June 21, 2017

WORK AND RIGHTS: As the opera “Fidelio” opens with the Overture, we see how the nobleman Florestan (Noah Baetge, second from left holding the banner) was imprisoned for demonstrating with the workers for “trabajo y derechos.” (Photo by Jessi Franko Designs LLC, Courtesy of The Princeton Festival)

The last two times Ludwig van Beethoven’s opera Fidelio was performed in Princeton, the productions were plagued with blizzards. In the early 1980s, Princeton University mounted a production, only to have a performance besieged by a monster snowstorm. In January 2016, a visiting opera company came to Richardson Auditorium to present the same work, with blizzard conditions predicted for most of the performance weekend and the schedule adjusted accordingly. Hopefully, Princeton Festival had no thoughts about the “Princeton Fidelio snow curse” in opening its production of Beethoven’s only opera this past weekend at McCarter Theatre Center. Festival Artistic Director Richard Tang Yuk led the cast members of Sunday afternoon’s performance at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre on a moving journey through the work Beethoven himself described as “the one most dear to him” of all his compositional “children.” more

June 14, 2017

BACK TO THE BARRE: Princeton Ballet School Director Pamela Levy, shown here teaching at the school (above) and during her days as a student appearing as a soldier in “The Nutcracker,” (below) has instituted some changes in the curriculum.

There are changes afoot at the Princeton Ballet School.

The 63-year-old dance academy headquartered in Princeton Shopping Center now offers free tuition for boys. There is a new Conservatory Program for serious students interested in more focused training. Another, the FLEX Program, offers similarly rigorous classes, but without the same intensity or time commitment. Class names have been simplified to more clearly reflect their progression. more

The Princeton Festival is presenting Man of La Mancha in the Matthews Acting Studio at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts. The auditorium becomes a dungeon in which Cervantes awaits trial by the Spanish Inquisition. A playwright and actor, he entertains the other prisoners — and the audience — by becoming Don Quixote, his creation. There is nothing quixotic about this beautiful production, which makes effective use of the intimate space.

The musical’s book is by Dale Wasserman, who based it on his television play I, Don Quixote. The Flamenco-infused music is by Mitch Leigh, and the lyrics are by Joe Darion.

Man of La Mancha is presented without an intermission, because Mr. Wasserman wished to avoid interrupting the narrative. Except for an opening guitar solo performed by one of the prisoners, there is no music during the dungeon scenes. Only the Don Quixote vignettes, which are set “various places in the imagination of Miguel de Cervantes,” contain songs.

Cervantes is brought with his manservant to a dungeon in Seville, to await trial by the Spanish Inquisition. The other prisoners, led by a “governor,” also place them on trial. If Cervantes is found guilty, he will surrender his possessions — costumes, makeup, and a mysterious manuscript — and the manuscript will be burned. Cervantes begs the prisoners to permit his defense to be in the form of a play.  more

May 24, 2017

Kyra Nichols and David Gray, shown here in the ballet studio of the Princeton home they are about to leave, are moving to Bloomington, Ind., where Ms. Nichols has joined the faculty of the prestigious Jacobs School of Music. (Photo by Andrew Wilkinson)

Princeton resident Kyra Nichols, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, has been named to the faculty of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Ind. Ms. Nichols and her husband David Gray, who is the executive director of Pennsylvania Ballet, have lived in Princeton with their two sons for 18 years. Ms. Nichols was most recently a ballet mistress at Pennsylvania Ballet. more

McCarter Theatre Center is proud to announce its participation in a new partnership with Princeton University, commissioning seven professional playwrights to write short plays to be presented with the 2017 launch of the Princeton and Slavery Project.

