July 1, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

In a reversal of a decision made four years ago, Princeton University announced, on June 27, that the name of Woodrow Wilson will be removed from its School of Public and International Affairs and from the residence college that used to bear his name.

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber announced that the decision was made at a June 26 special meeting, where the University’s Board of Trustees considered actions Princeton University could take to oppose racism.

“The trustees concluded that Woodrow Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms,” Eisgruber stated. 

Wilson graduated from Princeton in 1879 and served as president of  the University from 1902 to 1910 before going on to become the 34th governor of New Jersey and the 28th president of the United States.

In a letter to the Princeton University community, Eisgruber noted the “complexity” of Wilson’s record, citing Wilson’s contribution to making Princeton a great research university but also emphasizing Wilson’s racist attitudes and actions. 

Wilson blocked African American applicants from entering Princeton (“It is altogether inadvisable for a colored man to enter Princeton,” he once wrote). During his time in the White House, Wilson dismissed 15 of 17 previously appointed black supervisors, among other racist and segregationist actions. more

New Principal at Johnson Park

Angela Siso Stentz will become acting principal at Johnson Park Elementary School (JP) on July 1, the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) announced last week. She will be taking over from longtime JP Principal Robert Ginsberg, who has moved into the central administration as PPS acting assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Stentz, who has served as PHS assistant principal for the past three years, started in the PPS district as a special education teacher in math and Spanish in the 1999-2000 school year, became supervisor of student activities in 2005, then supervisor of guidance from 2008 to 2017. 

Innovative Tuition Plan

Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart (PASH) has proposed “a bold reinvention of its tuition model” for the upcoming school year.  According to a June press release, PASH, in response to the economic stress impacting many families during the coronavirus pandemic, has updated a new maximum tuition schedule that could provide “a welcome relief in these uncertain times.”

The new schedule, the press release states, “reflects a reset of tuition fees in the range of $3,600 to $8,800 in savings for families.”  In a June 7 letter to the PASH community Headmaster Rik Dugan wrote, “We are mindful of the profound impact that this pandemic has had on many of our families and the broader Princeton community. We want to lessen the burden for our families, whose loyalty we are deeply grateful for. At the same time, we believe that now, more than ever, our exceptional learning experience should be made accessible to as many boys as possible.”

More information on PASH’s individualized affordable tuition program is available at princetonacademy.org. more

By Stuart Mitchner

The last time I road-tested a song was for a column celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ White Album, released in the U.S. on November 22, 1968. Driving from Kingston to Princeton with “Revolution 9” on the stereo, I covered the distance in 8:15, the exact length of the surreal sound collage created by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Twice as long, “Murder Most Foul,” Bob Dylan’s Kennedy assassination tour de force, took me and my 20-year-old-and-counting Honda CRV to Kingston and back and then halfway to Rocky Hill so I could hear it again. The ride was as rich, as dense, and as sweepingly provocative as a novel compared to the churning, driving soundscape of “Revolution 9,” yet both in-motion listening experiences reverberated with the chaotic, fateful aftershocks of the same day in Dallas.                        

Twilight Time in Tulsa

Given the enormity of the audiences their records reached, Dylan and the Beatles had the power to sound and shape the culture of the period, underground as well as mainstream. The Beatles knew what they were doing by releasing the White Album on the fifth anniversary of the assassination, as Dylan knew when he sent Tempest into the world on September 11, 2012 and timed the June 19 release of his new album Rough and Rowdy Ways to coincide with Juneteenth, the date officially marking the end of slavery.  more

MCCARTER LIVE: McCarter Theatre presented an online conversation between outgoing artistic director and resident playwright Emily Mann; and composer Lucy Simon (above). (Photo by Jamie Levine)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter LIVE: In Conversation with Lucy Simon” was presented June 26. Artistic Engagement Manager Paula T. Alekson curated this final installment of McCarter’s series of discussions between Artistic Director and Resident Playwright Emily Mann, and some of her collaborators on past and current projects.

