June 3, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

Each day’s paper more violent . . . Indochina to Minneapolis … History’s faster than thought …
—Allen Ginsberg, from The Fall of America

The news isn’t just breaking, it’s running wild, raging, incendiary, out of control, so how do you keep up when you’re aiming toward the middle of a week that may exceed your darkest expectations? What do you do when the ever-shifting, on-the-scene, at-the-moment image of a floodlit Washington Monument looming in the foreground of an apparent river of fire headed for the White House evokes dystopian TV like The Man In the High Castle, or David Simon’s The Plot Against America, where Philip Roth’s boyhood Newark neighborhood seethes with a Kristallnacht menace as chilling as the West Baltimore phantasmagoria of The Wire.

What can you do but try to keep pace, making a bid for vicarious relevance by tying your weekly hovercraft to art and adversity in the belief that inspired acting, poetry, music is always timely, always worthy of interest. That’s been the motive force driving these pieces week after week, year after year. Along comes Hurricane Irene, a flooded basement, the power out, so you listen to Chopin, read The Winter’s Tale by candlelight, and write about it. When terrorists shoot up the Bataclan in Paris, you connect by way of Henry Miller, Rimbaud, and the Velvet Underground. When youth is under fire at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, you write about the night in 1963 the Beatles played there before swooning audiences of young girls who could have been the mothers or grandmothers of the victims. When terrorists savage Brussels, it opens the way for a column on MI-5. A terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge inspires a flashback to Wordsworth and his spirited sister Dorothy.

Sunday night it’s breaking news gone wild in D.C.’s City of Dreadful Night where the White House of Usher has gone dark and the only refuge is down the rabbit hole into the third season finale of Ozark, high on the super reality of art and outrage, your heart full watching a brother-sister tragedy and the transformative performance of Laura Linney.  more

“CUT FROM MY PSYCHE”: This work by Ilene Dube is featured in the West Windsor Arts Council’s “Faculty Student Art Show,” which can be viewed online June 5 through July 12. 

The “Faculty Student Art Show” at West Windsor Arts Council (WWAC) will celebrate the work of teaching artists and their students created in a class or workshop at WWAC during the fall, winter, or spring sessions of the 2019-2020 class year. 

The online exhibition will run from June 5 to July 12, with an online opening reception and recognition of Certificate of Fine Arts (CiFA) students on Friday, June 5 at 7:15 p.m. This is a free event, but registration is required.  A link for registration can be found at westwindsorarts.org.

Each year WWAC honors its teaching artists and the work done by their students, both youth and adults, by showcasing their work in a culminating exhibition, “the Faculty Student Art Show.” This year is extra special, as it is the first year many of the youth students are part of the Certificate of Fine Arts (CiFA) program, which has become the backbone to the arts education classes offered at WWAC.  more

“LIFE ON SPRINGDALE”: Mary Waltham’s artwork is displayed on Springdale Road as part of the international Art-in Place initiative. Three other artists, Mic Boekelmann, Robin Resch, and Vince Bush, are also participating locally.

Four Princeton artists are participating in Art-in-Place, an international initiative from Terrain Exhibitions and CNL projects based in Chicago. Art-in-Place “invites artists to exhibit an original work of art to be displayed outside their home or from a window visible to the public.”

This collective action provides artists and community members with a sense of hope and connectivity through the experience of public art during the COVID-19 pandemic.  more

MCCARTER LIVE: McCarter Theatre presented an online conversation between outgoing Artistic Director and Resident Playwright Emily Mann; and actor, director, and political activist Cynthia Nixon. (Emily Mann photo by Matt Pilsner; Cynthia Nixon photo by Victoria Stevens.)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter Theatre presented “McCarter LIVE: In Conversation with Cynthia Nixon.” The May 29 discussion was part of the theatre’s ongoing live-streamed series, McCarter @Home. Artistic Engagement Manager Paula T. Alekson curated the conversation between Nixon and outgoing Artistic Director and Resident Playwright Emily Mann.

Nixon perhaps is best known for her portrayal of Miranda Hobbes in the television and film series Sex and the City, for which she received the 2004 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She also has appeared in films such as Amadeus and A Quiet Passion. She has won Tony Awards for her Broadway performances in Rabbit Hole and The Little Foxes.

