April 9, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

New Jersey officials announced today, April 9, that there were 198 new deaths in the state in the past 24 hours from coronavirus (COVID-19), for a total of 1,700 deaths, with 3,748 additional positive tests for a total of 51,027 cases of the coronavirus statewide.

The Princeton Health Department (PHD) announced yesterday, April 8, a second COVID-19 death in Princeton, a male patient in his 80s.  He had pre-existing health conditions and was under medical care at the Princeton Care Center.

Upon testing positive for COVID-19, the patient was immediately moved to an isolated wing of the facility. The PHD is investigating potential exposure to other residents of the facility and staff.

Princeton now has 50 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the PHD currently monitoring 24 active cases. Twenty-four cases have recovered.  more

April 8, 2020

As the war against the coronavirus rages on, a solitary visitor enjoyed a moment among the blooming Yoshino cherry trees at the Princeton Battle Monument on Monday. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Anne Levin

Holding its first meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic became a local reality, Princeton Council used Zoom to get back to business on Monday evening, April 6. Council members, Mayor Liz Lempert, and those delivering reports were visible on screen, while members of the public were able to ask questions or provide comments by email.

Not surprisingly, discussion of the impact of the coronavirus was the priority. But the governing body also focused on other issues — including the proposed 2020 budget, the Alexander Street Bridge Project, and construction on the Princeton University campus — and passed several resolutions.

Municipal engineer Deanna Stockton reported that the reopening of Alexander Street will be at the end of this month, about 10 days later than expected. The road has been closed since fall for replacement of the bridge over the D&R Canal, which is overseen by the state of New Jersey; and replacement of a bridge over Stony Brook and a culvert, coordinated by Mercer County.

“Both agencies and contractors have made tremendous progress,” Stockton said. “But it is likely Alexander will not open until the end of April, weather permitting. They had some delay with underground utility work.” more

By Donald Gilpin

With 43 cases of COVID-19 in Princeton (31 active positive cases, 11 recovered and released from isolation), including one death last week, of a 92-year-old woman, Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser reflected cautiously on the current status of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Data coming from around the state is telling us that coronavirus-related deaths in New Jersey have started to flatten,” Grosser wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon. “This does not mean that we have accomplished our goal, but we have started to see early positive effects of social distancing efforts in Princeton, Mercer County, and throughout the state.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy stated Monday that health officials are beginning to see a decline in the growth rate of new COVID-19 cases, signs that the curve is flattening. He cited projections that a peak in new cases in New Jersey could come between April 19 and May 11, but he re-emphasized the urgency of New Jersey residents continuing to practice social distancing and to stay at home.

Grosser, on the front lines in Princeton’s battle with the disease, observed, “It’s still somewhat too early to tell, but it seems that the percentage increases of new cases are beginning to slow down, which then should lead to less hospitalization, less intensive care, and then less death.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Remote learning is one thing. Remote eating is something quite different. This past month, Princeton Public Schools (PPS) had to figure out how to distribute more than just the varied pre-K through 12th grade coursework to children in homes throughout the district.
Distributing food for the more than 500 food-insecure students who rely on the federal free and reduced-price lunch program posed challenges that could not be solved through online electronic channels.

As the coronavirus pandemic spread and requirements for schools changed daily through late March, PPS Superintendent Steve Cochrane, a group of PPS staff members, and community leaders worked together to design, revise, communicate, and implement a plan for distributing thousands of meals to Princeton families in need.

The challenge was to protect the health of the children and their families by following Gov. Phil Murphy’s social distancing protocols and at the same time get food to families, many of whom had no access to a car that would enable them to pick up food from the schools.

The plan, devised by Cochrane in conjunction with District Transportation Director Donna Bradin and K. Lee Dixon of Nutri-Serve, the PPS food service director, came up with a plan to use 14 school buses and their drivers to set up mobile meal distribution sites in key neighborhoods and locations throughout Princeton. They would provide a box containing two weeks of meals for each of their 500 students.