Singer, songwriter, and Broadway composer Lucy Simon is working with Mann and lyricist Susan Birkenhead on a musical adaptation of Kent Haruf’s 2015 novel Our Souls at Night.

Her sisters are singer and songwriter Carly Simon and opera singer Joanna Simon. “There was always music in our house,” Simon recalls, speaking from her home in Nyack, N.Y. “My father [the co-founder of Simon & Schuster] was a wonderful pianist. My mother was a beautiful singer. We would all sing together. Joanna would bring home three-part glee club songs.”

A setting of Eugene Field’s 1889 poem “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” was Simon’s first composition. “I was in sixth or seventh grade,” she says. “We had to recite a poem to our class. I had difficulty remembering words; I didn’t have difficulty if I set them to music. Carly and I recorded it years later, and it became a big hit.” When Lucy was 16 she and Carly formed a duo, the Simon Sisters. “They were just a little bit older, and I wanted very much to be them!” Mann remembers. more

“IN CONVERSATION”: The Arts Council of Princeton will present artist Mario Moore, center, in the virtual program “In Conversation with Mario Moore and James Steward” on Tuesday, July 7 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The free program is part of the ACP’s apART together initiative.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) takes pride in its diverse community of artists, authors, and creatives of all disciplines. “In Conversation” is a curated series of discussions designed to celebrate and connect those who make art and those who love art. Breaking down the barriers between artist and art-appreciator, “In Conversation” delves into inspiration, studio practice, and artistic aspirations.

The ACP presents “In Conversation with Mario Moore and James Steward” on Tuesday, July 7 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Moore (b. 1987) is a Detroit native currently residing in New York City. He received a BFA in Illustration from the College for Creative Studies (2009) and an MFA in Painting from the Yale School of Art (2013). He has participated as an artist-in-residence at Knox College, Fountainhead residency, and the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.  more

This oil painting by Christina Poruczynski is featured in “For the Love of Art,” the Arts and Cultural Council of Bucks County’s online exhibition and sale, which has been extended to August 31 and expanded with 20 additional artists. It is now on view at bucksarts.org.

KEEPING THEATER ALIVE: Passage Theatre Company of Trenton has just concluded a fundraising campaign to help ensure its future at Mill Hill Playhouse. Former Artistic Director June Ballinger is shown here in a production of “Blood: A Comedy” by David Lee White.

Passage Theatre Company, the Trenton-based organization committed to producing socially relevant new plays and arts programming, has just concluded a $15,000 fundraising campaign to help ensure its future in the wake of COVID-19.

Now heading into its 35th season, Passage is focused on professional productions, educational programs, and community engagement, endeavoring to present diverse perspectives and new voices that inspire audiences and invigorate the art of live theater.

Proceeds of the fund will go towards producing Passage’s 2020-21 season programming, along with artist and staff salaries. more

BEST BATHS:  “Our showroom is currently focused on the bath, but we will be expanding the area to accommodate a variety of kitchen products. When people come in, they will find a complete showroom, with all the choices and high quality products they need.” Jill Jefferson-Miller, owner of Jefferson Bath & Kitchen, is shown by a display of Jaclo products, including tubs, toilets, and shower accessories.

By Jean Stratton

Staying put for the past several months has led many homeowners to think about a face lift!

Not necessarily a bit of “nip and tuck” here and there around the eyes or to firm up that softening chin line — although those are certainly options too.

But more to the point, many people are thinking of ways to create a new look in the house — specifically, the bath and kitchen. Both are hot spots for upgrades.

Improvements to these special places have long been known to boost sale prices for homeowners wishing to sell. But, on the other hand, isn’t it appealing to make some changes just for your own enjoyment? Especially during times that have brought added stress to everyday lives.

