September 19, 2018

By Stuart Mitchner

It’s never very pleasant in the morning to open The New York Times

—W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

Auden was speaking in the fall of 1972, a year before he died in Vienna on September 28, 1973. One source of unpleasantness at that moment in history was Richard Nixon, who was into the before-the-fall fall of his second term. In mid-September 2018 opening the Times is like the first jarring swallow of a cup of gruesomely strong coffee you can’t stop drinking. Every morning you feel small stirrings of hope that the taste will mellow down to something closer to the Obama latte flavor you fondly like to think it used to have. Every morning it’s the same ordeal, with just a hint of the the addictive richness of false hope before the super-caffeinated reality hits you.  more

“THE AGE OF INNOCENCE”: Performances are underway for “The Age of Innocence.” Directed by Doug Hughes, the play runs through October 7 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. An Old Gentleman (Boyd Gaines, far left) looks on as Newland Archer (Andrew Veenstra, left) and Countess Ellen Olenska (Sierra Boggess) face the conflict between their love, and their responsibility to their families — and to society in 1870s New York. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson.) 

By Donald H. Sanborn III

An exquisite new stage adaptation of The Age of Innocence opened September 15 at McCarter. In adapting Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel, which in 1921 made her the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, playwright Douglas McGrath honors its literary intent. However, he skillfully edits it to heighten its power as a piece of theater.

As pianist Yan Li plays the pensive opening notes of the incidental score by Mark Bennett, an Older Gentleman of the 1920s enters. He describes New York in the 1870s — the Gilded “Age” that gives the novel its ironic title — as a place where elite society brings rigid social conventions.

At the Academy of Music — which is the preeminent place to see an opera, as the Metropolitan on 39th Street is still under construction — an older woman, Mrs. Manson Mingott, is seated in a box with other female members of her family, including the Countess Ellen Olenska.  more

Papa Leroux (George Agalias, right) proposes to Rubenesque heiress Daisy Tillou (actually “dead” artist Jean-Francois Millet disguised as his own sister — both played by Nick Pecht) in “Is He Dead?,” a “new comedy” by Mark Twain, adapted by David Ives. The production by ActorsNET performs weekends September 28 through October 14 at The Heritage Center Theatre, 635 North Delmorr Avenue, Morrisville, Pa. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors 62 and up, $15 for WHYY members and students, and $10 for children age 12 and under. To reserve, call (215) 295 3694, email actorsnet@aol.com, or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.

BEST BEVERAGES: The staff at Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet in Lawrenceville is proud of the store’s new renovation, offering an even more convenient shopping experience for customers. Its excellent and comprehensive selection of wine, beer, and spirits and its knowledgeable staff have ensured the store’s success for nearly 17 years.

By Jean Stratton

Joe Canal’s, the popular discount liquor outlet, has a new look! It has undergone a major renovation offering more open space, wider aisles, more convenient accessibility, new lighting, and easier checkout options.

“We’ll be open for 17 years this November. We felt it was time for an upgrade, as the store was beginning to look dated,” says Mark Hutchinson, managing partner of Birchfield Ventures, which owns Joe Canal’s.

“Our focus is always to improve the shopping experience,” he continues. “We opened up the entry and made check-out easier. The additional space we created also enabled us to add more than 500 new wine, beer, and liquor items.” more

COMING THROUGH: Princeton University football player Charlie Volker fights to break a tackle in a 2017 game. Last Saturday, senior running back Volker rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns to help Princeton defeat Butler 50-7 in its season opener. The Tigers host Monmouth (2-1) on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton University football team headed into its season opener last Saturday at Butler University, Bob Surace was cautiously optimistic.

“It is always hard to predict; we are always going against each other but they have been so good in camp,” said Surace. “They have been focused, they have worked hard. They have done all the things right. It makes you feel good as a coach that they are going to be ready.”