In 1996 Nixon portrayed Nora Helmer, the protagonist of A Doll House (1879), in McCarter’s production of the Ibsen classic. She regards being directed by Mann, who staged that production, as “one of the high points” of her career.  more

HEALING SOUNDS:  The Philadelphia Orchestra is being streamed directly into patient rooms on a dedicated channel or on tablets as part of a program with Penn Medicine hospitals, including Princeton Health. The staff can enjoy the gift of music as well.

The Philadelphia Orchestra, in partnership with Penn Medicine, will bring the healing power of music to patients at Penn Medicine’s six hospitals, including Princeton Health in Plainsboro. Those being treated for COVID-19 are among patients who will be hearing the orchestra.

Penn Medicine hospitals throughout the region will stream Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra programs directly into patient rooms on a dedicated Philadelphia Orchestra television channel or on tablets, including rebroadcasts of previous
concerts, chamber music from musicians’ homes, and more, with new content added each week. In addition, Philadelphia Orchestra audio and video content will be available on Penn Medicine’s employee COVID-19 support portal, PennMedicineTogether.

“Music has the incredible power to inspire, to comfort, and to heal,” said Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “The patients and health care heroes battling COVID-19 are going through so much, and it is our hope that by providing them with our gift of music, we can do our part to help them endure, and bring them moments of joy.”  more

As policymakers plan for school reopening in the fall, Arts Ed NJ joined 53 other organizations in a statement that supports an arts education for all students.

In the statement, “Arts Education Is Essential,” the signing organizations convey that the arts have already played a pivotal and uplifting role during the health crisis, and that arts education can help all students, including those who are in traditionally underrepresented groups, as students return to school next year.

“Arts Education Is Essential” speaks to arts education’s role in supporting the social and emotional well-being of students, an area that administrators, educators, and parents have highlighted as essential to student safety and success during the pandemic and as students return to school, whether in-person, online, or in a blended fashion, this fall. Arts education also creates a welcoming school environment and a healthy and inclusive school community, helping students, educators, parents, and the community at large build and strengthen their connectedness during this time of social isolation and social distancing.  more

May 27, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

It avails not, neither time or place; distance avails not. I am with you, men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence.

—Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Facing the approach of a “grim milestone” with “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000” on the eve of Memorial Day 2020, the editors of Sunday’s New York Times produced a front page Walt Whitman himself might have conceived.

It’s as though one of the editors discussing how to convey “the vastness and variety of lives lost” had been reading Leaves of Grass. You might almost think Whitman had suggested the wording of the secondary head, “They Were Not Simply Numbers on a List. They were Us,” before putting the weight of his spirit behind the idea of culling “vivid passages” from coronavirus death notices of hundreds of newspapers around the country. No wonder the resulting inventory — “the conductor with the most amazing ear, the grandmother with the easy laugh, the entrepreneur and adventurer” — seems to echo Whitman’s “pure contralto singing in the organ loft, the carpenter dressing his plank, the connoisseur peering along the exhibition gallery.”

Always With Us

America’s poet is always with us on Memorial Day. Who else could have imagined, celebrated, or publicized such an event? He had a stake in it long before the ceremonial occasion was officially relocated from May 30 to the last Monday in May; in fact, he was there a century and a half before, having been born on the last Sunday in May 1819. He makes his generation-transcending presence vividly felt in “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” where time or place or distance “avails not,” and the “similitudes of the past and those of the future” are as “glories strung like beads” on his “smallest sights and hearings.” more

“EXECUTION OF JUSTICE”: A community reading of “Execution of Justice” was presented May 22 as part of McCarter Theatre’s continuing McCarter@Home series of online events. Written by McCarter’s outgoing Artistic Director and Resident Playwright Emily Mann, the docudrama examines the trial for the murder of Harvey Milk — and reactions from a “Chorus of Uncalled Witnesses.” Above: “My name is Harvey Milk, and I’m here to recruit you!” (Photo ©1978 by Daniel Nicoletta)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Emily Mann started writing Execution of Justice in 1983, seven years before she began her 30-year tenure as McCarter Theatre’s artistic director and resident playwright. The docudrama examines the trial of Dan White, who in 1978 assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk; the latter was the first openly gay official to be elected in California.

