December 9, 2020

By Anne Levin

After considering three alternatives, the recommendations of a traffic consultant, and feedback from members of the public and business owners, Princeton Council voted at a special meeting Monday evening to introduce an ordinance to keep traffic one way, going north, on Witherspoon Street between Nassau and Spring streets.

This portion of Witherspoon Street has been operating this way for the past several months in order to accommodate outdoor dining and encourage patronage of local businesses that were suffering during the pandemic. But the data that the consultants McMahon Associates considered before making a recommendation was based on pre-COVID conditions, when traffic was much heavier and flowed in both directions.

Heather Balgowan of the consulting firm said the company studied three different alternatives — returning the street to two-way traffic, making it pedestrian-only, or keeping it one-way northbound. Their recommendation for the latter also includes some modifications to Wiggins and Chambers streets, and to intersections with Nassau Street.

The section of Witherspoon Street in question is part of a larger project to redo the roadway between Nassau Street and Valley Road. “The municipality typically touches a road for a major reconstruction project every 25 to 30 years,” said Deanna Stockton, the town’s municipal engineer. “So this is our time to work on this. We’re looking at what we can do to preserve and enhance this main economic area of downtown Princeton. And how can we find healthy, safe, and equitable improvements to benefit the community?” more

By Donald Gilpin

With a large number of candidates interested in the opportunity to lead the Princeton Public Schools (PPS), the Board of Education (BOE) has started this week on its first round of interviews, by Zoom, for a new superintendent.

BOE President Beth Behrend noted that Board members were concerned that the pandemic would reduce the pool of candidates who would be able to leave their current districts at this time, but the BOE received more than 60 applications, about three times the national average for a search of this kind, according to their search consultant Kevin O’Mara, president of School Exec Connect.

“The search is going very, very well,” O’Mara said, and added that the semi-finalists constitute “a very strong slate” of candidates. He emphasized that the consultants had brought forth a diverse field of candidates, as requested by the Princeton BOE. He noted the diversity of the group in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and geography.

On November 17, O’Mara presented the BOE with a slate of semi-final candidates for consideration, based on extensive screening over the previous weeks. In

September and October, School Exec Connect conducted focus groups, open forums, and a survey of staff and community members in developing a PPS profile of the new superintendent. That profile was presented to the BOE and the community on October 27 before being used for the screening process.

Specific details on the slate of candidates and the interviewing process are “totally confidential to protect the applicants who may be sitting superintendents,” Behrend noted.

The new superintendent is scheduled to be named in January 2021 and to officially take over the position on July 1, 2021, according to the search consultants. Barry Galasso, who has been serving as interim superintendent since Steve Cochrane stepped down in July 2020, is not a candidate for the permanent position.  more

IT STARTED AT MCCARTER: Their pre-COVID connections to the Princeton theater center provided the impetus for four colleagues to start the production company princetonVIRTUAL. From left are Alison Cote, Perry Jones, Cheryl Mintz, and Seth Mellman. (Photo by Mara Isaacs)

By Anne Levin

Like most every performing arts organization, Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center was sent into panic mode when the pandemic hit last March. Theater operations and live performances ceased. The theater, music, and dance seasons were canceled.

But a gala farewell tribute to departing artistic director Emily Mann had to be converted from a live to virtual event, and members of the production team were drafted to help. Thanks in large part to the efforts of longtime Resident Production Stage Manager Cheryl Mintz, Production Stage Manager Alison Cote, and Network Support Manager Perry Jones, the gala was a hit, watched by some 17,000 people.

Little did the colleagues know that working on the project would eventually lead them to create a virtual production company. Videographer Seth Mellman, whom they knew through Mellman’s wife, McCarter’s former Producing Director Mara Isaacs, soon joined them. Since that gala, the four principals have been busy creating virtual productions for such clients as The Jewish Center Princeton during the high holidays last fall; The Suppers Program; a gala for Theater J in Washington (headed by former McCarter Associate Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr); and the Stage Managers Association. They have recently made princetonVIRTUAL official.  more

By Anne Levin

For the past two years, Princeton’s Permit Parking Task Force has been working to develop a system of parking that is fairer and more efficient than the one currently in place. A virtual meeting was held Tuesday evening (after press time) to introduce residents of Princeton’s “tree streets,” their neighbors on the other side of Nassau Street, and proprietors of businesses on that thoroughfare to a proposal for a short-term pilot program.

