January 22, 2020

By Anne Levin

There will be no fare hike for NJ Transit commuters in fiscal year 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday morning. Murphy made the announcement during a ceremony in Kearny honoring seven locomotive engineers who had completed their training.

“Today, we celebrate another class of future locomotive engineers who will improve safety, reliability, and services for the hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents who ride NJ Transit every day,” Murphy said. “I am also proud to announce that I will not include a fare hike in my Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal. We are on the path to the resurgence of NJ Transit as a system that commuters can rely on and trust, and I want to make sure that riders are not further burdened while we continue to improve the system.”

Princeton commuters are among those to have experienced significant problems getting to and from work on NJ Transit over the past few years, with delays and cancellations among the biggest complaints. The Dinky, which connects Princeton to Princeton Junction, was out of service for several months last year.

Since taking office, Murphy’s administration has created some relief by adding engineers. The completion of the current class “will help fulfill the agency’s continued commitment to hiring and training more locomotive engineers,” according to a press release from the governor’s office. “This graduating class will bring the total number of new engineers that have joined NJ Transit since late 2018 to 169.” more

By Nancy Plum

Nothing says a dark winter’s night like the more sinister music of 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner, and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra took full advantage of Wagner’s rich orchestration and lush harmonies in a concert in Princeton this past weekend. Conducted by NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang, Friday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium introduced the audience to both an innovative approach to the operatic Wagner and a virtuosic pianist from one of Europe’s more unknown regions. Zhang led the Orchestra in two principal works, which although significantly different in length were equal in impact. Lorin Maazel’s orchestral reduction of Wagner’s towering Ring cycle made up the entire second half, yet Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2, even though a third as long as the Wagner piece, was just as mesmerizing for the audience.  

In 1987, former Cleveland Orchestra conductor Lorin Maazel created an hour-long “greatest hits” orchestral arrangement from Wagner’s four operas which make up Der Ring des Nibelungen, a musical tetralogy more than 20 years in the making. Based on Nordic legend and the medieval epic poem “Nibelungenlied,” Wagner’s Ring cycle has been renowned for its characters and their arias, but the dramatic motion is often carried by the orchestra. In The Ring Without Words, Maazel recreated nine musical scenes with a storyline drawing from all four operas. Beginning in the lowest of the strings, NJSO’s performance of Maazel’s Ring presented much of the most recognizable music, and Zhang kept the musical thread moving along with steady tempi and effective use of silences. Especially in leading up to the familiar “Ride of the Valkyries,” Zhang and the Orchestra set the drama well.   more

“GOODNIGHT NOBODY”: Performances are underway for “Goodnight Nobody.” Directed by Tyne Rafaeli, the play runs through February 9 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. While discussing the frustrations of parenthood with a new mother, K (Ariel Woodiwiss, right), Mara (Dana Delany, center) tells a story that embarrasses her grown son, Reggie (Nate Miller, left), who was friends with K in high school. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Goodnight Nobody is receiving its world premiere at McCarter Theatre, which commissioned the show from playwright Rachel Bonds. This tragicomedy depicts a weekend during which artistic friends reunite, but an initially affable atmosphere becomes contentious when buried feelings erupt.

The effect of motherhood on the life of a creative person is one of several themes that are examined in Goodnight Nobody. The play also offers a more general exploration of inter-generational relationships, including romantic entanglements. It also considers situations in which jovial conversations mask feelings of deep pain that unexpectedly collide.

Mara, an acclaimed sculptor who is in her late 50s or early 60s, lives in a rustic farmhouse in upstate New York. She is dating Bo, a painter who is her age. However, she also has romantic feelings for Nan, a successful artist who is in his 30s — the same age as Mara’s son, Reggie.