Execution of Justice was commissioned by San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre Company. The play was presented in 1985 by Arena Stage in Washington D.C. A Broadway production followed in 1986.

McCarter hosted an online community reading of Execution of Justice last Friday. The event commemorated the 90th anniversary of Harvey Milk’s birth, and was presented in collaboration with the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice.

“No theatrical or performance experience is presumed; this is not a performance,” Artistic Engagement Manager Paula T. Alekson assured a multigenerational and diverse group of over 50 participants who had logged into Zoom, or dialed into a specially designated telephone line, to play one of the roles. Readers who participated via Zoom were asked to log in using their first name and last initial; before the reading started their captions were edited to identify the characters they were portraying.  more

VIRTUAL VIRTUOSITY: A digital presentation of “The Secret Garden” by Princeton Youth Ballet is planned for Sunday, May 31 at 7 p.m. The company premiered the ballet in 2008.

Princeton Youth Ballet’s production of The Secret Garden, based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett and choreographed by Artistic Director Risa Kaplowitz, will be broadcast during a special watch party on Sunday, May 31 at 7 p.m. Details will be posted on Princeton Youth Ballet’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PrincetonYouthBallet/.

The Secret Garden has become a staple of PYB’s repertory, with many founding cast members now dancing professionally in companies throughout the United States and Europe. Performances scheduled for this month were canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis. more

EVERYONE IS INVITED: The Princeton Symphony Orchestra will welcome the public to a virtual gathering hosted by Executive Director Marc Uys, left, and Music Director Rossen Milanov on Sunday, May 31 at 4 p.m. (PSO Staff Photo)

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) invites patrons, subscribers, and members of the Greater Princeton community to be part of a couch-side, virtual gathering on Sunday, May 31, at 4 p.m. Executive Director Marc Uys will host “At Home with the PSO: A Visit with Rossen Milanov & Friends” and mix of  conversations with musical surprises alongside Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov.

Special guests include violinist Daniel Rowland and cellist Maja Bogdanovic, originally scheduled to perform with the PSO at the orchestra’s canceled May concert. PSO concertmaster Basia Danilow will also drop by to talk about music and how she balances life at home.

The public is invited to “Zoom along” and join in, reminiscing about favorite PSO moments and asking questions of the featured speakers and performers. The event is free, but anyone who is interested should register in advance at www.princetonsymphony.org. more

“SERENE ESCAPE”: Alyssa Cai, Princeton University Class of 2020, won first place and $1,000 in Princeton University Concerts’ sixth annual Creative Reactions Contest. Her colored pencil drawing was created in response to a Live Music Meditation with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras.

How might one visually represent the experience of going to a Princeton University Concerts event? Thirty-two Princeton University students, both undergraduate and graduate, signed up to take on this challenge as part of the sixth annual Creative Reactions Contest, one of several programs sponsored by the concert series to engage students in classical music.

Getting free access to a range of Princeton University Concerts offerings — including traditional concerts, Performances Up Close with audience seated on stage, Live Music Meditations, and the Annual Chamber Jam — the students were offered the chance at a $1,000 prize if they anonymously submitted a drawing of their experience, with an accompanying artist statement about their work.

After two rounds of judging — the first by Princeton University Concerts staff, and the second by local artist Marsha Levin-Rojer, Lewis Center for the Arts lecturer and former Hodder Fellow Mario Moore, and staff graphic designer Tom Uhlein — one winner and five honorable mentions were awarded. more

VIRTUAL ART CAMPS: The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster is offering weekly Summer Art Camps from June 22–August 28. The camps, which take place online via Zoom, are designed to stimulate creative expression through projects and activities that change each week.

Registration is underway for Virtual Summer Art Camps offered by The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster. Ten weekly Summer Art Camps, from June 22–August 28, are offered for children ages 5-15 in half-day sessions. Art Camps take place online via Zoom and are designed to stimulate creative expression through projects and activities that change each week.

Summer Art Camps allow children to develop important artistic techniques and learn about the principles of visual art, historical periods, and well-known artists. All camps are led by professional, experienced, and creative teaching artists; provide a curriculum tailored to three individual age groups; and allow students to enjoy small class sizes with projects and themes which vary weekly. All art supplies are included in the price of tuition and will be provided weekly via curbside pickup. more

“MONTEREY”: This photo by Michael Ast is featured in the 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, now on view in an online gallery at phillipsmillphoto.com. Ast won Best in Show and Best Body of Work awards in the juried show.

