September 23, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

Gaps in achievement and opportunity and challenges of affordability were in the spotlight Saturday morning, September 19, as eight candidates for three open spots on the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE) shared their visions for the future of Princeton schools, in a virtual forum sponsored by the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Association (WJNA).

Incumbents, current BOE President Beth Behrend and Vice President Michele Tuck-Ponder, and challengers Adam Bierman, Hendricks Davis, Jean Durbin, Bill Hare, Paul Johnson, and Karen Lemon, emphasized the need for equity, access, and accountability in the schools and the importance of closing the achievement gap, with African American, Hispanic, special education, and economically disadvantaged students often falling behind, at least on standardized test results.

The eight candidates offered an array of proposals to help bridge those gaps, and an  assortment of plans to pay for those initiatives with minimal impact on already-high Princeton property taxes.

WJNA Co-Chair Leighton Newlin, who moderated the proceedings, emphasized the critical nature of the present moment  “during a national pandemic when virtual education, tutorials through pods, internet access, and connectivity could further exacerbate the historical minority education achievement gap, making it intractable to address, adjust, or reverse.”

In introducing the candidates for  two-minute opening  statements, later followed by their answers to specific questions about equity and affordability and short closing remarks, Newlin added, “We are at a crossroads for our educational endeavors for the children of Princeton.” more

By Anne Levin

Mariel Hemingway

These days, even the most mentally fit are experiencing anxiety and depression. The ongoing pandemic, racial tensions, climate disasters, and the economy are just some of the issues that make those who normally have an upbeat outlook on life start to question their attitudes.

“Absolutely, people are struggling,” said Janet Haag, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Mercer. “I think everyone is feeling this to some extent. And it makes people more likely to relate to others who are really having a hard time.”

“Creating Mental Harmony in Times of Uncertainty” is the title of NAMI Mercer’s 12th annual Harvest of Hope Wellness Conference, being held virtually from October 4-8. Actress Mariel Hemingway, whose family has experienced seven suicides including her famous grandfather, author Ernest Hemingway, and supermodel sister, Margaux Hemingway, is the keynote speaker.

“Suicide is very prevalent in her family, and she has dedicated herself to finding ways to keep herself well,” Haag said of Hemingway. “She did a documentary, Running from Crazy, in which she talked about her own family experience, raising the question, ‘How do you change that trajectory for yourself?’ ” more

By Stuart Mitchner

A year ago I was writing about baseball and the Beatles on the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road and the St. Louis Cardinals’ four-game playoff-clinching sweep of their arch rivals, the Chicago Cubs. At the time I didn’t know about the photograph staged to publicize the ill-fated June 2020 London series between the Cubs and the Cardinals.   

However disappointed fans may have been when the event was canceled by the pandemic, the image of Cubs outfielder Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and catcher Yadier Molina crossing Abbey Road helps make up for it. Here are four ballplayers reenacting in full uniform the zebra crossing cover shot seen round the world, each player replicating the posture, style, and stride of a Beatle — Bryant subbing for George, Rizzo for barefoot Paul (his slightly uplifted lead foot similarly positioned at the exact edge of the identical zebra stripe), Goldschmidt for Ringo, and Molina for John, whose song “Come Together” provided the tagline for both teams’ Facebook postings.

Just imagining what went on behind the scenes brings a smile. Did Rizzo volunteer to go shoeless, or did the organizer of the shoot explain the situation by quoting McCartney, who lived around the corner at the time: “It was a really nice hot day and I didn’t feel like wearing shoes, so I went around to the photo session and showed me bare feet.” Or was there a squabble among the players about which Beatle each would be subbing for? Or perhaps some back and forth between the fiery Molina and the outspoken Bryant, who once defamed the city of St. Louis as “boring.” And maybe a debate about airbrushing the elaborate tattoo on Molina’s right arm, settled with a line from the theme song of the shoot: “One thing I tell you is you got to be free.”

Deals and Steals

It’s worth noting that the legendary Cardinals-Cubs rivalry, the second-most storied in baseball, made them the logical choice to follow 2019’s Red Sox-Yankees London match-up, which had been billed as “an intense and historic rivalry well over a century in the making.”