Dixon initially had less than 48 hours to develop and order a menu that met federal guidelines and could last for several weeks. She confronted difficulties in trying to create a menu that included a variety of items such as soup, pasta, rice, and beans. more

SHARING THEIR CARE: Hopewell siblings, from left, Alexander Huang-Menders, Celeste Huang-Menders, and Christian Haung are the team behind  ShareSomeCare.com, a website they developed to match supplies needed in the COVID-19 crisis with organizations that need them. (Photo courtesy of the family)

By Wendy Greenberg

What started with a family discussion on how to help during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a website that connects local resources to needs in any part of the country. Supplies and materials like disposable gloves, N95 face masks, and personal protective equipment, in addition to food for food banks, can find a home through the project, Share Some Care.

Hopewell siblings Alexander Huang-Menders, 16, Celeste Huang-Menders, 15, and Christian Huang, 16, launched the ShareSomeCare.com website in late March as a response to the current pandemic, which has left so many on the front lines scrambling for supplies.

“We realized individuals and businesses have available resources that could be donated immediately,” said Celeste Huang-Menders. “It’s a site to connect donors like nail salons and restaurants, which can give their resources to hospitals and first responders.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Federal Election Commissioner (FEC) Ellen Weintraub has called for nationwide vote-by-mail, as essential to the safety and fairness of the process and to the strength of democracy, especially in the context of the current pandemic.

Speaking last Thursday in a virtual town hall with Princeton University Professor and Gerrymandering Project Founder and Director Sam Wang, Weintraub stated that voters should not have to risk their lives to cast their votes.

The 90-minute online session was the first in a series, “Fixing Bugs in Democracy,” sponsored by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and Princeton University’s Pace Center for Civic Engagement and designed to address structural problems in American democracy and to encourage civic engagement in spite of social distancing restrictions.

“Democracy is worth the money it will cost,” Weintraub said, in advocating universal vote-by-mail. “I am very concerned about this. A lot of people are not going to be feeling comfortable going in and voting in person. If we’re still in a situation this fall where people don’t feel safe lining up to vote, we’re really going to have to beef up our capacity for vote-by-mail.” more

By Anne Levin

As the Director of Palliative Medicine Services and Medical Director of the Acute Care for the Elderly Unit at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center, Dr. David Barile treats many patients who come to the hospital with no advance care planning in place. That lack of direction has never been more frustrating than it is now.

Barile notes that frail elderly patients who become seriously ill with the coronavirus and have no advance care directive to follow are often put on ventilators when it is unlikely that they will recover, only to die after a few painful days. This places extra stress on the medical staff and keeps ventilators from others who might benefit from them.

Barile wants people to know that there is a choice. Through April 24, his nonprofit Goals of Care Coalition of New Jersey is holding 30-minute Zoom webinars Mondays-Fridays at 1 p.m. The goal is to help educate the elderly, nursing home residents, their loved ones, and their authorized health care proxies about the importance of discussing and documenting wishes for medical care in either an advance directive or POLST (Practitioner Order for Life Sustaining Treatment). more

By Stuart Mitchner

I’ll be writing in depth about Federico Fellini (1920-1993) later in this, his centenary year, but there’s no way not to mention the director of La Strada when Italy has been at the epicenter of the pandemic, with locked-down neighbors on rooftops, balconies, or leaning from open windows expressing solidarity by singing, strumming, clanging, and making their own free-form fear-and-death-defiant music. No wonder, since song is at the heart of the land, and the language, simple as a tune heard on the street, elegant as an opera; whether it’s poetry on the page or on the canvas, just say the names, Leonardo and Michelangelo, Puccini and Pavaratti, Venezia and Firenze. You can hear it in the air, or see it shining in the eyes of the wonderstruck waif Gelsomina in La Strada, the film that shaped my imagination of the place a year before I arrived in person.

That was the summer when Dominic Modugno’s song “Volare” was the “virus” infecting all Europe. No need to know the Italian lyrics to sing the chorus, “Vo-lare,” as if your heart was soaring, then joy-sounds, oh-ho, then “Can-tare,” Italian for singing, drawn out to the last measure of musical devotion, then more happy, happy Oh-oh-oh-oh-ho’s, then, “Nel blue di pinto di blu” (the formal title), which is about the blue sky you’re flying into on the wings of the song that seemed to come out of nowhere, an infusion of pure melody, musical nitrous oxide that has you laughing with the sheer exhilaration of singing it.  more

MAKING MASKS: A variety of face masks made by McCarter Theatre Center Costume Shop staff members have been donated to the Mercer Mask Project, which disperses them where they are needed. (Photo courtesy of McCarter Theatre Center)

By Anne Levin

Two of Princeton’s major arts institutions are aiding the effort to keep citizens healthy by making non-surgical masks to be worn during the COVID-19 crisis. At McCarter Theatre Center, staff of the costume shop are turning out several dozen a day. And at the Arts Council of Princeton, community members can cut fabric into patterns or actually sew the fabric into face masks. In both cases, the completed masks will then be available for pick up for those who need them.

