December 28, 2016

Photo Credit: Sydney Becker

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Mad Forest by Caryl Churchill, with set and lighting design by senior Sydney Becker and directed by junior Nico Krell, on January 12, 13, and 15 at 8 p.m. and January 14 at 2 and 8 p.m. Performances will take place in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio located at 185 Nassau Street. A discussion with Associate Professor of English Tamsen Wolff will follow the January 12th performance.

Mad Forest offers a personal look into the events of the 1989 Romanian Revolution as two families witness the radical collapse of their entire way of life. The play’s three acts occur shortly before, during, and after the revolution. Through these personal stories the play paints an incisive portrait of a society in turmoil to reveal what life is like under a totalitarian regime and what results when that regime is gone. When rebellion brings down a dictator, the characters are left to grapple with what is left in the void and how they will use their newfound freedom. more

Playwright Naomi Iizuka

Award-winning playwrights Naomi Iizuka and Sarah Ruhl have been selected by the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and McCarter Theatre Center as the next Roger S. Berlind ’52 Playwrights-in-Residence. Both writers will engage with Princeton students in the coming year through teaching, master classes, or workshops and will write and develop a new play.

This program, made possible by the support of Roger S. Berlind, Princeton Class of 1952, recognizes exciting established playwrights whose work has had significant impact on the field.

“I’m delighted in welcoming back to Princeton two artists we worked with when they were still ‘emerging,’” commented Michael Cadden, Chair of the Lewis Center. “Naomi was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton in 1998 and our Program in Theater produced Sarah’sMelancholy Play as its Fall Show in 2002. It’s been a pleasure to see them evolve into two of the best playwrights in America today.” more

December 21, 2016

In 1987, Fences won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. The August Wilson classic, set in Pittsburgh in the 50s, described the day-to-day struggles of a blue-collar African-American family. The production was brought back to Broadway in 2010 and it received Tony awards for Best Revival — and for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis as the Best Actor and Best Actress.

Directed by Washington, the movie reunites Denzel with Viola and most of of the principal stage cast, including Mykelti Williamson, Stephen Henderson, and Russell Hornsby. The faithful adaptation of the Wilson masterpiece doesn’t attempt to amplify the original beyond a few tweaks that were made for the filmed version.

The story is about the trials and tribulations of Troy (Washington), a 53-year-old garbage man who aspires to being promoted to the position of truck driver. Unfortunately, he’s “colored,” and that position has, to date, been filled by whites. So, Troy and his co-worker Bono (Stephen Henderson) have to settle for grumbling about the racism that has kept them from advancing in their jobs.

Troy didn’t always have such modest dreams. In his youth, he’d exhibited promise as a baseball player. However, his hope of becoming a pro disappeared when he was convicted for committing a murder. He did try out for the major leagues when he was paroled at 40, but that proved to be an exercise in futility.

As a result, Troy takes to whiskey, that he drinks straight from the bottle. Rose (Davis), his long-suffering wife, is understandably worried that he will drink himself to death. The picture’s other pivotal characters include the couple’s teenage son (Jovan Adepo), Troy’s adult son (Hornsby) from his first marriage, and Troy’s mentally challenged brother, Gabe (Williamson), a wounded World War II veteran who has a metal plate in his head.

The plot thickens when Troy informs Rose that he has a mistress who is pregnant. Will this be the last straw that breaks the back of their shaky relationship?

Denzel and Viola deliver emotionally-provocative performances that will probably get them Academy Award nominations. The movie paints a plausible picture of black life in the inner city in the 50s.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for profanity, ethnic slurs, mature themes, and sexual references. Running time: 138 minutes. Distributor: Paramount Pictures.