To the character of Mara, Emmy Award-winner Dana Delany brings commanding stage presence and smooth, often wry, line delivery. The performance poignantly juxtaposes early scenes, in which Mara bluntly recalls the exasperating aspects of child care, against a later one in which she attempts to be more warmly maternal. more

MUSICAL CLASSROOM FUN: Two showings of the children’s musical “Rosie Revere, Engineer” will run at the MCCC Kelsey Theatre on Saturday, January 25 at 2 and 4 p.m. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel Photography, courtesy of TheaterWorksUSA)

As part of the Kelsey Kids Series, the new musical “Rosie Revere, Engineer” comes to Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Kelsey Theatre Saturday, January 25 at 2 and 4 p.m. The production is presented by TheaterWorksUSA, a company that creates transformative theatrical experiences for youth and family audiences.  more

WILLKOMMEN, BIENVENUE, WELCOME: To “Cabaret,” coming to Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre January 31-February 9. Matthew (Hewie) Swanson stars as Cliff and Jenna German plays Sally Bowles.

The Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) in conjunction with Theater To Go will present the landmark musical, Cabaret, January 31-February 9 at Kelsey Theatre. more

“SEARCHING FOR THE CULTURAL PLUMB BOB”:  An exhibit of works by Uzbekistan native Zahar Vaks will be on view at The Gallery at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) January 27 through March 5. An artist reception, open to the community, is February 5 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

A multi-sensory trifecta of olfactory, tactile, and visual awaits visitors at The Gallery at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) for its latest exhibition, “Searching for the Cultural Plumb Bob,” featuring the works of Uzbekistan native Zahar Vaks, on view January 27 through March 5.

The public is invited to “A Conversation with Artist Zahar Vaks,” on Wednesday, February 5 from noon until 1:30 p.m. in the Communications Building, Room CM107 on MCCC’s West Windsor Campus. A community reception with the artist will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on February 5 in The MCCC Gallery. more

“ART, COMMUNITY & CONVERSATION”: This painting by Carol Johnson will be featured at an event highlighting works by artists in the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen’s (TASK) A-TEAM. It will be held on Friday, January 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton. (Photo courtesy of the TASK A-TEAM)

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton (UUCP) invites artists, art lovers, and members of the community to attend its first “Art, Community and Conversation” event on Friday, January 24, at 6:30 p.m. at 50 Cherry Hill Road, Princeton.

The reception will feature works by artists in the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen’s (TASK) A-TEAM artists’ cooperative made up of TASK patrons who are artists. The art will be displayed at UUCP over the next few months.

The event is sponsored by UUCP’s Racial Justice Task Force, which is dedicated to engaging the congregation and larger community with opportunities to develop and deepen our understandings of and actions against racism. more

TRUE BLUE: Eric Robinson skates for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2018 action. This winter, former Princeton University men’s hockey standout Robinson ’18 is working to secure a permanent spot on Columbus, having tallied five goals and four assists in 30 games so far this season. (Photo by John Russell, Courtesy of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Eric Robinson’s improvement is continuing in the NHL.

The 2018 Princeton University graduate put himself on scouts’ radar over his college career and now is trying to secure a permanent spot on one of the hottest teams in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets. more

TOUGH GUY: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Ethan Guy, center, battles for the ball in recent action. Last Friday, junior forward Guy scored 15 points to help PHS defeat Steinert 65-46. The Tigers, who dropped to 4-7 with a 63-57 loss to North Brunswick last Saturday, play at Nottingham on January 24 before hosting Montgomery on January 25 and Trenton on January 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Things got off to a rough start last week for Ethan Guy.

Princeton High boys’ basketball junior star Guy took a knock to the head as PHS hosted Princeton Day School on January 13 and had to leave the game in the second half, holding an ice pack to his left eye as the Tigers fell 57-43.

A day later as PHS faced WW/P-North, Guy wasn’t cleared to play and the Tigers ended up losing 43-37 to the Northern Knights.

