December 7, 2022

By Anne Levin

Clients of Princeton Fitness & Wellness at Plainsboro were given a jolt when a letter from management dated November 28 informed them that the club will close at the end of the year to accommodate additional space requirements on the Princeton Medical Center campus.

Having recently completed a strategic plan, Penn Medicine Princeton Health decided that the space will be repurposed, possibly for such services as cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation and an ambulatory care center.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we notify you that Princeton Fitness & Wellness at Plainsboro must permanently close effective Saturday, December 31, 2022, at 4 p.m.,” reads a letter to members. “On November 16, 2022, we were notified by Penn Medicine Princeton Health that additional space is required on the Princeton Medical Center campus to meet the increasing demand for medical care and services. After a thoughtful and thorough strategic plan process, Princeton Health determined it must repurpose the space currently used by the Fitness Center to better serve patients and the broader community.”

Representing Penn Medicine Princeton Health, spokesperson Andy Williams said the closing was unavoidable. “Repurposing the existing building instead of construction a new one will enable us to make a transition in months, as opposed to the year or more it would take to design and build a new structure,” he said in an email. “In addition, there is only one available parcel on the campus. In our redevelopment agreement with the township of Plainsboro, that land is designated for medical research.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

In 1966, the victorious English team famously sang “Sunny Afternoon” in the baths after the World Cup final…

—from @The Kinks

Ray Davies calls it the “mystical fairy tale of ‘Sunny Afternoon’ and the World Cup” in his “unauthorized autobiography” X-Ray (Overlook Press 1995). After landing a song at the top of the charts the same month England’s team was at the top of the sporting world, Davies composed “Waterloo Sunset” the following spring, a British anthem for the ages that he would sing half a century later at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

Clips of the highlights from England’s 4-2 victory over West Germany can be viewed on YouTube, the same black and white images that Ray saw on his home set, including the moment when a beaming Queen Elizabeth shakes hands with the captain of the British team before handing him the cup. In the aftermath of the Queen’s September 8 death, it’s moving to see her happily, unceremoniously caught up in the excitement of a cheering crowd 96,000 strong. Recalling the “magic” of July 30, 1966, Davies writes of himself and his band mates, “Patriotism had never been so strong. We were all war babies, we had all seen Hungary beat England when we were at primary in the early sixties.” When midfielder Bobby Charlton, considered one of the greatest players of all time, “buried his head in his hands as he fell to his knees and wept on the English turf,” Davies “felt like millions of others watching on television: I wanted to be next to him …..” more

COMMUNITY MUSICIANS: Ruth Ochs conducts the Westminster Community Orchestra at a free concert on the Westminster campus. The “Holiday Chestnuts and Sing-along” concert is on December 14 at 7:30 p.m.

The Westminster Community Orchestra, conducted by Ruth Ochs, will present their tenth annual family holiday concert on Wednesday, December 14 at 7:30 p.m. “Holiday Chestnuts and Sing-along” will take place in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse on the Westminster Choir College campus of Rider University on Walnut Lane.

While the performance is free, the orchestra will continue its long-standing tradition of accepting free-will monetary donations at the door to benefit and be distributed to area food pantries and service organizations.

The performance will feature holiday favorites such as Leontovich’s Carol of the Bells and Bernard’s Winter Wonderland. The concert will also include Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Dance of the Tumblers” from The Snow Maiden, “Valse Lyrique” by Sibelius, Glazunov’s “Snow Variation” from The Seasons, Chase’s Christmas Favorites, and Bach’s “Gigue” from Orchestral Suite No. 3, as well as orchestra member Beth Gaynor LaPat’s Chanukah Songs. The audience is invited to join the orchestra in Finnegan’s Christmas Sing-along. more

CHORAL FAVORITES: The Newark Boys Chorus School (NBCS) will present its holiday concert program, “Tis the Season,” on December 10 at 5 p.m. at Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street. The program features holiday songs and works written specifically for the NBCS Concert Chorus. NBCS is the only urban, independent boys’ chorus school in the country. The concert is open to the public and will include a free-will offering. For more information, visit nassauchurch.org.

American Repertory Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is on stage this Sunday, December 11 at 3 p.m. at Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton, accompanied by the Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey and the Trenton Children’s Chorus. For tickets, visit arballet.org. (Photo by Eduardo Patino, NYC).

From December 9 through 11, MTM presents the comedy The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge at Kelsey Theatre on the campus of Mercer County Community College. Toys for Tots gifts will be collected in the lobby before, during, and after the performances.