A month ago, McCarter’s costume shop was busy working on productions that were scheduled to round out the season. But the swift outbreak of the coronavirus canceled them all, leaving drapers, cutters, and seamstresses at loose ends.

It didn’t take long for this enterprising group to turn their talents in a different direction. Within a week, they were sewing masks out of fabric they had on hand in the shop. By the end of last week, they had produced more than 350 masks. They donate them to the recently formed Mercer Mask Project, which disperses them where they are needed.

“The Mercer Mask Project came together in order to fight against potential shortfalls in personal protection equipment (PPE),” said project co-founder Cindy Rosen of Robbinsville. “The masks made by Mercer Mask Project are made for people who fall through the cracks and may not have access to PPE, like first responders, home health care, and the homeless, and may potentially be used to extend the life of N95 masks. I thank everyone involved at McCarter Theatre Center for their help in this fight.”  more

KEEPING THE MUSIC GOING: Princeton Symphony Orchestra has introduced At Home with the PSO, designed to keep audiences engaged online during the COVID-19 shutdown. It can be found at princetonsymphony.org/media/home-pso.

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra has announced the launch of At Home with the PSO (princetonsymphony.org/media/home-pso), a new gateway to original online content including performance webcasts, musicians’ recipes, photo albums, and more, with fresh content being added weekly.

Features include Play it Forward, online weekly webcasts of PSO performances; Cooking with the PSO; a virtual gallery of student artwork and writings, and PSO photo albums.

The first webcast was a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, complete with video introduction and an accompanying pre-concert talk and program note. It was performed by the PSO, under Rossen Milanov’s direction, in February 2019, in Richardson Auditorium.

Musicians are contributing their favorite recipes weekly to the Cooking with the PSO series. A new recipe will be posted every Wednesday. more

PAINT.TEAM: New Jersey artist Kelly Sullivan has created two new virtual projects that are free and open to anyone who wants to access the healing power of art from home. To participate, log on to https://paint.team/.

For more than two decades, New Jersey fine artist Kelly Sullivan has used her talents to build and anchor communities through creative collaborative artworks. These large-scale works, called FingerSmears, have been created at events all over the country by more than 100,000 participants, including The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and other household names. She recently enlisted the talents of software entrepreneur Doug Moreland to create a digital version of FingerSmears called Paint.Team. Instead of gathering in front of a large canvas, participants can “paint” together from remote locations.

“Like many of us, suddenly ‘sheltered’ at home, I want to make the best of it and do something positive,” said Sullivan. “Right now, people are looking for new ways to connect to others, myself included. I created two pieces of collaborative art, Sheltered in Place and More Monologues, Please, for anyone looking for a creative release. They are available to anyone at no cost. Art has the power to heal, which is much needed today.” more

TRASHED ART CONTEST: “Thing,” left, and “23 Stellated Octohedrons” are displayed at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library System during the TrashedArt 2019 Contest. This year’s contest, which celebrates Earth Day, will be held virtually through the Library System’s website at mcl.org.

Due to the continuing health and safety concerns surrounding Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Mercer County Library System is closed until further notice. E-books, audiobooks, streaming media, and digital resources are still available 24/7 online.

In light of these events, the TrashedArt 2020 Contest will now be held virtually through the Mercer County Library System’s website. The contest celebrates Earth Day by encouraging patrons to turn ordinary trash into extraordinary art.

The contest is limited to one entry per artist. Students in grades 7-12 and adults who live or work in Mercer County are eligible to participate. To submit an entry, send pictures of your artwork to trashedart@mcl.org and complete the contest entry form on the Mercer County Library System’s website at mcl.org/trashedart.  more

FARM FRESH: “We grow an assortment of organic vegetables, and we are also planting blueberries and strawberries this year. In addition, we have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm share program.” Owners and brothers Alex, left, and James Klett of Fairgrown Farm In Hopewell are shown with their special vintage Industrial Harvester tractor, with back hoe and front loader.