Returning to the court last Friday evening against visiting Steinert, Guy wasted no time getting back into the swing of things, scoring 10 points in the first quarter as PHS jumped out to a 17-3 lead. more

FRESH START: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Catie Samaan controls the puck last Friday night as PHS hosted Newark East Side at Hobey Baker Rink. Freshman forward Samaan scored two goals in the game to help the Tigers post a 7-2 win and improve to 3-8. PHS hosts Immaculate Heart Academy on January 24 and Princeton Day School on January 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Catie Samaan took a break from hockey three years ago to focus her athletic efforts on soccer and field hockey but decided this winter that it was time to get back on the ice. more

DAN THE MAN: Hun School boys’ basketball player Daniel Vessey, right, covers a foe in recent action. Last week, sophomore guard Vessey exploded for 30 points to help Hun defeat Lawrenceville 85-58. The Raiders, who improved to 6-10 with a 57-48 win over Hackensack last Monday in the Public vs. Private School Showcase in Teaneck, play at Peddie on January 22, host the Blue Ridge School (Va.) on January 24, and then play at Marist High on January 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as Daniel Vessey went through his normal pregame shooting routine before the Hun School boys’ basketball team hosted Lawrenceville last week. more

DRIVING AHEAD: Hun School girls’ basketball player Kennedy Jardine heads to the hoop in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Jardine tallied 19 points and had six rebounds as Hun defeated Hopewell Valley 50-40. The Raiders, who defeated Nottingham 58-8 last Monday to post their fourth straight win and improve to 9-4, play at Peddie on January 22 and at Lawrenceville on January 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Over her first two seasons with the Hun School girls’ basketball team, Kennedy Jardine proved to be a scoring threat from the perimeter with her long-range shooting prowess. more

RUF AND TUMBLE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Kirsten Ruf heads to the basket in recent action. Last Thursday, freshman star Ruf scored 12 points in a losing cause as PDS fell 51-16 to visiting Pingry. The Panthers, now 1-12, play at Hamilton on January 22 and at the Solebury School (Pa.) on January 24 before hosting Peddie on January 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Kirsten Ruf wasn’t about to stop hustling even though the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team trailed visiting Pingry 51-16 in the waning seconds last Thursday. more

January 15, 2020

More than 200 protestors gathered at Hinds Plaza on Saturday afternoon for a “No War with Iran” rally. The event featured 10 speakers from political, academic, religious, and military communities, along with a musician. Participants share what brought them to the rally in this week’s Town Talk on page 6. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Donald Gilpin

More than 200 protestors gathered for a “No War with Iran” rally at Hinds Plaza next to the Princeton Public Library on Saturday afternoon, January 11.

Under sunny skies with spring-like temperatures, 10 different speakers from political, academic, religious, and military communities addressed the crowd, many of whom carried signs or posters expressing anti-war sentiments.

Sponsored by the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), along with the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice (BRC), Muslims for Peace, and Indivisible Cranbury, the rally was a response to the January 3 drone killing of Major General Qasem Soleimani ordered by President Trump.

Protestors carried signs bearing such messages as “Diplomacy Not War,” “Trump Lies and People Die,” “Remove Trump,” Prevent WW III,” “No Imperial Presidency,” and more. more

By Anne Levin

A resolution related to the welfare of migrant families was the focus of a meeting of Princeton Council on Monday, January 13. The governing body voted unanimously to approve the measure, “calling upon the White House and Congress and the state of New Jersey to reunify migrant families, release them from detention, and afford them due process in immigration proceedings.”

Several members of the public spoke in favor of the measure, as did Councilwoman Leticia Fraga, who thanked resident Afsheen Shamsi for crafting the resolution. “It truly reflects our values and who we are when it comes to protecting our neighbors,” Fraga said.

One local resident who has accompanied migrants without legal representation to hearings — including an 8-year-old girl — said that while passage of the resolution is a positive step, a legal representation program is sorely needed. Shamsi commented that Princeton was among the first three towns to pass the resolution. She is delivering a “tool kit” to expand it on a national basis. more

By Anne Levin

Princeton’s Planning Board heard a concept presentation on January 9 about the projects that are part of Princeton University’s East Campus development. A new parking garage, soccer stadium, soccer practice field, and a geo-exchange utility facility known as  “T.I.G.E.R.” are the key elements of the plan.