Future meetings will focus on the Witherspoon-Jackson and Bank Street neighborhoods, where on-street parking is also at a premium. A focus of the proposal is the utilization of new technology, specifically a license plate recognition system that will make parking regulations easier to enforce. The town has been given a three-month free trial to test out the technology.

“Obviously, parking has been less of a problem during COVID,” said Princeton Council President David Cohen, a member of the task force, on Monday. “The University hasn’t been around, and businesses have limitations put on them, so on-street parking has not been in such hot demand. But this committee has been working for two years on the initiative, and we wanted to be able to test out the license plate recognition software and get something in place.”

The proposal calls for permits to be provided to car-owning residents in the tree streets neighborhood who have no driveway. In addition, as the number of available street spaces can accommodate, there would be permits for residents with restricted parking — in a driveway with no room for turnaround, or for safely opening doors. There would be two- to three-hour parking permitted during the day. In all three neighborhoods, overnight parking would be allowed without a permit. more

By Donald Gilpin

Cecilia Rouse (Photo courtesy of Princeton University)

Cecilia Rouse, dean of Princeton’s University’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), will be nominated to chair the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), President-elect Joe Biden announced last week.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Rouse will be the first African American and the fourth woman to lead the CEA. She will be taking office and advising the president at a critical time, as the economy continues to battle the effects of an ongoing pandemic, with millions still unemployed.

Rouse, who previously served on the CEA in the Obama administration and as an economic adviser on the White House National Economic Council in the Clinton administration, has recently called for new federal protections for workers in response to the pandemic, according to the New York Times. 

In June, she was a co-leader of a letter signed by more than 150 professors, economists, and other
scholars, urging Congressional leaders to pass “a multifaceted relief bill of a magnitude commensurate with the challenges our economy faces.”

A labor economist, much of whose research has focused on education and on workers, Rouse, in a recent New York Times interview, commented on the motivating forces in her academic and public life. “I found myself drawn to study the labor market in all of its dimensions — the reasons that jobs disappear, the impact of education on people’s job prospects, the ways we can tear down barriers to job growth and make it easier for people to find long-lasting economic security,” she said. 

“I am focused on the task ahead,” Rouse wrote in a Twitter post on November 30. “The job is about advising the president on how to rebuild and revive our economy. The planning for a fairer economy, grounded in facts and evidence, begins now.”

On December 1 on Twitter, she added, “This is a moment of urgency and opportunity unlike anything we’ve faced in modern times. The urgency of ending a devastating crisis. And the opportunity to build a better economy in its wake — an economy that works for everyone, and leaves no one to fall through the cracks.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.

—Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

John Lennon’s first solo album was released 50 years ago this week. No name appears on the cover image of a man and a woman stretched out under a massive tree, his head in her lap. The entire back cover consists of an enlarged photograph of a little boy’s face. The absence of information creates an impression of timelessness: the tree could be any tree anywhere, the couple any couple, and this most personal of recordings by one of the most famous people in the world could be by, for, or about anyone and everyone.

A few days ago when I played the half-century-old record for the first time in decades, the first sound I heard after the crackle and hiss and pop of the surface was of a bell tolling, four deeply resonant strokes. Big Ben, history, London, the Blitz, wartime, no narrator needed, the sound speaks for itself. As the fourth stroke fades, John Lennon belts out the primal word, “Mother,” and goes on to deliver a performance that does to this listener what poetry does to Emily Dickinson.

That said, the top of my head was never at risk the first time I heard John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band in mid-December 1970. As impressed I was by the power of Lennon’s long-awaited, much-hyped solo album, it wasn’t easy to hear it through the chaotic static of the Paul-and-Linda, John-and-Yoko Primal Therapy fall-out of the Great Beatles Break-Up. By the time I was listening to “God,” the track everyone was talking about, with its off-puttingly prosy opening line (“God is a concept by which we measure our pain”) and the statement it was leading up to (“I don’t believe in Beatles”), I’d begun to back out of it, especially after the line “I just believe in Yoko and me.”

