EXPLORING ISLAMIST EXTREMISM: (left to right) Playwright Emily Mann, scholars Dr. Stuart Gottlieb, and Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi and moderator Paula Alekson discuss with the audience the issues raised at Sunday’s performance of Ms. Mann’s new play “Hoodwinked.” (Photo Courtesy of McCarter Theatre Center)
“It’s about the 21st century’s responses to Islamist extremism,” Emily Mann explained in describing her documentary drama Hoodwinked, performed as a reading in the McCarter Theatre Center Lab last weekend, “but it’s also very much about asking questions and sharing information.” The drama was a springboard for a lively discussion. more
Patrick McDonnell, creator of the “Mutts” comic strip talks about his work Saturday, February 6, at 2 p.m., at Princeton Public Library.
Mr. McDonnell, who recently moved to Princeton, is also the author of children’s books including the 2005 New York Times bestseller The Gift of Nothing and the 2012 Caldecott Honor winner Me … Jane, a biography of the young Jane Goodall.
Mutts appears in hundreds of newspapers in 20 countries and was once described by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz as “one of the best comic strips of all time.”
Mr. McDonnell has received numerous awards for Mutts including the National Cartoonists Society’s highest honor, The Reuben, for Cartoonist of the Year. Mutts has also been recognized for its environmental and animal advocacy with a Sierra Club award and the PETA Humanitarian Award, among others.
“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again.” That’s James Joyce’s snow, falling outside a Dublin hotel room, the first notes of the sublime last movement of his long story “The Dead.” Snow is also falling on the nameless lovesick wanderer in Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey).
Though I make a point of listening to Schubert and reading Joyce every year at this time, I’ve never brought them together in the same column — under the same roof of the same imaginary inn, as it were, the short plump bespectacled composer at the piano accompanying the tall, thin, bespectacled Irish tenor whose singing voice was “clarion clear” according to Oliver St. John Gogarty, otherwise known as “stately plump Buck Mulligan” in the opening sentence of Joyce’s Ulysses. Given the preoccupation with songs and singers in Joyce’s life and work, it’s not all that unlikely a pairing, allowing for a little poetic license in the matter of time and space. True, Schubert was born in Vienna on January 31, 1797, Joyce 85 years and 1300 miles away in Dublin on February 2, 1882, but online the distances and years disappear in “that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead,” their “wayward and flickering existence” sensed but not apprehended by Joyce’s Gabriel Conroy seconds before he turns to the window and sees the snow “falling obliquely against the lamplight.” more
“GATE”: Paul Mordetsky’s oil on canvas titled, “Gate” is part of the Arts Council of Princeton’s new exhibition, “Down To Earth: Artists Inspired By The Elements,” on view in the Taplin Gallery, February 6-27.
The Arts Council of Princeton presents Down To Earth: Artists Inspired By The Elements, an exhibition of work by artists who are influenced by elements such as fire, wind, and earth. Visitors can expect original works from artists Olivia Jupillat, Paul Mordetsky, and Alice Sims-Gunzenhauser. more
This photograph taken by Chapin student Harper Usiskin ’16 won the Gold Key Award in the photography category of this year’s Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The photograph will be entered into the National Gold Medalist competition. Usiskin is one of four Chapin students who received awards and honorable mentions for their submissions in photography and drawing. Over 300,000 works were entered into the program this year, highlighting the wealth of student talent at the Chapin School.
Since his arrival as conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra six years ago, Jacques Lacombe has sought out unique partnerships, including two previous collaborations with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. On the Princeton leg of his “farewell tour” before leaving the NJSO to take the helm of the Bonn Opera Company in Germany, Mr. Lacombe and the NJSO presented a concert with many levels of collaboration — among ensembles, artists, and artistic disciplines.
Friday night’s concert in Richardson Auditorium brought together the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO), Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and Montclair State University Prima Voce women’s chorus for a semi-staged production of Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although labeled “incidental music,” which the composer provided for an 1843 performance of Shakespeare’s play, Mendelssohn’s score has long stood on its own as a crowd-pleaser and as accompaniment to dance productions. more
A BLOODY TALE FROM ANCIENT GREECE: Evelyn Giovine. a senior in Princeton’s Program in Theater, will perform the title role in Sophocles’ “Elektra,” opening February 5 at the Lewis Center for the Arts. (Photo Credit: Hawa Sako)
The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Elektra by Sophocles, the classic, dark, bloody tale of familial vengeance from ancient Greece, is explored anew by guest director Alexandru Mihail and senior Evelyn Giovine in the title role. Performances will take place on February 5, 6, 11, 12, and 13 at 8 p.m. in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio located at 185 Nassau Street. more
On February 18, 1952, one of the worst nor’easters in history hit New England. The seas off Cape Cod were so severe that two oil tankers, caught in the storm, split in two.