Soothing Sanctuary

Jefferson Bath & Kitchen, located at 29 Airpark Road, Floor 2, is just the place to find everything from a new shower head or sink to a bath tub, toilet, or all of these if you are ready for a complete remodel.

Indeed, the bathroom of today is bigger and better than ever. It can be decorative as well as functional, and can provide a spa-like atmosphere, a sophisticated sanctuary allowing soothing relaxation in freestanding tubs, multi-function showers featuring different water pressure and spray patterns, such as “massage,” “rain,” and “champagne bubbles.”

The possibilities are quite remarkable. Sinks and tubs are available not only in the typical porcelain but in marble, granite, onyx, and bamboo.

There are also toilets with heated seats, automatic open/close lids, hygienic cleaning wands, and warm air dryers. more

RETURN FLIGHT: Joe Scott makes a point to a player during the 2006-07 season in his last campaign as the head coach of the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Scott, a 1987 Princeton alum and former star guard for the Tigers, went on to serve as the head coach at the University of Denver from 2007-16 and then had stints as assistant coach at Holy Cross (2016-18) and the University of Georgia (2018-20), was recently named as the head coach of the Air Force men’s hoops program. It marks his second stint with the Falcons as he coached the Air Force from 2000-04. (Photo by NJ SportAction)

By Justin Feil

Making a return flight, Joe Scott is preparing for his second stint as the Air Force Academy men’s basketball head coach.

It is the Princeton University alum’s first head coaching job since 2016, not that he had ever left the game.

“The main thing how I went through it is I’m a coach,” said Scott, 54, who worked as an assistant coach at Holy Cross (2016-18) and at the University of Georgia (2018-20) during that period.

“I’ve always been a coach and I approached it that way. I kept coaching. I felt that continuing to coach and being around 18-22-year-olds and helping them improve and helping them grow, that was the way to become a head coach again. I’m fortunate. What I’m really glad about is I did it that way. People take time off, but I’m glad I did it that way. I was at two different places, and the last four years I’m going to really use in my time here at Air Force. I learned so much in the last four years.”

Scott has been a head coach for 16 of his 29 years in coaching. The 1987 Princeton graduate played for Pete Carril and then headed to Notre Dame Law School and practiced law for a New Jersey firm, Ribis, Graham, & Carter. Scott found his way back to the basketball court, starting out as an assistant at Monmouth before joining the staff of the legendary Carril and then serving as an assistant to Bill Carmody when Carril retired. In taking the Air Force post, Scott joins other Princeton alumni Chris Mooney (Richmond), Mike Brennan (American), and Mitch Henderson (Princeton) as Division I head coaches. Scott also added former Tigers player and coach Sydney Johnson to his Air Force staff. more

STICKING POINT: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Trevor Deubner, right, battles to get past a foe in a game last spring. Senior star attackman and University of North Carolina-bound Deubner was primed to quarterback Hun’s high-powered offense in his final campaign. The Raiders totaled 21 goals as they started 0-2 before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team got off to a 0-2 start this spring, Jeff Snow felt fortunate.

Hun fell 14-9 to St. Stephens & St. Agnes School (Va.) in its season opener on March 10 and then lost 13-12 to Penn Charter (Pa.) a day later. But by the end of the week, schools were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and then weeks later the spring sports season was formally canceled.

“We were one of the lucky schools — the only one in New Jersey to the best of my knowledge — to have actually played two games,” said Hun head coach Snow, a former assistant with the program who took the helm this spring, succeeding previous head coach MV Whitlow after he stepped down last fall.

“In the past we had gone to the desert of Arizona to train, but we felt that this group needed to be challenged and play right away.”