But then came the message of the tender, beautifully sung farewell coda: “I was the dream weaver … but now I’m John … and so, dear friends, you just have to carry on …” because “the dream is over,” — except that something deeper than a dream was in play when he sang “but now I’m John,” sealing a personal first-name connection that was still alive ten years later in the grieving crowds that gathered worldwide after his death.  more

“OHIO STATE MURDERS”: Round House Theatre and McCarter Theatre Center are presenting “Ohio State Murders.” Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton, the video will be available online through February 28, 2021. Above, writer Suzanne Alexander (Lynda Gravatt) returns to her alma mater to give a lecture, whose subject matter includes her turbulent experiences as a student. (Video still courtesy of Round House Theatre)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter is partnering with the Round House Theatre (in Bethesda, Maryland) to present an online festival, The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration and Influence. Kennedy is an African American playwright whose accolades include multiple Obie Awards, including Lifetime Achievement. As a press release notes, her plays are “taught in colleges throughout the country, in Europe, India, and Africa.”

This four-part festival, consisting of videos filmed by the Round House, opened with He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, in which a multi-racial couple’s letters reveal disturbing family histories; and continued with Sleep Deprivation Chamber, in which a writer seeks justice for her son when he becomes a victim of police brutality. 

Ohio State Murders is the current installmentwhich became available as of December 5Following the drama’s 1992 premiere by the Great Lakes Theater Festival, which commissioned the piece, it was included in a Signature Theatre Company season (1995-96) devoted to Kennedy’s work. Theatre for a New Audience gave the play its New York debut in 2007.

The protagonist of Ohio State Murders also is that of Sleep Deprivation Chamber: African American writer Suzanne Alexander, a partially fictionalized version of Kennedy. In both dramas, Suzanne confronts a series of incidents that has a devastating impact on her family.  more

STREAMED “NUTCRACKER” MAGIC: Lillian DiPiazza and Sterling Baca are the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier in the Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” available online through the holiday season. (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev)

The pandemic has put live performance on hold for the foreseeable future. This is an especially cruel blow to the ballet companies that rely on sellout attendance at The Nutcracker to pay a large chunk of the bills, not to mention the eager students who make up a good portion of the cast. It is disappointing, too, for families who consider going to the timeless ballet a holiday tradition.

All is not lost. Several ballet companies are streaming previously videotaped performances, and offering them to the public for a fee that helps fund operations and keep them afloat. Here are a few:

New York City Ballet: The company associated with choreographer George Balanchine presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker December 11-January 3, on Marquee TV. The streaming is a performance from December 5, 2019 starring Maria Kowroski as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Tyler Angle as her Cavalier, and Megan Fairchild as Dewdrop, along with more than 50 dancers. Andrew Litton conducts the 62-piece orchestra. Tickets are $25 and include a month’s trial of Marquee TV. Visit nycballet.com to reserve. more

THE BOSS: Bruce Springsteen is among those appearing in the documentary “WBCN and The American Revolution,” available digitally to help support the Princeton Garden Theatre and other independent community arts organization. (Photo by Barry Schneier)

The acclaimed documentary WBCN and The American Revolution is being presented by Renew Theaters, which owns the Princeton Garden on Nassau Street, along with movie houses in Ambler, Pa.; Doylestown, Pa.; and Jenkintown, Pa.

The feature-length documentary follows a cast of characters as their lives connect and intersect during the rise of the legendary radio station that became both a player in and a platform for the explosive rock ’n roll counterculture, passionate anti-war movement, and burgeoning civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights movements.

Proceeds will be shared with the Renew Theaters as part of a nationwide campaign to support community radio, independent theaters, and media arts organizations during the pandemic and create a public dialogue on how media can create social change.

 more

ART OF FLORAL DESIGN: The Arts Council of Princeton will present a virtual class on the fundamentals of floral design, led by Dawn McClatchy, on December 22 at 7 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the Arts Council’s Community Programs.

Join the Arts Council of Princeton for a virtual master class on The Art of Floral Design on Tuesday, December 22 at 7 p.m. This is an opportunity to create a professional-looking centerpiece for the holidays, with all proceeds benefiting the Arts Council’s Community Programs. more

CREATIVE CLASSES: The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster is offering in-studio and online classes and workshops for artists with all levels of expertise in a variety of media including oil and acrylic paint, pastel, watercolor, drawing, and ceramics. The winter session begins January 11.