By Jean Stratton

Better Food, Better Lives” — this is the mission of brothers James and Alex Klett, who established Fairgrown Farm in 2018. Its eight acres on Aunt Molly Road in Hopewell produce organic seasonal produce for the surrounding community.

“We are committed to growing great-tasting food that is healthy and safe,” explains James Klett, who is farm manager and head farmer. “Our farm is in the process of being certified as USDA Certified Organic. Although we are not yet officially certified, we comply completely with the organic principles, often going above and beyond what is required of an organic farm. You can be assured that everything we grow is safe and healthy for your family.”

There is no question that farming is one of the most challenging — and, of course, essential — occupations one can undertake. Both James and Alex, who is operations manager and charged with keeping the machines and equipment in good working order, know they are in the right profession. more

SO TOUGH: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Michael Sowers battles to get past a foe in a game this season. Senior attackman Sowers was adding to his slew of team records this spring before the season was halted due to the coronavirus outbreak. He averaged 9.4 points per game in 2020 to lead Division I. As Princeton went 5-0, Sowers piled up 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists), leading the country in assists and points while also setting an Ivy League record with a 14-point game (3 goals, 11 assists) against Colgate in a 20-11 win on February 18. On Tuesday, Sowers was named by Inside Lacrosse as its Men’s DI Player of the Year. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

A meeting in a dorm last year helped plant the seeds for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team to grow into a 5-0 juggernaut this spring.

“At the end of the season last year, we all met in Phil Rob’s [Phillip Robertson] room,” said Princeton senior star attackman and co-captain Michael Sowers.

“We were just like listen, we don’t know what we wanted to look like but we knew next year when we came back, we wanted to be different. We wanted to all commit to something. I think it started that summer in the sense that all the seniors and everybody were extremely bought in for the summer workouts. We had guys FaceTiming the freshmen, introducing themselves and getting to know them.”

In a solemn meeting on March 11, the team learned the sad news that that its undefeated campaign was coming to a halt due to concerns stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. more

BIG TRAIN: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Aidan Trainor brings the puck up the ice in a game this winter. Senior star forward and team captain Trainor tallied 24 goals and 19 assists this season to help PHS go 18-4-2 and win its first Mercer County Tournament title since 2011. Trainor ended up with 212 career points on 102 goals and 110 assists. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Aidan Trainor, playing for the Princeton High School boys’ hockey team has been a family affair.

The senior forward was preceded in the program by his older brothers Anthony ’17 and Robby ’19 and has played the last two seasons with younger brother Colm ’21.

But Trainor’s family feeling on the squad extended beyond his brothers as he enjoyed a special experience during his time with the program.

“I have been lucky enough to play on four great teams in my four years at PHS — we have been really successful,” said Trainor.

The prolific Trainor played a key role in that success, tallying 212 career points on 102 goals and 110 assists.

Coming into his final campaign this winter, Trainor was determined to go out with a bang.

“This is my last year; it is easy to ignore that and not to think about that when you are a freshman, a sophomore, or even a junior,” said Trainor. “This year, I have a bigger sense of urgency to perform and just do my best to help the team succeed.”

PHS first-year head coach Joe Bensky was thrilled to have Trainor on his team. “It is not a secret how good he is, what impresses me is how approachable he is as a 17-year-old young man,” added Bensky. “The kids really like him and look up to him. He doesn’t have a cocky attitude, he is a great young man.”

With Trainor tallying 24 goals and 19 assists over the winter to spark a balanced attack that featured five players with 17 or more goals, PHS put together an impressive regular season record of 15-3-2. more

April 6, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

As New Jersey deaths from the coronavirus (COVID-19) rose to 1,003, with positive tests for COVID-19 increasing by 3,663 to at least 41,090 on Monday, April 6, Gov. Phil Murphy pointed out signs that the curve is beginning to flatten in New Jersey and that a peak in cases could occur later this month or in early May.

The Princeton Health Department today reported a total of 41 positive cases in Princeton, with one COVID-19-related death reported last week.

