October 4, 2017

By Stuart Mitchner 

On one of last week’s unseasonably hot heavy days, deep in the late-afternoon do-nothing know-nothing blahs, I tried to pull out by reading the latest New Yorker and only felt worse. Next I tried King Lear, usually a reliable energy source, but this is the play that begins when Lear tells Cordelia “Nothing will come of nothing,” which dooms them both and is the word at the dead center of my ennui. more

“ART AT KINGS OAKS”: A pop-up exhibition featuring the works of 26 artists will be at Kings Oaks Farm in Newtown, Pa. from October 6 to 15. An opening reception is on October 6 from 6-9 p.m. Shown here are a painting by Susan Jane Walp, top left; a monotype by Stuart Shils, top right; an installation by Margaret Parish, bottom left; and a sculpture by Maxwell Mustardo.

“Art at Kings Oaks,” a pop-up art exhibition in a historic barn and chapel on Kings Oaks Farm in Newtown, Pa., returns for its fifth year this October 6-15 to present its largest group of artists to date. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, ceramics, and installation works by 26 renowned and emerging artists from the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic U.S. and Italy. more

“A CITY SQUARE”: This oil on canvas by Bill Scott is part of Rider University’s exhibit featuring a 40-year survey of the artist’s work, which runs through October 29. An artist’s talk is October 5 at 7 p.m.

The Rider University Art Gallery presents “Bill Scott: The Landscape in a Still Life Paintings, Pastels, Prints, and Watercolors, 1977-2017” through October 29. An artist’s talk is Thursday, October 5 at 7 p.m.

The exhibit includes still life and figure compositions made before Scott’s painting veered toward abstraction. His recent abstractions include references to garden and landscape imagery: flowers, foliage, and tree branches. more

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 Kam Williams

Lloyd Garmadon (Dave Franco) must be the least liked student at Ninjago High. The unassuming 16-year-old is so unpopular that nobody will even sit on the same side of the bus with him on their ride to school.

What they don’t know, however, is that he has a super hero alter ego — the Green Ninja. He is the leader of the Secret Ninja Force, a team of five teens and an android who are helped by Lloyd’s wise and wisecracking uncle, Master Wu (Jackie Chan).

Master Wu has taught each of his protégés how to harness the different forces of nature that are contained in his magical treasure chest. The hot headed Red Ninja (Michael Pena) controls fire; the music-loving Black Ninja (Fred Armisen) has mastered earth; the Blue Ninja (Kumail Nanjiani), lightning; and the Gray Ninja (Abbi Jacobson), water; and the robotic White Ninja’s (Zach Woods) domain is ice.

Their mission is to prevent Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) from conquering Ninjago City. It turns out that the evil villain is Lloyd’s long-lost father, who abandoned his wife (Olivia Munn) and baby when she refused to accept his decision to go to the dark side.

As a result, all Lloyd knows about his father is what he’s been told by his mother and uncle. Consequently, Lloyd is eager to meet and defeat the diabolical warlord who has the reputation of being the world’s “Worst Guy Ever.”

If you’ve seen either LEGO or LEGO Batman, then you have an idea of what to expect from the third film in the animated series. Directed by Charlie Bean, the film is not only a visually captivating adventure, but also has pithy asides and clever allusions to screen classics that also make the movie interesting to adults.

In this critic’s opinion, Ninjago is the best episode in the series because of all the positive messages that are delivered by the picture’s end.

Excellent (****). Rated PG for mild action and rude humor. Running time: 101 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.

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

By Stuart Mitchner

Fifty years ago this week at EMI’s Abbey Road studios, the Beatles were recording John Lennon’s “I Am the Walrus,” a rock and roll tour de force unlike anything in popular music before it, including other Beatles pinnacles like “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “A Day in the Life” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Lennon has claimed on numerous occasions that the bizarre, unabashedly nonsensical lyrics were written to baffle listeners looking for hidden meanings, including in particular the English teacher at Lennon’s old school whose class was studying Beatles lyrics.  more

September 20, 2017

By Kam Williams

Sometimes, substance trumps low-production values, such as in the movie Man in Red Bandana. Minutes after the World Trade Center was hit by United Airlines Flight 175 on the morning of 9/11, Welles Crowther called his mother to let her know he was okay. The 24-year-old stockbroker knew she’d be worried, because his office was located on the 104th floor of the South Tower.  more

“WATER SHARING”: This painting by Nancie Gunkelman is featured in the exhibit “Same Moon: Diverse Voices of Nature,” at D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center, which runs through October 22. A reception will be held at the Center on Friday, September 29, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

D&R Greenway Land Trust’s newest exhibition, “Same Moon: Diverse Voices of Nature,” shows how artists, whether in China, Africa, or the U.S., view nature through divergent lenses. Artists Kenneth J. Lewis Sr., Nancie Gunkelman, and Chih Yu Fan are unified in their appreciation for nature. Some of the artwork for this exhibition has been shipped from China. A reception will be held on Friday, September 29, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center, 1 Preservation Place, Princeton. more

“SHADOW AND LIGHT”: This painting by Paulette Van Roekens depicts a scene behind the stage of the Pennsylvania Academy of Music in the 1930s. It is included in the “New American Painting Collection” exhibit which will run at the Grantz Gallery and Conservation Studio in Doylestown, Pa., from October 1 through December 31.