Snow was encouraged by how the Hun offense clicked in the two games and saw good things on the horizon. more

TRAINED EYE: Jim Stagnitta eyes the action in his role as the head coach coach of the Whipsnakes of the Premier Lacrosse League. Stagnitta, who boasts 32 years of college and pro coaching experience, is bringing his wealth of knowledge to the high school level, having recently been hired as the head coach of the Hun School boys’ lacrosse program. (Photo provided courtesy of the Hun School)

By Bill Alden

With a resume that includes extensive college and pro lacrosse coaching experience, Jim Stagnitta is now bringing that wealth of knowledge to the local high school scene as he will be taking the helm of the Hun School boys’ lacrosse program.

Over his 32 years in the game, Stagnitta had guided such college programs as Rutgers University, Arcadia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Washington and Lee University. On the pro level, he has been the head coach of the Denver Outlaws and the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse as well as the offensive coordinator for the Florida Launch. He is currently the head coach of the Whipsnakes in the Premier Lacrosse League.

In reflecting on his move to Hun, which was announced last week, Stagnitta believes the time is right for him to bring his expertise to that level.

“I’m no stranger to high school lacrosse,” said Stagnitta as quoted in a press release issued by Hun regarding his hiring.  more

LINE OF FIRE: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse goalie Caroline Letrent tracks a shot in a 2019 game. Letrent, the lone senior on the Stuart squad this spring, didn’t get to experience a big finale as the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Mark Maser coached his daughter Julia when she played travel lacrosse and then enjoyed watching her star for the Stuart Country Day lax program.

Over the years, Maser worked with the WW/P Lightning Lacrosse and Ultimate Lacrosse club programs before his daughter went on to play at Colby College.

This spring, when Stuart’s longtime lacrosse head coach Missy Bruvik decided to step down, Maser was ready to get into high school coaching.

“I have known Missy Bruvik for a number of years and as a parent who watched the Stuart program for many years, I thought I knew the game,” said Maser, 56, a native of Long island who played lax at the Coast Guard Academy and went on to practice law after completing his military service.

“I would get into Missy’s ear every once in a while. In conversations, I said if I ever got the time I would love to coach because I think I would do it a little bit differently.”

As he looked forward to guiding the Tartans, Maser was looking to employ an up-tempo game.

“I have a different philosophy on how to play the game,” said Maser. more

June 25, 2020

Following a meeting held Wednesday, the Princeton Recreation Commission has decided to open Community Park Pool for a modified 2020 season beginning Monday, July 13. The pool, which normally opens Memorial Day, has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information about the schedule, fees, aquatic programs, and critical changes to rules and regulations will be made available very soon, according to information from the Commission.

“Patrons should expect significant changes in many areas including the daily schedule, capacity restrictions, hours of operation, fee structure, and more as we work to comply with the recently revised New Jersey Department of Health guidelines and restrictions and CDC recommendations,” reads an email to patrons. “The safety of our loyal pool patrons and our dedicated staff is the top priority.”

 

June 24, 2020

For week nine of our campaign highlighting fun projects for kids to do, we invited local youths to draw the cover of their favorite book. Violeta, age 7, created this colorful rendition of a children’s classic. Next week’s final project will feature photos or drawings of pets.

By Donald Gilpin

Nicholas Sutter, Princeton Police Department (PPD) chief over the past seven years, will be retiring on October 1, 2020. Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert called him “a transformative leader.”

“I am filled with mixed emotions,” Sutter said, following his June 22 announcement. “This is the right time for me and the department. However 25 years here has been over half my life, so this decision was not easy.”

Sutter, 49, began his career in Princeton as a Borough patrol officer in 1995, served as captain from 2010 to 2013, and took charge of the department in its first year of consolidation in 2013 after former Chief David Dudeck’s forced departure amid allegations of misconduct.

“Nick has been a transformative leader during a time of great change, and he has been a model for how police can proactively engage with community partners, build meaningful relationships of trust, and be open and embracing of change to strengthen the department,” said Lempert.  “He will leave behind a department that has grown more diverse, more community-oriented, and more progressive because of his efforts. He has been a leader, mentor, and role model, not just within the police department but across the entire municipal government. I am a better mayor because of him, and am forever thankful for all he has done for Princeton.” more

By Donald Gilpin

New Jersey is moving ahead in Stage 2 of its Restart and Recovery, which began last week with outdoor dining and the resumption of indoor non-essential retail, and Princeton has acted quickly to promote a safe and vigorous reopening.