It didn’t take long for Surace to feel very good as senior star quarterback John Lovett returned with a bang after missing 2017 to injury, hitting classmate Jesper Horsted for a 63-yard touchdown pass 26 seconds into the contest. more

September 12, 2018

By Donald Gilpin

The conflict seems to intensify as postponement of the Princeton Board of Education (BOE) vote on Princeton Public Schools’ (PPS) proposed $129.6M bond issue, and consequent postponement of the ballot issue until after the November 6 general election, gives both sides the opportunity to develop and clarify their cases.

Last week, shortly before its Tuesday night meeting at which it was planning to vote to place the referendum on the November ballot, the BOE was informed that due to a backlog the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) was still reviewing the district’s plans and that the referendum would have to be postponed until after the November ballot.  more

By Anne Levin

A new lawsuit has been filed by opponents of Rider University’s proposed sale of Westminster Choir College to a company they say is owned by the government of China and threatens the music school’s academic freedom.

Seven people are plaintiffs in the suit filed in New Jersey Superior Court this week. It names Rider, the Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation, and Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co., Ltd., claiming that the proposed sale is “a disguised takeover of an American college by the Chinese government,” said Bruce Afran, attorney for the Westminster Foundation, in a press release. The Foundation is made up of alumni and supporters working to maintain the choir college and protect its independence. more

By Donald Gilpin

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called for the immediate release of Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, who has been imprisoned in Iran for more than two years.  The Working Group has concluded that the government of Iran had “no legal basis for the arrest and detention” of the 37-year-old history scholar, that Iran committed “multiple violations” of his right to a fair trial, and that his “deprivation of liberty is arbitrary.”

Responding to a petition filed earlier this year by Wang’s wife Hua Qu and his mother, the Working Group’s report, adopted on August 23, states, “The Working Group requests the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Wang without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms.”  It goes on to assert that the appropriate remedy would be to release Wang immediately.

A naturalized American citizen and fourth-year graduate student, Wang was in Iran in 2016 to study Farsi and conduct research for his doctoral dissertation, reviewing documents dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Iran’s National Archives.

He was arrested in August 2016, confined in Tehran’s Evin Prison, convicted in a non-public trial on two counts of espionage, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Working Group, which expressed grave concerns about Wang’s health and about the conditions in which he is being held, concluded that Wang was peacefully exercising his right to seek and receive information for academic purposes; that Iran’s espionage laws are vague and overly broad; that no trial of Wang should have taken place; that the Revolutionary Courts that tried Wang and heard his appeal “do not meet the standards of an impartial and independent tribunal”; and that Wang’s case is part of a pattern of Iran targeting foreign nationals for detention.

In Iran’s response to the petition, according to the UN Working Group, “the government did not explain…how Mr. Wang had cooperated with a foreign state… against the Islamic Republic of Iran, nor how accessing historical archives relating to a period of governance over 100 years ago could amount to an attempt to overthrow the Iranian government.”

Iran also “did not explain how Mr. Wang’s trial on espionage charges posed a national security threat so serious that it warranted a closed hearing,” the Working Group noted.  The report went on to claim that Wang’s imprisonment was motivated by the fact that he is a United States citizen and that his 10-year prison sentence is disproportionately heavy, “as there is no evidence that…he was intending to, or did in fact, conduct espionage or cause ethnic crisis in Iran.” 

Responding to the U.N. Working Group report on Monday, Princeton University Vice President and Secretary Robert K. Durkee said, “The Working Group makes it clear that Wang was in Iran solely to do scholarly work, and that the charges against him were entirely without merit.  We hope these findings by the Working Group and its call for his immediate release will, in fact, expedite his release so he can return to his family and come back to campus to complete his Ph.D.”

In a separate statement also issued Monday, Hua Qu described “many cruelties” that her husband had undergone “from being kidnapped to enduring solitary confinement, repeated interrogations, humiliating treatment, harsh living conditions, unjust legal proceedings, and immense emotional distress,” resulting in deterioration of his physical and mental health.

“He has lost weight, developed arthritis in his knees, suffered rashes and pains all over his body, and fallen victim to depression,” she wrote.

Urging the U.S. government and the international community to work together to secure Wang’s release, Hua Qu described their son, “now 5 years old and starting kindergarten.  Over the two years of his father’s absence, he has developed a remarkable resilience.  But the problems of the adult world trouble him every single day.  The devastating reality of our son’s young life is encapsulated in the question: ‘Why can’t Daddy come home after 855 days?’”