While the SS Fort Mercer was able to issue an urgent S.O.S., the SS Pendleton’s fore section was swallowed too quickly by the ocean for the ship to broadcast a distress call. Their captain went down with the front part of the ship, leaving 34 sailors in the stern with no idea whether the world was even aware of their plight.
Fortunately, a tow truck driver (Matthew Maher) spotted a light from the Pendleton as she was listing off the coast of Chatham, and knew that he had to report it to the authorities immediately. Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana), the officer in charge of the local Coast Guard station, didn’t hesitate to order a rescue attempt despite the blizzard’s frigid temperatures and gale force winds.
He called upon Bosun’s Mate Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) who hastily assembled a crew composed of Seamen Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), Ervin Maske (John Magaro), and Engineman Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner). The team left the harbor aboard a small motorized lifeboat that only seated a dozen people and offered scant protection against the elements.
It would take a yeoman’s effort to reach the sinking Pendleton because the tiny Coast Guard lifeboat encountered waves as high as 70 feet when they reached the open seas. Moreover, Webber had lost his compass when they were swamped by one of the waves.
Meanwhile, the remaining sailors on the Pendleton were doing their best to keep what was left of the ship afloat. With the skipper and his other officers lost in the front half of the tanker, a new leader emerged in Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), who had nerves of steel and a wealth of naval knowledge.
The veteran sailor took command of the crew, and realized that survival depended upon keeping the electric pumps functioning long enough for them to ground the vessel on a sandbar. Back in Chatham the worried families of the brave Coast Guardsmen, including Bernie’s fiancee Miriam (Holliday Grainger), were waiting to hear news about their loved ones.
Directed by Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm), The Finest Hours is a gripping seafaring adventure reminiscent of The Perfect Storm (2000). It is based on a bestseller that recounts the real-life exploits of unsung heroes who rose to the occasion in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
A visually-captivating and moving depiction of what, to this day, remains the most daring Coast Guard rescue on record.
Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for intense peril. Running time: 117 minutes. Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures.
WATCH AND LEARN: Teaching a recent master class at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio, New York City Ballet principal dancer Ashley Bouder urged students to stand behind more experienced dancers in their classes and learn by copying what they do. She is nearly six months pregnant with her first baby, due at the end of April.
At nearly six months into her pregnancy, Ashley Bouder’s ballerina silhouette is interrupted by a small, round bump. But the acclaimed New York City Ballet principal dancer, who taught a recent master class at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio, remains as lithe as ever. more
Stirred from sleep by the sound of something large and loud moving in the night, I thought at first that someone was moaning. Really. It was like the sound of a giant enduring a massively bad dream. We were three hours into the Sunday morning after Saturday’s snowfall but our block-long cul de sac was not under attack; we were being rescued, liberated. Seen from the bedroom window, the larger of the two machines had an unreal immensity that made our little street resemble a road in the Caucasus. No wonder, I’d been reading Chekhov at bedtime after a long afternoon watching Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s mesmerizing Chekhovian epic, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. more
“HAKUNETSU”: This 1982 acrylic on canvas by Hiroshi Murata is among the works loaned to The Art Gallery at The College of New Jersey by the New Jersey State Museum Collection. The exhibition titled “Abstract Expressions: Selected Works from the New Jersey State Museum” opens today and runs until February 28, 2016. 34 works created since 1950 will be on view. The Art Gallery is located in the AIMM Building on the campus at 2000 Pennington Road in Ewing.