The Center for Contemporary Art (The Center) in Bedminster is offering in-studio and online art classes and workshops this winter for adults, teens, and children beginning January 11. Classes and workshops are offered for artists with all levels of expertise in a variety of media including oil and acrylic paint, pastel, watercolor, drawing, and ceramics.

The in-studio classes will be offered at The Center and online classes will be taught using the Zoom platform. On Zoom students will be able to see and interact with the teacher and other students, receive personal feedback and instruction from the teacher, participate in live demonstrations, and share their work and ideas. The Center hopes these online classes will offer an alternative for those who feel more comfortable learning from home. more

LUXURY LIFESTYLE: “We’re a newer concept because all our units are rentals. This was a market need. People are enjoying the benefits of not having to be responsible for all the things that go with running a house.” Ken Butler, MA, CCM, general manager of Ovation at Riverwalk in Plainsboro, is enthusiastic about this new active adult community. Shown is the sophisticated, state-of-the-art modern new building.

By Jean Stratton

Ovation at Riverwalk is a unique rental community for active adults, ages 55 and up. Located at One Riverwalk in Plainsboro, it is operated by SageLife, a developer of adult communities, and it is expected to open for residents in 2021. Applications and deposits are being accepted now.

“We are set apart from other adult communities,” explains Ovation General Manager Ken Butler, MA, CCM. “One, we are a rental community with flexibility, offering short term and long term leases, Two, we have fully-staffed amenities and services, a professional team of housekeepers, maintenance help, fitness and lifestyle coaches, and concierge service.

“In addition, the Ovation membership program offers a lifestyle that is like that of a private club. Our clubhouse, which is just for residents and their guests, offers all the services and amenities people will welcome. Our services and hospitality will be like a country club.”

Another important feature of the new community is its location very near the Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center campus just off Route 1 in Plainsboro. It is just a short walk away from the Merwick Care & Rehabilitation Center, and is situated alongside the Millstone River, with an opportunity for many scenic walking trails along the river. more

MAKING HIS MARK: Richmond Aririguzoh, right, battles in the paint against a Columbia defender last March during his senior season for the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Two-time All-Ivy League center Aririguzoh recently started his pro hoops career, playing for Horsens IC in Denmark’s top league. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Richmond Aririguzoh was happy to give up working as a COVID-19 contact tracer to begin his professional basketball career in Denmark.

“You have people that don’t want to talk,” said Aririguzoh, a former men’s hoops standout for Princeton University who graduated in June.

“They don’t want to let people know that they’re positive, they want to keep doing what they’re doing and go to work. A lot of it was getting to me. I have a lot of respect for people doing contact tracing. I’m glad I did it that long, but I think it was time for me to make my exit.”

Aririguzoh hadn’t played a game since his collegiate career and the Tiger men’s season abruptly ended in mid-March before the start of the Ivy League tournament.

After finishing the brunt of his ecology and evolutionary biology major work, Aririguzoh began taking the steps to further his playing career. He worked out, he hired an agent – the agent of another Princeton graduate Judson Wallace ’05 – and he relied on his new agent to contact prospective teams. After flirting with several opportunities, he settled on Horsens IC in Denmark’s top league.

“I was growing restless,” said Aririguzoh, who averaged 12.0 points and 7.4 rebounds a game in his senior season, helping the Tigers go 14-13 overall and 9-5, earning a spot in the league postseason tourney. more

By Bill Alden

For the three seniors on the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team, Hayden Masia, Hannah Van Dusen, and Gabrielle Namouni, this fall could have been a lost season.

With the state Prep B tourney and the Mercer County Tournament getting canceled due to COVID-19 issues, it would have been understandable if the trio lost some motivation with no titles to shoot for.

Instead, they helped make the 2020 season unforgettable, setting the tone as the Panthers went 11-0.   

“For Hayden, Hannah, and Gabby as seniors, it is very much an exclamation point at the end of their playing careers,” said PDS head coach Chris Rosensteel of his veteran performers, who all played doubles with Masia and Van Dusen pairing up at first doubles and Namouni playing with junior Eshaa Doshi at second doubles.

