March 29, 2023

By Stuart Mitchner

…when we read a book, it is as if we were with a person.

—W.H. Auden

You could say that I met Helen DeWitt, the person, in the prologue to her novel The Last Samurai (New Directions 2016), having read the introduction to the first edition (Miramax/Talk Books 2000), which is included in the reprint. After being alerted to it by a friend, my wife introduced me to The Last Samurai, which I’d have read even without her recommendation had I seen a September 2022 interview with Helen DeWitt on There she recalls watching her ex-husband argue with a fellow academic at Oxford about Sergio Leone, whose films For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly became a passion for me at a time when most “serious” film people were dismissing the director as a maker of Spaghetti Westerns. After going to a video store and renting “all these Leone films,” DeWitt, who before that had “hated any Clint Eastwood movie” or “any movies where people got beaten up or killed,” suddenly had a revelation — “that moment where something I’d started out hating suddenly had me saying, ‘Oh, my God, this is absolutely amazing.’ ” Which is what my wife and I said to each other after our first experience of Leone. The ex-husband, Professor David Levene, introduced DeWitt “to all these different things — Leone, Kurosawa, bridge and poker …. Suddenly all of this was amazingly interesting.”

Readers of The Last Samurai will appreciate the connection to Akira Kurosawa, whose film Seven Samurai not only inspired Leone’s Man With No Name westerns, but is as central to DeWitt’s novel as the Odyssey is to James Joyce’s Ulysses. Besides providing a skeleton key to the book, Kurosawa’s film becomes a life text with a profound impact on Sibylla, the single mother who narrates the first 180 pages of the novel, and her polymath young son Ludo, who takes over the bulk of the narration later. more

By Nancy Plum

It is difficult not to bask in the music of late 19th-century Italian opera master Giacomo Puccini. The soaring melodic lines and lush orchestrations of Puccini’s operas captivate listeners, even if they are not opera fans. Boheme Opera NJ brought operatic simplicity and Puccini’s opulent music to the stage of The College of New Jersey’s Kendall Hall Theater this past weekend with a new production of the timeless Madama Butterfly. Conceived and directed by Stefanos Koroneos and sung in Italian with English supertitles, this performance was highly entertaining and gave the audience more than a few thrilling moments of singing.

As with all their productions, Boheme Opera NJ compiled a cast of experienced performers, including both singers returning to the company’s stage and those making a debut. In Friday night’s performance (the opera was repeated Sunday afternoon), conductor Joseph Pucciatti began the opera overture quickly and with breathless musical energy, as the curtain opened on a modest set of Butterfly’s house bathed in black and shadows.

As lead character Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly), soprano Ashley Galvani Bell brought operatic experience going back to her childhood as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus. Bell showed a ringing upper register, especially in Butterfly’s signature aria “Un bel dì,” as she maintained eternal hope that her beloved Pinkerton would return. Clearly a woman who knew what she wanted, Bell’s Butterfly demonstrated a wide range of emotions through the music — teasing with Pinkerton, calming with her son and demure at the right times. more

COMEDY AND MORE: Princeton students in rehearsal for the upcoming Lewis Center production of Lauren Yee’s play “King of the Yees.” (Photo Credit: Jon Sweeney)

King of the Yees, a semi-autobiographical play by 2018-19 Princeton University Hodder Fellow Lauren Yee, will be presented April 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 at the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center, 91 University Place.

For nearly 20 years, the playwright’s father, Larry, has been a driving force in the Yee Family Association, a seemingly obsolescent Chinese American men’s club formed 150 years ago in the wake of the Gold Rush and the building of the transcontinental railroad.

But when her father goes missing, Lauren Yee must plunge into the rabbit hole of San Francisco Chinatown and confront a world both foreign and familiar. The play is at once funny and honest, exploring what it means to truly be a Yee.

An audience talkback is being planned to follow one of the performances. The show is open to the public and tickets are $10-$17. Visit

American Repertory Ballet presents a triple bill, “Movin’ + Groovin,” at McCarter Theatre on Saturday, April 1 at 7 p.m. Pictured are Aldeir Monteiro and Ryoko Tanaka in Caili Quan’s “Circadia,” which shares a program with commissioned pieces by Claire Davison and Ja’ Malik. Visit or call (609) 258-2787 for tickets. (Photo by Rosalie O’Connor)

Golden Oldies: Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish, founders of The Rascals, bring their music to the State Theatre New Jersey on April 8.

State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick presents The Rascals, with founders Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish, on Saturday, April 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $29-$99.

As Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, Grammy Hall of Fame, Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and Songwriter Hall of Fame members, The Rascals have 17 Top 20 hits, seven Top 10 hits, and three No.1 hits that include “Groovin’,” “People Got To Be Free,” and “Good Lovin’.”  more

Peruvian guitarist David Galvez is soloist with the Capital Philharmonic on Saturday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton. The program includes music of Joaquin Rodrigo, Arturo Marquez, and Jose Pablo Moncayo. Visit for tickets. Special discounts for veterans, groups, and students are available.

Choreographer and director Raja Feather Kelly and musician and interdisciplinary artist eddy kwon have been named Princeton University Arts Fellows for 2023-2025 by the Lewis Center for the Arts and will begin two years of teaching and community collaboration at the University in September.

The Arts Fellows program of the Lewis Center provides support for early-career artists who have demonstrated both extraordinary promise and a record of achievement in their fields with the opportunity to further their work while teaching within a liberal arts context. Fellows are selected for a two-year residency to teach a course each semester or, in lieu of a course, to undertake an artistic assignment that deeply engages undergraduate students, such as directing a play, conducting a musical ensemble, or choreographing a dance piece. Fellows are expected to be active members of the University’s intellectual and artistic community while in residence, and in return, they are provided with the resources and spaces necessary for their work.  more

Cécile McLorin Salvant (Photo by Shawn Michael Jones)

As part of the Princeton University campus-wide celebration of the 30th anniversary of Toni Morrison winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Princeton University Concerts has joined the McCarter Theatre Center in co-commissioning MacArthur Fellow and three-time Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist and composer Cécile McLorin Salvant to create a new work inspired by Morrison’s archives.

These archives are housed at the university and are currently on display in an exhibit called “Sites of Memory” at the University’s Firestone Library. McLorin Salvant, alongside her partner in life and music, pianist Sullivan Fortner, make this Princeton University Concerts (PUC) debut Wednesday, April 12, at 6 and 9 p.m. more

“NEURAL PATHWAYS: EMBRACING THE UNKNOWN”: This work by Adriana Groza is featured in “Coloring the Mind: A Journey through Neural Pathways,” on view April 5 through May 2 at Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street. An opening reception is on April 7 from 5 to 7 p.m.

“Coloring the Mind: A Journey through Neural Pathways,” a solo show of abstract paintings by Adriana Groza, will be on view April 5 through May 2 at Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street. An opening reception is on Friday, April 7, from 5 to 7 p.m.

The exhibit features over 25 original artworks from the “Neural Pathways” collection, which explore the intricate connections and patterns that exist within our minds. The artist has used innovative techniques to capture the beauty and complexity of neural networks in a series of bold abstract paintings. Each artwork is a unique representation of the artist’s interpretation of the underlying structures of the human brain, translated into vivid and dynamic visuals. more

“REFLECTIONS IN AN AUTUMN POND”: This work by Wendy Wilson is featured in “Member Show: Yesterday Today Tomorrow,” on view at West Windsor Arts through June 3. An opening reception is on Friday, March 31 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Life revolves around change, the passage of time, and hope. Change is a constant that occurs everywhere and has so throughout time. Perhaps most importantly, time and change result in something new, different, and beautiful, and often with  hope for the future. For this exhibition, West Windsor Arts invited their member artists to explore and express the idea of change and the passage of time as they relate to personal experiences or observations in the springtime art exhibition, “Yesterday Today Tomorrow.” The art is on view at West Windsor Arts through June 3 during operating hours or by appointment. The juror was Katie Truk, a New Jersey-based artist and teaching artist. Awards for Best in Show, Best Use of Medium and Exhibition Committee Choice will be announced at the opening reception on Friday, March 31 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.  more

“INN AT PHILLIPS’ MILL”: This photograph by Sue Ann Rainey is part of the 30th annual “Phillips’ Mill Photographic Exhibition,” on view April 2 through April 21 at Phillips’ Mill in New Hope, Pa. The juried show features 138 images selected from over 1,200 submissions received from more than a dozen states.

The month of April brings a celebration of fine art photography to Phillips’ Mill with two shows. The annual juried “Phillips’ Mill Photographic Exhibition” marks its 30th anniversary of showcasing excellence in the photographic arts. Rounding out the month, the “Not Your Run of the Mill Photo Show” will feature works by the volunteers of the Mill Photo Committee.