The concept review was for an area of the University covered in its 2026 Campus Plan, which was unveiled in June 2017. The area is at the eastern end of the campus, bordered by Western Way, Princeton University Stadium, Faculty Road, and Broadmead. It affects the athletic fields and parking lots, FitzRandolph Observatory, and academic support buildings. New athletic fields and a structured parking garage are proposed.

Prior to the presentation, the University held two open house meetings with residents who live near the area. Several of those neighbors attended the Planning Board meeting to offer their comments and concerns, with the flow of traffic and the height of storage tanks chief among them.

University Architect Ronald McCoy said that sustainability is a guiding principle of the plan. He also stressed that nothing is set in stone. “This is a primary step forward,” he said. “It is a planning framework, but it is not a master plan.” more

A POIGNANT STORY: The open space of St. Michaels Farm Preserve was once the site of an orphanage where Josephine Allen lived as a small child. Now a volunteer with D&R Greenway, which preserved the land, Allen will speak on January 22 about how she finds solace spending time at the site. (Photo by Carl Geisler)

By Anne Levin

A few decades ago, Josephine Allen was riding her motorcycle through Hopewell Borough when she was overcome with a strange sense of nostalgia. Stopping at a gas station in town, she asked the attendant if there was an orphanage nearby named St. Michael’s — the place she had lived as a small child.

There had been, the attendant told her, but it was no longer standing. He pointed her in the direction of the former St. Michael’s Orphanage and Industrial School, which had been operated by the Catholic Diocese of Trenton from 1896 to 1973. Allen was a resident from age 5 to 8.

She followed the directions and found the place where, despite the obvious trauma of being separated from her family, she had many good memories. Since that day she rediscovered St. Michaels, Allen has repeatedly returned to the site to recall its setting on an expanse of farm fields and forests, and the peace that it brought her. more

By Donald Gilpin

Princeton University has filed suit for $10.7M against Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA) and sub-consultants Jacobs Architects/Engineers, Inc. and Jacobs Consultancy, Inc. due to “extensive changes and delays those companies caused in the construction of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment,” according to Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss.

Describing the action as “unusual but necessary,” Hotchkiss pointed out that “as detailed in the complaint, TWBTA and Jacobs failed to meet their obligations in the construction of the Center, and the University is asserting claims for breach of contract and negligence, among others.”

New York-based TWBTA and Jacobs, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, have not responded to requests for comment on the suit and the University’s claims against them.

The complaint was filed on December 10 by the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, and, according to The Daily Princetonian student newspaper, Judge Brian Martinotti and Magistrate Judge Lois Goodman will preside over the case at the New Jersey District Court in Trenton. more

“PUTTING PEOPLE TOGETHER:” Patty Thel leads the combined choral groups from Trenton Children’s Chorus and Princeton Day School Middle School at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Event at Princeton University. (Photo courtesy of Patty Thel)

By Donald Gilpin

Patty Thel’s roots in choral music go back to her childhood in the Southern Baptist church.

The Westminster Conservatory Children’s Choir program director and founder and Trenton Children’s Chorus director grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where her parents took her to church three times a week, and at home the whole family improvised at the piano and organ. “Mostly hymns — that’s where their heart was,” she said.

Thel has come a long way from the Fayetteville Baptist Church, but through many years of teaching music, she has remained devoted to choral work and literature, along with an experience that goes far beyond the words and the music.

“The thing for me with choral music over the years is about being truthful and devoted to the work as much as possible and also conveying to the students the message brought to them through the literature,” she said. “In teaching you’re trying to teach music, but also teaching young people how to be well rounded human beings and how to be sensitive to other people. more

“WHISKEY & WINE”: That’s the title of a new album by the Americana band Edna’s Kin, appearing at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing on February 14 at 8 p.m.

The Americana band Edna’s Kin will appear at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing on February 14 at 8 p.m., performing old favorites and many new songs from their recently released CD of all original music, Whiskey & Wine.

