December 30, 2020

ZOOMING IN ON SHAKESPEARE: Meeting virtually became the norm this year as everything from cultural events to government meetings went from live to online. McCarter Theatre’s Shakespeare Community Reading Group adjusted from gathering in the main lobby to getting together on Zoom. (Photo courtesy of McCarter Theatre)

By Donald Gilpin and Anne Levin

“Princeton Responds to Coronavirus Threat” read the February 5 Town Topics headline. At that point the “threat” seemed overstated and the community’s “response” — assessing individuals who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China — seemed more than sufficient to dispel any risks. There were eleven reported cases in the United States at the time, but none in New Jersey.

In the ensuing eleven months of 2020, the COVID pandemic changed the town of Princeton as it changed the lives of almost everyone across the globe. Eighteen Princeton residents died with confirmed cases of COVID, according to the Princeton Health Department, and an additional 13 deaths (symptomatic but not tested) were probably COVID-related — most in long-term care facilities and almost all in the first three months of the pandemic.

There have been more than 470 cases since the first case was reported in Princeton on March 13, and in the final days of 2020 health officials are continuing to report record numbers of new cases daily. More than 400 Princeton residents have recovered from COVID-19.

STAYING IN TUNE: Seven-year-old Albert Zhou kept up with his cello lessons via Skype with Laurie Cascante, his teacher at Westminster Conservatory of Music. The pandemic took music and dance lessons out of the studio and onto the computer and television screen. (Photo courtesy of Qiwei He)

The pandemic forced Princeton and its residents to adapt in almost every aspect of their lives. Stores and work places shut down; all but essential workers stayed home; lives moved from in-person work, school, play, and socializing to the virtual realm, as online activities multiplied and Zoom became a prominent part of many people’s lives. School buildings and the Princeton University campus were mostly deserted.

“We’re all in this together,” Mayor Liz Lempert proclaimed, and Princeton displayed unprecedented capacity to work collaboratively, as local government, community partners, and generous individuals teamed up to provide much-needed support for struggling institutions, businesses, and neighbors.

Prevailing over the multiple challenges of communications and interactions that were usually restricted to the virtual realm, the Princeton Council finalized a long-debated affordable housing agreement. With the co-leadership of Sustainable Princeton and a host of other environmental organizations, the Council continued to successfully implement its ambitious Climate Action Plan. And the Alexander Street/Road three bridges project, which seemed like a priority at the time it was initiated, was completed on schedule in April.

Though somewhat muted in comparison to gatherings of recent years, demonstrations in Princeton took place in support of Black Lives Matter, immigrants’ rights, diplomacy not war, voting rights, and the post office.

Controversy continued over Westminster Choir College. While Rider University has moved much of the institution to its Lawrence campus, Rider cannot proceed with a sale of the campus as long as legal efforts continue — and they are continuing.

Elections — most notably for mayor, Council, and public School Board, in addition to the national election — were different too, with most voters voting by mail and everybody waiting a bit longer to find out the final results.

And it wasn’t only the coronavirus that contributed to the many changes in town. Princeton will be starting 2021 with a new mayor, a new police chief, and many new leaders taking the helm of many of the town’s most esteemed and influential institutions and organizations.

“Traffic” was the first word in the headline of last year’s 2019 in review article, as the Alexander Street bridges replacement project dragged on and other roads into town were backed up with lines of frustrated drivers. But 2020 has been a year like no other. Suddenly, in March 2020, the roads were no longer congested and the perennial Princeton parking problem lessened, but the pandemic continues to take its toll in so many other devastating ways.

SILENCE ON THE SQUARE: Palmer Square was practically empty on the afternoon of Friday, March 20 as residents and visitors heeded requests to stay at home and practice social distancing. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

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More than 30 live 6-foot evergreens purchased by the Shade Tree Commission have lined Witherspoon and Nassau streets this holiday season, all fostered and decorated by local businesses and groups. The tree adorned by Princeton Charter School, shown here, received the most votes in the Best Decorated Tree Contest, followed by runners-up Princeton University Art Museum and Princeton Academy of Art. After the holidays, the trees will be planted in public parks.