The 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition is a prestigious, well-regarded photo show traditionally showcased in the Phillips Mill Gallery in New Hope, Pa., but it is in an online gallery form this year due to the pandemic. Only 14 percent of the 1,000 entries from 13 states and three countries were accepted by juror Emmet Gowin, formerly professor of art at Princeton University. See the 143 accepted photographs online at phillipsmillphoto.com/pmpe2020-exhibition. All work is for sale.

Michael Ast won both Best in Show and Best Body of Work awards. His four photographs show his photojournalistic background of being more objective in his work and his ongoing concept of creating a photo essay that builds a narrative with multiple images. His heavy use of blacks and tonality express his interiority, adding a more psychological aspect to his work. Ast’s work is more lyrical and about emotion than a specific place. He prints his own work from a digital darkroom. See more photos at michaelast.com.

Email any inquiries to PhillipsMillPhoto@gmail.com.

May 20, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

Picture a poet who makes a living writing thrillers. He’s on the run in San Francisco, having been falsely convicted of murder, and his face is all over the papers. Escaped Killer On the Loose. A rich, beautiful, sympathetic woman who followed the trial and has good reason to believe he’s innocent gives him shelter in her deluxe apartment overlooking the bay.

That night he flags down a taxi driven by a friendly, worldly, wise-cracking cabbie who immediately recognizes him. The cabbie knows of a genius plastic surgeon who can give the poet a new face that very night for $200. “Not only that,” says the cabbie, “this guy is a bit of a dark poet himself, he can mend your mind while he’s fixing your face.”

The first thing the doctor asks the poet is “What sorta face do you want?” He has a gallery of possibilities. “I could give you middle period T.S. Eliot. Or I could do early Robert Frost.”

“Nah,” says the poet, “How about Humphrey Bogart? Can you do a good Bogie?”

“Sure, all the time. Everybody wants to be Bogart, but I thought you were a poet.”

“I make a living writing thrillers,” says the poet. “I thought the cabbie told you. Anyway, Bogart is a poet.”

“Funny, now that I think of it, you talk just like him,” says the doctor. “You’ve got his voice.”

“So do you, doc. Everyone should sound like Bogart at three in the morning. That’s what I want to hear as the drug kicks in. I want a film noir mood. Voices speaking soft and low. The sound of coffee and cigarettes, sheltering in place while the world goes mad.”

“Right, but when you’re going under, you want poetry. I usually say a few words. To see folks through. Something mildly hypnotic. Sounds like you don’t want clarity. You want to mask the meaning. Give it a touch of mystery. Just the thing to be hearing as you flow down into darkness. Wallace Stevens always works. Like ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ — by the fifth blackbird, you’re on your way. Now… just close your eyes.” more

KEEPING PATRONS ENGAGED: A scene from the Princeton Festival’s production of “Madame Butterfly,” which streams on June 7 at 1 p.m., during the first week of the organization’s busy online season. (Photo by Jessi Franco Designs)

By Anne Levin

Of the various rosters of virtual events currently offered by local arts organizations, the Princeton Festival’s is among the most ambitious. The recently released schedule of “Virtually Yours” — performances, poetry readings, podcasts, discussions, and artists’ videos — covers the month of June, which is when the 2020 festival would have taken place if a worldwide pandemic hadn’t caused its cancellation.

“Our patrons are used to this time period,” said Artistic Director Richard Tang Yuk in a phone call from his native Trinidad, where he has been sheltering since March. “I thought, rather than spread this out over several months, why don’t we just try to curate something and do it during the time people are used to seeing us?”

The long list of free, streamed events begins Monday, June 1 with Princeton Festival artists singing selections from The Sound of Music, and continues through the week with artists’ videos, a podcast on “Women in Music,” a lecture by Tim Urban on “Why We Love Opera,” a WWFM broadcast of the Concordia Chamber Players, an organ recital by Matthew Middletown, and a Princeton Festival performance of the opera Madame Butterfly. The next three weeks are similarly varied.

