July 19, 2017

Julie Diana Hench

American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School announced that, after an international search, Julie Diana Hench has been selected as the organization’s executive director starting September 1, 2017.

“On behalf of the Board and the entire organization, I am very pleased to extend a warm welcome to Julie Diana Hench,” says Chuck Metcalf, chair of the organization’s Board of Trustees. “American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School are recognized as leaders in their respective fields throughout the tri-state area, as well as on the national landscape, and it is imperative we have an experienced leader to maintain and build on the excellent reputation of the entire organization.” more

Some cast members are shown from Princeton Day School’s production of “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen, that will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. From left: Danielle Hirsch ’17 (Newtown, Pa.), Hope Ammidon ’18 (Princeton), Liv Sheridan ’18 (Lawrenceville), Emily Trend ’18 (Pennington), and Nate Jones ’18 (Princeton). (Photo Credit: Matt Pilsner)

In its ongoing commitment to contemporary music, every summer for the past four years New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has created a “laboratory experience” for four emerging composers to develop their craft and produce a unique work of music, subsequently presented to the public in Richardson Auditorium. Guided by Institute Director and Princeton University Professor of Music Steven Mackey, the four composers who participated in this year’s NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute created pieces reflecting diverse backgrounds and talents. Led by conductor JoAnn Falletta, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presented a more casual concert atmosphere last Saturday night than during the regular season, but were no less serious about the music, executing well the sophisticated scores of these promising composers.  more

July 12, 2017

All you really need to know about Baby Driver is that so far it’s simply the best film of the year. The picture was written and directed by Edgar Wright, who is best known for three British comedies that starred Simon Pegg: Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013).

Mr. Wright shot this movie in Atlanta and it is a labor of love that took several decades to complete. The movie has its beginnings in “Bellbottoms,” a discordant punk anthem that he visualized as “a song in search of a car chase” from the moment he first heard it in 1995.

That cult classic isn’t the only obscure tune in Baby Driver’s eclectic soundtrack that features rarities ranging from T. Rex’s “Debora,” to Blur’s “Intermission,” to The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat.” However, the blockbuster also has its share of recognizable hits too, such as the Commodores’ “Easy,” Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run,” and “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.

The film has an A-list cast that includes Oscar-winners Jamie Foxx (Ray) and Kevin Spacey (American Beauty and The Usual Suspects), Emmy-winner Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and two-time, Screen Actors Guild Award-winner Lily James (Downton Abbey). However, the film is carried by the up-and-coming actor Ansel Elgort.

He plays Baby, a deaf getaway driver who is extraordinarily adept at eluding the authorities. He is reluctantly controlled by the mob because of a debt that he owes to Doc (Kevin Spacey) the manipulative crime boss. Baby wants to be free of the mob so he can start a new life with Deborah (James), the waitress he fell in love with in an empty diner.

Of course Doc insists that he first serve as wheelman for the “last big heist” that is being staged by Bats (Foxx), Buddy (Hamm), and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). When the robbery goes wrong, Baby’s survival instincts kick-in in a primal urge for self-preservation.

Excellent (****). Rated R for violence and pervasive profanity. Running time: 113 minutes. Production Studio: Working Title Films. Distributor: TriStar Pictures.

It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.

—Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Today is Thoreau’s 200th birthday. It’s unlikely that the author of Walden would find all the hoopla “worth the while” — a three-day bicentennial gala in Concord, Mass.; inns and motels booked three years in advance; as many as 750,000 people estimated to be making the pilgrimage to Walden Pond in this celebratory year; the publication of new biographies and numerous books; a full-scale exhibit, “This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal,” at the Morgan Museum and Library in New York.  more

ASPIRING FILMMAKERS: “The Last Playboys,” directed by Luke Momo (son of local restauranteur Raoul Momo), is among the entries in the 2017 Princeton Student Film Festival, on screen at the Princeton Public Library July 19 and 20.

Everett Shen isn’t sure he wants to make filmmaking a career. But the rising Princeton High School senior, who will do an independent study in film next fall, has plenty to think about as he considers his future.