By Stuart Mitchner

Since Christmas Day I’ve been in search of a fitting subject for the last column of 2020, a year blighted by a death toll of third-world-war magnitude and the “long cold lonely” lockdown winter-of-the-mind that began in March. But listen! — the sound of thundering hoofbeats, a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, can it be, is it a mirage, no, here come the Four Horsemen of Melodious Apocalypse riding to our rescue from those thrilling days of yesteryear led by the unmasked Lone Ranger, Paul McCartney! 

Yes, like it or not, the Beatles are a pop culture absolute and 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the year they sang their scattered swan song, as McCartney preempted the debacle of Let It Be with his first solo shot in April, and George Harrison launched his November 29 triple-LP blockbuster All Things Must Pass all but on top of John Lennon’s December 11 solo outing.

Now here’s Sir Paul with McCartney III, his first number one record in decades, also scheduled for a December 11 release until it was postponed for a week due to “unforeseeable production delays.” Was the shared release date purely coincidental, or a subtle gesture of auld lang syne to the Lennon-McCartney partnership? Another Beatles connection is put in play when “the long cold lonely winter” of “Here Comes the Sun” is echoed by the new album’s closing words, “We’ll fly away and find the sun when winter comes.”  more

On Sunday, January 3 from 2 to 3 p.m., the Arts Council of Princeton presents a virtual Three Kings Day Flamenco dance event. The milestone is marked throughout the world to culminate the 12 days of Christmas. Multiple dance numbers by the Arts Council’s Flamenco program, led by Lisa Botalico, are on the program. The suggested donation is $10. To register, visit artscouncilofprinceton.org.

A BROADWAY CONVERSATION: Tony Award winner Ken Davenport moderates a conversation with Broadway actors and a director in an online program presented by State Theatre NJ on January 27.

State Theatre New Jersey will present “A Broadway Conversation and Q&A,” moderated by Tony Award-winning producer Ken Davenport, on Wednesday, January 27 at 7 p.m. Eight Broadway actors and a director will take part.

A minimum donation of $10 gives patrons access to this online event on Zoom. Proceeds raised support State Theatre’s Community Engagement programs.  more

“PAN AMERICANS”: This mixed media piece by Libby Ramage is part of a new exhibit, “Travels: Domestic and aBroad,” also featuring works by Krysia Kolodziej. It will be on view in the Taplin Gallery at the Arts Council of Princeton from January 4 to January 30. 

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) rings in 2021 with a new exhibit, “Travels: Domestic and aBroad,” featuring works by Krysia Kolodziej and Libby Ramage in the Taplin Gallery from January 4 to January 30. 

When artists Kolodziej and Ramage met in the early 1990s, Kolodziej was editing for Princeton University Press and writing poetry; Ramage was starting her work teaching art to very young children while making and exhibiting her own art.  Both inveterate savers of ephemera, they have been supporting each other’s artmaking ever since.

The artists’ say, “We have each preserved pieces of the past that spoke to us and remade them into expressions of our lives now, where all the pieces fit perfectly together.” more

The Arts & Cultural Council of Bucks County and Visit Bucks County have announced that seven artworks, including this piece by Aida Birriterri, were selected as winning entries to the “Bucks County: Wish You Were Here” small works exhibition postcard competition. The jury selected the works from over 120 submitted to the online exhibition and sale, which runs through January 31. For more information and to view the other winning entries, visit bucksarts.org.

HEALTH AND WELLNESS: “Our philosophy is that it is easier to keep you healthy than to get you healthy after you become sick. So we have a great focus on preventive medicine and lifestyle modification to maximize health. We are also well-equipped and experienced to diagnose and treat illness, and help people restore their good health.” Jerrold S. Gertzman, MD, is a primary care physician and division director for Primary Care of the Capital Health Medical Group.

By Jean Stratton

Staying well and healthy is uppermost on all our minds — probably more than ever before as we continue to cope with COVID-19. Practically no one in the U.S. has experienced a pandemic of this magnitude (very few people are still alive who remember the deadly flu pandemic of 1918). The current ordeal has brought seemingly unending challenges.

All those who have worked hard to help us through this nightmare deserve our admiration and appreciation.

Of course, that includes all the heath care workers who, day in and day out, save lives.