`

Let me not mar that perfect dream…. — Emily Dickinson

The four-line poem ends with the Belle of Amherst planning to “so adjust my daily night” that the perfect dream “will come again.” The far from perfect dream that follows has been adjusted to permit me a dreamer’s freedom of movement regarding time, space, life, death, and documentary authenticity. The main thing to know is that many of the celebrated somebodies and occasional nobodies who come my way happen to have been born in the year 1916.  more

TREASURES FROM THE MINOR WHITE ARCHIVE: This picture of two women, taken in 1949 in San Francisco, is among the thousands of images in the archive available on Princeton University Art Museum’s website.

The recent announcement that more than 5,000 images and related material by American modernist photographer Minor White are now available through the Princeton University Art Museum’s website was welcome news, and not just for those already familiar with Mr. White’s groundbreaking work. more

“NATURE’S POTPOURRI”: What do branches, pinecones, roosters, multicolored frogs, perky perched birds, plunging feeding birds, and intricate insects have in common? These natural objects have been transformed into art by students of “Art Collabortions!” in their multi-media exhibit, “Nature’s Potpourri,” on view through January 13. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Hawkins at D&R Greenway Land Trust)

D&R Greenway Land Trust presents Nature’s Potpourri, an exhibit of multi-media works by Heather Barros’ Art Collaborations! students in D&R Greenway’s Olivia Rainbow Gallery at the Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, Princeton, on view through January 13, 2017. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information call (609) 924-4646 or visit www.drgreenway.orgmore

 

The musical holiday season would not be complete without Handel’s Messiah, which can always be heard in the Princeton area at this time of the year. In this 275th anniversary of the work’s composition, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presented their annual Princeton performance of this popular work last Friday night to a full house at Richardson Auditorium. Joined by four vocal soloists and the Montclair State University Singers, a chamber-sized NJSO performed a quick-moving Messiah that featured an innovative and creative interpretation by guest conductor George Manahan. more

DAUGHTER DAYS AT GEORGE STREET PLAYHOUSE: Elise Vannerson (foreground) and Ben Michael (background) play Jerusha and Jervis in “Daddy Long Legs” at George Street Playhouse until December 24, 2016. George Street is offering their “Daughter Days” package on select performances. The package includes buy one, get one free tickets, hot chocolate and candy bar intermission, and the opportunity to go on-stage after the show. “Daughter Days” seeks to promote the importance of female education and creative expression. For tickets, call the box office at (732) 246-7717 or visit www.georgestreetplayhouse.org. (Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson)

Weaved throughout the musical romance of Daddy Long Legs, currently on stage at New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse, are messages promoting the importance of education and the empowerment of young girls and women. So what better way to share those ideals this holiday season than with a special “Daughter Days” package for select performances of Daddy Long Legs December 22 and 24. Daddy Long Legs is appropriate for daughters ages 10 through 100.  more

December 14, 2016

How did Jackie Kennedy feel after her husband’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963? That is the question explored in Jackie, a movie that paints a portrait of Camelot’s First Lady by speculating about her mental state during the days immediately following the assassination of JFK (Caspar Phillipson).

Directed by Pablo Larrain (Neruda), Jackie stars Academy Award winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) in the title role. Portman is likely to receive another Oscar nomination for her convincing impersonation of the legendary First Lady. She manages to replicate the Jackie Kennedy iconography, such as the whispery voice and the pillbox hats, and plumbs the depths of her soul.

As a result, we get a sense of her internal angst in a variety of situations, such as when she had to break the news of their father’s death to Caroline (Sunnie Pelant) and John-John (Aiden and Brody Weinberg). Or when she was rushed out of the White House by incoming Lady Bird Johnson (Beth Grant), who was already thinking about replacing the drapes before JFK had been buried.

Fortunately, Jackie did have someone to depend upon on in her hour of need. It was not her brother-in-law Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard) who thought of her as a “silly, little debutante,” but the Catholic priest (John Hurt) who was her confidant and confessor. He helped Jackie summon the strength and courage to accompany her husband’s casket on foot in the funeral procession down Pennsylvania Avenue, despite fears of a copycat assassin.