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established in 1991 by the former Commission on Human Rights to investigate cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily or otherwise inconsistently with international standards and rights.

DEVELOPING THE WHOLE CHILD: Playing and academics are “a beautiful balance” at Princeton Nursery School, says Director Rosanda Wong. The school is about to celebrate its 90th anniversary of educating local children.

By Anne Levin

Inside a plain yellow building on Leigh Avenue, generations of Princeton children have received their first taste of life in the classroom. Princeton Nursery School has been a mainstay in Princeton’s Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood for nearly nine decades.

Space is tight and maintenance is a constant concern. But the school’s administrators have resisted suggestions that it move to larger, roomier quarters. “People ask why we don’t relocate,” said Rosanda Wong, the executive director since last year. “It comes down to three things: We own the property. We don’t have the cash reserves. And most importantly, there is a history here.” more

By Anne Levin

Princeton’s organic waste program, in which food and other organic materials are supposed to go to a composting facility, is currently at risk because participants are routinely including plastic bags and utensils in the waste. As a result, the material has been going to an incinerator in Tullytown, Pa., for the past several months.

Those enrolled in the program, who pay $65 a year, were informed of the situation via an email last Saturday. Mayor Liz Lempert, who learned of the problems two weeks ago, wrote that Princeton’s composting bins contain too much prohibited material to be accepted at the farm utilized by the town’s hauler, Solterra. more

DRIVING ELECTRIC: Electric vehicle owners, enthusiasts, and curious locals gathered Saturday at the West Windsor Community Farmers’ Market to take part in a National Drive Electric Week event featuring more than 23 plug-in vehicles and their owners. New Jersey Electric Auto Association Vice President Sal Cameli stands beside his 100 percent electric Nissan Leaf.

By Donald Gilpin

If the electric vehicle (EV) drivers, enthusiasts, and curious onlookers who showed up Saturday at the National Drive Electric Week event at the West Windsor Community Farmers’ Market are any indication, your next car might be electric, and it won’t be long before traditional internal combustion engines have gone the way of the horse and buggy.

The owners of the 23 EVs in attendance Saturday emphasized the clean-air benefits and cost-savings of their cars, answered questions from spectators, and shared their EV ownership experiences.  more

BACK ON THE AIR: John Weingart returns to WPRB radio on September 16 to begin his 45th year of the unique folk music program “Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio.”

John Weingart’s Sunday evening show on WRPB radio begins its 45th year on Sunday, September 16, from 7 to 10 p.m. Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio is broadcast live from Princeton on 103.3 FM and streamed worldwide at WPRB.com.

The program is notable for the well of often little-known music from which Weingart draws and the sets he creates around varied themes that may be topical, humorous, poignant, beautiful, or just great music. The show generally includes old and new country blues and string band music, bluegrass, singer-songwriters, and other music loosely classified as folk or Americana that was recorded as long ago as the 1920s, and as recently as this month.

Weingart, a former assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and chair of the New Jersey Highlands Council, is currently associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers. He started Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio in February 1974 while a graduate student at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

“SUN RIZING”: More than 50 artists who have exhibited their work in small group or solo shows at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie during the past 40 years will be featured in “Pushing 40,” running September 15 through November 10. An opening reception is on Saturday, September 15 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The Trenton Museum Society has announced “Pushing 40,” a “reunion” exhibit celebrating 40 years of promoting fine art by artists in the greater Trenton region. More than 50 artists who have exhibited their work in small group or solo shows at the Trenton City Museum during the past 40 years are returning to the Ellarslie Mansion in Cadwalader Park from September 15 to November 10. An opening reception is on Saturday, September 15 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.  more

PLAINSBORO PUBLIC LIBRARY ARTS FESTIVAL: Sheela Raj of Plainsboro will again demonstrate painting on textiles at this year’s event on Saturday, September 15 from 12-4 p.m. at the Plainsboro Public Library. Other Plainsboro artists, as well as members of the Plainsboro Library Artists’ Group, will also show their work, demonstrate their techniques, and help festivalgoers develop their own artwork.

