity. As the film unfolds, we find him bidding adieu to his family as he was leaving for a 21-day tour on the oil platform. If Mike had heeded warning signs like his wife’s (Kate Hudson) premonitions and his daughter Sydney’s (Stella Allen) science project with a Coke can geyser, he might have decided to call in sick.
The same could be said of his colleague Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), a mechanic who couldn’t get her car started that same morning. Even the helicopter ferrying them to work experienced an ominous bird strike en route to the platform. And upon landing, they were greeted by a friend who had a macabre skull-and-crossbones insignia on his hard hat.
Don Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Bob Kaluza (Brad Leland) are the BP bureaucrats who bullied their employees to increase production at all costs from the minute they arrived on the platform. These villains were willing to put profits before any safety concerns, so it’s not surprising when the platform’s unstable drill pipe failed disastrously.
During the pyrotechnic calamity that ensued, Mike’s actions were heroic and later his testimony in court identified the culprits who were responsible. The movie is a harrowing tale of survival that ends with justice being served.
Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for intense action sequences, disturbing images. and brief profanity. Running time: 107 minutes. Distributor: Lionsgate Films.
EXONERATED: This father-and-son photo of Kerry Max Cook, who spent 22 years on Texas death row before his innocence was finally revealed, is among the images by Diane Bladecki in a show opening Friday at the Arts Council of Princeton. Mr. Cook, who went to prison at 17 and was freed at 50, ended up using Ms. Bladecki’s photograph on the cover of a book about his journey. (Photo by Diane Bladecki)
At a performance in New York of the play The Exonerated about wrongfully committed prisoners, Diane Bladecki noticed that the photographs lining the lobby made their subjects look exactly like what they were not: criminals. more
CELEBRATING MUSICAL COMMUNITY: Hinds Plaza hosted the second annual edition of the Unruly Sounds Festival Sunday. Excelsis Percussion, seen here, was among the groups performing. (Photo by Emily Reeves)
Despite a chilly drizzle Sunday afternoon, the audience sat in rapt attention as the genre-defying group Bonjour played in Princeton’s Hinds Plaza. A pair of double bassists flanked Florent Ghys’s “low string” band as it wound its way through a selection of pieces corresponding to days of the week. Their instruments’ bowed tones were sweet and thick as honey, tempered by the clarity of an electric guitar and a cello, and propelled by the drive of their set’s intermittent drum parts. At times, the musicians broke into wordless song. more
On October 23 from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., the Code for Princeton will present the Data and Art Hackathon at the West Windsor Arts Council.
The day-long event will include the development of civically beneficial projects as well as free workshops on how to make circuits on paper and 3D printing demonstrations. Keynote speaker Steven Fragale, researching artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Digital Media Lab, will speak at 5 p.m. on the intersection of technology and art. At the end of the day a panel of community representatives will review the projects and offer feedback. more
By the time the Friends of the Princeton Public Library Book Sale begins a week from Friday, the second presidential debate will be history. Most post-debate book-sale browsers looking for something to focus their frazzled minds on will find what they’re looking for, if not their heart’s desire. The book of my dreams won’t be there because it hasn’t been published yet and for all I know may never be put between covers, even though J.D. Salinger devoted the last 50 years of his life to writing it.
Among the 2016 sale’s stellar offerings is Léonard Rosenthal’s The Kingdom of the Pearl with Persian-miniature-immaculate plates by Edmund Dulac that have to be seen to be believed. Its only defect is a gouge on one edge of the front cover where a bibliophile in a frenzy of desire appears to have taken a bite out of it. Except for that minor, perfectly hygienic blemish, the volume is in a condition comparable to that of copies going for $750 online.
For this semi-retired browser, Dulac’s Pearl evokes the Golden Age of the Book Quest in Princeton when rare finds would turn up at garage and estate sales or on the shelves of Micawber Books or in the bank vault that housed Witherspoon Books and Art. It was around this time of year circa 1981 that I found an unflawed Pearl in the Dickensian clutter of a secondhand/antique store in East Millstone. more
CURTAIN UP: Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and the Department of Music will mark the launch of a new Program in Music Theater with a day-long symposium on Princeton’s music theater past, present and future on Saturday, October 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street. The event is free and open to the public, however advance reservations are encouraged at arts.princeton.edu/curtainup. (Photo Credit: Frank Wojciechowski)
Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and the Department of Music will mark the launch of a new Program in Music Theater with a day-long symposium on Princeton’s music theater past, present and future on Saturday, October 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street. The event is free and open to the public, however advance reservations are encouraged at arts.princeton.edu/curtainup. more