The Capital Health Medical Group, an affiliate of Capital Health Medical Center, is committed to providing patients with the best care available. With locations in and around Mercer and Burlington Counties as well as Bucks County, Pa., it offers an extensive network of care, including more than 400 physicians and other providers who offer primary, specialty, and surgical care. 20 of the locations are for primary care, and 85 primary care physicians are affiliated with the Group. more

MOMENT OF TRIUMPH: Princeton University wrestler Travis Stefanik celebrates after he topped Cornell’s Jonathan Loew 10-4 at 184 pounds to clinch victory in a 19-13 triumph by Princeton over the Big Red on February 9 at Jadwin Gym. The victory snapped Princeton’s 32-match losing streak to the Big Red and clinched the Tiger program’s first Ivy League title since 1986. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As 2020 headed into March, local sports teams were enjoying a memorable winter campaign.

Over at Princeton University, the wrestling team produced an historic breakthrough, edging Cornell 19-13 to snap a 32-match losing streak to the Big Red and earn the program’s first Ivy League title since 1986. The Tigers women’s hockey team made some history of its own, winning the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey championship and posting a 26-6-1 record. At Jadwin Gym, Carla Berube made a stunning debut as the head coach of the Tiger women’s basketball program, guiding Princeton to a 26-1 overall record and a 14-0 Ivy campaign with the squad rising to No. 17 in national polls.

On the high school scene, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team produced a comeback for the ages in the Mercer County Tournament final. Trailing six-time defending champion Hun 5-0 in the second period, PHS rallied to pull out a dramatic 7-5 win and earn the program’s first county crown since 2011. The Stuart Country Day School hoops team emerged as one of the best squads in New Jersey, winning its third straight state Prep B title and advancing to the MCT final for the first time in program history on the way to posting a 21-7 record. Featuring a gritty group of battle-tested veterans, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team went on the road and defeated Doane Academy 64-50 in the state Prep B final.

But then storm clouds rolled in on the horizon as the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading worldwide, putting the health of millions in jeopardy. The Ivy League sensed the danger before others, canceling its men’s and women’s basketball postseason tournaments on March 10. A day later, after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz of the NBA tested positive for the coronavirus, the sports world came to a halt across the globe. Within days, the NCAA canceled the winter and spring seasons with students across the country being sent home to shelter in place. The pro hockey and basketball leagues put their seasons on hold while Major League Baseball postponed opening day indefinitely. The New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) canceled the rest of the winter season right away and later pulled the plug on spring sports as well.

Stuck at home, college and high school athletes kept in contact with their teammates and coaches on their computers via the Zoom calls that became a way of life. Players devised creative ways of working out and maintaining team bonds as they waited to get back into action.

With masking up, social distancing, and frequent hand washing becoming daily staples, sports gingerly started to stick its toe back in the water observing those safety protocols. In New Jersey, a “Last Dance” high school baseball tournament was held in July to give the players, particularly graduating seniors, a final taste of diamond action.

On the pro level, leagues gradually returned to action with the NBA, NHL, and WNBA operating in so-called “bubbles” with athletes located at one site, getting frequently tested for COVID-19 and living under strict protocols. Big league baseball played a sharply limited schedule which went from late July to October with 60 games as opposed to the usual 162. Once the fall rolled around, the NFL and major college football did resume action on the gridiron. But with the pandemic still raging, there were a number of pauses, postponements, and cancellations, particularly at the college level.

Once again, the Ivy League, ever mindful of athletes’ safety, canceled its fall competition. In November, the league pulled the plug on its winter sports as well. more

December 23, 2020

Winter came a little early with last week’s storm, but the snow enticed some people out for sledding at the Springdale Golf Club on Thursday. (Photo by Weronika A. Plohn)

By Anne Levin

Princeton Council voted unanimously at a public hearing Monday night in favor of an ordinance that makes permanent what was a temporary change on a portion of Witherspoon Street. Traffic will now be one-way going north from Nassau to Spring streets, as it has for the past several months.

The ordinance was introduced at a Council meeting two weeks ago. The stretch of Witherspoon Street had been operating one-way to accommodate outdoor dining and encourage patronage of local businesses suffering during the pandemic. Three options were considered for the future of the street: returning it to two-way, keeping it one-way, or closing it to vehicular traffic. Traffic consultants McMahon Associates recommended maintaining the one-way scenario after running a study based on pre-COVID conditions, when traffic was heavier and flowed in both directions. As part of the plan, South Tulane Street will be changed from one-way going north to south to one-way south to north. Making turns onto Nassau Street from Tulane and Chambers streets will only be permitted to the right.