An impressive collection of award-winning playwrights will take part in this project, including Nathan Alan Davis, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Dipika Guha, recently announced MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Emily Mann, and Regina Taylor. The public readings will be directed by Patricia McGregor. These commissions are made possible by generous support from Mathematica Policy Research, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and the Princeton University Histories Fund. more

Jane Cox, director of the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University, has been nominated for a Tony Award for her lighting design of the Broadway production of August Wilson’s play Jitney. In addition to her work as a professional lighting designer, Ms. Cox has served as a lecturer in the Program in Theater since 2007 and was appointed as director in July 2016.

The Tony Awards are given for Broadway productions and performances and are selected by a committee made up of select members of the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League, the Dramatists Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, United Scenic Artists, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.  more

Mill Ballet announces Christine McDowell will join as a guest instructor for the Choreographic Workshop during Summer Dance 2017. While the main focus is on ballet, summer students will be exposed to other forms of dance such as flamenco, modern, contemporary, ballroom, and jazz. Classes in dance conditioning, as well as lectures in injury prevention and nutrition, auditioning, and careers in dance will all be a part of the student’s day.

May 17, 2017

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel opened at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre May 12. The program notes state that Ms. Nottage, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat is currently on Broadway, has the following artistic mission: “to tell the stories of forgotten people, those whose lives did not make it into the records through which we, as Americans, chronicle the history of our country.” Inspired by a photograph of her great-grandmother, a Barbadian seamstress who lived in New York City at the turn of the last century, Ms. Nottage succeeds with this 2003 drama.

Esther Mills, a 35-year-old African American seamstress patterned after the playwright’s great-grandmother, rents a room in a boarding house owned by Mrs. Dickson. Esther creates “intimate apparel” for affluent women such as the unhappily married Mrs. Van Buren; and for Mayme, a prostitute and talented pianist. more

May 8, 2017

A Night in Old Havana

Photography by Erica Cardenas

On Saturday, May 6, McCarter Theatre Center welcomed Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to “A Night in Old Havana” Gala 2017. The evening began with a cocktail reception and dinner on McCarter’s back lawn, which was tented and decorated with 1940’s-era old Havana flare. The musical performance was held at McCarter’s Matthews Theater. The electric after-party included more food, entertainment, and dance. All proceeds benefit McCarter’s Artistic, Education, and Engagement Programs. more

May 3, 2017

Join McCarter Theatre on Saturday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. for a screening of “The Princess Bride” followed by a discussion with Cary Elwes who played the heroic Westley. The screening celebrates the 30th anniversary of the film. Mr. Elwes will take audience members on a behind-the-scenes portrait of life on the set, sharing his memories of iconic scenes, and little known facts about the creation of the film. To purchase tickets, visit www.mccarter.org or call (609) 258-2787. 

Two years ago, Princeton University music professor Simon Morrison was working on an article in the archives of Yale University when he noticed the original score for a ballet by none other than Cole Porter. Within the Quota, which had libretto, scenery, and costumes by wealthy expatriate artist Gerald Murphy, premiered in Paris in 1923 and was Porter’s only commission for a ballet. more

April 19, 2017

The Lewis Center for the Arts is presenting Into the Woods in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter. In this musical, fairy tale characters undertake individual quests, encountering temptations — and each other — along the way. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim, and the book is by James Lapine. An imaginative directorial concept and strong performances reward audiences for joining these characters on their journey.

This production, which celebrates the launch of Princeton University’s Program in Music Theater, is part of a spring semester course that provides students with rigorous experience in creating theater under near-professional circumstances. The students have worked with a professional director (Ethan Heard), design team, and stage manager either performing an onstage role or serving on the production team. more

April 12, 2017

AT HOME ABROAD: London-based sitar player, Anoushka Shankar, captivated a full house at McCarter Theatre last Thursday as she played material from her 2015 album, “Home.” (Photo courtesy of Harald Krichel; CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

On Thursday, Grammy-nominated sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar presented a concert of hindustani music to a rapt full house at the McCarter Theatre’s Matthews auditorium.