Once it became clear that the COVID-19 crisis was a serious threat, Tang Yuk and colleagues formed a special task force. “They were looking at reports every day as we got closer and closer to June,” he said. “In March, we realized we weren’t going to be able to do the festival this summer. Not everyone had canceled their summer festivals at that point, but it became clearer to us that we weren’t going to be able to do it. I always remind people that rehearsal starts at the beginning of May. So we made the decision at the beginning of April to cancel the physical season.” more

TRASHED ART CONTEST: From left, “Spectral Chamber,” “Sun,” “Two Fossil Forms,” and “Consumption Confusion” were featured in the TrashedArt 2019 Contest. Presented by the Mercer County Library System (MCLS), this year’s TrashedArt Contest was held virtually, with a reception and awards ceremony to be held Thursday, May 21 on the MCLS’ Facebook page.

Due to the continuing health and safety concerns surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19), the Mercer County Library System (MCLS) is closed until further notice. E-books, audiobooks, streaming media, and digital resources are still available 24/7 online.

In light of these events, the Library System’s TrashedArt 2020 Contest was held virtually through its website. The contest celebrated Earth Day by encouraging patrons to turn ordinary trash into extraordinary art.  more

IN CONVERSATION: The Arts Council of Princeton presents In Conversation with Mira DeMartino, pictured here, and Timothy M. Andrews on Tuesday, May 26, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Visit artscouncilofprinceton.org to link into the free conversation via Zoom.

The Arts Council of Princeton continues its In Conversation series with Mira DeMartino and Timothy M. Andrews on Tuesday, May 26 at 7 p.m.

This curated series of discussions is designed to celebrate and connect those who make art and those who love art. Visit artscouncilofprinceton.org to link into the free conversation via Zoom. more

May 13, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

Let’s get rid of that old man hate
And bring our fellow man up to date.
—Little Richard (1932-2020)

“Good Golly, Miss Molly,” it looks like the death of Little Richard has invaded a column marking the 50th anniversary of Kent State, Paul McCartney’s first solo album, and the break-up of the Beatles. But surely there’s room for the man who taught Paul “everything he knows.”

By the time they formed a band, Lennon and McCartney had taken crash courses at the College of Little Richard, as can be heard in John’s frenzied “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and Paul’s out-of-the-body and over-the-top “Long Tall Sally.” With some help from the singer who “came screaming into my life as a teenager,” Paul took rock-and-roll-roller-coaster hysteria to another level in “Helter Skelter,” a fitting theme song for the state of the nation, whether you mean May 1970 or May 2020.
America Screaming

Speaking of college, say you’re on the first day of a European tour, one of 36 American students, all but eight of them females. It’s a sunny afternoon in Delft, and you’re coming out of Vermeer’s house in a still-life spell feeling three centuries away from the U.S.A. You’re wandering through a street fair with calliopes and bump-em cars near a quaint park with swans when you hear a sound — no, it’s too big to hear, the sound descends on you, it attacks you, it eats you alive; it’s the sound of America screaming — “A wop-boppa-LOO-BOP a-lop-BAM-BOOM!” Yes! Glory be! Hallelujah, suddenly you’re a rock ‘n’ roll patriot ready to sing the anthem and salute the Stars and Stripes of joyous chaos (“I got a girl named Daisy, she almost drives me crazy”) — but except for one or two Daisys and Miss Mollys, most of the girls seem appalled and embarrassed by the neuron-shattering blast of “Tutti Frutti.” more

MCCARTER@HOME: McCarter Theatre presented an online conversation between Emily Mann, its outgoing artistic director and resident playwright, and Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater. (Mann photo by Matt Pilsner; Eustis photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy of The Public Theater)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter Theatre presented “McCarter LIVE: In Conversation with Oskar Eustis” on May 8. The discussion was part of the theatre’s ongoing McCarter@Home series of livestreamed events. McCarter’s artistic engagement manager, Paula T. Alekson, curated the conversation. The event was hosted via Zoom, as well as McCarter’s Facebook page.

Eustis became artistic director of San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre Company in 1986, following his position there as resident director and dramaturg. He became artistic director of the Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles) in 1989, followed by Trinity Repertory Company (Providence, Rhode Island) in 1994. He has been artistic director of The Public Theater in New York City since 2005. His association with Emily Mann predates her 30-year tenure as McCarter’s artistic director and resident playwright.