Mr. Shen is among 22 filmmakers showing their work at the upcoming Princeton Student Film Festival, screening at Princeton Public Library July 19 and 20. He also served on the selection committee, helping to decide which of the nearly 60 short films, culled by librarian Susan Conlon from nearly 150 submitted by young people across the globe, would be included in the annual gathering. more

OPERA TRAINING PROGRAM: Opera coach and conductor Kathleen Kelly will lead a master class with aspiring opera singers participating in Westminster Choir College’s CoOPERAtive program on Monday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

The Westminster CoOPERAtive Program, Westminster Choir College’s three-week intensive opera training program, is in full swing at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. The public is invited to attend an array of free recitals, concerts, and master classes featuring talented singers and accompanists from around the world who are taking the next step in their operatic careers. more

Summer is not always for the outdoors, as a full house at Richardson Auditorium proved Sunday at a concert of the Brentano String Quartet. In an unusual Sunday afternoon concert time, the Brentano Quartet showed that good chamber music is welcome at any time of day. As part of Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts’ 50th Season Celebration, the Brentano String Quartet returned to Richardson and presented music ranging from the 16th to the 21st centuries. more

The art of Jane Zamost and nine other artists will be featured at a reception for the exhibit “Healing Art Stories” on Thursday, July 13 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Investors Bank Art and Healing Gallery at Capital Health Medical Center — Hopewell. The exhibit, which features artists who are or have been patients, caregivers, and individuals faced with health care challenges, also includes works by Priscilla Algava, Tyler Bell, Janis Blayne Paul, N.J. DeVico, Jan K. Lipes, Tasha O’Neill, Janet Purcell, Aurelle Sprout, and Andrew Weiss. “Healing Art Stories” runs through October 16.

Amelia Chin received First Place and Best in Show honors in the watercolor/non-professional category at the 2016 Mercer County Senior Art Show. This year’s show will run from July 19 through August 4 at the Meadow Lakes Gallery in East Windsor.

July 5, 2017

the minister, looking upward to the zenith, beheld there the appearance of an immense letter, — the letter A, — marked out in lines of dull red light. 

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, from The Scarlet Letter

Like Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was born on July 4, 1804, David Lynch knows how to sear his brand into the brains of his audience. Some viewers are still trying to shake the surreal image of the thing that slithers into the first-kiss sanctity of sleeping innocence at the end of Episode 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return. Those of us who have survived the first eight weeks of this most unsettled and unsettling series were given a July 4 holiday break on Sunday. Who knows why? Maybe Lynch is allowing us a week off to ponder the feast of excesses in “Gotta Light?,” his latest serving of killer coffee and spiked cherry pie. Or maybe this is his subtle way of marking the birthday of his predecessor in the never-ending investigation of the American mystery.  more

“THE MAGIC OF VERNAL PONDS”: Art by young students of Heather Barros of Art Collaborations! is featured in this exhibit running through July 28 at D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Olivia Rainbow Gallery in the Johnson Education Center in Princeton.

The Magic of Vernal Ponds, by students of Heather Barros, fills D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Olivia Rainbow Gallery through July 28. The art may be viewed from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The Gallery is in the Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, Princeton 08540. There is no need to call to see if this gallery is open at the time of visit.

D&R Greenway contributor and Princetonian Suzanne Nash donated the vivid poster on life in and near vernal pools to the land trust in early spring. Heather Barros, of Art Collaborations!, immediately set her young students to work to study the vernal paradigm and recreate their varied population.  more

Beginning on July 8, the James A. Michener Art Museum will present “Dedicated, Displayed, Discovered: Celebrating the Region’s School Art Collections,” an exhibition that explores the longstanding tradition of art collecting by public educational institutions in southeastern Pennsylvania. The exhibition will be on view through January 7, 2018.

From the 1890s to the mid-20th century, artists and educators in the Delaware Valley region embraced opportunities to introduce original works in hallways and classrooms, advancing a holistic approach to educating and enriching the lives of students. Now, in collaboration with six educational entities, the Michener Art Museum is presenting the first-ever exhibition of these long-hidden artistic treasures, inviting the public to view these historically significant works and to learn the stories of the schools, artists, and educators behind them. The exhibition will draw from various collections throughout school districts in Bucks and Montgomery counties as well as from The School District of Philadelphia. more

BONNIE AND CLYDE: Mary Pomykacz and Noah Barson star as Bonnie and Clyde in the Washington Crossing Open Air Theatre’s latest production, set to run July 7 through July 16 with performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. “Bonnie and Clyde” is sponsored in part by the Trenton Thunder baseball team. (Photo Credit: Jordan Brennan)

At the height of the Great Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went from two small-town nobodies in West Texas to America’s most renowned folk heroes and Texas law enforcement’s worst nightmares. Bonnie and Clyde is an electrifying musical story of love, adventure, and crime that takes to the Open Air Theatre stage from July 7 through July 16 with performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. The production is sponsored in part by the Trenton Thunder baseball team. more

Blue Curtain, in co-operation with the Princeton Recreation Department, presents two evenings of free concerts on Saturday, July 15 and 22 at 7 p.m. Both events will present musical traditions. Concerts will be held at the Pettoranello Gardens Amphitheater in Community Park North, Route 206 and Mountain Avenue. Kicking off the 2017 concert series on Saturday, July 15 will be Mystic Bowie, the legendary Jamaican front-man of the TomTom Club; and the New Orleans sounds of Sasha Masakowski and The Sidewalk Strutters. From humble beginnings in St. Elizabeth Parish, Jamaica, Mystic has released five studio albums: “Funky Reggae,” “Rebirth,” “Nevah Kiss and Tell,” “Sweet Jamaica,” and “Money Tree, The Best of Mystic Bowie Vol.1” Beginning in 1992, he was lead vocalist for the TomTom Club, the spin-off band from the Talking Heads, for nearly two decades.