You can learn everything you ever wanted to know about fabric painting, Chinese knotting, sketchbook journaling, face painting, henna, Chinese and Marathi calligraphy, clay jewelry, and much more when local artists take center stage at the Plainsboro Public Library on Saturday, September 15, for the library’s annual Arts Festival. The event is scheduled from 12-4 p.m.

A disc jockey will be on hand throughout the festival; and members of the West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North a capella group Out of the Blue will perform, as will the high school’s string orchestra, Nonet.

Funded by the Friends of the Plainsboro Public Library, the festival will take place rain or shine, and will feature Plainsboro artists as well as members of the Plainsboro Library Artists’ Group. In addition to showing their work, they will demonstrate their techniques and will help visitors develop their own artwork.

Celebrate the centennial of Plainsboro Township, which will take place in 2019, by participating in the creation of a centennial banner during the Arts Festival. Plainsboro artist Sangeeta Vinoth will distribute patches on which festivalgoers may write their names in paint, ink, or other media. The patches will be glued to a large banner, which will hang in the library art gallery next May, in conjunction with an exhibit commemorating the centennial.

CUBAN ROOTS: Aydmara Cabrera, shown here in “Swan Lake,” hopes to bring her experience at National Ballet of Cuba into the curriculum of Princeton Ballet School.

Former National Ballet of Cuba principal dancer Aydmara Cabrera has been named school director of Princeton Ballet School (PBS), the official school of American Repertory Ballet (ARB).

According to Julie Diana Hench, executive director of American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School, “Ms. Cabrera is already a beloved teacher and ballet master at PBS, and will be an incredible member of the leadership team. She has impressive professional experience and an inspiring vision for the School that will provide students even greater opportunities. Ms. Cabrera’s passion for the art form is infectious and we are thrilled to have her lead Princeton Ballet School into an exciting new era.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

We are stardust

We are golden

And we have to get ourselves

Back to the garden

I’m not a big Joni Mitchell fan. She never moved me the way Kate Bush does when she becomes the spirit of Cathy singing outside Heathcliff’s window in “Wuthering Heights” or the spirit of Emily Brontë herself in all her untapped wildness when she makes albums like The Dreaming and Hounds of Love. But those lines from Mitchell’s “Woodstock” not only capture the best spirit of the Sixties, they speak to the here and now of Princeton in September 2018, where we have a Garden to get back to, and on Hollywood Nights it’s not just a refuge from the breaking-news madness of our time, it’s an escape route to the days when a B-movie gangster became Humphrey Bogart. My wife and I took our time getting to the Garden to see Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950), one of the lesser known Bogarts. But Bogart is Bogart, the house was packed, and we were lucky to find seats together. more

“NEWSIES”: Performances are underway for PinnWorth Productions’ presentation of “Newsies.” Directed by LouJ Stalsworth, the musical runs through September 16 at the Kelsey Theatre. Katherine Plumber, a mysterious reporter (Bridget Hughes, left) interviews Jack Kelly (Rob Ryan), who leads the delivery boys on strike after Joseph Pulitzer increases the cost of the newspapers to them. (Photo by Robert A. Terrano)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

On July 23, 1899, the New York Herald printed the following headline: “Newsboys’ Strike Promises Success.” That promise is fulfilled by PinnWorth Productions’ presentation of the Broadway musical Newsies, which is playing at the Kelsey Theatre. Directed by LouJ Stalsworth, this polished, energetic production demonstrates why the unsuccessful 1992 film succeeds on stage.

Having rejuvenated the genre of animated musicals with blockbusters such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, Disney attempted to do the same for live-action musical films. However, Newsies was commercially unsuccessful in its theatrical release. more

VOICE OF OPTIMISM: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace makes a point during the program’s recently-held media day. Princeton is coming off a 5-5 campaign in 2017 as it was decimated by injuries and lost its final four games after starting 5-1. With some of the injured stars returning and other players having gained valuable experience last year in their stead, Surace believes the Tigers have the depth to be an Ivy League title contender this fall. Princeton opens its 2018 season underway when it plays at Butler University (2-0) on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After routing Harvard 52-17 last October in improving to 5-1, the Princeton University football team appeared to be on track for a run at a second straight Ivy League title.