Their first collaboration was a production of Mann’s Obie Award-winning play Still Life. Speaking from his home in Brooklyn, Eustis recalls that Still Life — the result of Mann’s interviews with three people whose lives have been affected by the Vietnam War — was “one of the most brilliant and piercing things I’d read. I was about 21 years old. This was before I’d met Emily; I just knew she’d written this brilliant play, and somehow we’d get the rights to do it.”

“That’s how I got to meet Oskar,” says Mann. “I remember Oskar calling with Tony Taccone [the Eureka’s artistic director at the time]. We had what ended up being, for me, a life-changing conversation. I had never talked to a pair of directors, or a dramaturg [Eustis], who understood the play on such a deep level. So I got on an airplane, and I went out to San Francisco — and the rest is history. We became fast friends.” more

A RINGING ENDORSEMENT: Westminster’s Concert Bell Choir is among Westminster Choir College’s seven primary choirs. In September, the Bell Choir will begin its 42nd anniversary season.

Rider University is the recipient of a $125,000 Presser Foundation capital grant to support the University’s renowned Westminster Concert Bell Choir.

The grant will be used to create a specialized rehearsal space on the first floor of the Fine Arts Center on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus, to which Westminster Choir College is scheduled to move this fall. The space will accommodate the choir’s extensive collection of handbells and Malmark Choirchime instruments, and it will feature sound attenuation that will protect student hearing during rehearsals and minimize sound transfer to adjacent offices and classrooms. The grant will also provide a security system for the instruments, which have an estimated value of more than $200,000.

The Westminster Concert Bell Choir has made 11 solo recordings and has been featured on numerous television broadcasts, including Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and NBC’s Today show. The ensemble performs on the largest range of handbells in the world — eight octaves, from C1 to C9. Many of the bells are made of bronze and range in weight from four ounces to 11 pounds.

Westminster Choir College is a leader in education in the handbell world. Thousands have attended Westminster for this very specific study, and Westminster is unequaled in the number of handbell ringers, conductors, clinicians, and composers it has produced since its training and performance curriculum was first developed in 1978. more

AN ORCHESTRAL FIRST: Composer Jose Luis Dominguez has created a work specifically for physically distanced orchestra, to be performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Montclair University Singers for a virtual world premiere on June 8.  (Photo by Fred Stucker)

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, and to express gratitude to frontline medical and service workers, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) has commissioned a new work, Gratias Tibi, for physically distanced orchestra and choir from José Luis Domínguez.

The Montclair State University Singers, longtime NJSO partners, will join the musicians of the NJSO for a virtual world premiere on June 8. All performers will record their parts individually from home, and each part will be stitched together to create the finished work.

Gratias Tibi, which means “thank you” in Latin, offers a message of thanks to all frontline workers who have responded to this unprecedented emergency with bravery and compassion. more

“THE DEPTHS”: NJ Emerging Artist alum Ry An created this mixed recycled media work. The focus of the Emerging Artist 2020-2021 series, now open for submissions, is representing the underrepresented in the arts. For more information, visit MonmouthMuseum.org.

The Monmouth Museum’s well-established New Jersey Emerging Artist Series has announced an open call to welcome artists to apply to become a NJ Emerging Artist for the 2020-2021 series.

The focus of the Emerging Artists for the next series will be representing the underrepresented in the arts, as it applies to all fields and disciplines.

“We look to thoughtfully engage a broad group of artists and prioritize diversity in all areas, including gender, age, background, socioeconomic level, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and the special needs community,” said said Donna Kessinger, executive director. “The focus is to encourage the artistic expression of those artists underrepresented in the art world, at their point of emerging in their next career level as an artist.”