A stroll down Witherspoon Street reveals that reopening does not necessarily mean a return to normal, however, but rather a shift in the balance between people and automobiles with outdoor dining filling the street, customers safely lining up, sidewalks open for pedestrians, and an increasing presence of bicycles.

Princeton Council last week passed an ordinance to make Witherspoon Street one-way from Nassau to Spring streets, allowing more space for restaurant tables, queueing areas, and bicycle parking.  The ordinance also expanded outdoor dining areas on Hinds Plaza and relaxed certain requirements for sidewalk cafes and dining areas, parking, and pedestrian and vehicle circulation on Nassau Street, as well as Witherspoon.

The ordinance is in effect until October, at which point it will be evaluated. Many locals are hoping for permanent transformations, at least on a seasonal basis.

“I think people will get used to it,” said Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) Chair Lisa Serieyssol. “And then become happy with it so that they will want it to stay. On Sunday it looked like life was happening on a street that used to be dominated by cars. We can all adapt. Some people don’t like change, but it’s inevitable, and I believe the community will embrace it over time.”

Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros commented on the large turnout of happy, smiling people and the full restaurants over the weekend. She noted that the changes have been well received by the commercial district and the businesses, and the residents are excited about being able to go out safely for dining and shopping. “It’s been a great collaborative effort between the municipality and the merchants association,” she said.  “And now we have to decorate it so that it looks nice. The Arts Council is going to paint those blocks and they’re putting up some screening and plants and other decorative designs. It’s a great way to use our wonderful artistic resources at the Arts Council to help spruce it up.”

Pirone Lambros pointed out that because of the change to one-way, Witherspoon Street might be the biggest part of the experiment but Nassau Street, Palmer Square, the Witherspoon-Jackson district, and the Princeton Shopping Center have also taken advantage of expanding spaces for dining and pedestrian use. more

By Anne Levin

The first two phases of a three-part reopening plan for Princeton Public Library are now underway. As of Wednesday, June 24, the library is accepting the return of materials that were borrowed prior to the March 13 closing of the building due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But opening its doors to the public is not part of the initial phases, or chapters, of what the library is calling “Reopening by the Book.” The plan’s first two were approved June 19 by the library’s board of trustees, which must still approve the third.

To return the more than 20,000 books, audiobooks, DVDs, and music CDs that have been out on loan, patrons must use the book and audiovisual drops on Sylvia Beach Way, the one-way lane behind the building. In addition, a bin will be under a tent outside the Community Room doors on Hinds Plaza from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The book drops at Princeton Shopping Center and Palmer Square will remain closed until further notice.

Once book drops are emptied, the materials will be quarantined in the Community Room for a minimum of 72 hours, in accordance with guidelines developed by the American Library Association.

All items currently on loan will have a due date of July 15, with extended use fees to begin accruing on July 16. Returned items will remain on the cardholder’s account during the quarantine

period. Items will be backdated upon check-in to reflect the date they were actually returned. For those who have 30 or more items checked out on a single card or by multiple members of a household, special arrangements can be made. more

GROWING CONCERNS: The four garden beds recently built behind the YMCA and YWCA facilities on Paul Robeson Place are part of a new community gardening initiative being introduced in parts of the town.

By Anne Levin

Once Ross Wishnick got the idea to install community gardens in different parts of Princeton a few weeks ago, it wasn’t long before four raised beds were built and planted on an island in the parking lot of the YMCA and YWCA facilities on Paul Robeson Place.