Playwright Mark Brown takes the “happily ever after” component of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to an new level. The play begins when, just a year after his miraculous transformation, Ebenezer Scrooge reverts to his old ways. He indignantly files suit against Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future for breaking and entering, kidnapping, slander, pain and suffering, attempted murder and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. They all relive the night in question as all of the characters from A Christmas Carol take the stand.

Shows are Friday, December 9 at 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for students, senior citizens and children. Visit Kelseytheatre.org.

HISTORIC CENTRAL COURT: The Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pa., has received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which will help with the care, management, and cataloging of 500 artifacts that are free-standing and suspended from the ceilings and mezzanines of its 1916 Central Court.

The Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pa., operated by the Bucks County Historical Society (BCHS), recently received a grant to improve the care, management, and cataloging of 500 artifacts installed in its 1916 historic Central Court.

The museum was the recipient of an $111,907.00 matching grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency, in 2022 as part of IMLS’ Museums for America grant program which will support the Mercer Museum’s aim of preserving and providing access to the collections entrusted to its care.

The grant will allow the museum to fully perform an inventory, clean, catalog, and assess the condition of objects that are free-standing and suspended from the ceilings and mezzanines of the Mercer Museum’s historic Central Court. A hydraulic lift will be used to survey the artifacts hanging in the core of the Mercer Museum — unreachable otherwise from the ground. The survey is anticipated to be completed by 2024.  more

This work by Alina Marin-Bliach is part of the “Members Holiday Art Exhibit and Boutique,” on view through December 18 at Gallery 14 Fine Art Photography, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. or by appointment. For more information, visit gallery14.org.

“SHIRANKALA”: An exhibition of works by Shiranie Perera is on view through January 31 at Songbird Capital, 14 Nassau Street, on Saturdays from 1 to 6 p.m. or by appointment.

“Shirankala,” an art exhibition at 14 Nassau Street inside Songbird Capital, features 15 paintings by local artist Shiranie Perera. The show is on view through January 31 and is open to the public on Saturdays from 1-6 p.m. Private tours are available by appointment on Thursdays and Fridays from 5-6 p.m. Call (609) 331-2624 to schedule an appointment.

This exhibition, located on the first floor of the historic Bank & Trust Building, developed out of a fortuitous meeting between Perera and Jie Hayes, the founder of Songbird Capital. “When I walked into Shiranie’s gallery/studio in Lawrenceville one late Friday afternoon in September, my plan was a 15-minute visit,” said Hayes. That visit ended up being two and a half hours of what Hayes calls a “mesmerizing experience,” adding that “Shiranie’s paintings are captivating and liberating at the same time.” more

November 30, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

… a damp, drizzly November in my soul ….
—Herman Melville

In the opening paragraph of Moby Dick, Ishmael makes cheerful poetry of the perennial November gloom, which is spelled out in scary-shaky black letters atop Roz Chast’s cartoon in the November 21 New Yorker. The three Chastesquely despairing characters are a frizzy-haired woman bundled up in a coat (“It’s only 4:15 but it’s PITCH DARK!”), a shivering young man rubbing his hands together (“Something is seriously amiss.), and under the last word-balloon a hair-tearing embodiment of horror (“It’s the end of the world.”).

For the purposes of this end-of-the-month column, I’m replacing the three Chastettes with two writers of note and a movie star. Mark Twain arrived in Florida, Missouri, on the last day of November 1830, along with Hailey’s Comet, which reappeared in time for his exit in 1910. Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis 100 years ago on November 11, 1922, three days before Veronica Lake appeared in Brooklyn under her birth name, Constance Frances Marie Ockelman. Thirty-two years later, November 26, 1954, Roz Chast herself was born — in Brooklyn. Although I stopped watching quiz and game shows long ago, it seemed there was always a contestant from Brooklyn who would inevitably be greeted with a level of enthusiasm (wild applause, shrill whistlings, cheers) afforded no other earthly locality.

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INTERACTIVE DANCE: Jackson Jules of Trenton rehearses for “Us vs. Them, an Interactive Dance Theatre Collage,” December 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the MCCC Studio Theatre, CM 122, next to Kelsey Theatre on the campus of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor.

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Peter Brooks and Brigid Doherty will talk about Brooks’ new book Seduced by Story: On the Use and Abuse of Narrative (New York Review of Books) on Wednesday, December 7 at 6 p.m. The event can be attended in person at Labyrinth Books or via livestream; to register, visit labyrinthbooks.com.

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It’s almost Christmas in 1815, and studious Lord Arthur de Bourgh (Tyler Eisenacher) meets bookish Mary Bennet (Charlotte Kirkby) in the library at Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy’s estate in ActorsNET’s production of “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.” The family-friendly holiday comedy, written in 2016 by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, picks up two years after Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride and Prejudice” left off. Performances are December 2-18 at the Heritage Center Theatre, 635 North Delmorr Avenue, Morrisville. For tickets or additional information, visit actorsnetbucks.org.

