January 18, 2017

If at first an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it. — Albert Einstein

I’m thinking of two Lears. Edward is the author of “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat,” one of the happiest poems ever written. The other Lear is Shakespeare’s mad king who brings the world down on his head because he only hears what he wants to hear no matter how evil the source and when he hears something he doesn’t want to hear, even when it’s spoken by an angel, he banishes the angel, opens the door of his kingdom to evil, and is lost. It’s our good fortune that Shakespeare makes great literature out of all that madness and misery. It’s our absurd fortune that someone with the failings of the mad king is about to take the throne. more

The Arts Council of Princeton is nominated for Favorite Gallery, Favorite Adult Art Classes, and Favorite Art Camp in the Discover Jersey Arts People’s Choice Awards. Pictured here is their building, Paul Robeson Center for the Arts.

For one semester, Princeton University’s Music 219, an opera performance class in the music department, put its small class through the paces of preparing operatic excerpts for public performance. The students and faculty selected the music to be prepared, and the class culminated last Saturday night in an evening of operatic selections accompanied by an orchestra.  more

BURIAL BATTLE: Laertes (Edmund Lewis, on bottom) and Hamlet (Eric Tucker) fight over the corpse of Ophelia (Andrus Nichols) in the graveyard, as Hamlet prepares for his final revenge in Bedlam theater company’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through February 12. (Photo by Elizabeth Nichols)

A New York-based theater company founded in 2012, Bedlam, currently presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Shaw’s Saint Joan in rotating repertory at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre, has received much acclaim from New York critics and others for its productions over the past four years. McCarter artistic director Emily Mann saw their Saint Joan a few years ago in New York City, and “was determined to bring Bedlam’s work to Princeton.” more

CLARINET MASTERCLASS WITH DAVID KRAKAUER: On Saturday, January 28 from 2 to 5 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) continues its masterclass partnership with Westminster Conservatory with a PSO BRAVO! Masterclass with clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer. Advance reservations are required via princetonsymphony.org or by phone at (609) 497-0020.

On Saturday, January 28 from 2 to 5 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) continues its masterclass partnership with Westminster Conservatory with a PSO BRAVO! Masterclass with clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer.  more

Jose Adan Perez

Boheme Opera NJ is delighted to present a semi-staged performance of Gioacchino Rossini’s comic opera, The Barber of Seville at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in Ewing on Sunday, January 29 at 3 p.m. The performance will take place at the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall on the campus of TCNJ. Members of the Boheme Opera Orchestra will be on stage with the cast and Boheme Opera Men’s Chorus Ensemble. Artistic Director Joseph Pucciatti will conduct, assisted by Howard Zogott as stage director. There will be a Mayo Concert Hall lobby reception for audience members directly after the production. Reserved tickets for the performance are $50 and $30, now available online at bit.ly/BONJ_Barber_TCNJ and also via TCNJ’s audience services specialist at (609) 771-2585.  more

FITNESS FOR YOU: “We offer a very personalized program. It is very customized, with both private and group classes, with only three to four students in a group.” Nikki Cifelli, owner of Studio Nikki LLC Pilates & Fitness, is shown by the Reformer Pilates equipment, which is used for many exercises.

The New Year is upon us, and if improving your fitness level is on that list of resolutions, Studio Nikki LLC Pilates & Fitness in Skillman is just the place. Offering integrated services of Pilates, Redcord, breast cancer rehabilitation, and CoreAlign; it is an ideal format for exercise, toning, and enhancing general well-being. more

January 11, 2017

Sixteen years into its progress to a stature as mighty as its 300-year-old parent, the little oak grown from a Mercer Oak acorn still occupies the symbolic heart of the Princeton Battlefield. Named for General Hugh Mercer, who was fatally wounded by British soldiers during the Battle of Princeton, the magisterial Mercer Oak fell on March 3, 2000, after a wind storm toppled its last four branches. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

PHS graduate Damien Chazelle met recently with Town Topics film reviewer Kam Williams to  talk about his latest movie, La La Land, which swept the Golden Globes Sunday, winning a record seven awards.

Damien wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning Whiplash which landed five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for Chazelle. The movie won a trio of Oscars in the Film Editing, Sound Mixing and Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons) categories.