The Art Gallery at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is pleased to present a special loan exhibition Abstract Expressions: Selected Works from the New Jersey State Museum. On view from January 27 through February 28, 2016, the exhibition features 34 works created since 1950 by American artists. more
NEXT STOP MANHATTAN: Retiring Princeton Public Library Director Leslie Burger with husband Alan in the library’s Community Room Sunday, where 150 people paid their respects to “a visionary and an image breaker” who “always had our back.” The couple will be moving from West Windsor to Manhattan. (Photo by Vic Garber)
Friends, colleagues, local politicians and longtime associates of departing Princeton Public Library director Leslie Burger gathered at the library Sunday to say bon voyage and recognize her contributions to the institution and the community. Retiring after 16 years, Ms. Burger is credited with shepherding the renovation and expansion of the library and turning it into “the community’s living room,” as she liked to say. more
For six seasons Dame Maggie Smith has been delighting television viewers as dowager Violet Crawley in the Downton Abbey shows. Younger fans might be unaware that she’s won Oscars twice (for California Suite and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) and has had an illustrious career prior to appearing in the hit PBS series.
In The Lady in the Van, she’s been cast as a character who is the opposite of the imperious aristocrat of Downton Abbey. In the film, Margaret Shepherd is a down-and-out homeless woman living in a van that she parks on the street in the Camden Town section of North London.
At the point of departure in the early 70s, we learn that Margaret’s plight is one of her own making. She’s been on the run for five years after leaving the scene of a fatal hit-and-run car accident.
Although the devout Catholic has confessed the sin to her priest, she could never bring herself to surrender to the authorities. Consequently, she’s forever looking over her shoulder, fearful that her arrest might be imminent.
The plot thickens when she can’t afford to fix her jalopy that is sorely in need of a tune-up. Most of the residents in the upscale neighborhood where the van is sitting would like to see the eyesore towed away.
However, Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) feels compassion for the overwhelmed octagenarian, perhaps because his own mother is about the same age as Margaret. So, against his better judgment, the famous Tony Award winning playwright allows “Miss Shepherd” to park her disabled car in the driveway on the express understanding that the arrangement is temporary.
However, to his dismay, Margaret ends up squatting on his property for the next 15 years. Can the odd pair coexist peacefully?
That is the question at the heart of The Lady in the Van, a heartwarming dramatic comedy inspired by actual events. The film was adapted from Bennett’s 1999 theatrical production of the same name which also starred Maggie Smith.
Smith looks relaxed onscreen in the role she originated onstage, whether cadging for alms or exhibiting pangs of remorse about the accident that caused her problems. Just as effective is Alex Jennings’s interpretation of Bennett as a conflicted soul who is constantly carrying on an inner dialogue with himself.
Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for a disturbing image. Running time: 104 minutes. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics.
This photograph by princeton photography club member Jay Brandinger will be displayed in the gallery exhibition titled “Americana: A Photographic Journey of the Country, Its People, and Its Culture” that will run from January 29 — February 21, 2016 at the Pennsylvania Center for Photography in Doylestown, Pa. There will be an opening reception January 29, 2016 from 6-8 p.m.
If someone in the strange sad days since January 10 were to ask what David Bowie means to me, I’d say two words, Hunky Dory. From all that I’ve read online since the ongoing event of his death, I’m not alone in thinking Bowie’s fourth LP is his best, not an album so much as the creation of a mood, a state of mind my wife and I associate with the best, brightest moments of the 1970s. We lived in the music much as we lived in our consciousness of England and our two years in Bristol, the city we came to know and love. The songs from that haunting, stirring, and most companionable of records evoke the country of Shakespeare and Chaplin, of Hampstead Heath and Kate Bush’s “old river poet” the Thames. Much more than a none-too-sturdy piece of black vinyl, Hunky Dory was a very special, pleasant place to be for a father, mother, and the child who was born five years after its 1971 release and who, on hearing the news of the death of his “biggest hero” four decades later, said “It’s like losing a member of the family.”
While the tracks we found most fascinating and challenging were “Life on Mars,” “Oh You Pretty Things,” “Quicksand,” and “The Bewley Brothers,” the song that we felt closest to as a family (we and no doubt thousands if not millions of other families) was “Kooks,” which may be the most charming thing Bowie ever wrote. more
HUMOR AND HUMANITY: (L to R) Lymon (David Pegram), Wining Boy (Cleavant Derricks), Doaker (John Earl Jelks), and Boy Willie (Stephen Tyrone Williams) share stories and memories of the past in McCarter Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Piano Lesson” at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 7. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
Twenty-eight years after its original creation, 90 years distant from its Depression-era setting in the Pittsburgh Hill District, August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Piano Lesson (1987) speaks powerfully, lyrically, and eloquently of an African-American family in conflict and of their past, which they must confront, embrace, and overcome in order to move forward. more
ANNUAL HOMECOMING CONCERT: The Westminster Choir, conducted by Joe Miller, will present its annual homecoming concert titled “Angel Band” on Monday, January 25 at 7:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall on the Princeton University campus. Admission is free, but tickets are required. To reserve tickets in advance, call (609) 258-9220 or visit www.princeton.edu/utickets.