Both feuds were founded on infamously one-sided deals: the Red Sox “Curse of the Bambino” sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 and the trade that brought Lou Brock (1939-2020) from Chicago to St. Louis in 1964, a move that helped lift the Cardinals to a world championship the same year. When Brock died earlier this month, the New York Times obituary (“Baseball Hall of Famer Known for Stealing Bases”) quoted him on bravado: “You know before you steal a base that you’ve got nine guys out there in different uniforms. You’re alone in a sea of enemies. The only way you can hold your own is by arrogance, the ability to stand before the crowd.”

The reference to “the crowd” has unhappy resonance in this Covid-mangled season where fans have been replaced by cardboard cut-outs and canned cheering. Following the Cardinals this year has been a challenge, the excitement muted, distant, hard to grasp, with the team missing two weeks’ worth of games due to players testing positive for the virus. Even though chances for a playoff spot look promising, it feels a long way from this time last year when I compared the euphoria of winning vicariously on the field to listening to the second side of Abbey Road (“Fifty Years on Abbey Road: ‘The Love You Take Is Equal to the Love You Make’”).  more

“BROADWAY ONLINE TRIVIA NIGHT”: Broadway performer Kathryn Boswell (above) hosted State Theatre New Jersey’s “Broadway Online Trivia Night.” Boswell read trivia questions, chatted with viewers, and performed a song. (Photo by Corinne Louie)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

State Theatre New Jersey presented Broadway Online Trivia Night on September 16. Kathryn Boswell, a member of the Broadway casts of Gigi and Anastasia, hosted the event.

Boswell performed at the State Theatre in November 2019, as songwriter Cynthia Weil, in the North American tour of Beautiful–The Carole King Musical. Boswell told Broadway Online Trivia Night viewers that the New Brunswick-based theater “was one of our favorite stops as a company. It was so wonderful to be so close to New York City; we felt like we were coming home. It’s just such a … beautiful, welcoming space.”

Broadway Online Trivia Night was hosted via Zoom. A donation, of $5 or higher, allowed viewers to participate in the contest, by using a smartphone-based game app (Kahoot!).

“Proceeds raised support State Theatre’s Community Engagement programs,” states a press release. Director of Communications Kelly Blithe elaborates in an email, “The donations are going towards the general community engagement funds which include our Artist-in-Residence program, virtual school programs, the Milk & Cookies series [an interactive storytelling and music program for families], and Ticket Subsidies including free tickets for community partners, charities, and veterans.” more

MUSIC AT MORVEN: The lush grounds behind Morven will serve as host to chamber musicians from the Princeton Symphony Orchestra this fall, starting September 24.

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) has announced a new chamber music series for fall with live performances held outside on the grounds of Morven Museum and Garden. The three-concert series showcases the talents of the orchestra’s individual instrument sections and features principal musicians.

Concerts take place on select Thursday evenings in September and October. All that is needed to make the setting complete are lawn chairs or a blanket. Seating consists of marked-off, socially distanced “pods” for up to two people, and are available for $35/pod.

The series opens Thursday, September 24 at 5:30 p.m. with the PSO Brass Quintet performing music of the Renaissance period, selections from Bernstein’s West Side Story, and more. The ensemble consists of Jerry Bryant, trumpet; Tom Cook, trumpet; Jonathan Clark, horn; Lars Wendt, trombone; and Jonathan Fowler, tuba. more

Richard Tang Yuk

The Princeton Festival, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving its communities with an annual summer festival of the performing arts, has announced that Richard Tang Yuk, executive and artistic director and one of the organization’s founders, has decided to leave the Festival.

“After 16 wonderful years with the Princeton Festival, I am excited to pass the reins to its next leaders and watch the Festival continue to thrive and move to the next level,” said Tang Yuk. “I will forever cherish the great experiences I enjoyed at the Festival, which is so dear to my heart. They would not have been possible without the support and commitment of our board of trustees.”