Some people spoke in favor of the ordinance, while others objected. David Newton, who owns the Hamilton Jewelers building at 92 Nassau Street and the building at 16 Chambers Street, said that several of the retailers in town were not in favor of the ordinance. “We are living in a time of terrible vacancy in the retail business,” he said. “They are living in appallingly stressful conditions.” Of particular concern to Newton is traffic that will be diverted to Chambers Street, which will likely become extremely congested during the construction phase of a hotel planned for the building at Nassau and Chambers Street, should it be approved.

“Between stressing these retailers out, whom one has to admit have to be considered a great asset to this community, and also during the construction process of Graduate [the hotel] creating enormous congestion on Chambers Street, I request at the very least from Council a delay on this project until, hopefully, the retail situation levels off, we find more retailers to fill our stores, and Graduate is up and running.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have arrived in the state, along with some signs that the second wave of COVID-19 is starting to level off, but new cases in Princeton remain high, and local authorities are issuing stern cautionary advice for the coming days and weeks.

The Princeton Health Department on Monday, December 21, reported a record total of 64 new cases in the previous 14 days, with 35 new cases in the previous seven days, short of the highest seven-day total of 39 reported last week. According to Monday’s report, there was a total of 50 active positive cases in Princeton and 30 total hospitalizations.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that the state’s transmission rate had dropped below 1, to 0.99, the lowest rate since September 3 and the eighth consecutive daily decline.  Since any number over 1 means that each infected person is spreading the virus to more than one other person, getting the rate below 1 is crucial to stopping the spread.

The Princeton Council and mayor, in their Princeton COVID-19 Update, have written that “happy, healthy holidays call for new traditions,” with indoor gatherings presenting a high risk for transmission at a time when the health department and hospitals are under the pressure of handling the increase in cases and coordinating the vaccine distribution.  more

By Anne Levin

When Princeton Council gathers for its annual reorganization meeting on Monday, January 4, it will be the first time in eight years that Liz Lempert will not be presiding as mayor. Lempert steps down officially on December 31, and new mayor Mark Freda, a fellow Democrat, will take her place on the dais.

Lempert’s tenure has been eventful, to say the least. It began in 2013 with consolidation of the former Borough and Township. It concludes with the ongoing challenge of managing Princeton’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along the way, issues from parking to sustainability to affordable housing to over-development have dominated Council’s agendas, almost always with spirited commentary from the public on different sides of the issues.

“There have been challenges, for sure,” said Lempert during a telephone interview. “But we also benefit from the fact that not just Council, but members of the community, get involved. People recognize that Princeton is a special place. People want to see what’s best for the town. They really want to do what’s best. There is not always agreement as to what that is. But I think most people come to the table with pure intentions. If you remember that, it helps get you through when people are butting heads.”

Lempert, who is 52, grew up in San Mateo, Calif., in a politically-oriented family. Her mother was mayor, served on the school board, and “was very proudly the president of the local League of Women Voters,” she said. “So I grew up in the back of the room with my coloring book during meetings. It was before email or anything online, so I remember having these massive mailing parties. There were shoe boxes with addresses on them, and we were there, stamping and licking the envelopes.” more

RECORDING AT THE SHRINE: The members of Princeton High School’s Studio Band were thrilled to create an album last December in the same studios where “Lady Madonna” and numerous other Beatles hits were made decades ago. The album, which was recorded a year ago, is now available for purchase online and at Princeton Record Exchange.

By Anne Levin

Making international appearances is nothing new to the musicians in Princeton High School’s Studio Band. But last December’s trip to the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, during which they recorded an original album in the same room where The Beatles created many of their biggest hits, was something else altogether.

Princeton Studio Band: The Abbey Road Sessions is a full-length album that commemorates the experience. The album has eight tracks, seven of which are new jazz arrangements of classics from the 1960s to the 2000s and were commissioned specifically for the 36-member ensemble. The eighth is an original jazz fusion composition written by composer Drew Zaremba for the band. The album is available on iTunes and Amazon, or at Princeton Record Exchange on Tulane Street.