The Westminster Choir, conducted by Joe Miller, will conclude its 2016 tour of the Eastern United States with its annual homecoming concert on Monday, January 25 at 7:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall on the Princeton University campus. Admission is free, but tickets are required. To order tickets call (609) 258-9220 or visit www.princeton.edu/utickets. more
Hugh Glass (1780-1833) was a legendary frontiersman who explored the American West in the early 19th century. His life has been previously portrayed in films by Richard Harris in Man in the Wilderness (1971) and Dewitt Lee in Apache Blood (1975).
Glass’s life story has also been the subject of several books, most recently The Revenant, a story of survival published by Michael Punke in 2002. The bestselling book has been adapted by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who won three Academy Awards for writing, directing, and producing Birdman, 2015’s Best Picture of the Year.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio who might finally land the Oscar that has eluded his grasp five times. The movie features him in virtually every scene, and his acting never disappoints. He delivers a compelling performance that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you pull for his character from beginning to end.
At the point of departure we are introduced to Hugh (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who are guiding a hunting party of fur trappers across the Rockies. Along the way, the expedition is tested at every turn by “Injun” ambushes, animal attacks, frigid weather, and the challenging terrain.
Unfortunately John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a member of the party, is a racist who murders Hawk and leaves his badly wounded father behind to die in the forest. However, instead of perishing, Hugh wills himself to survive, in order to track down his son’s killer.
What ensues is a visually captivating movie portraying Hugh’s determination to exact revenge for the murder of his son. Despite the hurdles he encounters, Hugh remains resolute as he stalks Fitzgerald across the Wyoming wilderness. Credit co-star Tom Hardy for portraying the villain Fitzgerald in a manner that the audience loves to see get his due.
Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity, graphic violence, gory images, ethnic slurs, brief nudity, and a rape. In English, French, and Native American dialects with subtitles. Running time: 156 minutes. Distributor: 20th Century Fox.
Let’s say I’m sitting on a bench in Central Park thinking about long-ago weekend afternoons playing catch with Florence Victor, a tall, lean, motor-mouth poet with long black hair tied back in a pony tail, who stopped talking only when she was throwing the ball and did she throw it, crack! every time it hit my mitt. Being truly, proudly, deeply neurotic, she was usually talking about her various ailments and anxieties, which tended to be interchangeable with her poetry.
So as I’m sitting there smiling, remembering how Florence and I sometimes kept the ball flying between us until twilight and beyond, along comes this tall guy in a hoodie with a camera in his hand, asking if he can take my picture. Ordinarily I’d say “no thanks” and find another bench, but since this is an imaginary encounter I know right away that this guy is Brandon Stanton whose book Humans of New York: Stories has been my constant companion, along with the fiction of Chekhov, ever since the new year began. In fact, the more I read the two together, the more I realize how many subtle unexpected things the humans of New York have in common with the humans of late 19th-century Russia. Before he can get started, I explain that his book was a party gift from a friend at work. “It’s addictive,” I tell him. “It lights me up every time I look inside.” more
GETTYSBURG: An artist reception for Cynthia Groya’s “150 Years After the Civil War: A Contemporary Perspective,” will take place on Sunday, January 24 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Nassau Club, located at 6 Mercer Street in Princeton. Groya taught at Bucks County Community College and Newtown Friends School before founding C.A.P.S. (Cultural Arts in Progress), an interdisciplinary art school in Yardley. She resides in Princeton.
The Nassau Club will host an artist reception for Cynthia Groya’s “The Civil War: A Contemporary Perspective” on Sunday, January 24 from 3 to 5 p.m. The exhibit will be on view through March 6.
Groya’s “Civil War” exhibit, expresses a conversation about the struggle for equal rights, which can be traced back to the Civil War, which ended 150 years ago. The outcome of that war preserved the Union, but the struggle for equal rights continues. The abstract landscapes, exteriors, and interiors of Groya’s paintings are done on multiple surfaces of plexiglass. The hope is that these works inspire reflection amongst viewers. more
Metuchen-based Raconteur Radio presents a staged radio play of Gaslight Sunday, January 24, at 3 p.m. in the Community Room at Princeton Public Library. The production is adapted from the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play about an opera singer whose husband attempts to drive her insane and the Scotland Yard detective who intervenes on her behalf.