“I don’t know if they will pursue college tennis at some level. As far as a team sport, that was huge for them. They are the reason the team was close-knit. They developed a really good team atmosphere where everybody was supporting each other. I know we did well in matches, but we also did really well in practice. I felt like every practice was productive and a big part of that was those girls setting the standard in practices. As a result, we had productive practices and then the girls felt like they could go into the matches with a little bit more confidence and more relaxed.” more

IN TOUCH: Hun School boys’ soccer player Levin Sanchez Willems, left, controls the ball in a game this fall despite the efforts of two Princeton Day School defenders. Senior Sanchez Willems helped the Raiders go 1-5 this fall in a season limited by COVID-19 issues. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

The Hun School boys’ soccer team would have liked a few more games to develop its new possession-oriented style and find the best lineup combinations.

The Raiders made significant changes for this season but didn’t have a lot of games to test how they would all work. COVID-19 pandemic concerns shortened preseason camp to one week in August, and two weeks after tryouts in mid-September they were playing their first game to start October.

“Everything went really quickly,” said Hun head coach Pat Quirk, whose team posted a 1-5 record this fall.

“It was tough to sort everything out. I always thought that we’d be playing, but we knew in the back of our heads this could just be taken away from us. We tried to treat every day like we were glad to be out here. We were the only MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) school that had any kind of games. We knew any game we got would be a plus. We tried to play every game like it would be our last and the next day it could end.” more

HIGH CHARACTER: Hun School girls’ soccer player Anna Hyson goes after the ball in a 2019 game. Senior co-captain Hyson showed her leadership this fall as she moved from the midfield to goalie due to injury and stabilized the Hun defense in her new role. The Raiders posted a 0-4-1 record in a 2020 season abbreviated by COVID-19 issues. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Hun School girls’ soccer team didn’t win a game this fall, its players made 2020 a special campaign.

“We had a shared joy that we experienced during the struggle,” said Hun head coach Jenn Barrett, whose team posted a 0-4-1 record in a season limited by COVID-19 concerns.

“We had those bonding moments as we went through this. We played Pennington twice but we scored five goals against them. We stepped up. It was going into battle together and making those shared memories.”

After suffering a pair of losses to both Pennington and Princeton Day School, Hun ended the 2020 campaign with a 2-2 tie against Conwell Egan (Pa.).

“Conwell Egan was a school we had never played before so that was exciting,” said Barrett, who got goals in the draw from junior Olivia D’Aulerio and freshman Zoey Palmer.

“It was definitely a game we could have won so that was slightly frustrating, but we will take a tie.” more

December 2, 2020

The Palmer Square Tree Lighting was virtual this year, but the 33,000 bulbs on the 70-foot Norway spruce tree will continue to light up the night and enchant visitors throughout the holiday season. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Donald Gilpin

Princeton, the state of New Jersey, and the whole country continue to battle the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, as residents and health officials await news of possible  post-Thanksgiving outbreaks and brace for additional challenges in the upcoming holiday season.

The Princeton Health Department on Monday, November 30, reported 58 new cases of COVID-19 in Princeton in the past two weeks, surpassing the previous record 14-day total of 55 cases for November 11-24.  For the past week, 30 new cases were reported.

“We are going to see a jump in the number of cases this week through next week,” said Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser. “In fact we already are, and so is the rest of New Jersey. This is going to be a result of both the holiday and test reporting being delayed, but also a result of the increased travel and person-to-person exposure during Thanksgiving.”

Princeton Press and Media Communications Director Fred Williams added, “The overall impact on our infection rate may not be fully apparent until mid-December,” but he went on to express optimism that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent tightening of restrictions on outdoor gatherings and suspension of high school ad club sports might mitigate the spread over the next month.

Grosser continued, “We are urging the public to continue to closely monitor the symptoms and avoid large gatherings, especially in the 10-14 days after the Thanksgiving holiday.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Jared Warren

Jared Warren, assistant principal at Princeton High School (PHS) for the last seven years, will be recommended at the December 15 Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) meeting to become PHS acting principal on January 15. Warren will take over from Jessica Baxter, who announced her resignation last month.

A special education teacher at Hunterdon Central Regional High School before coming to PHS, Warren has a B.A. in criminal justice from Widener University and a master’s degree in special education, as well as a certification in educational leadership, from The College of New Jersey.

“I am confident that Mr. Warren will do an excellent job with the support of his outstanding administrative team,” Galasso wrote in an email announcing his recommendation to PPS parents and staff on Monday. “I am confident he will be a strong advocate for students and will continue to develop relationships with the community.”