At the juried exhibition, which runs April 2 through April 21, 138 images will grace the walls of the historic mill, selected by juror Jill Enfield from over 1,200 submissions received from more than a dozen states. From traditional to digital, the photographs highlight the range of talent encompassed by what is considered the premiere juried photography show in Bucks County, Pa. Enfield, an internationally renowned fine art photographer, curator, author, and educator, shared her expertise in assessing this year’s slate of submissions. She said, “The range, diversity, creativity, and experimentation presented in this larger body of work is exceptional. Whether it was nature, landscape, art, portraiture, street photography, there was just so much high-quality work it made narrowing down the prize winners a very painful but rewarding experience. Kudos to all the accepted entries.”  more

March 22, 2023

By Stuart Mitchner

At the 2009 Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale, I found a book on a cart marked “Declined by Collector’s Corner,” the room where the rarest volumes are displayed. Given the event’s stated purpose (funding student scholarships) and timing (March being Women’s History Month), Hart’s Class Book of Poetry (1845) seemed worth a closer look. Compiled by John S. Hart, principal of the Philadelphia High School, the time-worn little anthology had a name and date written in brown ink on the title page (Lizzie Shipp, June 18, 1858) and under that, the words school almost out.

I bought the book not because it had been marked down to a dollar, nor because it was appropriate to the purpose of the sale or the national occasion; it was the specificity of time and place matched with the owner’s name. If it had been Elizabeth Shipp, I might have left this foundling on the reject cart, except that this was an anthology of selections from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Wordsworth and Coleridge that belonged to a school girl who signed herself Lizzie, a name that for me still sings with the immediacy of the moment. I can almost hear the cries of “Lizzie! Lizzie!” echoing down the hallways and out on the schoolyard. But there’s another, later date at the bottom of the title page: “June 21st 1861 examination next week.” Apparently Lizzie had lived with the book for three years, the Civil War was looming, and now here she is in the 21st century on the magic carpet of this weathered volume, denied a place in Collector’s Corner, like one of the “homeless poets of Bryn Mawr” I wrote about in my first piece on the sale in March 2004.  more

By Nancy Plum

After three years of stop-and-start choral performance, Princeton Pro Musica has returned to what the ensemble does best — presenting choral/orchestral masterworks. This past Sunday, just in time for the composer’s 338th birthday, the 80-voice chorus performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John Passion. Led by Pro Musica Artistic Director Ryan James Brandau and accompanied by the early music period orchestra La Fiocco and six vocal soloists, the singers of Pro Musica well demonstrated why pieces such as this have been their mainstay for the past 40 years.

Bach’s Johannes-Passion musically set the “passion narrative” of the suffering and death of Jesus as recorded in the canonical gospel of the apostle John. Bach illuminated John’s texts with arias, recitatives, and choruses, dramatically led by an Evangelist representing John, as well as the characters of Jesus and Pontius Pilate. In Sunday afternoon’s performance, Princeton Pro Musica and La Fiocco were joined by soloists Steven Caldicott Wilson singing the role of the Evangelist, Will Doreza as Jesus, and Jesse Blumberg singing the role of Pilate. Soprano Madeline Apple Healy, alto Robin Bier, and tenor Eric Finbarr Carey rounded out a vocal quartet with Doreza to provide additional musical commentary on the text.  more

SCHUBERT AND MORE: Ruth Ochs leads the Westminster Community Orchestra, coming to the Westminster campus Sunday, April 2.

The Westminster Community Orchestra, conducted by Ruth Ochs, will present a concert titled “Rosamunde Revisited” on Sunday, April 2 at 7 p.m. in Hillman Auditorium of the Marian Buckelew Cullen Center on the Westminster Campus of Rider University on Walnut Lane. A suggested donation of $10/person will be accepted at the door.

The concert program is built around the history of a beautiful melody — the Schubert Rosamunde theme, which Schubert originally used as part of incidental music for a play written by Helmina von Chezy. The orchestra will perform Schubert’s Zauberharfe Overture, an independent work historically linked with the play, and selections from the incidental music, including the Rosamunde theme. The concert will also include the second movement from Grieg’s Symphonic Dances, the “Intermezzo” from Goyescas by Granados, and the world premiere of “Frontier,” by Rider University senior music theory and composition major Evan Davis. Rounding out the program will be readings from texts by von Chezy, who struggled for proper recognition during her lifetime. more

OLDIES BUT GOODIES: The Spinners are among the artists who will be performing old favorites at the State Theatre New Jersey on April 14.

State Theatre New Jersey presents a “Classic R&B Spectacular” with The Spinners, Sonny Bivins Manhattans, The Trammps featuring Earl Young, and Parker J on Friday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $39-$89.

