July 19, 2017

“SPIDER’S WEB”: Performances are underway for Princeton Summer Theater’s production of “Spider’s Web.” Directed by C. Luke Soucy, the play runs through July 23 at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. From left: Jeremy (Peter Giovine), Hugo (Pablo Milla), Sir Rowland (Christopher Damen, seated), Clarissa (Abby Melick), and Miss Peake (Alex Yogelsang) examine a mysterious piece of paper. (Photo by Michelle Navis)

Princeton Summer Theater is presenting Spider’s Web at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. Audiences will find much to enjoy in this polished production of Agatha Christie’s comic mystery, which — like Murder on the Orient Express — artfully undercuts thrilling suspense with lively characterization and witty dialogue. more

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)

July 12, 2017

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

July 5, 2017

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

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