In 2013, his short film of the same name won the Short Film Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Previously, Damien wrote Grand Piano, starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack, and co-wrote the horror sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane, starring John Goodman. His screenplays for Whiplash and The Claim both appeared on the “Blacklist,” the annual survey of the most liked motion picture screenplays not yet produced.

Damien shot his first feature film, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, while still an undergraduate at Harvard University. The critically-acclaimed debut was named the Best First Feature of 2010 by L.A. Weekly and was described as “easily the best first film in eons” by Time Out New York. more

Princeton Charter School campus

It’s up to the State Department of Education’s Acting Commissioner Kimberley Harrington whether or not to approve Princeton Charter School’s (PCS) application to expand its enrollment by 76 students. With Princeton Public Schools (PPS) and their supporters opposing the expansion publicly, in the press, in the courts, locally and in Trenton, and the PCS strongly defending its proposal, Ms. Harrington has plenty of opportunity for input from both sides on her decision, which she is expected to render within the next two months. more

The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education last week swore in three new members and appointed a new president and vice president. Debbie Bronfeld, William Hare, and Gregory Stankiewicz, newly elected last November, joined the Board for three-year terms; Patrick Sullivan stepped up to the office of president; and Dafna Kendal assumed the position of vice president.

Priorities on the agenda for the year ahead include opposing the Charter School’s proposed expansion; pursuing the most effective, financially responsible ways to relieve overcrowding; and implementing the Strategic Plan to close the achievement gap and improve education for all. more

Institute for Advanced Study

Throughout the fall the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) continued to assert its right to proceed with its faculty housing project adjacent to the Princeton Battlefield. Despite ongoing objections from the Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS) and others, site preparation moved forward and construction seemed imminent.  more

At Princeton Council’s annual reorganization meeting on Wednesday, January 4, returning member Jenny Crumiller and newcomer Tim Quinn were sworn in. New Jersey Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker administered the oath of office to Mayor Liz Lempert, who was elected to a second term.

No official actions were taken at a meeting the following Monday, January 9, but the governing body heard a presentation about storm water management, was updated on 2017 budget goals, and was asked by a member of the public to consider creating a resolution opposing the proposed expansion of Princeton Charter School. That issue will likely be on the agenda for the Council meeting on January 23. A third gathering being held Tuesday, January 10 (after press time) is dedicated to setting goals and priorities for the coming year. more

Every now and then certain cliches become not only useful but indispensable. That’s what makes them cliches, after all. In the period since November 8, and to a lesser extent during the presidential campaign itself, “skating on thin ice” has said it best for me. The idea also describes how it is to look for Shakespeare in his play Pericles, the first two acts of which are thought to be the work of a hack named George Wilkins. Then there’s Jacques Rivette (1928-2016) and his first full-length film Paris Belongs to Us (Paris nous appartient), which puts thin ice under your feet even before it begins with an epigraph from Charles Péguy that says “Paris belongs to no one.”

As it happens, the “thin ice” sensation in both works gives them a disturbing relevance to any real-life crisis or turn of events, regardless of time, place, or context.

The greatness of Shakespeare is that he’s always with us, forever pertinent, there to be shaped or tempered or all too often twisted to flow with the currents of the time, even when the work in question is as damaged as Pericles. How “topical” is Pericles? An article by Cynthia Zarin from the New Yorker’s online Culture Desk mentions “the Middle East, refugees, perilous sea crossings, and sex trafficking.”  more

Princeton Adult School has mailed its spring 2017 brochure and opened its online registration site.

Visit princetonadultschool.org for more information.

The Adult School has focused its Lectures and Discussions to highlight change in Washington from the viewpoints of experts in key areas such as immigration, education, healthcare, and trade policy in the series “What’s Next?” on Tuesday nights starting February 28, a little more inside government talk; and “The Lives and Careers of Six of Our Most Important Supreme Court Justices” to round it off.  more

Williamson Hall overlooking the Princeton campus of Westminster Choir College.

At a packed meeting of Princeton’s Historic Preservation Commission last week, a group of students, alumni, and friends of Westminster Choir College of Rider University asked that the Westminster campus on Walnut Avenue be registered as a historic district. The request is part of an effort to keep the music school’s operations in Princeton, instead of relocating to Rider’s Lawrenceville location, a move the financially strapped University is considering. more

Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, an independent school for boys in kindergarten through grade 8, will host a screening of the documentary Screenagers on Wednesday, January 18 at 6 p.m. at the McPherson Athletic and Convocation Center (MACC) on its Princeton campus.