Gregory Jon Geehern, the Festival’s associate conductor and assistant to the artistic director, has been appointed acting artistic director. Geehern, a conductor, pianist, singer, and scholar, prepared and led many Festival choruses. more

NEW AT ELLARSLIE: “Messenger,” a wood sculpture by Richard Sanders, left, and “The Worst Part of a Good Day,” a painting by Christina MacKinnon, are featured in “The Conversation Continues,” one of two new exhibits opening on September 26 at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie in Cadwalader Park.

The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie  is set to invite the community back for in-person visits beginning at noon on September 26. Ushering in the reopening are the abstract art exhibition “The Conversation Continues,” and the Trenton history exhibition “On the Forefront: Trenton’s Junior 1, 1916,” both in the museum and online.

A timed entry system available at ellarslie.org. Mask requirements, social distancing, museum capacity of 25 persons at a given time, and barriers in the museum store are among the museum’s new safety measures.

“Our two new exhibitions get to the heart of our mission to examine our Trenton history and showcase compelling works by emerging and established artists,” said Trenton Museum Society President Joan Perkes. “We are thrilled to reopen to the public with new programming accompanied by a host of measures that support equally welcoming and safe surroundings. In fact, the subject of our history exhibit ‘In the Forefront,’ echoes a past epidemic as Trenton’s Junior No. 1 had to forego a grand opening and fanfare and open many weeks later than planned due to a polio epidemic in the summer and fall of 1916.” more

“ART AND MUSIC: TOUCHING SOUND”: This work by Susan Hoenig is featured in the Arts Council of Princeton’s newest exhibition, on view September 26 through October 24 in the Taplin Gallery. Featuring paintings, drawings, and sculpture, the show is a collaboration between the Princeton Artists Alliance and Mobius Percussion.

The Arts Council of Princeton now presents “Art and Music: Touching Sound,” a collaboration between the Princeton Artists Alliance and Mobius Percussion. The exhibition, featuring paintings, drawings, and sculpture, is inspired by Mobius’ performance of paper melodies (my music box music) by Jason Treuting, a member of the acclaimed ensemble S Percussion. The show will be on display in the Arts Council of Princeton’s Taplin Gallery from September 26 to October 24.  more

OPEN-AIR ENTHUSIASM: “We believe every detail counts. When we are designing, creating, and installing your patio, outdoor kitchen, walkway, landscape lighting, or a new varied landscape for your yard, our team pays attention to every detail from start to finish. We bring our experience and expertise to every project, and make your dream a reality.” Brian Knisely, center, owner of Cedar Creek Landscapes, is shown with manager Daniel Reed, left, and operations manager Rob Cortina at one of their projects.

By Jean Stratton

From the age of 18, Brian Knisely knew he wanted to have his own company and provide customers with beautiful outdoor living opportunities, whether with handsome hardscapes or lovely landscapes.

That dream came true more than seven years ago when he opened Cedar Creek Landscapes in Pennington, with headquarters on Pennington Titusville Road. It was the culmination of many years in the landscaping business, with time spent mastering  the work — from in-the-field training and hands-on application to sales and administration.

“I grew up in Pennington, and worked for landscape companies in the area from the time I was 18,” says Knisely. “We worked across the board, including landscaping, hardscaping, and maintenance. I learned all aspects of the business and got a real overview.”

His background and success in sales was also helpful, giving him an added dimension as he took the big step in opening his own firm. His careful planning and experience set the foundation for a successful business adventure. more

FAMILY BUSINESS: Jake Boone takes a big cut in a 2019 game during his sophomore season for the Princeton University baseball team. Foregoing his senior season for Princeton, star shortstop Boone recently signed a contract with the Washington Nationals to join the pro ranks. Over his Tiger career, Boone played in 72 games in two-plus seasons, hitting .250 with 71 hits, 31 runs, and 24 RBIs. Boone is adding the latest chapter to his family’s illustrious pro baseball history, whose line of Major League players includes his father (Bret), uncle (Aaron), grandfather (Bob), and great-grandfather (Ray). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Jake Boone had every intention of returning for his senior season with the Princeton University baseball team in 2020-21 before turning professional.

Instead, he accelerated the process to fulfilling his lifelong dream when he signed with the Washington Nationals in August.

“Obviously it’s something I’ve worked for my whole life,” said Boone, reflecting on joining the National League franchise.