Emphasizing the goal of maintaining “the traditional, outstanding Princeton High School academic and social experience” during this transition period, Galasso continued, “Mr. Warren will make that a top priority and will continue the innovative and student-centered approach to learning that is a hallmark of Princeton High School education.” more

By Anne Levin

Those cozy little chalets that popped up on Black Friday at locations around downtown Princeton are part of the municipality’s efforts to encourage patronage of local stores during the holiday season. Shopping local is key to the future of a district that has been suffering during the pandemic. The Winter Village, and special Holiday Market Days this weekend, are designed to get shoppers into the businesses and onto the streets, away from the big box stores.

A committee of representatives from the municipality, the Princeton Merchants Association, the Arts Council of Princeton, and Princeton University has been collaborating on the project. While several popular businesses have closed during the pandemic, including Brooks Brothers on Palmer Square, Kitchen Kapers on Hulfish Street, and Bon Appetit in the Princeton Shopping Center, 27 are participating in this weekend’s Holiday Market Days. That’s up from 18 last year.

“I felt really good about the amount of traffic I saw in town last weekend – not just people, but bags,” said Princeton Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros, who is on the committee. “The retailers seem to be cautiously optimistic. Members of the public I’ve talked to are curious, and really excited about the coming weekend.”

Shoppers who get cards stamped at 15 or more of the participating businesses on Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6, can enter a drawing to win prizes. No purchase is necessary to enter. Prize drawings will take place next week. Each business has contributed a prize. Among them: a $200 gift card from Hamilton Jewelers, a $75 gift card from Witherspoon Grill, a $200 gift certificate from Barbour, a scarf from Highbar Boutique, a Lindt basket of chocolates, a wrap from Lace Silhouettes, and gifts from Lillipies, Toobydoo, 4 Elements Wellness, Cyndi Shattuck Photography, H1912 Jewelers, Kristine’s restaurant, and the grand prize, a “staycation” at the Nassau Inn. more

KEEPING IT HEALTHY: Terri Block, left, and Lee Yonish keep foods nutritious and tasty when preparing meals for clients of The Simple Stove. The company has been operating out of the kitchen at the former Blawenburg Café, but is looking for a new location.

By Anne Levin

During a recital streamed from the Nottingham, UK, living room of cellist/pianist sibling duo Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason last Sunday, some 60 local patrons of the Princeton University Concerts event indulged in a proper British afternoon tea. It had all the right components — scones, cream, cakes, and little triangular sandwiches.

But this mini-feast was provided by The Simple Stove, which meant there was no gluten, dairy, or sugar involved. Keeping food clean, healthy, nutrient-dense, and delicious is the idea behind the two-person company that has been operating since last spring out of the kitchen at the former Blawenburg Café. Founders Lee Yonish and Terri Block now count some 250 subscribers and 125 regulars among their customer base.

Both women are involved in the Suppers program, which was founded by the late Dorothy Mullen to encourage healthy cooking and eating. They started The Simple Stove after COVID-19 took hold.

“Suppers had been leasing the Blawenburg Café since last fall,” said Yonish. “In March, after everything shut down and there were no in-person meetings, Terri and I approached the executive committee and said this might be an opportunity to sell Suppers’ food. They were in the middle of some strategic visioning processes, and it would have been too much at that time. But they said, ‘Why don’t you use the kitchen and rent from us?’ ” more

HIKING THE TRAIL: Many walkers at the St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell Township are unaware that, if not for the efforts of D&R Greenway and generous donors, more than 1,000 houses and a shopping center could have been built on the site.

By Anne Levin

From 1896 until 1973, a brick Victorian orphanage sat on a large expanse of farm fields and forest at the edge of the town of Hopewell. The St. Michael’s Orphanage and Industrial School was demolished after it closed, but the land lay dormant for decades until the threat of development propelled D&R Greenway into action.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the ambitious preservation project, which prevented what could have been the construction of 1,050 houses and a 30,000-square-foot shopping center. An overlook with sweeping views of the town’s landscape; a meadow seeded with wildflowers; eight acres of victory gardens that source healthy food; the “raising” of a new, working barn; and six miles of trails are among the features that made the long, expensive effort worth doing. The D&R Greenway Land Trust bought the site from the Catholic Diocese of Trenton for $11 million, securing $8 million in public funds and $3 million in gifts from 900 individuals. Another $1 million was raised for maintenance and preservation.