Ms. Shankar’s current tour centers on material from her 2015 album Home. The strictly Indian classical nature of the compositions marks a return of sorts for Ms. Shankar, whose preceding four studio albums had integrated elements of many disparate genres and musical traditions. Like her father, the world-renowned late Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar is a champion of both her instrument and its versatility. more

April 5, 2017

ART: Performances are underway for the Pegasus Theatre Project’s production of Yasmina Reza’s “Art.” Translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by Jennifer Nasta Zefutie, the play runs through April 9 at the West Windsor Arts Center. From left: Marc (Peter Bisgaier), Yvan (Matthew Cassidy), and Serge (David Nikolas) are shown above. (Photo by John M. Maurer)

Art is a comedy about aesthetic differences, personality clashes, and a need people have for others to see things their way. A long-standing but uneasy friendship between three men is tested when one of the friends pays a lavish amount of money for an all-white painting. Spending decisions by the other characters also are called into question. more

JANE AUSTEN ON POINTE: American Repertory Ballet’s new production of “Pride and Prejudice,” at McCarter Theatre April 21 and 22, is the culmination of five years of work by choreographer Douglas Martin. Shown here are Erikka Reenstierna-Cates, who plays Caroline Bingley; Mattia Pallozzi, portraying Mr. Darcy, and Monica Giragosian as Elizabeth Bennet. (Photo by Richard Termine)

Over lunch with a friend, American Repertory Ballet artistic director Douglas Martin was brainstorming about possible full-length ballets to choreograph for the company. His friend made an unusual suggestion: Jane Austen’s 1813 novel of manners, Pride and Prejudice. more

CZECH FOLK MUSIC AND DANCING: Shown rehearsing for Westminster Opera Theatre’s production of Bedrich (Frederick) Smetana’s comic opera “The Bartered Bride” are Avery Peterman (Marie, left) and Evan Stenzel (Jenik). Performances are Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University. Learn more at www.rider.edu/wcc.

Westminster Opera Theatre will present Bedrich (Frederick) Smetana’s comic opera The Bartered Bride on Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University. It will be performed in Czech with English supertitles and a chamber ensemble orchestra. William Hobbs is musical director for the production and Ivan Fuller is stage director. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors. They can be purchased online at www.rider.edu/arts or by calling (609) 921-2663. more

March 29, 2017

SIZE MATTERS: When this Martha’s Vineyard mega-mansion came close to falling into the sea, the owner simply bought up the neighboring property and had it moved back. The house is among several that inspired the filmmaker to make “One Big Home,” one of the offerings at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival through this weekend at Princeton Public Library.

Thomas Bena was working as a carpenter on the idyllic island of Martha’s Vineyard when he started noticing that homes being built were getting bigger — a lot bigger. On land overlooking the ocean where modest, clapboard homes once stood, huge mansions many times their size were going up at a rapid pace.  more

Two-time Emmy and Tony Award winner Judd Hirsch and stage and screen veteran Dan Lauria perform at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick on May 11 in The Value of Names. Tickets start at $35. To purchase, call the box office at (732) 246-7717 or visit GSPonline.org.

In The Value of Names, Benny Silverman (Hirsch) is a retired comic whose career was derailed by the McCarthy-era blacklist. His actress daughter is working on a project when the director falls ill and is forced to step down. Taking his place is the man who betrayed Benny to the House Un-American Activities Committee — and his former best friend, Leo Greshen (Lauria). These circumstances converge to give the two men the opportunity to confront each other — face-to-face. more

March 22, 2017

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS: Performances are underway for McCarter Theatre Center’s world premiere production of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” Adapted by Ken Ludwig and directed by Emily Mann, the play runs through April 2 on McCarter’s Matthews Stage. Hercule Poirot (Allan Corduner) is shown in the top photo and the play’s company appears in the bottom photo. (Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson) 

Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express received its world premiere at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre March 17. As expected, the story keeps the audience guessing about the solution to the murder until near the end. Early on, however, it is no mystery that playgoers will find much to entertain them in this first-class production. more