Joe Bongiovi, who has led the band since 2007, said the project was a year and a half in the making. more

By Donald Gilpin

The town of Princeton and Princeton University have agreed on a two-year extension of the University’s funding to support municipal operations, with the Princeton Council approving the agreement at its December 14 meeting. The University will provide a total of $8.482 million to the town over the next two years.

“This agreement is the result of our year-long discussions with Princeton University to affirm the University’s commitment to the well-being of the municipality and its taxpayers,” said Councilwoman Eve Niedergang, one of the town’s representatives in discussions with the University. “This short-term agreement, which continues the 4 percent annual increase, is one key step in continuing to build a relationship with the University focused on our mutual shared interests in maintaining the town’s fiscal health, diversity of population, and thriving downtown.”

The extended agreement includes unrestricted contributions by the University of $3,619,200 in 2021 and $3,764,000 in 2022. Since the current agreement began in 2014, the University has contributed more than $21.81 million to the municipality.

The University has also agreed to make contributions to specific needs totaling $1.1 million, including additional funding to support the Princeton Fire Department and $250,000 to support construction of a new storage facility for the Princeton Department of Public Works. more

POP-UP GIFT STORE: Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert visited the Neighbors’ Gift Store on South Tulane Street, an initiative expanding on the Mr. Rogers’ Neighbors Kindness Project, which supports families in need and local businesses and encourages solidarity and kindness in the community. Pictured, from left, are Lempert, volunteer Emily Tino, project founder and leader Blair Miller, and team mascot Anna Magdalena Bach. (Photo courtesy of Blair Miller)

By Donald Gilpin

Mr. Rogers’ Neighbors Kindness Project wants you to know that there’s still time to buy an original holiday gift, and it comes with an additional incentive to support local families in need, to help Princeton businesses, and to encourage solidarity and kindness in the community.

Blair Miller has expanded her Neighbors Kindness Project, founded last spring in response to the early challenges of the pandemic, with a Neighbors’ Gift Basket initiative. 

Last-minute shoppers can order pre-packaged gift baskets with local goods online at mrrogersneighbors.com/neighbors-gift-store and arrange to pick them up at any one of three pop-up stores located at 14 South Tulane Street, 11 Hulfish Street, and in the Princeton Shopping Center next to Concord Pet Foods. At the time of purchase they can add on a Neighbors’ Gift Basket for an anonymous local resident in need.

“It’s a wonderful, thoughtful initiative,” said Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, who was one of the first customers to visit the pop-up gift store on South Tulane Street during its first weekend in operation. “Blair was brilliant in thinking about the challenges and putting it together.”

Lempert pointed out how this project serves the community during the pandemic, as many retailers face difficulties with social distancing restrictions and fewer customers. “Shoppers want to figure out a way to do holiday shopping safely, to support businesses, and to support neighbors in the community,” she added. “This is a way to do all three things.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

The country music station plays soft, but there’s nothing, really nothing, to turn off.

—Bob Dylan, from “Visions of Johanna”

The volume is down as low as it can go, softer than soft, the station is Radio Beethoven, 250 on the dial of the ages, and the visions are of Ukrainian-American pianist Valentina Lisitsa communing with the adagio sostenato of Sonata number 29 in B flat major (Opus 106), known as the Hammerklavier.

The sound’s turned low because the house is asleep, it’s between 2 and 3 a.m., and I’m listening to the movement Wilhelm Kempff called “the most magnificent monologue Beethoven ever wrote,” an adagio “unequalled in the entire piano literature.” Writing about Kempff’s performance in 2013, I described “a series of ascending, probing, striving, needful, joy-seeking variations” leading to a “heaven of feeling so rich and strange that all you can think is how thankful you are that you heard it before you died.”