By creating a platform and providing a voice to these diverse perspectives, the exhibits and their workshops can provide an inclusive and interactive space for artistic exploration and support a collaborative environment for attendees. more

May 6, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

There is certainly not one government in Europe but is now watching the war in this country, with the ardent prayer that the United States may be effectually split, crippled, and dismember’d by it.
—Walt Whitman, circa 1864

It was when the current administration seemed to be inciting civil unrest in the name of liberty that I began rereading the 1861-1865 entries in Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days in America, where he calls “the war of attempted secession … the distinguishing event” of his time. In his notes to the volume he assembled in the early 1880s, the “specimens” were “impromptu jottings” collected during visits to “the sick and wounded of the army, both on the field and in the hospitals in and around Washington city.” Given the science-driven nature of the ongoing, no-end-in-sight “war” against the coronavirus, it’s worth noting that the poet’s use of the clinical word “specimens” refers to “persons, sights, occurrences in camp, by the bed-side, and not seldom by the corpses of the dead.” Some entries “were scratch’d down … while watching, or waiting, or tending somebody amid those scenes,” and are left just as he “threw them by after the war, blotch’d here and there with more than one blood-stain, hurriedly written, … not seldom amid the excitement of uncertainty, or defeat, or of action, or getting ready for it, or a march.”

Musings on a Mask

As soon as I tie on the mask, an ordinary walk becomes a wartime narrative. Sensing someone else almost directly behind me, I obey the social distancing guidelines and move to my left, out of the way, and as he passes, we exchange a look, a shared awareness that there’s a war going on and we’re living in the so-called epicenter, with more fatalities per capita at this moment than any other state.

This being the first time I’ve been out for a walk with a piece of Scotch plaid tied over my nose and mouth, I’m imagining masked versions of everyone from Mickey Mouse to Mozart, Darwin to Dostoevsky, including my own history from the bandanna-masked outlaw in boyhood shoot-outs and sword fights to the surgical-masked, blissed-out father witnessing the birth of a son. Mainly, I’m hearing Bob Dylan’s voice as if through a densely-woven mask as he growls his way past “the cities of the plague” to “the last outback at the world’s end” in “Ain’t Talkin,’” the haunting endgame song on Modern Times, an album recorded 15 years ago. Another track on my pandemic playlist is “Murder Most Foul,” Dylan’s epic meditation on the Kennedy assassination, the title lifted from Shakespeare and presented as a gift to “fans and followers” along with the uncharacteristically empathetic advisory “stay safe, stay observant.”  more

CELEBRATING 30 YEARS: Emily Mann, McCarter’s outgoing artistic director and resident playwright, delivered heartfelt remarks to conclude an online gala celebrating her 30-year tenure with the theatre. (Photo by Matt Pilsner)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

The arts — and the theatre — are not a luxury,” asserts Emily Mann. “They are essential for the health of the soul.”

This comment was included in a segment of a video that was shown during a livestreamed tribute to Mann, who in 2019 announced her decision to step down from her dual position as McCarter Theatre’s artistic director and resident playwright. Because current restrictions necessitated by COVID-19 rendered a live gala impossible, McCarter hosted Saturday night’s heartfelt event via Zoom, as well as the theatre’s Facebook page.

A slideshow was presented before and after the event, featuring candid photos and production stills. Music by jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger Baikida Carroll — who composed the score for the musical Betsey Brown (1991), one of Mann’s first McCarter productions — accompanied this montage.

The event served as a retrospective, featuring effusive plaudits from colleagues who have worked with Mann throughout her 30-year association with the theatre. Managing director Michael Rosenberg began the program by welcoming “over a thousand” viewers. He recalled meeting Mann in the mid-90s, when McCarter presented his West Village theatre company’s production of George Kaufman’ and Ring Lardner’s play June Moon. more

SPIRITUAL STORY: A scene from the filming of “Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries,” produced by the Gardner Group, headed by Princeton resident Janet Gardner. The documentary will air on NJTV on May 14 at 8 p.m. and on WNYC on May 26 at 11 p.m.

The history, deep faith, and enduring impact of the Religious Society of Friends, known as Quakers, are the subject of Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries, a new documentary produced by the Gardner Documentary Group, which is headed by Janet Gardner of Princeton.

The film will air on NJTV on Thursday, May 14 at 8 p.m., and on WNYC on Tuesday, May 26 at 11 p.m.

The 57-minute film tells the story of a spiritual movement that has played a remarkable role in the religious, social, and political life of our nation. Demonstrating an influence disproportionate to their numbers, Quakers have led anti-slavery, civil rights and women’s rights movements, and been strong advocates for world peace. Yet, as a relatively small denomination of less than 400,000, their influence far outweighs their numbers.  more