Wishnick, who is the founder of Send Hunger Packing Princeton (SHUPPrinceton, proposed the idea to YMCA CEO Kate Bech, who quickly got on board. The Princeton Free Garden Project, a grassroots initiative to plant community garden beds around town, was born.

“I think people get satisfaction in being able to provide for themselves,” Wishnick said. “I’ve been a food guy. I understand that access to food and to fresh produce has been a thing that people have been asking for.”

The project started with initial seed funding from Bank of Princeton, of which Wishnick is co-founder, and Glenmede Trust. Thanks to the agreement with the YMCA, the initiative will now be able to seek additional donations under the umbrella of the YMCA, which will process the donations and expenses.

“It doesn’t cost a lot, but it does cost money,” Wishnick said. “So this frees us up to do proper fundraising and people can get their letter saying they donated.” more

By Donald Gilpin

In a decision that has had major reverberations in the local and Princeton University communities, the Supreme Court of the United States on July 18 ruled to keep in place, for now anyway, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects certain immigrants, the Dreamers, from deportation. The Supreme Court blocked President Donald Trump’s order to terminate the program, though he has promised to try again.

“I and countless others celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling that rejected the Trump administration’s effort to end DACA,” wrote Princeton Councilwoman Leticia Fraga. “For our Dreamers, it means that for the first time in three years they can breathe a little easier. I am pleased but apprehensive that the Trump administration will turn around and attempt to end the program again, but hopefully not before we have the opportunity to vote them out of office.” 

Fraga went on to emphasize the limitations of the DACA program and the need for Congressional action to pass legislation that can provide a path to citizenship. “As before, the program only allows for two-year, renewable work permits,” she wrote in an email. “What we truly need is for Congress to pass legislation that would offer a path to citizenship, not just for young immigrants but for their parents and others who are undocumented, so that they can continue to live and work in what is for many of them the only home they remember.”

Fatima Mughal, a local public school teacher, activist, and community organizer, described the Supreme Court decision as “a tiny step in the right direction, but we have a lot of work to do.” She continued, “Ending DACA would have meant losing 700,000 friends, family members, and students, as well as doctors, lawyers, teachers, volunteers, and countless others who play valuable roles in our community. After the ruling, there was a collective sigh of relief from our neighbors who depend on DACA to be legally allowed to continue living in the only place they’ve called home.” more

A DAY OF SOLIDARITY: Among those on hand for Princeton’s first public observance of Juneteenth were, from left, Kyara Torres-Olivares, Valeria Torres-Olivares, Dr. Ruha Benjamin, Imani Mulrain, Aba Smith, Hilcia Acevedo, and Mutemwa Masheke. (Photo by Code Equal/Oscar T. Reyna)

Six young organizers produced the first public observance and celebration of Juneteenth in Princeton on Thursday, June 18. Billed as a celebration of the cultural achievements of black Americans and a commendation of the Black Lives Matter movement, it was a day of solidarity, celebration, and action.

The Princeton Family YMCA field played host to a diverse crowd of attendees wearing masks and practicing social distancing — even when doing the Electric Slide. The program began with a land acknowledgment of the Lenni Lenape people, followed by a mass kneeling for 8 minutes 46 seconds to recognize black lives lost to centuries of racist violence. A Juneteenth proclamation, requested of Mayor Liz Lempert by organizer Valeria Torres-Olivares, was read by Princeton Council members Leticia Fraga and Dwaine Williams.

“This is not a moment. This is a movement,” emphasized the organizers, Valeria Torres-Olivares (Princeton University), Kyara Torres-Olivares (Princeton High School), Imani Mulrain (Princeton University), Mutemwa Masheke (Princeton University), Hilcia Acevedo (Princeton University), and Aba Smith (Princeton High School). more

By Anne Levin

At its meeting on Monday, June 22, Princeton Council voted unanimously to introduce three ordinances that need to be in place before the town gets final approval for its affordable housing plan. A second round of ordinances will be up for introduction at the governing body’s next meeting on Monday, June 29.