The Spinners, from the suburbs of Detroit, formed in 1960 and their first hit single, “That’s What Girls are Made For,” made the top five on the R&B chart. They signed with Berry Gordy’s Motown label, but had limited success throughout the ’60s. In 1972, they switched to Atlantic Records and began their collaboration with Philadelphia-based songwriter-producer Thom Bell, resulting in a string of hit singles on the pop and R&B charts throughout the decade of the 1970s. They dominated the charts with 11 top 20 pop singles, including seven top five pop hits, and 14 top five R&B hits.  more

A LIFE ON BROADWAY: Patti LuPone performs classic show tunes at State Theatre New Jersey in “Don’t Monkey with Broadway” on March 25. (Photo by Rahav)

State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick presents “Patti LuPone: Don’t Monkey with Broadway” on Saturday, March 25 at 8 p.m. The Broadway star and three-time Tony Award-winner will be performing classic Broadway show tunes. Tickets range from $39-$69.

LuPone will share how her lifelong love affair with Broadway began through the likes of Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jule Styne, Stephen Schwartz, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. “Don’t Monkey with Broadway” is conceived and directed by Scott Wittman with music direction by Joseph Thalken.  more

“NEIGHBORHOOD”: This painting by Heather Barros is part of “Outside — Inside,” her joint exhibition with Larry Mitnick, on view April 6-30 at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville. An opening reception is on April 15 from 1-4 p.m. 

Painters Larry Mitnick and Heather Barros each approach the notion of “Outside — Inside” from their particular vantage, yet one finds common ground in their exhibition to be presented at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville April 6-30. Mitnick’s work is more formal and abstract, while Barros’ work bends to the figurative.

These artworks present the viewer with shape and color. Mitnick’s paintings are exclusively geometric. He invents shapes and forms to create his own landscapes. Barros’ oils and pastels allude to corresponding shapes and colors in the landscape. Within her urban scenes, viewers find squares and triangles ready to be abstracted — if they choose to see them that way. While viewers may never divine Mitnick’s specific inspiration, there is a structure in each of his compositions. Fragments of his thinking become visible once their eyes discover the link between any two elements. more

Planning of the 94th Juried Phillips’ Mill Art Show kicks off with the annual call for submissions for the “signature image” of the Mill to be used on all advertising and marketing materials for this year’s show –– posters, ads, invitations, postcards, social media, banners, invitations, and on the website. Submissions will be accepted through April 7.

The winning artist will receive a $400 honorarium and will be promoted in the press and on social media. The artwork will also be featured for sale at the show. The artist is also welcome to submit additional work to the juried show itself.

Previous signature images have included whimsical as well as traditional depictions of the Mill and its surroundings. Phillips’ Mill encourages artists to consider themes of diversity and to “think outside of the box.” Collages, watercolors, oils, and acrylics have all been chosen, so artists should feel free to use their favorite medium, other than photography, to create their vision of the Mill.  more

SPRING ART CLASSES: Registration for spring art classes and workshops for adults, teens, and children at The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster begins on April 3. Select classes will be offered virtually or in a hybrid format.

Registration is underway for The Center for Contemporary Art’s spring art classes and workshops for adults, teens and children beginning April 3. Select classes will be offered virtually or in a hybrid format. Classes and workshops are offered for artists with all levels of expertise in a variety of media including oil and acrylic paint, pastel, watercolor, drawing, and ceramics. 

More than 35 adult classes will be offered. Classes include Portrait Drawing with Oscar Peterson, Morning Watercolor with Lena Shiffman, Afternoon Oil Landscape with Gary Godbee, En Plein Air with Wes Sherman, The Power of Pastels with Andrea Gianchiglia, Chinese Brush Painting with Diana Kung, Ceramic Sculpture with John Reinking, and more. New classes this spring include The Art of Drawing from Basics to Beyond with Aldo Villareal Astuvilca; Combining Mediums with Margaret Fanning; Art from the Start: Acrylic Painting with Barbara Guerriero; and Traditional Latin American Pottery with Vanessa Cabezas, which will be taught in English and Spanish.  more

STANDING STRONG: Board members of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum in Skillman are shown at the museum, which will present a special photographic exhibit, “African American Women of the Sourlands,” on March 25 and 26 in honor of Women’s History Month.

The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) was founded by two visionary Black women, Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills, and is led today by a majority-female and African American board. In honor of Women’s History Month, SSAAM, central New Jersey’s only Black history museum, is presenting a special photographic exhibit of historical portraits of women from the Sourland region’s Black founding families and their descendants. The exhibit, “African American Women of the Sourlands,” will be open to the public on March 25 and 26.

“African American Women of the Sourlands” will showcase the photographs and stories of African American women who left their mark on New Jersey’s history — from the 18th century to the present day. Visitors will learn about Sylvia Dubois, “the slave who whipped her mistress and earned her freedom;” Corinda True, who with her husband, donated the land on which SSAAM stands today; and Evelyn Brooks who, at 102 years old, is Sourland Mountain’s oldest resident and property owner, and an important link to Sourland’s African American past.  more

March 15, 2023

“PATH OF THE PANTHER”: The documentary directed by Eric Bendick is one of 22 films illuminating a range of environmental issues that will be shown at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival March 24 to 31.