The Beguiled is a Civil War story based on the bestseller of the same name by the late novelist/playwright Thomas Cullinan (1919-1995). The book was first adapted to the screen in 1971 as a melodramatic film that starred Clint Eastwood. This year’s remake was directed by Sofia Coppola whose effort was rewarded at Cannes when she became the second woman in the history of the festival to be chosen Best Director.

The story is set in 1864 at a Virginia boarding school for girls run by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) with the help of Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst). They have five students under their care, ranging from preteens to the late teens.

As the movie opens, the sounds of battle are heard in the distance. The fighting is in sharp contrast to the serenity of the campus where we see Amy (Oona Laurence) foraging in the forest for wild mushrooms.  more

June 28, 2017

Jessica (Scarlett Johansson) and Peter (Paul W. Downs) are about to get married. However, before the ceremony, they’ve agreed to simultaneously throw themselves bachelor’s and bachelorette’s parties. Jessica flies down to Miami for a wild party with four of her closest college classmates, while Peter plans a modest evening of wine tasting with a few of his buddies.

It turns out that Jessica is in the middle of a campaign for the state senate, so she doesn’t want their party to get out of control and generate negative publicity that would hurt her candidacy. However, she’s unaware that decorum is the last thing on the mind of Alice (Jillian Bell), the girlfriend whom Jessica asked to plan their get together.

Alice sees the reunion as an opportunity for the foursome to indulge one last time in the sort of parties they had on campus ten years ago, when they would get drunk while playing beer pong on a weekend night. So, she’s planned a wild weekend that includes everything from cocaine to a male stripper.

The other three members of the party are Pippa (Kate McKinnon), a clown who is up for anything, as is Blair (Zoe Kravitz), who is recovering from an ugly custody battle. However, Frankie (Ilana Glazer), who is a lesbian, has a history of run-ins with the law and is afraid about violating the “Three Strikes” law that would automatically give her a life sentence in jail.

The party starts in the airport terminal when Alice uncorks a bottle of champagne that unwittingly triggers a stampede by passengers who mistake the pop of the cork for a gunshot. Next, when they arrive at their beachfront rental house, they are invited by the next-door couple Lea (Demi Moore) and Pietro (Ty Burrell) to participate in an orgy.

Things quickly go from bad to worse when the exotic dancer, whom Alice hired, arrives. During his striptease act, he accidentally hits his head and kills himself. Jessica and her friends decide to dump the body in the ocean rather than call the cops and what ensues is a hilariously escalating comedy of errors.

Rough Night is reminiscent of The Hangover (2009), although it also has moments that recall scenes from Bridesmaids (2011) and Weekend at Bernie’s (1989). The movie is the directorial debut of Lucia Aniello, the first woman to direct an R-rated comedy since Tamra Davis made Half Baked in 1998.

Excellent (****). Rated R for crude sexuality, drug use, coarse humor, brief bloody images, and profanity. Running time: 101 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.

“BEATRICE AT A MARRIAGE FEAST DENYING HER SALUTATION TO DANTE”: The Princeton Museum exhibit also includes this work in watercolor and pen by 19th century artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The Princeton University Art Museum has a special “peer” relationship with the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at Britain’s University of Oxford, England. So it makes sense that Princeton would serve as the only international venue for “Great British Drawings from the Ashmolean Museum,” an exhibit of more than 100 rarely-seen drawings and watercolors by artists ranging from the 17th to 20th centuries. The show opens Saturday, July 1 and runs through September 17. more

“SUNDAY IN THE PARK”: This painting by Graham Holmes is one of the works of art specific to Cadwalader Park that will be featured in “Cadwalader Park — An Olmsted Vision.” The exhibition runs from July 8 to September 17 at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion.

The Trenton Museum Society (TMS), along with the Cadwalader Park Alliance, presents “Cadwalader Park — An Olmsted Vision,” highlighting Cadwalader Park and its world-famous designer, Frederick Law Olmsted. Exhibitions on both floors of the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion will run from July 8 through September 17 with various complementary events, lectures, and tours. Frederick Law Olmsted is widely regarded as the father of landscape architecture in America. more

“CHOP ON THE ROCKS”: This painting by Kimberlee Nentwig is among those featured in “Our World Through Artists’ Eyes,” the Garden State Watercolor Society’s 48th annual exhibition, running through August 21 at the Johnson Education Center in Princeton.