“To have a club give me an opportunity like the Nationals, I couldn’t be more excited. I can’t wait to start working and start continuing toward my dream. This is just another step. I’m excited.”

Boone is continuing to take classes that began August 31. It’s looking unlikely that any minor league baseball will take place before next spring, and Boone is training for that chance and hoping to stay on academic track with Princeton’s virtual classes. Past Tiger players who left early would finish their degrees in two fall semesters after missing a spring semester.

“If it was in-person, that’s probably how I would have done it – fall semester, fall semester – that’s the typical route,” said Boone.  more


IN TRAINING: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team go through some drills at a recent preseason training session. The Panthers will open their 2020 campaign when they host Monroe on October 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team won’t get the chance this fall to go for its seventh straight state Prep B title as the tournament has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it could still be a memorable season for the squad.

“From a coaching standpoint, it is challenging because you are not playing in a tournament so you don’t have any hardware on the line,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta, who guided the Panthers to a 16-3-1 record in 2019 as the program won its sixth straight state Prep B title and also advanced to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

“One of our goals every year is to defend our crown but the girls know that won’t happen this year so they just want to keep up the competitiveness of the program. Our No. 1 goal this year is to complete an entire season. They know that everybody has to participate and do their part as far as all of the protocols. They want to win as many games as possible and be competitive.”

The squad’s core of seniors is setting a positive tone as they look forward to competing in their final high school season.

“We have six seniors and with the spring season being canceled, they obviously had concerns because some of that impacted those who played spring sports,” said Trombetta, who team starts the 2020 season by hosting Monroe on October 1. more

ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School field hockey player Jadyn Huff, left, controls the ball in a game last year. Sophomore forward Huff figures to be a go-to finisher for PDS this fall. The Panthers start their 2020 season by hosting the Pennington School on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

There is a sense of gratitude for the Princeton Day School field hockey team as it has toiled through its preseason training.

With PDS having closed to in-person learning in March and the fall season in doubt for many months, the Panthers players were excited to get the go-ahead to start practice on August 24.

“It has been good for the kids to get back doing a fall sport and having a preseason after not being in school for almost five months,” said PDS head coach Heather Farlow, who guided the Panthers to an 8-7-3 record in 2019 and a trip to the state Prep B final.

“It is a nice change for all of them. It is challenging in so many ways but the kids have been really resilient and are just appreciating the connections with each other so much more.”

Farlow appreciates the leadership she is getting from senior captains Gianna Gasparro, Skye Harris, Olivia Phillips, and Aaliyah Sayed.

“I have four seniors returning from last year and because I knew that we were going to have to have smaller groups, these four seniors worked with me all summer,” said Farlow, whose team begins regular season action by hosting the Pennington School on October 2. more

SAVING GRACE: Stuart Country Day School field hockey goalie Audrey Blandford makes a save in a recent preseason workout. Junior star Blandford will be anchoring the Stuart defense again this fall. The Tartans start their 2020 season by hosting the Hun School on October 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having started coaching the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team in the mid-1980s, Missy Bruvik boasts a vast wealth of knowledge and experience.

But Bruvik has never seen anything like the 2020 preseason where she has been compelled to modify her tried and true coaching approach to incorporate COVID-19 protocols.

“I feel like because we were doing optional workouts in August, we used that time to learn how to best do some coaching to keep the kids engaged,” said Bruvik, who took a five-year hiatus from the program in the early 2000s to follow her daughter Kelly and son Ryan as they competed in college athletics in field hockey and golf, respectively. more

September 16, 2020

The first day of fall isn’t until next week, but pumpkins, mums, apples, and more are already in abundance at Terhune Orchards on Cold Soil Road. Area residents share what they are looking forward to this fall in this week’s Town Talk on page 6. (Photo courtesy of Terhune Orchards)

By Anne Levin

October 1 is Princeton Police Chief Nicholas Sutter’s last day on the job. At Princeton Council’s meeting Monday, Sutter was lauded for his more than 25 years on the force —  six of them as chief. The 49-year-old Lawrence resident announced his retirement three months ago.

Current and past Council members, legislators, and Mayor Liz Lempert thanked Sutter for his leadership and credited him with transforming the department into “not only a state but really a national model of policing,” according to former Council member Heather Howard.

Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, Assemblyman Roy Freiman, and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, all of New Jersey’s 16th Legislative District, took turns reading a joint legislative resolution dedicated to Sutter. Lempert read a proclamation from Council.

“He led Princeton through consolidation as well as anybody could have hoped,” said Lempert, prior to reading the proclamation. She cited Sutter’s leadership for “the values our officers are told to uphold, empathy and service to the community. It’s hard to imagine this place without him, because of the big mark he’s left.”

Sutter was captain in Princeton Borough before consolidation of the Borough and Township. He served as acting chief when former chief David Dudeck was forced to retire amid allegations of harassment and discrimination, and a civil suit by seven police offers against him and the municipality. Sutter was named chief in 2014, a year after consolidation. more

By Donald Gilpin

A virtual Board of Education (BOE) Candidates Forum on Saturday, September 19 at 9:30 a.m., sponsored by the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Association (WJNA), will address issues of “equity, access, and accountability,” with eight candidates sharing their visions of the future for Princeton Public Schools and their reasons for seeking one of the three open seats on the BOE in the November 3 election.

Also on Saturday’s agenda, for the second part of the meeting, will be a discussion on zoning and its impact on affordable housing in Princeton.

BOE incumbents Beth Behrend, the current board president, and Michele Tuck-Ponder, current vice president, are slated to participate along with challengers Adam Bierman, Hendricks Davis, Jean Durbin, Bill Hare, Paul Johnson, and Karen Lemon. The candidates have been asked to comment for four minutes each on their vision for the district’s future and the experience and skills they would bring to the job.

Emphasizing the importance of the moment and the fact that three of the eight candidates are African American, WJNA Co-Chair Leighton Newlin pointed out, “This comes at a time during a national pandemic when virtual education, tutorials through pods, internet access, and connectivity could further exacerbate the historical minority education achievement gap, making it intractable to address, adjust, or reverse.” more

By Donald Gilpin

It’s virtual this year and somewhat reduced in scope, but Princeton is celebrating its fifth annual Welcoming Week, sponsored by Princeton Human Services and the Princeton Public Library (PPL), with an invitation to all residents to share a favorite recipe.

“The overarching goal of Welcoming Week is to celebrate the contributions of all residents in our community and to promote community and inclusivity among all of those who live in Princeton,”  said Human Services Director Melissa Urias, and this year’s event, September 12-20, is featuring recipes that community members might prepare for visitors and the stories behind those recipes.

“If you were to make a dish to welcome someone into your home, or to welcome someone to the neighborhood, what would it be?” asks the engageprinceton.org website, headquarters for this year’s Welcoming Week events. “Is there a story around the recipe? What makes it special to you? Was it shared with you by a friend or family member  — or was it a favorite of someone you love?”

Welcoming Week organizers at the PPL are gathering the recipes and stories “looking forward to the time when we will be able to come together around a table, around nourishing food and building friendship and community.” more

DRIVE-THROUGH PUMPKIN CARVE: The Amazing Pumpkin Carve will be viewed from vehicles this year, but the Hopewell Valley Arts Council is confident that the October 7-11 event at Woolsey Park will be as engaging as in previous years. (Photo by Michael Davies)

By Anne Levin

For the Hopewell Valley Arts Council (HVAC), turning the Amazing Pumpkin Carve into a drive-through event was a challenge that had to be met. Now in its sixth year, the annual celebration of art, music, food, dance, and all things Halloween, held at Woolsey Park in Titusville, has become the organization’s major fundraiser.

Thanks to social distancing restrictions of the pandemic, holding the event in the usual manner was not a possibility this year. “It was a festival, where  you’d come in, walk around, listen to live music, have food — more like coming to a fair,” said Carol Lipson, HVAC executive director. “We couldn’t do that. So we had to get creative. That’s how we got the idea for making the festival a drive-through event.”

From October 7 to 11, viewers will be able to cruise through the park in their cars. As in previous years, 40 pumpkins will be carved and electrified by local artists and displayed in illuminated tents. Participants will drive up and receive an event program, listen to live or DJ’d music, and take quick, socially distanced photo ops. Visitors will receive a free mini-pumpkin while supplies last, and popcorn and cider will be available for purchase.