Her faith faltering, Jackie admitted that, “I think God is cruel.” She even wondered aloud whether she might have been better off marrying “an ordinary, lazy, ugly man.” And while Jackie desperately grasps at straws to make sense of her unspeakable nightmare, the only comforting words her supportive cleric can find are “There are no answers in man’s search for meaning.”

The movie is a bittersweet documentary drama that echoes the lyrics from the classic show tune Jackie identified as JFK’s favorite: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity and brief graphic violence. Running time: 99 minutes. Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

That’s Gabriella Milley of Feltsu (Artesanía en fieltro) at last weekend’s Sauce for the Goose Holiday Market at the Arts Council of Princeton’s Paul Robeson Center for the Arts. People who were at the show discuss their favorite things in this week’s Town Talk. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

Black Violin, a strings-playing hip-hop duo, recently brought their unique sound to the Hun School of Princeton. “They were unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” said Hun student Delia Lawver ’17, of the band. “They made the violin really cool and modern, and had the whole school up and dancing.” Violinist Kevin Sylvester and violist Wilner Baptiste, who go by the stage names Kev Marcus and Wil B, did a 15-song set for the Hun community as part of the School’s Centennial Speakers Series. The duo, who are classically trained musicians, have performed with Alicia Keys, the Wu-Tang Clan and other stars. They also have collaborated with music world luminaries such as Kanye West, Aerosmith, Tom Petty. For more information, go to blackviolin.net.

McCarter Theatre is proud to announce its reimagined production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Directed by Adam Immerwahr, A Christmas Carol runs from now through December 31 in the Matthews Theatre. Boasting a gigantic list of Broadway, regional and international credits, the cast of A Christmas Carol features returning McCarter veterans Jessica Bedford (The Mousetrap), Warner Miller (Antony & Cleopatra), Lance Roberts (Sweet+Hot), and JD Taylor (The Understudy). They are joined by first-time McCarter artists Elisha Lawson, Anne L. Nathan, Jamila Sabares-Klemm, A.J. Shively, Sue Jin Song, Greg Wood, and Frank X. Pictured above are Zachary McDevitt, Warner Miller, and Liam McKernan. Purchase tickets online at www.mccarter.org or call (609) 258-2787. (Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson)

END OF SEMESTER DANCE PERFORMANCES: The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance will present a series of showings of new choreography created by students and choreography learned during the past semester on December 14 through 16 and on January 23 in the Patricia and Ward Hagan ’48 Dance Studio and 3rd Floor Dance Studio at 185 Nassau Street and New South Dance Studio. All performances are free and open to the public. (Photo Credit: Larry Levanti)

Princeton University students will perform choreography learned and new student choreography created during the fall semester on December 14 through 16 and January 23 in the Patricia and Ward Hagan ’48 Dance Studio and 3rd Floor Dance Studio at 185 Nassau Street and New South Dance Studio. more

We’re just in time for a 100th birthday toast to Jack D. Ripper, and while we’re at it, let’s not forget Bat Guano. In real life, the clinically paranoid general who precipitates the nuclear apocalypse in Dr. Strangelove was played by Sterling Hayden and the paranoid colonel with a thing about “preversion” was done to a dead-eyed turn by Keenan Wynn. Both actors entered the world in 1916 and left it in 1986, and while both had 40-year-long Hollywood careers, their place in cinema history will be forever linked with Stanley Kubrick’s black-comedy masterpiece and its we’re-just-kidding-folks subtitle, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. As for George C. Scott (1927-1999), who was unforgettable as Gen. Buck Turgidson, and Peter Sellers (1925-1980), whose chameleon comic genius infused Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, president Merkin Muffley, and the title character, both Scott and Sellers had roles (i.e. General Patton, Inspector Clouseau) that transcended their association with Strangelove.  more