D&R Greenway Land Trust is hosting the Garden State Watercolor Society’s 48th annual exhibition, “Our World through Artists’ Eyes,” at the Johnson Education Center through August 21.

Artworks by 67 artists, from Cape May to Sussex County, were selected for the exhibition by juror Susan Weintraub. Many of the artists are nationally known, such as Lucy and Charles McVicker, Sandy O’Connor, and Donna Read. more

The best time of all was Monterey. It was one of the highest points of my life.

—Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

“Everyone thought the Beatles were at Monterey in disguise,” said Derek Taylor, the group’s close friend and onetime press officer. “Three of the four, no one knew which three. But they were there. Well, they were and they weren’t.”

It didn’t matter that the Beatles were in England that mid-June weekend 50 years ago. People wanted to believe they were at the festival, so they were, and if any entity on the planet could be two places at once in the summer of 1967 it was the creators of Sgt. Pepper, which had come out on the first day of June, like a preface to the glory of Monterey Pop. Plus, Paul McCartney was on the festival’s Board of Governors and George Harrison’s “Within You, Without You” was spreading the life-flows-on mantra through speakers all over the fairgrounds.  more

Blue Curtain, in cooperation with the Princeton Recreation Department, presents two evenings of free concerts on Saturday, July 15 and 22 at 7 p.m.  Both events, that will present musical traditions from around the globe, promise to thrill audiences. Pettoranello Gardens Amphitheater is located at Community Park North, Route 206 and Mountain Avenue.

June 21, 2017

A bar mitzvah is nearing its climax in an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem when the balcony reserved for women suddenly collapses. When the dust settles, the members discover that the collapse has left the wife of their rabbi in a coma, and also that her husband, Rabbi Menashe (Abraham Celektar) is in denial about the condition of his wife and is no condition to lead his synagogue’s members.

It becomes clear that neither Rabbi Menashe nor the Mussayof Synagogue will be back to normal anytime soon. With the building closed because it is unsafe, the congregation finds a temporary home in a nearby school. However, its location makes it difficult to assemble a minyan, the quorum of 10, that is required for religious services.

A savior arrives when they ask David (Avraham Aviv Alush), a young rabbi who happened to be passing by, to join them to make their minyan complete. Not only is he willing to join their services, but in the next few weeks he takes over the position of the congregation’s rabbi and their plans to repair their damaged synagogue. However, it turns out that he advocates an ultra-orthodox form of Judaism, and he attempts to convince the congregation that they should embrace his more restrictive interpretation of the laws of the Bible.

For example, he tries to persuade the women to dress more modestly by always covering their heads with a scarf. Next, he announces that instead of using the money that the congregant’s women have collected to repair the balcony, he is going to use the money to commission the writing of a new Torah scroll for the new congregation.

None of this news sits well with the women of the original Mussayof congregation who decide to fight against their new rabbi. As in Aristophanes’ classic play, Lysistrata, and Spike Lee’s latest “joint,” Chi-Raq, they agree to withhold sex until their husbands come to their senses.

All of the above plays out in hilarious fashion in The Women’s Balcony, a delightful tale of female empowerment directed by Emil Ben-Shiron. The movie was a hit in Israel where it won five of that country’s equivalent of the Academy Award nominations. Kudos, too, to Menemsha Films’ Neil Friedman, who has produced several charming sleepers that include Dough, The Rape of Europa, Beauty in Trouble, and The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.

Excellent (****). Unrated. In Hebrew with subtitles. Running time: 96 minutes. Production Studio: Pie Films. Distributor: Menemsha Films.

It’s only fitting that signed editions of several of Princeton native John McPhee’s acclaimed works — part of what the New York Times called “a grand pointillist mural of our time and place” — are among the items of special interest at the upcoming Friends of the Princeton Public Library Book Sale. During a library ceremony honoring him some years ago, McPhee confessed that when he was a boy he’d borrowed a book and failed to return it (“Well I lost it”). In donating signed editions of all his works to the library’s Princeton Collection on that occasion he was in effect repaying his debt. He then gave the idea of repayment another turn by claiming that he’d written all those books to make up for the one he’d lost.  more

AWARD WINNER: Recent TCNJ graduate Piper Torsilieri is the winner of Princeton Area Community Foundation’s 2017 Thomas George Artist Fund Award. Graduating art majors from Mercer County colleges and universities are eligible to apply for the annual award of $5,000. (Photo courtesy of Princeton Area Community Foundation)

The Princeton Area Community Foundation has named Piper Torsilieri as the winner of the 2017 Thomas George Artist Fund Award.

Ms. Torsilieri, 23, who grew up in Flemington, graduated from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in May. more