A diverse blend of folk, country, bluegrass, and blues music, Whiskey & Wine is the band’s first studio effort since their 2009 debut Same Old Lines, and is available for digital download on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and CD Baby. The album has also received airplay worldwide.

Edna’s Kin is a family band featuring brothers Dan and Andrew Koontz and their father, Warren Koontz. Dan is the songwriter of the group, and can be heard singing and playing guitar, piano, banjo, and accordion. Andrew is mostly on fiddle, but can sometimes be heard on bass, while Warren is mostly on bass, but can sometimes be heard singing and playing guitar. While the family members are present on every track, on Whiskey & Wine they’ve been joined by a number of guest musicians to create a much fuller instrumentation than can be found on their earlier recordings. more

FROM PAGE TO STAGE: The cast of “Midwives,” premiering January 21 at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. David Saint directs the play, adapted by Chris Bohjalian from his best-selling novel of the same name.

George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick will present a stage adaptation of author Chris Bohjalian’s Midwives January 21-February 16 at the Arthur Laurents Theater in the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. The world premiere play was adapted by the author from his novel of the same name.

The novel, which has sold more than 2 million copies, was also an early selection of Oprah’s Book Club.

A severe snowstorm breaks out during a routine at-home birth. With no way to contact the outside world, midwife Sibyl Danforth makes an impossible decision to save the life of a baby. But when the sun rises and the blizzard clears, questions arise about what really occurred that icy Vermont night. more

“SEED TO SEED”: This 1970-72 painting by Franz Jozef Ponstingl is featured in “Ponstingl: Dreams of Past Futures,” on view January 25 through June 20 at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa. Born in Allentown, Pa., Ponstingl painted fantastical visions of surreal landscapes, future civilizations, and abstract networks.

Beginning January 25, the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa., will present “Ponstingl: Dreams of Past Futures,” its first solo exhibition featuring the work of Franz Jozef Ponstingl (1927-2004).

An artist with no formal training who achieved very little recognition during his lifetime, Ponstingl painted fantastical visions of surreal landscapes, future civilizations, and abstract networks. His body of work represented in this exhibition spans two decades from the 1960s until the late 1970s.

Inspired by dreams, his work in the 1960s recalls the work of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and other Surrealist painters. In the 1970s, Ponstingl began exploring otherworldly landscapes inhabited by biomorphic, alien-looking forms. He also experimented with abstract patterning, creating a series of works that resemble circuit boards and interconnected networks. A recurring theme in his paintings are visions of abandoned, future civilizations, appearing as if discovered by intact, but uninhabited, by archaeologists. more

“LIGHT, STILLNESS & BEAUTY”: An exhibition of art by the late Leslie Vought Kuenne is on view in the Olivia Rainbow Gallery at D&R Greenway Land Trust through February 6. Kuenne’s wide-ranging work features unexpected nature subjects. (Photo by Lisa Granozio)

D&R Greenway’s Olivia Rainbow Gallery now features an exhibition of nature paintings and photographs by the late Leslie Vought Kuenne, on view through February 6.

The art space is maintained in perpetuity, honoring Leslie and Chris Kuenne’s late daughter, Olivia Michelle. The exhibit, “Light, Stillness & Beauty,” — named by co-curator Lisa Granozio — evokes the variety of this display of unexpected nature subjects.

D&R Greenway Land Trust notes that it is deeply appreciative to Leslie’s husband, Christopher, and their sons, Peter, William, and Matthew; as well as Leslie’s sister, Victoria; for the privilege of remembering Leslie through this sample of her work. more

CELEBRATING DR. KING:  The Arts Council of Princeton invites the community to a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy through hands-on art, music, and history activities on Monday, January 20 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon Street.

The Arts Council of Princeton invites the community to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, January 20, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts. The event will feature hands-on art and history activities, music, and discussions as they relate to Dr. King’s life, teachings, and civic engagement.

Activities include a free community breakfast from 9 to 10 a.m., with speakers Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Ruha Benjamin, author and associate professor of African American studies at Princeton University. more