Chita Rivera

The ten-time Tony-nominated actress, dancer, and singer Chita Rivera discussed her extensive career on Broadway in musicals such as West Side Story and Chicago with Broadway director John Doyle, a professor in Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts. The discussion took place on Monday, December 12 at 2 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ‘32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street as a part of Doyle’s fall course, “Luminaries of the American Musical Theater.” Presented by the Lewis Center’s new Program in Music Theater. more

More celebratory than a glass of champagne, Salute to Vienna New Year’s Eve Concert at the State Theatre of NJ in New Brunswick is a delight for the eyes and ears. The concert features the Strauss Symphony of America, conductor Imre Kollar (Budapest), soprano Katarzyna Dondalska (Berlin-Warsaw), tenor Zoltan Nyari (Budapest), dancers from the National Ballet of Hungary, and International Champion Ballroom Dancers. Guests are guaranteed to fall for the “Blue Danube Waltz” all over again! For tickets, call (732) 246-7469 or visit www.statetheatrenj.org.

As Princeton University Orchestra conductor Michael Pratt explained in his concert remarks, at first glance the four works performed this past weekend by the orchestra would seem unrelated to one another. Beethoven, Gershwin, and Stravinsky, combined with Princeton University composer Juri Seo, sounded like a set of pieces without a common thread, but conductor Pratt and the musicians of the orchestra found a way to allow four diverse works to speak to one another as well as the audience. Friday night’s University Orchestra performance at Richardson Auditorium (the concert was also presented last Thursday night) featured tight ensemble playing, elegant instrumental solo work, and a display of both compositional creativity and keyboard virtuosity from a composer who premiered her own concerto. more

December 7, 2016

If you only see one movie this year, La La Land is the picture to catch. This nostalgic homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood is a panoramic masterpiece that makes effective use of every inch of the big screen.

Written and directed by Oscar nominee Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), the picture was shot in CinemaScope, an obsolete technology that fell out of favor with filmmakers in the late 60s. Chazelle resurrects the wide-angled lens to produce an old-fashioned musical that unfolds against a breathtaking array of Los Angeles backdrops. La La Land also features an enchanting original score composed by Justin Hurwitz, who has also collaborated before with his college classmate Damien on the movies Whiplash and Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.

This romantic film is about Sebastian Wilder and Mia Dolan, struggling artists who are played to perfection by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone respectively. Their supporting cast includes J.K. Simmons, John Legend, and Rosemarie DeWitt.

After a show-stopping opening staged on a gridlocked freeway where stuck motorists suddenly break into song and dance, we’re introduced to the lead actors. We learn that jazz pianist Sebastian is a purist who plays for tips in dingy dives while trying to save enough cash to open his own nightclub. Mia is an aspiring actress who divides her time between auditions and a job as a barista at a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers lot.

Sebastian and Mia are strangers who initially annoy each other whenever their paths cross. Eventually, however, sparks do fly which inspires them to sing mellifluous and melancholy tunes. They also fall in love and encourage each other to pursue their dreams.

Since it would be unfair to spoil any of the ensuing plot developments, suffice it to say that Gosling and Stone are delightful, whether singing or generating screen chemistry. The movie is a charming pleaser that deserves all the superlatives it’s about to receive in the upcoming awards season.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for profanity. Running time: 128 minutes. Distributor: Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate Films.

American Repertory Ballet (ARB) brings the beloved classic “Nutracker” to the stage with Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score, new sets, thrilling choreography, and more than 100 performers. A holiday tradition for more than 50 years, ARB’s is one of the longest continuously running “Nutcracker” productions in the nation. Directed by Artistic Director Douglas Martin, ARB’s professional company will be joined by select students from Princeton Ballet School to tell the story of a young girl named Clara and how a mysterious gift from her Uncle brings about enchanted dreams and fantastical scenes. For tickets, visit www.statetheatrenj.org or call (732) 246-7469. (Photo Credit: Leighton Chen)