By Wendy Greenberg

Outdoor lighting pollution, protecting the elusive Florida panther, and threats to the Amazon ecosystem are subjects of some of the story-driven films that will be part of the 17th annual Princeton Environmental Film Festival (PEFF). The festival, which will be held March 24 to 31, is a signature event of the Princeton Public Library.

The 22 films, including 11 feature-length documentaries and 11 short films (one is a short narrative film), will be screened in person in the library’s Community Room and virtually, with some films available in both formats. Selections being screened virtually will be available to view through April 2. One film will be screened at the Princeton Garden Theatre on March 30.

“The films get better and better,” said Susan Conlon, festival co-director with Kim Dorman, both library staff members. “The public seems more interested in documentary films. The films are stronger and better and the public has an appetite for them.”

The festival also serves to make connections to organizations. “Many times after a film, a viewer will say, ‘What can I do?’ and will try to connect with a nonprofit organization, so they are learning about the topic and making community connections,” said Dorman. more

By Stuart Mitchner

Brutus is Shakespeare’s first intellectual, and the enigmas of his nature are multiform.

—Harold Bloom

Since Bill Nighy’s Oscar-nominated performance in Living is fresh in my mind, I’m beginning with him instead of Julius Caesar, who was assassinated on this day, the Ides of March, 44 BC. Nighy’s one of those actors who is always worth watching and listening to, like James Mason, whose only Best Actor nomination was for his role in A Star Is Born (1955), two years after he played Brutus in MGM’s Julius Caesar. Close your eyes and listen and these are two of the rare actors in film you can hear, so distinctive are their voices and ways of speaking. And in Living, Nighy sings! The film would be worth seeing if only for the moment the terminally ill character he plays comes to life singing the Scottish folk song, “The Rowan Tree.”  more

By Nancy Plum

This past weekend, Princeton Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of a piece featuring instruments rarely heard in orchestral works. Led by guest conductor Sameer Patel, the Orchestra performed American composer and violinist William Harvey’s Seven Decisions of Gandhi with the composer as violin soloist, musical artist Dibyarka Chatterjee playing the Hindustani tabla, with the added orchestral color of the sitar, played by Snehesh Nag. Saturday night’s performance (the concert was repeated Sunday afternoon) teamed Harvey’s work with late 19th-century Russian music of Alexander Borodin and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, taking the audience at Richardson Auditorium on a musical ride of dynamic contrasts and rich orchestral writing.  more

“CLEAN SLATE”: Rider University and Passage Theatre presented “Clean Slate” March 10-12. Written by Kate Brennan and David Lee White, and directed by Artistic Director C. Ryanne Domingues, the musical will be available to stream March 21-26. Above, rehabilitation camp participant Andi (Ellie Pearlman, left) meets Cassie (Rylee Carpenter) from another time — and the two discover that they share a crucial bond. (Photo by Pete Borg. Courtesy of Rider University)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Passage Theatre has partnered with Rider University to present a world premiere musical, Clean Slate. The book is by David Lee White; the music and lyrics are by Kate Brennan. Artistic Director C. Ryanne Domingues directs the production, which was staged at Rider University two weeks before its presentation at Passage.

A feisty, embittered thief, 17-year-old Andi (portrayed by Ellie Pearlman) is sent to a rehabilitation camp, Clean Slate, when her overwhelmed foster mothers Sarah (Miriam White) and Gina (Jessy Gruver) no longer know how to discipline her.

Andi is not the character’s real name. Like all participants at Clean Slate, she is assigned a nickname on arrival, to protect her privacy. Per camp tradition, the nicknames are based on Greek mythology.  more

MAKING A LOCAL DEBUT: The Jupiter Ensemble is “All Vivaldi” at a concert presented by Princeton University Concerts March 30. (Photo by Angeline Moizard)

The members of the Jupiter Ensemble make their debut at Princeton University Concerts (PUC) with an “All Vivaldi” concert on Thursday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. at Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall.

Led by Thomas Dunford, alongside mezzo-soprano Lea Desandre, the group reimagines what an early music ensemble can be by bringing together a new generation of soloists to reveal the passionate and cutting-edge side of music written centuries ago. In this upcoming program at Princeton University Concerts, they will guide listeners through an array of Antonio Vivaldi’s baroque innovations, including music that may surprise contemporary audiences with its virtuosity. more