Watching Lisitsa play the same set of variations on YouTube in the year of the virus, I feel still closer to the music and even more at a loss to put my feelings into words; admitted, there’s a big difference between listening to Kempff on a car stereo and seeing Lisitsa lean so close to the keys that she’s nearly kissing them. She’s a Rapunzel at the keyboard with those long blond tresses, offset by a dark jacket, white cuffs protruding from the sleeves. Viewed almost entirely from the side, she presents a handsome profile, nothing self-consciously performative, no soulful swooning ah-sweet-mystery-of-life sublimity; she appears both down to earth and exalted, and wholly dedicated to her mission, everything else ruled out.  more

By Nancy Plum

With the cancellation of its principal mainstage production of Verdi’s Rigoletto last spring, Boheme Opera NJ turned this fall to a season of four online concerts showcasing the company’s roster of singers. The Path from Opera to Broadway, launched in November, featured selections from Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, as well as excerpts from lighter opera and musical theater. A Night in Vienna, presented December 2, took Boheme Opera’s online audience on a voyage to Vienna, with the music of Johann Strauss, Sigmund Romberg, Rudolf Friml, and Kurt Weill. With singers performing from their homes in many cases, Boheme Opera NJ compiled comprehensive surveys of opera and musical theater, narrated by the company’s president and series co-creator Jerrold Kalstein.  

December 9’s Unique Broadway broadcast explored composers and shows which were ground-breaking in their time, including composers and works out of the American musical theater mainstream or introducing unusual themes. Central to this survey was the music of American composer Leonard Bernstein, whom Boheme Opera NJ featured with a presentation of several clips from the company’s 2018 Bernstein Centennial performance. This concert, which took place in the College of New Jersey’s Kendall Theater and conducted by Boheme Opera music director Joseph Pucciatti, drew extensively from Bernstein’s opera Trouble in Tahiti. Leading these excerpts vocally was mezzo-soprano Amy Maude Helfer, who consistently maintained a saucy attitude onstage and good control over a disjunct vocal line. Other standouts from this concert were tenor Errin Brooks, one of the young talents encouraged by Boheme Opera NJ over the years, and baritone Joseph Lodato, who sang a selection from Les Miserables. This musical was produced at a time when the lines between opera and musical theater began to become blurred, and Lodato’s voice was well-suited for Inspector Javert’s signature song, “Stars.”   more

FAMILY FOCUS: “We have had nearly 20 years of uninterrupted growth, and we look forward to that continuing. How people dress and how they look is important, and it can also be a sign of respect for others.” Nick Hilton, co-owner of Hiltons Princeton, the longtime men’s and women’s clothing store, is proud that his daughter Catherine Hilton, vice president, is the latest generation to be a part of the family business. They are shown in the women’s department.

By Jean Stratton

Hiltons Princeton is here to stay!

Despite COVID-19, the challenges of online shopping competition, and the doubt and disillusion that have pervaded 2020, this brick-and-mortar business continues to fulfill its destiny: offering the finest quality and styling in men’s and women’s clothing, accompanied by superb customer service and personal attention.

Located at 221 Witherspoon Street, Hiltons was opened by Nick Hilton in 2001. Initially, it was exclusively a men’s store, but in response to public demand, women’s clothing was added 12 years ago, and president and co-owner Jennifer Hilton became buyer and manager of the women’s department. The married couple soon became a vibrant force in Princeton fashion.

“I love the fashion business,” says Jennifer Hilton. “I like to help people put an outfit together, and I love my customers! They come in regularly to see what’s new, and we always have something to show them. They are all ages and come from all over the Princeton area.”

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MOZART AND MORE: Pianist Alexander Gavryluk is guest artist with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra in a virtual concert on January 10. (Photo by Marco Borggreve)

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra carries its “Your Orchestra, Your Home” series into 2021 with the Sunday, January 10, 4 p.m. broadcast of its Mozart & Saint-Georges virtual concert.

The performance features Mozart’s Serenade for Winds in C Minor, K. 388 and Joseph Bologne’s Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Symphony No. 1 in G Major, conducted by Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov. The featured guest artist is Ukrainian-born pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk who performs works for solo piano by Mozart, Johannes Brahms, and Arkady Filippenko. more

ACTORS ON ZOOM: ActorsNET celebrates the holidays by premiering a free online presentation of J.M. Barrie’s play “Dear Brutus” beginning on December 23.

ActorsNET, the Morrisville, Pa.-based troupe, celebrates the holidays by premiering a free online video presentation of Dear Brutus, a fantasy drama for grownups by J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan.