“We’ll have music piped into cars while people are waiting in line to get in,” said Lipson. “We’ll also have live music Friday and Saturday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. On Sunday all day, a DJ has volunteered to be here.” more

By Donald Gilpin

President Donald Trump was the subject of a Monday, September 14 virtual book talk with Atlantic editor and writer David Frum, author of the recent Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy, in conversation with Princeton University History Professor Julian Zelizer under the auspices of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

Beyond the discussion of the upcoming presidential election and the possibility of an approaching end to the Trump presidency was the belief that even if Trump is defeated on November 3, “Trumpism will not be so easily removed from American life,” as Frum has stated in his book.

Though Frum, still a registered Republican and a longtime proponent of the conservative movement, was sharply critical of Trump in both his 2018 book Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic and in his recent book, which was published in May, he remains hopeful for the future of the American democracy and for the Republican Party.

Frum explained that an apocalypse, or a Trumpocalypse, does not necessarily mean the end of the world. “Apocalypse means a revelation, a vision, but not just a vision of the end of the world,” he said. His book, he stated, explores “what comes after, what comes next, with a view that we can shape what comes next,” amidst “challenges to the democratic order and American government driven by the fact that systems all over the world have not delivered very well.” more

BACK IN THE SWIM: Among the most popular spots at the Princeton Family YMCA is the pool, where lap swimming has resumed, by appointment, along with other activities.

After being closed since the onset of the pandemic, the Princeton Family YMCA opened its doors this week. Capacity is limited and certain restrictions are in place. Loyal members have begun returning to the facility on Paul Robeson Place.

“I heard a wonderful story today,” said Kate Bech, the organization’s executive director, on  opening day Monday, September 14. “We have four people who have already reactivated their memberships, and they are golden members, which means they are 85 and older. One of them showed up today and said by golly, she was glad to be back! This is very real for a lot of people. For older residents, this has all been very isolating. For them to return to their routine at the Y is very meaningful.”

As of September 1, Gov. Phil Murphy allowed all gyms in the state to reopen as long as they do not exceed 25 percent of indoor capacity, and they follow other safety guidelines. The YMCA rearranged the exercise equipment in its Fitzpatrick Fitness Center, instituted temperature checks, and health screenings, increased sanitation, and is requiring masks to be worn. more

Child Care Scholarships and Internet Access for PPS Students

Approximately 200 Princeton families will receive unlimited wireless data in their homes for the school year, under an agreement between Princeton Public Schools (PPS) and two internet providers, Comcast and T-Mobile.  The companies are offering discounted service for qualifying families, and PPS will cover this cost with funds from a grant from an anonymous donor.

The district has also received a grant to provide child care in partnership with the Princeton YMCA during the current remote learning period and beyond. The YMCA is providing safe, monitored child care for students at the Pannell Center and the Crimmins Center for approximately 40 qualifying students, which began on September 14.

Advisory Committee to Help Name Middle School

An advisory committee of ten school officials and community members will hold its first meeting on September 21 to plan the initial steps in suggesting new names for the Princeton Unified Middle School (PUMS), formerly John Witherspoon Middle School.

As the naming process continues, the committee will be seeking input from school staff and students and the community.

The committee so far includes Debbie Bronfeld and Betsy Baglio, from the PPS Board of Education; Shirley Satterfield, local historian; Geoffrey Allen, Princeton High School graduate and author of the original petition to remove the name of Witherspoon; Jason Burr, PUMS principal; Jen Bigioni, Princeton High School teacher and librarian; Stephanie Tidwell, PPS mathematics supervisor; Cecilia Birge, PHS assistant principal; Angela Siso Stentz, Johnson Park principal; and Interim Superintendent Barry Galasso. more

By Stuart Mitchner

I’ve been thinking about the time I saw Frank Capra in person. It was in the late 1970s, in a classroom at Princeton’s Center for the Visual Arts on Nassau Street. The meeting got off to a rocky start when one of the students asked a question that distinguished between art films and popular, commercial movies like It’s a Wonderful Life. Immediately on the defensive, Capra insisted that the artistic value of any work in any medium was ultimately determined by its popularity. Critics, scholars, reviewers be damned! The people had the last say. “All great art is popular!” he insisted, citing Michelangelo, Shakespeare, and da Vinci. “Look at all the people who come to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa!”