In his daily briefing from Trenton, Murphy noted that state health officials, for the first time, are beginning to see a decline in the growth rate of new COVID-19 cases. He emphasized that residents need to continue to follow orders to stay home and practice social distancing in order to prevent the curve from rising again.

Murphy presented a projected infection chart that showed 86,000 cases as a best-case scenario and 509,000 as the worst-case scenario at the peak, with the peak coming between April 19 and May 11.

“While we are not anywhere close to being out of the woods just yet, we are clearly on the right path to get there,” Murphy said. “Our efforts to flatten the curve are starting to pay off.”

The number of COVID-19-related deaths in Mercer County spiked to 19 over the weekend, with 740 total cases reported.

For more information, visit princetoncovid.org or covid19.nj.gov.

April 3, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

The Princeton Health Department (PHD) reported six new positive cases of COVID-19 today, April 3, bringing the total number of cases in Princeton to 37, with 25 active cases and 11 who are no longer under isolation. PHD yesterday reported the first death in Princeton from the coronavirus, a woman in her 90s who may have contracted the disease from a home health aide.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced today 113 new COVID-19 related deaths in the state for a total of 646 deaths with 4,372 new cases confirmed in the last 24 hours for a total of at least 29,895 cases. Murphy also urged New Jersey residents to fly flags at half-staff as a visual memorial to the coronavirus victims.  COVID-19 is now the most common cause of death in the state, which has the second most cases in the country after New York.

The PHD also announced yesterday that a Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS) member has tested positive for COVID-19. The member began displaying symptoms on March 26 and immediately took steps to self-isolate. The squad member is currently not hospitalized, and the member’s COVID-19 symptoms have subsided.

The Squad member had contact with the public on one occasion during the period of communicability, but the instance posed little to no threat of exposure because the member was wearing protective equipment. All PFARS members who had direct contact with the member have been notified by PFARS or the PHD.

The exposure has been limited to a small group of squad members who are all currently being quarantined. PFARS disinfected all areas of the building and ambulances (which are decontaminated after every use) immediately after learning that the member was not feeling well. more

April 2, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

A female, over 90 years old, was confirmed by the Princeton Health Department (PHD) today, April 2, as the first death in Princeton from coronavirus (COVID-19). The woman may have contracted the coronavirus from a home health aide, whose contacts are being investigated by the PHD.

Princeton now has 32 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 20 of which are in isolation and being monitored by the PHD. Eleven cases have recovered.  Mercer County today reported totals of 386 cases and four deaths.

Gov. Phil Murphy today announced 182 new deaths, the state’s largest one-day jump, for a total of 537 deaths, and 3,489 new positive tests, for a total of 25,590 total coronavirus cases. Because of a backlog in testing results, the new deaths and cases reported today did not all come in the past 24 hours.

Almost half (47 percent) of the total deaths in the state have been residents over age 80, officials reported.

In its 3 p.m. update, the PHD continued to strongly recommend continued social distancing and urged that “all Princeton residents, workers, students, and visitors take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against novel coronavirus. Your health and the health of the community is our top priority.”

For more information, visit princetoncovid.org or covid19.nj.gov.

A special meeting via Zoom will be held Monday, April 6 at 7 p.m. by Princeton Council. Instructions for how to access the meeting can be found at www.princetonnj.gov.

The Council will meet electronically from 5-7 p.m. in a portion that is not open to the public, during which no formal action is expected to be taken. The agenda will be posted on Friday, April 3, at the above address.

April 1, 2020

A blooming pear tree provides a lovely sight in uncertain times as a few people enjoy some fresh air while practicing social distancing on Nassau Street. (Photo by Erica M. Cardenas)

By Donald Gilpin

The schools are closed and empty, but remote learning is taking place with increasing intensity and purpose at the Princeton Public Schools (PPS). Technological devices like PowerSchool Learning, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Instagram, social media, email, and the telephone have replaced the desks, classrooms, and white boards of the PPS.

“It’s all about flexibility right now,” said Princeton High School (PHS) Principal Jessica Baxter. “We’re all learning and changing and evolving. It’s a minute-to-minute situation. These are unprecedented times.”

Early this week Assistant Superintendent Annie Kosek said, “Our teachers are finding creative ways to engage students through activities like virtual morning meetings, small and large group chats, live and videotaped lessons, funny motivational videos, ‘spirit days’ like Crazy Hat Day, and teaching in a Google Hangout. Learning is often best as a social experience, and our teachers are striving to maintain social interaction despite our current state of social distancing.”