Gratz Gallery and Conservation Studio has announced the unveiling of a “New American Painting Collection” exhibit. Many of these paintings have never been offered before and are fresh to the market. This special event is the latest exhibition at the gallery’s new location on Silo Hill Road in Doylestown, Pa. The exhibition will be held at the Gallery and Conservation Studio location from October 1 through December 31.  more

Local Princeton painter Cvetko Ivanov (known as Ivan) sells his original acrylic paintings every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (weather permitting) on his front porch, located at 15 Vandeventer Avenue in the heart of Princeton. Originally from Bulgaria, Ivan specializes in images of flowers and the natural world. He is also an established muralist and has worked on several homes in Princeton, along with fine finishes for walls, ceilings, furniture, and mantels. To contact Ivan, call (609) 454-1334. 

“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 Stuart Mitchner

When my wife and I checked into the Library Hotel in New York eight years ago, we were installed in the Paranormal Room. We didn’t ask for the Paranormal Room. If we’d known about the hotel’s subject area concept, we might have requested a room on the 7th floor (the Arts) or the 8th (Literature). Even so, we were okay with being in room 11.05 on the 9th floor (Philosophy), though neither of us has ever been seriously into fantasy, science fiction, or the occult unless you count teenage readings of Ray Bradbury, a few seasons of Star Trek, and a brief fling with Carlos Castaneda (a copy of The Art of Dreaming was on the bedside table, along with volumes on ghosts, ESP, and UFOs).  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 19, 2017
The community was invited to participate in a collaborative community mural in front of the Arts Council's building.
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Photo Credit: Arts Council of Princeton

The Arts Council of Princeton celebrated 50 years of serving and enriching the Princeton community on Saturday, September 16. Festivities included cake, games, a treasure hunt, and more. In addition, instructors demonstrated their artists’ talents and what was to come for classes in the future.

September 13, 2017

After separating from her husband Austen (Michael Sheen), Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) decides to move from Manhattan to Los Angeles with her two young daughters Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) and Isabel (Lola Flanery). Although Alice’s father has passed away, the decision to return to the house she grew up in was easy, because the girls would live in the lap of luxury while being pampered by their grandmother Lillian (Candice Bergen).

Alice’s late father was a famous film director, however, Lillian still complains about his philandering and smugly delights in his demise, saying, “He’s gone now, so I won!” The sprawling mansion left to her by the legendary director has a storeroom stuffed with Oscars, movie posters, and other memorabilia from his Hollywood career.

Soon after arriving, Rosie and Isabel become terribly homesick. However, that’s not the case with their single mother, who heads to a bar to celebrate her 40th birthday with two long-lost friends. Next thing you know, they are sharing drinks with three young filmmakers in their 20s, one of whom, Harry (Pico Alexander), is instantly attracted to Alice.

Alice takes all three of the men home with her, and also has a one-night stand with Harry. However, when Rosie discovers her mother in bed with a stranger the next morning, she asks Alice some tough questions — “How did you meet? Did you have a sleepover?”

The plot tests credulity when grandmother Lillian, instead of objecting to the young men’s presence, invites them to move into the guest house after she learns that they’re almost broke and struggling to make it in showbiz. Next, the plot thickens when Austen arrives unannounced from New York, hoping to reconcile with his estranged wife.

Thus unfolds Home Again, a zany romantic comedy written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer. Her debut is impressive, with a tasteful love triangle storyline that is reminiscent of Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and It’s Complicated (2009). This is not too surprising, since both of those hit pictures were written and directed by her Oscar nominated mother Nancy Meyers (Private Benjamin).

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for sexuality and mature themes. Running time: 97 minutes. Production Studio: Black Bicycle Entertainment. Distributor: Open Road Films.

By Stuart Mitchner

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins explained the difference between novelists and poets this way: “I think of the novelist as a houseguest. The poet is more someone who just appears. You know, a door opens and there’s the poet! He says something about life and death, closes the door and is gone. Who was that masked man?” more

By Anne Levin

Artist Maya Lin has been commissioned by Princeton University to create an installation for a section of the landscape at the new Lewis Center for the Arts. Details have yet to emerge about the substance, size, and scale of the work, which will “provide a landmark for visitors to campus and an invigorated outdoor setting for students to stage ad hoc performances and enjoy plein air classes,” according to a release from the University. more

Louise Feder

Morven Museum and Garden presents Louise Feder, assistant curator of the James A. Michener Art Museum (and a 2006 graduate of Princeton High School), in a discussion about the 1913 Armory Show and its impact on select New Jersey and Pennsylvania artists, on Thursday, September 14 at 7 p.m. more

The annual Artsbridge Annual Clothesline Art Sale will take place this Sunday, September 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Prallsville Mill in Stockton. Originally conceived as an opportunity for area artists to clean their closets of art that has been gathering dust, this event has evolved into a showcase of fine art at reasonable prices. The works for sale include paintings, jewelry, sculpture, photography, and crafts. All art will be priced at $300 or less, with most at a much lower cost. (Photo by Rodney Miller)

“FOCAL LENGTH”: This hand embroidery on linen piece by Daniel Kornrumpf is featured in “Intimate Lines: Drawing with Thread,” which runs from September 17 to January 7 at the Hunterdon Art Museum. An opening reception is on Sunday, September 24, from 2 to 4 p.m.

In “Intimate Lines: Drawing with Thread,” 16 artists wield a needle like a pen to compose intensely personal stories and record intimate histories. more

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