TAP AND MORE: Princeton University students rehearse for a new rhythm tap dance work by Michael J. Love, to be featured at the 2022 Princeton Dance Festival. (Photo by Codey Babineaux)

New and repertory works are on the program of the 2022 Princeton Dance Festival, presented by Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance at the Berlind Theatre of McCarter Theatre Center, 91 University Place, December 2-4.

More than 50 students are performing in works by choreographers Ronald K. Brown, Davalois Fearon, Sun Kim, Michael J. Love, Susan Marshall, Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, and Caili Quan, spanning tap, ballet, dance theater, West African/modern, and post-modern genres.

Shows are December 2 at 8 p.m., December 3 at 2 and 8 p.m., and December 4 at 2 p.m. The December 4 show is a relaxed performance. Tickets are $10-$17. Visit McCarter.org.

“CAREFREE BIKE RIDE”: This work by Addison Vincent is featured “PANDEMICA: Images of a Potential Future,” on view at the Trenton Free Public Library December 7 through January 28. An opening reception is on Thursday, December 8 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The Trenton Artists Workshop Association (TAWA) and the Trenton Free Public Library will present the exhibition “PANDEMICA: Images of a Potential Future” at the Trenton Free Public Library December 7 through January 28. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, December 8 from 5 to 7 p.m.

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This work by Catherine Suttle is part of “Intersection: Four Voices in Abstraction,” on view through January 27 at The Gallery at Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach, 253 Nassau Street. An artists’ reception will be held on Sunday, December 4 from 2-5 p.m.

“LOCK HOUSE”: Martin Schwartz is one of the member artists exhibiting work at the Gallery 14 Fine Art Photography “Members Holiday Exhibit and Boutique,” on view December 3 through December 18. An artist meet and greet is on December 4 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Gallery 14 Fine Art Photography Gallery in Hopewell continues it season of exhibits with a special “Members Holiday Exhibit and Boutique” December 3 through December 18. The opening on Saturday, December 3 will be at noon. There will also be an artist meet and greet on Sunday, December 4 from 1 to 3 p.m..

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“POINT BREEZE APPLE ORCHARD”: This work by Nancy Long is featured in “Land, Light, Spirit,” on view December 4 through March 10 at the Marie L. Matthews Gallery at D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center. A holiday art reception is on December 4 from 2 to 4 p.m.

D&R Greenway Land Trust’s exhibition “Land, Light, Spirit” features artwork that illuminates the connection between person and place, a bond with landscape that is both individual and spiritual: It might be a quality of light, a time of day or season — reasons extend through time, borne out through experience.

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“SOMATIC PAUSE”: The Arts Council of Princeton adds to their public art presence in Princeton with a new mural on the corner of Spring and Witherspoon streets. Designed and installed by ACP’s current artist-in-residence Dave DiMarchi, it is a large-scale adaptation of DiMarchi’s exploration in collage-style printmaking, painting, and digital techniques.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) unveiled a new community mural recently in downtown Princeton titled Somatic Pause. Designed and installed by artist Dave DiMarchi, this immersive, multimedia public art piece can be found on the side of Village Silver on Spring Street.

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On Sunday, December 4 from 9-11 a.m., children can paint a special cookie plate for Santa at Color Me Mine, located at the Princeton Shopping Center. Santa will make the rounds to help young painters, pose for pictures, and sing seasonal favorites. Registration is required at princeton.colormemine.com or call (609) 581-9500.

November 23, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story.

—Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989)

David Milch’s memoir Life’s Work  (Random House $28) is a tour de force pulled together against all odds; as a work of literary art it’s worthy of comparison with modern American classics like Frank Conroy’s Stop Time, Fred Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, Patti Smith’s Just Kids and M-Train, and Bob Dylan’s Chronicles. Potential readers, however, are met with a blurb in bold type presenting “a profound memoir from a brilliant mind taking stock as Alzheimer’s loosens his hold on his own past.” As if to make up for the pairing of a flat phrase like “taking stock” with the notion that Milch is losing his hold on his past, the jacket copy closes with a line that sings — “a revelatory memoir from a great American writer in what may be his final dispatch to us all.

The catch is that the great writer’s magnum opus was actually a rhetorically rich, fabulously profane American classic called Deadwood, which was not only written but spoken, staged, choreographed, and constructed with contributions from numerous others, only to be shut down after three seasons by HBO, which had once given Milch the game-changing freedom to take language where networks and sponsors usually fear to tread.