But derailed by an avalanche of injuries, the Tigers lost their last four games in slipping to seventh place in the league standings, finishing the season at 5-5 overall and 2-5 Ivy. more

NO DOUBTING THOMAS: Princeton University football captains, from left, Thomas Johnson, John Lovett, Mark Fossati, and Kurt Holuba are all smiles as they posed together at the program’s media day. While Lovett, Fossati, and Holuba were all sidelined by injuries last fall, Johnson emerged as a defensive force, earning first-team All-Ivy League honors at inside linebacker after ranking third in the league with 95 tackles. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Thomas Johnson faced a trial by fire last fall in his junior season for the Princeton University football team.

First, Johnson was moved to a new spot on the field, getting switched to inside linebacker from the outside.

 more

By Bill Alden

Hosting Hightstown last Saturday afternoon, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team found itself in an uphill battle.

Getting off to a sluggish start, PDS yielded a goal 15 minutes into the contest to fall behind 1-0.

 more

LINING IT UP: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Caroline Mullen, left, goes after the ball in a game last season. Last Wednesday, junior midfielder Mullen picked up two assists to help Stuart defeat Burlington City High 5-0 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tartans play at Princeton Day School on September 13 and at George School (Pa.) on September 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Caroline Mullen and her teammates on the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team were determined to start the season on a high note as they hosted Burlington City High last Wednesday in their opener.

“I think we wanted to come out with a lot of intensity,” said junior midfielder and co-captain Mullen. more

RARE JEWEL: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Jules Romano, right, controls the ball last Saturday against Princeton High. Romano and PDS rallied to pull out a 2-2 tie against PHS. The Panthers, who moved to 1-0-1 with the draw, were slated to host Morristown High on September 11 before playing at Hun on September 13 and at Moorestown Friends on September 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jules Romano feels calmer on the field this fall for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer season, with one season under her belt.

“Once I am on the ball, I am not as rushed as I was as a freshman,” said sophomore midfielder Romano. “I am more confident, I know my players.”

 more

HIGH AND DRY: Princeton High football player Drew Staples heads upfield last Saturday as PHS hosted Hightstown in the season opener for both teams. Falling behind 28-0 by halftime, the Little Tigers went on to fall 52-0 to the visiting Rams. PHS will look to get on the winning track when it plays at Pemberton on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

There was reason for optimism early on for the Princeton High football team as it hosted Hightstown last Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

Taking the opening kickoff, PHS drove 34 yards into Hightstown territory before punting it to the Rams.

 more

TIGHT BATTLE: Princeton University men’s soccer player Sean McSherry, left, goes after the ball last Saturday as Princeton hosted Monmouth. McSherry and Tigers dropped a heartbreaker to the Hawks, falling 1-0 despite building a 19-5 edge in shots. Princeton, now 1-3, hosts Temple on September 12 and Boston University on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jim Barlow has seen a lot in his 23 seasons guiding the Princeton University men’s soccer program.

But he never experienced anything quite like Princeton’s heartbreaking 1-0 loss to visiting Monmouth University last Saturday evening. more

SHOCKING NEWS: Sergeant Darren Hill (Liam Matthews) was just finishing up a tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was killed during an ambush of his unit.

By Kam Williams

Sergeant Darren Hill (Liam Matthews) was just days away from finishing up a tour of duty in Afghanistan when he died during an ambush of his unit. The shocking news devastated his wife, Amber (Lindsay Pulsipher), and their young daughter, Bree (Makenzie Moss).

In fact, Amber was so embittered she stepped down as her church’s choir director, saying, “Look where my faith in God got us.” And pep talks from Pastor Williams (LaDainian Tomlinson) and her friends, Bridgette (Jordin Sparks) and Karena (Robin Givens), fail to bring her back into the fold. more