Featuring Laurence Mintz, Jason Jackson, and Danielle Illario, the 55-minute production includes theatrical lighting, period costumes, Golden Age radio equipment, sound effects, and vintage commercials. more
UNIVERSAL RHYTHMS 1: This piece is one of the paintings by Alan Taback, and are part of the Painters’ Paradise Art Exhibition on display in the Considine Gallery at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Princeton until February 25, 2016.
The public is invited to view the exhibit on display at Stuart’s Considine Gallery, until February 25, 2016 featuring the works of Silvère Boureau and Alan Taback. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, when school is in session.
Silvère Boureau grew up in France surrounded by a family of artists, sculptors and writers. When he came from France in 1982, he was primarily an expressionist painter of the human form, however, he was heavily influenced by American landscape and its interpretation by nineteenth century luminists. Silvère draws inspiration from the remote wilderness, especially his experiences in the backwoods of Maine, the Adirondack Mountains and the Grand Canyon. To stand on a mountaintop and look as far as the eye can see without encountering any mark of human intervention remains an exhilarating experience for him. more
The Force Awakens is a splendid sequel to Return of the Jedi, the 1983 finale of the original Star Wars trilogy.
Episode VII, marks the launch of another trilogy and might be the best of the Star Wars films yet. This is no surprise because it was directed by Spielberg’s protege J.J. Abrams (Super 8), who’d proved himself with his prior successes with the Star Trek and Mission Impossible franchises.
The Force Awakens is an ingenious mix of the old and the new and features the familiar faces of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, as well as fresh ones; John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver. The same can be said of the adventure’s robotic cast members, with the anthropomorphic android BB-8 joining forces with R2-D2 and C-3PO.
An engaging plot interweaves the old and the new in a way that never feels forced. Credit goes to Abrams for collaborating with three-time Academy Award-nominee Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist and Grand Canyon) and Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) in writing an engaging script. Amongst the hi-tech battles between good and evil, the story exploits breaks in the action to serve up nostalgia and sentimentality.
It all unfolds a few decades after the events in Return of the Jedi, and opens with the trademark “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” followed by an explanation of what’s transpired since the last movie. At the point of departure, we learn that the New Republic is joining forces with the Resistance to fight the Stormtroopers of the First Order, an intergalactic dictatorship led by the diabolical Snoke (Andy Serkis).
Soon thereafter the protagonists: rebel fighter pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac), renegade Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), orphaned scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Admiral Han Solo (Ford) are introduced. The good guys have an inexhaustible army of adversaries to vanquish en route to making the universe safe again for freedom and democracy.
The hostilities build to a spectacular light saber battle best appreciated in 3-D and on an IMAX screen. Nevertheless, the movie’s most inspired moments are the scenes like the touching reunion of Solo and Princess Leia (Fisher).
Excellent (****).Rated PG-13 for violence. Running time: 135 minutes. Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures.
Close to 300 family members, friends, colleagues, and members of the Princeton community gathered Sunday in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street on the Princeton University campus to remember and celebrate the life of Timothy Vasen.
Mr. Vasen, 51, lecturer in theater and director of the Program in Theater at Princeton, died on December 28 following an accident at his home in Brooklyn, New York.
The gathering also included current and past colleagues from the Yale School of Drama and Baltimore’s Center Stage. More than a dozen speakers shared memories of Mr. Vasen as a dedicated family man, an avid outdoorsman, a food aficionado and cook, a world traveler, a talented theater director, and a generous colleague, teacher, and mentor.
“Some of us have lost a very dear friend, one of the finest human beings we have known,” said Michael Cadden, chair of the Lewis Center last week. “All of us have lost one of the world’s finest teachers of theater — an intellectually voracious, physically vital, and imaginatively daring practitioner of the art form he cherished above all others.”
Mr. Vasen directed plays and taught classes at Princeton part-time starting in 1993. He went on to direct plays in New York, Philadelphia, and at theaters throughout the country. From 1997 to 2003 he was resident director at Center Stage in Baltimore, then joined the Princeton faculty in 2003 and in 2012 became director of the Program in Theater. more