March 8, 2017

Feste the jester (Mort Paterson, right) entertains Sir Toby Belch (George Hartpence) in Twelfth Night, being presented by ActorsNET from March 10 through 26 at the Heritage Center Theatre, 635 N. Delmorr Avenue in Morrisville, Pa.  William Shakespeare’s popular comedy plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.  Admission is $20 for adults, $17 for seniors (62+), $15 for students and WHYY card members, and $10 for children.  To reserve, phone (215) 295-3694 or email actorsnet@aol.com.  The company’s website is www.actorsnetbucks.org

February 22, 2017

FIVE DECADES OF DANCE: Twyla Tharp Dance visits McCarter Theatre as part of the choreographer’s 50th year of creating eclectic work. John Selya, offering his hand to the woman in blue, appears here with the company in “Preludes and Fugues.”

Since forming her own dance troupe after graduating from Barnard College more than five decades ago, Twyla Tharp has continued to challenge the way we think about dance. Starkly modern at first, her style has expanded over the decades to encompass classical ballet while weaving in elements of jazz, slapstick, even boxing. more

SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL JR: Travis Gawason as the Cat in the Hat and Jason Weiland as Jojo in the Downtown Performing Arts Center production of Seussical the Musical Jr.

Celebrate the 113th birthday of America’s favorite children’s author and see his fantastical world come to life in Seussical the Musical Jr. Presented by the Downtown Performing Arts Center (DPAC) and Curtain Up Productions, Seussical the Musical Jr. will be performed at the Little Theatre at Hunterdon Central Regional High School located at 84 Route 31 in Flemington, N.J. Performances are Friday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 25 at 3 and 7:30 p.m. more

February 15, 2017

INHERIT THE WIND: Rehearsing for Rider Theatre’s production of “Inherit the Wind” are Shelly Walsh in the role of Drummond and Dan Maldonado in the role of Matthew Harrison Brady in Rider University’s upcoming production of the play, that will be presented in the Yvonne Theater on the campus of Rider University in Lawrenceville. February 22-26. Learn more at www.rider.edu/arts.

Rider Theatre will present the Tony Award-winning play Inherit the Wind in the Yvonne Theater on the campus of Rider University in Lawrenceville. February 22 — 26. A preview performance will be Wednesday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m., and performances will be Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. The production, directed by Miriam Mills, will be performed by Rider University students. more

February 8, 2017

A SATIRICAL FANTASIA: Princeton University freshman Tri Le (left) as Frank and senior Kathy Zhao (right) as Kathy in rehearsal for Charles Francis Chan Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery to be presented at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and directed by faculty member Peter Kim on February 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. Performances will take place at the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio located at 185 Nassau Street in Princeton. (Photo Credit: Justin Goldberg)

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Charles Francis Chan, Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery by Lloyd Suh, directed by faculty member Peter Kim and featuring senior Kathy Zhao, on February 10, 11, 16, 17, and 18 at 8 p.m. Performances will take place in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio located at 185 Nassau Street in Princeton. The February 17 performance will be American Sign Language-interpreted. A symposium presented in collaboration with the student theater group East West Theater Company will precede the February 11 performance, beginning at 2 p.m. in the Matthews Acting Studio. more

January 25, 2017

ON TRIAL: After all her miraculous success in leading the French to victory, Joan (Andrus Nichols) finds herself captured, brought before an ecclesiastical court on charges of heresy, and interrogated by the Inquisitor (Eric Tucker) in Bedlam theater company’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 12. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson) 

The young heroine of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan (1923) has a lot in common with the celebrated Bedlam theater company that is presenting the play at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 12. “There is something about the girl,” says a soldier in the opening scene of the play, as Joan of Arc wins over the local squire to supply her with a horse, armor, and troops, and, following orders directly from God, she sets out to free the city of Orleans from the English.  more