Screenagers delves into the vulnerable corners of family life (including the director’s own) when it comes to the influence and prevalence of social media, video games, and internet addiction. Through surprising insights from brain scientists and authors, solutions emerge as to how parents and educators can empower kids to responsibly navigate the digital world.  more

“We are the ‘Go To’ place for aging well,” says Susan W. Hoskins, LCSW, executive director of the Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC). “It’s important to have social interaction, a sense of purpose to engage your mind and learn new things in order to have better overall health and brain health.”

The number of older Americans is increasing all the time. Studies show that each day, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65, and will continue to do so over the next several years. Not only are there more older people but their longevity is increasing. One of the fastest growing age groups is people 80-plus! more

January 4, 2017

A lone figure on Lake Carnegie suggests, at least for some, the time when you could see Albert Einstein out there “sailing through strange seas of thought” in his dinghy. (Photo by Emily Reeves) 

Mayor Liz Lempert has named nine appointees to Princeton’s new Civil Rights Commission, which is designed to provide informal conflict resolution and mediation. Princeton Council is expected to approve the list at its annual reorganization meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, January 4.

Members come from different sectors of the community, including four affiliated with Princeton University. “I’m excited about the launch of this important commission, and I’m especially thrilled with the diversity of residents who have volunteered to serve, and the expertise they bring to the table,” Ms. Lempert wrote in an email on Tuesday. more

Seven hundred and seventy students from a pool of 5003 candidates who applied through single-choice early action have been offered admission to next year’s freshman class at Princeton University. The number of early applicants is the largest in the past six years, up 18.3 percent from last year. more

A proposal by The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton is on the agenda of the Princeton Historical Commission’s meeting scheduled for Thursday evening, January 5.

Constance Fee, president of the school’s Alumni Council, plans to read a brief introduction to the proposal, which asks that the 28-acre campus be designated a historical landmark. Financially strapped Rider University, which has owned Westminster since 1992, is studying the idea of selling the Walnut Avenue site and relocating Westminster to Rider’s main campus in Lawrenceville. The request to the Historical Commission is part of an effort by students, alumni, and friends of Westminster to protect the campus and keep it where it has been since 1932.

“It’s not just the people. It’s the environment,” said Ms. Fee, an alumna whose mother also graduated from the school. On the music faculty at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, New York, Ms. Fee has sent three of her former students to Westminster. “This is a Greek Revival style campus that was built specifically for educating a choir, with rehearsal spaces, practice rooms, teaching studios, and organs,” she continued. “To replicate that would be a staggering task.” more

MUCH NEEDED ADDITION: The new addition to be built on the grounds of Morven has been designed by GWWO Architects as a support structure that augments the historic mansion rather than stealing the architectural spotlight. Groundbreaking is Thursday. (Watercolor renderings by artist Mark Schreiber)

It has taken more than a decade, but Morven Museum and Garden is finally ready to break ground on a new building that will house an area for programming, a classroom, offices, and much needed storage space. On Thursday morning, January 5 at 10:30 a.m., shovels will officially hit the dirt. more

A recent gathering marked the $3,000 donation from the Whole Earth Center to the Friends of Herrontown Woods. Left to right: FOHW president Steve Hiltner, WEC board member Agnes Mironov, and FOHW board members Ahmed Azmy, Jon Johnson, and Inge Regan. The donation will go to the continuing restoration of trails and habitat at Herrontown Woods in northeast Princeton, and renovation of the Oswald Veblen house, barn, and cottage. Veblen, a Princeton University mathematics professor instrumental in the founding of the Institute for Advanced Study, donated much of his land to Mercer County in 1957 to form Princeton’s first nature preserve.

Nursing students from The College of New Jersey recently provided their services to Child Health Associates, a pediatric practice in Plainsboro. From left: Celia Cattabiani, Daniell Lacovo, Jacqueline Bilatto, Jane Clark, Jessie Riddlestorffer, and Lindsey Brandt worked in the office. The collaboration enables TCNJ nursing students to learn the practice of medicine from a multi-cultural patient population in ways that prepare them to provide nursing to a diverse group.