The land trust was approached for this project because of previous successes in saving large regional properties such as The Institute for Advanced Study land, Coventry Farm, and Greenway Meadows.

“I always knew this was a really important piece of land for the community,” said Linda Mead, CEO and president of D&R Greenway. “But I’m always amazed by the things that grow out of the preservation of land, how that impacts people’s lives. I’ve seen it over and over again.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Allysa Dittmar

Allysa Dittmar, 23 years old and profoundly deaf since birth, was heading into surgery in 2015 when she was told that the sign language interpreter she’d requested was not available.  Her surgical team all wore face masks. Unable to see their facial expressions or read their lips, Dittmar could not understand any instructions they gave her or questions they asked her.

“It was quite a dehumanizing experience and an experience that I never want anyone else to go through,” she wrote in an email. “For someone who depends on facial expressions, visual cues, and lipreading daily, traditional surgical masks blocked my providers’ faces, impeding effective communication and safety.”

Dittmar decided to find a solution. The 2010 Stuart Country Day School graduate, who went on to earn her undergraduate degree and a master’s in public health at Johns Hopkins University, joined a team of Johns Hopkins fellow students and alumni to design and create a transparent mask, the first and only fully see-through mask approved by the FDA.

“Since facial expressions and visual communication are fundamental to how we communicate and connect as human beings, the ClearMask helps make connections more human and provides clearer communication for all,” Dittmar said.

She and her team founded ClearMask, based in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2016. Since April 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, they have sold approximately 12.5 million protective masks. “See the person, not the mask,” states the ClearMask website. more

By Stuart Mitchner

On December 2, 1867, Charles Dickens gave the first of 80 public readings in America, a grueling tour undertaken in spite of pleas from friends and colleagues concerned about his health. Arriving in Boston, he was welcomed by adoring crowds and the mid-19th-century equivalent of paparazzi; in New York City people began lining up at three in the morning for tickets, waiting in two lines, each almost a mile long.

In Charles Dickens, A Critical Study, novelist George Gissing refers to the “disastrous later years” that show Dickens as a “public entertainer … shortening his life that he might be able to live without pecuniary anxiety.” The American readings ended in late April 1868, earning him $250,000. He died of a stroke in early June 1870. He was only 58.

“A Dreadful Locomotive”

After attending one of the Boston readings, Ralph Waldo Emerson told the wife of Dickens’s American publisher, James T. Fields: “He has too much talent for his genius; it is a dreadful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from nor set at rest. You would persuade me that he is a genial creature, full of sweetness and amenities and superior to his talents, but I fear he is harnessed to them. He is too consummate an artist to have a thread of nature left. He daunts me! I have not the key.”  more

“SLEEP DEPRIVATION CHAMBER”: Round House Theatre and McCarter Theatre Center are presenting “Sleep Deprivation Chamber.” Produced in partnership with the Department of Theatre Arts at Howard University, and directed by Raymond O. Caldwell, the video will be available online through February 28, 2021. Suzanne Alexander (Kim James Bey, left) and her son Teddy (Deimoni Brewington) discuss Suzanne’s efforts to ensure justice for Teddy. (Video still courtesy of Round House Theatre)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter is partnering with the Round House Theatre (based in Bethesda, Maryland) to present an online festival, The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration and Influence. The four-part series continues with a Round House video of Sleep Deprivation Chamber, which became available to view as of November 22.

The edgy production is directed by Raymond O. Caldwell. Maboud Ebrahimzadeh is the director of photography, returning from the festival’s production of He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box.

In a press release, McCarter’s Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen praises Kennedy — an African American playwright whose accolades include Obie Awards and an induction into the Theater Hall of Fame — for breaking “convention in the face of traditional barriers that prevented a much-deserved spotlight.” Round House Theatre’s Artistic Director Ryan Rilette adds that Kennedy’s plays are “beautiful, poetic conversations on race and power that are just as necessary now as they were 50 years ago.”

Sleep Deprivation Chamber premiered in 1996, presented by the Signature Theatre Company at the Public Theater. That year it won an Obie Award for Best New American Play (which it shared with another Adrienne Kennedy play, June and Jean in Concert). more