One of the sites introduced is for a complex at the corner of Terhune Road and Harrison Street. The developer for the  property has not been selected yet, but the owner is the Comfort Company. Another is for overlay zones on Nassau Street, in three separate categories for slightly different density and parking. The third is the service district on Route 206 going toward Montgomery, including a 100 percent affordable building at the site where SAVE animal rescue was formerly located.

In February, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson approved a settlement agreement between the municipality of Princeton and the Fair Share Housing Center, ending almost five years of litigation in which the town challenged calculations for the number of affordable units it would be required to build under COAH (the Council on Affordable Housing). The next step is a compliance hearing, followed by a final hearing in August. The deadline for having completed plans in place is July 13.

“In putting together our plan, one of our goals was to have it be smart growth,” Mayor Liz Lempert said before the meeting. “That means building in areas that were walkable to services and also have access to transit. Everything going in front of Council tonight meets that. The reason is it makes the town more livable for all the residents who are going to be in this housing, and provides a benefit for the entire community by making transit more reliable and functional. And for businesses, too, it’s important to have customers nearby.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

Finally a dream worth remembering. If only I can remember it. For far too long, with rare exceptions, my dreams have been about trivial tasks and futile deliberations, like asking directions to places you don’t even want to go, and looming in the background always the same monumental obstacle that can’t be moved or toppled or made to vanish. Last night I woke up worn out but smiling, aware that I’d been toiling, climbing, slipping and almost falling, but not afraid, never for a minute. All I knew was the dream had something to do with statues.

And why not, with statues being toppled here, there, and everywhere, all over the world. At the moment I’m  remembering the opening scene of Chaplin’s City Lights, where a crowd of dignitaries is gathered for the unveiling of a monument to “Peace and Prosperity” composed of three figures, a seated female flanked by two male warriors, one wielding a sword. The unveiling of the Olympian tableau reveals the tramp, “the Little Fellow,” curled up asleep in the female figure’s lap. The dignitaries are not amused and shout at him, he tries to scramble to his feet but his baggy trousers get caught on the sword, which seems to hoist him, wriggling, tipping his derby, as the band plays the National Anthem.

“The Statue Song”

I’d been up past three the previous night when I saw an online New York Times front page photograph showing two NYPD cars in front of the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the Museum of Natural History. My first thought was of a New York night in the mid-sixties with an old friend that began with us throwing snowballs at the statue after sharing a pint of Old Crow. We had nothing against TR, no agenda, we were just “doing what comes naturally” because he was so monumentally there, not because he was “a symbol of colonialism and racism flanked by a Native American man and an African man.”  more

“LIVE MUSICAL THEATER REVUE”: The Princeton Festival organized an online concert of soloists performing songs from classic and recent musicals. Top row, from left: Erin Brittain, Michael Caizzi, Ronald Samm, Rachel Weishoff, and Billy Huyler. Middle row: Matt Flocco, Mekelia Miller, Paloma Friedhoff Bello, Jami Leonard, and James Conrad Smith. Bottom row: Amy Weintraub, Michael Motkowski, Natalie Rose Havens, Jordan Bunshaft, and Shannon Rakow. (Photo montage courtesy of the Princeton Festival)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Princeton Festival presented a Live Musical Theater Revue on June 20. The free concert was part of the Festival’s ongoing series of online events, “Virtually Yours.” Artistic Director Richard Tang Yuk hosted the livestream, which featured 14 soloists performing selections from Broadway or off-Broadway shows.

The soloists chose the songs they performed. The resulting selection was an eclectic but remarkably well-balanced mixture of numbers from mid-20th century “Golden Age” classics, and more recent material.

Online concerts present unique technical challenges. One soloist, Mekelia Miller, was unheard due to a lost connection. At times a few of the other performers’ voices were less audible than their instrumental tracks. On the whole, however, the evening proceeded smoothly, with little lag time between performances. Every soloist briefly chatted affably with their predecessor before starting their own song.