The play’s title comes from a line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves…” Almost all the characters are at a crossroads in their lives. “Who hasn’t wondered how his or her life might be different if they had made different choices along the way?” asked ActorsNET Artistic Director Cheryl Doyle. “Who hasn’t wondered how their careers or love lives might benefit from a second chance? Who hasn’t pondered what might have been?”

Available starting December 23 on youtube.com/TheActorsNET, Dear Brutus was adapted by Board President Maryalice Rubins-Topoleski and Charlotte Kirkby. Actors and crew observed all precautions necessary during the pandemic. The first and third acts were recorded via Zoom and the second act was shot outdoors at Ridgeview Woods in Princeton. more

“YOU ARE NEVER ALONE”: This mural, located in the main lobby of Rider University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, is one of three new works painted by local artists in collaboration with Rider students and Trenton High School students.

Rider University and Artworks, Trenton’s downtown visual arts center, recently unveiled three new murals in the University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. 

Painted by local artists Leon Rainbow, Marlon Davila, and David Gillespie, in collaboration with Rider University students and Trenton High School students, the murals feature a number of symbols to illustrate the wealth of diversity within the Rider community, says Dr. Pamela Pruitt, executive director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. 

“The symbolism in these murals represents the Rider community in broad ways,” she said. “The whole university is reflected in this space.”  more

“ROSE FISH”: This mixed media work by Japanese artist Minako Ota is featured in an upcoming exhibition of her marine creatures and other nature paintings at Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street. It will be on view January 6 through February 2, 2021.

Marine creatures and other nature paintings by an award-winning Japanese painter Minako Ota will be on display and open to the public at Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, January 6 through February 2, 2021. It is her second show at Small World Coffee.

Born in Osaka, Japan, Ota studied traditional Japanese painting at Tama Art University in Tokyo. Upon graduation, she attended Cambridge University in England, where she focused on Western painting conservation.  more

WILL TO LEAD: Will Venable shows his focus during his career for the Princeton University baseball team. Venable, a 2005 Princeton alum who starred at both baseball and basketball during his college days, went on to enjoy a nine-year career in Major League Baseball. Staying in the game, Venable served as coach for the Chicago Cubs the last three seasons and was recently named as the bench coach for the Boston Red Sox. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Will Venable interviewed for the Boston Red Sox manager job in late October barely one week before he celebrated his 38th birthday.

The 2005 Princeton University graduate was one of the nine top candidates for the spot that the Red Sox gave to Alex Cora on November 6. Cora added Venable as Boston bench coach on November 20 after three seasons coaching with the Chicago Cubs.

“It’s just an awesome opportunity,” said Venable. “I’m really excited. To be able to go from the Chicago Cubs with the history of that organization and the people I got to work with and learn from and the relationships I’ve built, to then go move to another amazing city with a franchise with an unbelievable history and another group of great people that I can learn from, I’m really excited. And the change in role and having more responsibility and another way to impact a club is all very exciting.”

Venable, who played basketball and baseball at Princeton, has been surprised by how quickly he has risen in the coaching ranks. After finishing his nine-year major league playing career – most of it with the San Diego Padres and then stints with the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers – he jumped into the other side of the game as special assistant to the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. He moved to first base coach the following year and last season moved over to third base coach for the Cubs, for whom he also interviewed for the managerial job.

“This whole thing, to be honest, is insane to me,” said Venable. “I grew up with my dad (former Major Leaguer Max Venable) playing and he coached right away after his playing career. I watched him coach for 20-plus years in the minor leagues and never get an opportunity and less than a year removed from my playing career I had a big-league job.” more

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: Hun School boys’ cross country runner Harry Carter heads to the finish line at the 2019 Mercer County championship meet. While there was no championship competition this fall due to COVID-19 concerns, junior Carter still enjoyed a big season, winning the Boys’ Varsity White race at the XC 7-on-7 Invitational at Thompson Park in late October. He also recorded a personal-best 16:23 for fourth place in the Central Jersey XC Shootout. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Despite operating in a less than ideal setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hun School cross country program was able to meet its expectations this fall.

While the pandemic cut into the program’s expected roster numbers increase and took away a preseason camp that would have served as a launching point, the Raiders found plenty to celebrate by the end of their shortened 2020 season.

“We had a core of about 15 boys and three girls that worked incredibly hard and incredibly consistently day in and day out,” said Hun second-year head coach Kurt Wayton.

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