Teachers and librarians are holding story time, which apparently has a calming effect on both students and their parents. Teachers are sending emails and making personal check-in phone calls, and administrators are staying connected through messages, songs, magic tricks, and daily food for thought using online platforms and social media.

“With only one or two days’ notice, our lives changed,” Baxter wrote in a letter to families on March 19, after the first three days of remote learning. “As educators we were told we had to work from home and teach our students remotely. As parents we were forced to figure out child care and the home schooling of our children in addition to either still having to go out to work or work from our homes. Our students and children were told they couldn’t come to school, see their friends, play sports, be children. Some kids became caregivers and children for younger siblings in addition to being full-time students themselves.” more

By Donald Gilpin

As New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday another major surge in coronavirus cases and deaths in the state, a coalition of Princeton organizations continued to collaborate to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. There were 69 new deaths in New Jersey announced yesterday, March 31, for a total of 267, and more than 2,000 new positive tests for a total of 18,696 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases throughout the state.

The Princeton Health Department on Tuesday reported 28 total COVID-19 cases, and there were 268 total cases reported by Mercer County. In collaboration with health partners, Mercer County has opened a drive-up testing site for COVID-19 at Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrence. The testing center is by appointment only for symptomatic Mercer County residents age 18 and older who have a prescription from their primary health care provider.

In Princeton, the Princeton Children’s Fund (PCF) — in collaboration with Princeton Community Housing, the Princeton Human Services Department, the Princeton Senior Resource Center, and Send Hunger Packing Princeton (SHUPPrinceton) — has established a Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to help Princeton families in need of financial support because of income loss during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are asking the community to consider donating money to be used to pay day-to-day expenses that will be incurred by families who are unable to work during the shutdowns and curfews,” stated a PCF press release. Donations can be made online at www.princetonchildrensfund.org and are fully tax deductible. more

WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK: Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad (PFARS) volunteer Bryan Hill has been applying his wealth of knowledge to help keep residents and members of the squad healthy during the COVID-19 crisis.

By Anne Levin

With cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) expected to peak during the next few weeks, Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad (PFARS) is gearing up for what could be unprecedented demand. An integral part of the team is Princeton High School graduate Bryan Hill, a volunteer with the squad and an emergency medical technician (EMT) who has two bachelor of science degrees and is a candidate for a doctorate in nursing.

Hill does a daily email briefing for members, culled from data he gathers from the daily updates by Gov. Phil Murphy, the Centers for Disease Control, and other sources. “I boil it down to what we need to be focusing on as a first aid squad,” he said last week. “I’ve been working countless hours, seven days a week, for the past two and a half weeks to make sure we’re ahead of the curve before we get this surge that is expected in mid-April.”

Heading infection control for the squad, Hill has been doing his best to keep members healthy. “His medical background makes him the ideal person for this,” said PFARS President Mark Freda. “And he has a relationship with the Public Health Department in town, which is key.”  more

ZOOMING IN ON SHAKESPEARE: McCarter Theatre’s Shakespeare Community Reading Group usually meets in the main lobby. But staying at home has meant a transition for the participants, who now meet digitally via Zoom.

By Anne Levin

With the remainder of its season canceled and both halls dark, McCarter Theatre Center is anxious to keep the public engaged and ready to return once the COVID-19 crisis subsides. The Shakespeare Community Reading Group, which allows amateur actors to read aloud together the works of the celebrated playwright, seemed an ideal candidate for transitioning to remote technology.

Last week, they held their first gathering via Zoom. Seated in their living rooms and kitchens instead of around a table in the McCarter lobby, participants delivered a spirited reading of The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act I – Act III, Scene 3. McCarter’s Artistic Engagement Manager Paula Alekson, who oversees the program, said the reading got positive reviews from those who took part.

“The first Zoom meeting was an experiment for sure,” she said. “For that inaugural one, we mostly went out to people who are on the regular attendance list, just to say, ‘let’s try.’ People were so enthusiastic and excited, and comments I got afterward included so many expressions of thanks for making the opportunity possible. The next one is April 7, and I know we’ll have a big group.” more