The opening soloist was mezzo-soprano Shannon Rakow. who confidently began the concert with a cheerful, sincere rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” singing to an orchestral track. Composer Jule Styne and lyricist Bob Merrill wrote the exuberant, uptempo number for Funny Girl. Isobel Lennart wrote the book of that 1964 musical, whose semi-biographical plot is based on the life and career of entertainer Fanny Brice (1891-1951). more

By Nancy Plum

Three months after the Princeton performing arts arena essentially shut down, it is clear the 2020-2021 season will require major adjustments from performers, administrators, audience members and donors alike.  Princeton Festival, whose month-long June season usually fills area halls with opera, recitals, chamber music, and lectures, quickly adjusted this year to create a “season” of virtual vocal showcases, podcasts, lectures, and archival performances.  The Festival’s third week of “Virtually Yours on Demand”  included a live online panel discussion last Tuesday afternoon with leaders from Princeton area music organizations discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted performing ensembles and how organizations will fine-tune a summer traditionally jammed-packed with planning, but with no idea how and when live performances will be able to happen.

Hosted by Princeton Festival Artistic Director Richard Tang Yuk, the online conversation included Princeton Pro Musica Executive Director Mary Trigg; Trenton Children’s Chorus Executive Director Kate Mulligan; Princeton Singers Executive Director John Cloys; David Osenberg, development director of WWFM; Jerry Kalstein, chair of Boheme Opera NJ’s Board of Trustees; and Hilary Butler, executive director of Westrick Academy, the home of the Princeton Girlchoir and Boychoir. The discussion focused on the future of the performing arts in the Princeton area, including how ensembles are navigating the times ahead and what next season might look like.

All of these organizations have adjusted to a “non-live” performance format which has gone on much longer than anyone imagined. Performances (including a Princeton Girlchoir tour to Spain and Portugal) were canceled or postponed to early fall, only to be postponed again when it was unclear if venues would be open.  All participants in the discussion have developed some sort of digital presence, ranging from music theory classes to online voice lessons, but it has become clear to choruses in particular that current technology allows neither ensemble accuracy in real time nor a sense of unity in performing. However, as Mulligan was quick to point out, the ability of Trenton Children’s Chorus members to connect to one another was in many cases more important to the young choristers than trying to sing simultaneously. Several ensembles have created “virtual choirs” by having individual singers record themselves with “click-tracks,” but all recognize the massive amount of work involved in editing numerous audio pieces and synching with video to create an acceptable finished product.   more

Miguel Gutierrez (Photo by Marley Trigg-Stuart)

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance at Princeton University has announced award-winning choreographer and interdisciplinary artist Miguel Gutierrez as principal Caroline Hearst Choreographer-in-Residence for the 2020-21 academic year. Gutierrez’s residency will include teaching, creating a new commissioned work, and advising on student-created choreography.

The purpose of the Hearst program is to bring prominent choreographers and dancers in conversation with Princeton students through a variety of engagement activities while supporting the development of these choreographers’ work. Gutierrez’ residency, along with several other shorter residencies being planned for the coming year, is aimed at maximizing that potential engagement.

Launched in 2017, the Caroline Hearst Choreographers-in-Residence Program fosters the Program in Dance’s connections with the dance field. It provides selected professional choreographers with resources and a rich environment to develop their work and offers opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to engage with diverse creative practices.

Gutierrez is a choreographer, composer, performer, singer, writer, educator, and advocate who has lived in New York City for over 20 years. His work has been presented in more than 60 cities around the world, in venues such as the Wexner Center for the Arts, Walker Art Center, Centre National de la Danse, Centre Pompidou, ImPulsTanz, Fringe Arts, TBA/PICA, MCA Chicago, American Realness, Chocolate Factory, and the 2014 Whitney Biennial.  more