Simon Morrison was hoping to pursue a career as an orchestral musician when he fell in love with 20th-century Russian music. From that fascination grew an interest in Russian ballet. Soon, these subjects, and their histories, eclipsed his plans to play percussion or tuba in a symphony orchestra. more

There’s a crack in everything — that’s how the light gets in. — Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

A famous singer songwriter dies, someone you never found time to appreciate, so you go back and start listening and recognize the distant music you heard long ago walking through the fairgrounds of rock, a snatch of song coming from over there, not far, just a whisper away if you’d taken another turn somewhere between Van Morrison and David Bowie. more

“SNOW ON THE CANAL AT LUMBERVILLE”: This wintery painting by Bucks County artist Glenn Harrington is a perfect addition to the Home for the Holidays Open House at the Silverman Gallery in Pa. The event will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 10 and Sunday, December 11. The gallery is located five miles south of New Hope and just north of Pa. 413 in the Buckingham Green Shopping Center, located at 4920 York Road (Route 202) in Holicong, Pa. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional hours, shipping, delivery and in-home consultation are available by appointment at silvermangallery.com.

“WEDDING GUESTS”: Photographer Katie Orlinsky took this photo in Timbuktu, Mali on October 13, 2013, when an international coalition pushed out the jihadist militants who overtook the city. More of Orlinksky’s photographs of women’s lives in central Mali and their resistance to jihadist efforts will be on display at the Princeton University’s Bernstein Gallery in Robertson Hall from December 16, 2016 to January 26, 2017.

December 2, 2016

music-garfunkel-12-7-16

Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel, one of the most celebrated voices in American music, will perform at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium on Tuesday, December 13 at 4:30 p.m.

Garfunkel, along with his former partner Paul Simon, has received numerous awards and critical acclaim for his music, including 5 Grammy awards, the prestigious Britannia Award, Rolling Stone’s Best Album of the Year notation, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. more

November 30, 2016

movie-revIt’s late November in Grundy, Virginia, a small town whose economy depends heavily on Peyton Automotive, a family business inherited by Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) from his late grandfather. Unfortunately, the company has fallen on hard times and Matthew is considering cancelling the annual Christmas pageant that the company has sponsored since the 70s.

In addition, Matthew is being pressured by his financial advisor, Albert Bagley (Kevin Sizemore) to either lay off or lower the salaries of his 115 employees. Needless to say, the prospect of cutbacks doesn’t sit well with union rep Bob Alexander (James C. Burns) who decides to call for a strike.

Matthew testifies before Grundy’s City Council that he can no longer afford to stage the holiday festival because the funds in the trust set up for the event have been exhausted. However, his grandfather specifically stipulated in his will that Peyton Automotive must continue the tradition.

Nonetheless, Matthew asserts that the business has been losing money for several years and that, given the situation, he has no choice but to shut it down. However, the mayor (Lance E. Nichols) warns him that if, “You keep going in this direction, you will get crucified.”

Sure enough, Matthew becomes the victim of escalating violence. First his car is egged, has a tire slashed, and then is set on fire. Then, he’s beaten to within an inch of his life and left for dead by a gang of union goons.

Fortunately, a most unlikely hero comes to his rescue in the form of a precocious homeless child named CJ Joseph (Issac Ryan Brown). CJ and his mother Sharon (Danielle Nicolet) nurse Matthew back to health and also give him a lesson about what really matters most in life.

In spite of their homelessness and poverty, the Josephs fervently believe that better days are coming. “I wish I had that kind of faith,” Matthew admits. When he recovers, a grateful Matthew informs Sharon and CJ that “You took care of me, now I’ll take care of you.”

That is the point of departure of Believe, a morality play that is the directorial debut of Billy Dickson. Although the picture is aimed at the Christian demographic, it’s storyline — including a love triangle and intriguing plot twists — will appeal to the general public.

Very Good (***). Rated PG for violence, mature themes, and mild epithets. Running time: 118 minutes. Distributor: Power of 3.