The students were a bit rattled. Why was the old guy so touchy? Clearly, he still believed that his populist, upbeat films had been misunderstood and devalued by elitists. I considered weighing in to say how often I’d argued with film-buff friends who scorned It’s a Wonderful Life and invariably cited Fellini’s La Dolce Vita as an example of “great art.” Instead, I said something about Jimmy Stewart’s performance as George Bailey, aware that the mere mention of the other film might only make things worse.

A British Bridge

My bridge from Capra’s Life to Fellini’s Vita is the British film critic David Thomson, who slammed both directors in his Biographical Dictionary of Film (1994). It’s only fair to note that Thomson may have updated his comments in later editions and that when he’s not righteously venting, he writes as well about film as anyone this side of James Agee. That’s why I quoted his thoughts on the “uneasy depths” of It’s a Wonderful Life to close out last week’s column. After giving the film his mixed blessing, however, he couldn’t resist another personal dig: “I think I like Capra less than ever, even if I have become interested in his emotional muddle.”  more

“SUMMER 2020: EONS AT THE SAME TIME”: Fly Eyes Playwrights presented an online anthology of documentary-style monologues. Top row, from left: Sandy Kitain, Mimi Schwartz, Donna Clovis. Second row: Tri Duc Tran, Fulton C. Hodges, Aixa Kendrick. Third row: davidbdale, Joey Perillo, June Ballinger. Bottom row: Carol Simmons, Jill Hackett. (Photo montage courtesy of Fly Eyes Playwrights, and the participating actors)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Fly Eyes Playwrights offered a free online presentation of Summer 2020: Eons at the Same Time on September 10 and 12. The play is an anthology of monologues, derived from interviews in which people react to the convergence of the COVID-19 lockdown and the Black Lives Matter movement.

A press release reveals the project’s origins as an “online documentary theatre course at McCarter Theatre, under the direction of former Artistic Director Emily Mann. After the four-week program ended, the students decided to form Fly Eyes Playwrights and continue their work in documentary theatre, gathering monologues from diverse real-life voices of the moment.”

Summer 2020: Eons at the Same Time is the culmination of the playwrights’ coursework, combined with additional pieces to expand the show into a full-length play. The disparate monologues deftly have been woven together into a thematically unified larger show.

During a post-show discussion following Thursday’s performance, playwright and actor Donna Clovis emphasized that the monologues contain the words spoken by the interviewees. “They’re not our words; we just transcribe them,” Clovis said.  more

AND THE WINNERS ARE: Finalists and top players at The Princeton Festival’s 2019 Piano Competition displayed their trophies in person, but this year’s winners will vie virtually for the honors.

By Anne Levin

For the past 13 years, The Princeton Festival has been holding a piano competition for young musicians ages 6 to 24. More than 100 entrants have been known to take part in the popular event, coming to Princeton from the tri-state area to play works by major composers in front of discerning judges.

The pandemic has changed all that. The event is virtual this year. Judges accustomed to observing the young musicians up close — sitting with them in small piano studios at Westminster Choir College — are instead making their decisions after watching and listening to them online.

A video concert by the finalists will be available on the Princeton Festival website (princetonfestival.org) on Wednesday, September 23 at 6 p.m., with the winners to be announced at the end. Tickets are $10 and streaming will be available until September 27 at 10 p.m. more

OPENING NEW MUSICAL DOORS: Westrick Music Academy is holding new virtual music classes for students of all ages. For information and registration, visit WestrickMusic.org/education.

Westrick Music Academy (WMA), home of Princeton Girlchoir and Princeton Boychoir, is currently enrolling students of all ages in a variety of music education classes, exploring new ways to build and strengthen musicianship skills.

Young singers in grades 1-2 looking to develop their singing voice and music skills are invited to join Poco Voce. This non-performing music class explores the young singer’s voice. During each lesson, children will focus on tone development and fundamental musical skills, through engaging games and activities. more