In Life’s Work, Milch describes how his thrust toward “ever more extreme varieties of language in their profanity or intricacy or strangeness” has been “to show, through the form of dialogue, the variety and ultimately the joy of the energy that’s given to us all as humans.” For Milch “the joy of the energy” drives both the story of his extraordinary life and his sweeping vision of community in a lawless American mining town in 1876. more

By Nancy Plum

A rare musical gem came to Princeton last week when McCarter Theatre presented an international touring choral/orchestral ensemble. The Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart is a foundation established in 1981 to research and perform the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and connect it to musical composition of today. Despite the focus on Bach, the organization has commissioned numerous works inspired by or rooted in the compositional style of the 18th-century master and has been recognized for its international collaboration. The Bachakademie houses the Gächinger Kantorei chorus and Bach-Collegium Stuttgart orchestra, and both of these ensembles came to McCarter Theatre Center’s Matthews Theater last Wednesday night to perform Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor. Conducted by Bachakademie Artistic Director Hans-Christoph Rademann, the concert presented a work which has challenged choral ensembles for more than 250 years. 

Bach’s responsibilities as cantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig in the early 1700s required him to churn out service music at a seemingly unfathomable rate. In the last decade of his life, Bach began to expand a previously composed “Kyrie” and “Gloria” work into what became the Mass in B minor by adding a “Credo,” “Sanctus,” and “Agnus Dei” from music composed over a 25-year period. Bach completed the mass in 1749, but this work was not performed as a concert piece until the mid-1800s, more than a century after Bach’s death.

The Gächinger Kantorei and Bach-Collegium performed the Mass in B minor drawing the soloists from the chorus, as would have been done in Bach’s time, and assigning some of the extended coloratura choral passages to solo concertists. Under Rademann’s direction, the performance brought together a clean and precise chorus and orchestra with four historically-informed and technically accurate vocal soloists.  more

BRASS AMONG FRIENDS: The all-female tenThing Brass Ensemble from Norway performs an eclectic concert at Richardson Auditorium on December 13 at 6 and 9 p.m. (Photo by Anna-Julia Granberg)

The all-female, 10-member tenThing Brass Ensemble, formed as a fun collaboration between friends, spearheaded by celebrated trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth, makes their Princeton University Concerts (PUC) debut Tuesday, December 13, at 6 and 9 p.m.

The hour-long holiday program explores the musical traditions of the winter season — from the fjords of Norway, 18th-century Germany, warm Italian Christmas and evergreen England, to the sounds of Ukrainian folk music, Czech fairy tales, and some contemporary American favorites in new arrangements.

As part of PUC’s Performances Up Close series, which brings audiences onstage alongside the musicians at Richardson Auditorium, the musicians will be stationed throughout the concert hall creating a surround-sound musical experience. This season’s Performances Up Close focus on “leading ladies” — a new generation of female musicians who are leading the charge as classical music performance takes new directions. Every detail of this concert — including seating configuration, a relaxed atmosphere, and audience interaction — is curated to foster as direct an experience of the music as possible.

Tickets are $10-$40. Visit puc.princeton.edu or call (609) 258-9220. more

UNEXPECTED RHYTHMS: STOMP uses everything but traditional percussion instruments to create intriguing sounds. The group holds “Stomp Out Hunger” food drives at its upcoming performances.

State Theatre New Jersey presents the international percussion sensation STOMP for three performances on Friday, December 2 at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, December 3 at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $40-$98. Ticket buyers can save 15 percent on tickets as part of the STOMP OUT HUNGER Food Drive.

State Theatre has partnered with REPLENISH to host the STOMP OUT HUNGER Food Drive. Patrons can drop off one or more of the much-needed canned or packaged goods from the list of requested items and receive 15 percent to a performance as a thank you. To receive the 15 percent off discount, patrons can use promo code STOMPHUNGER when placing their ticket orders. Patrons are asked to then bring drop-off food or supplies in bins that will be placed in the lobby when they attend the show.

For the list of requested items, visit STNJ.org/Event/STOMP.

REPLENISH provides nonperishable foods and necessities to a network of over 160 partner organizations throughout the 25 towns in Middlesex County to ensure that all residents always have access to nutritionally adequate food and necessities.  more

A POOH CHRISTMAS: Pooh, Piglet, Little Bunny, and the rest of the gang are on stage in the musical “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail,” at Kelsey Theatre November 26 and 27. (Photo courtesy of Maurer Productions OnStage)

Kelsey Players and Maurer Productions OnStage have planned a special one-weekend-only run of the musical production “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” at Kelsey Theatre, on the campus of Mercer County Community College Saturday and Sunday, November 26 and 27 at 1 and 4 p.m.

Audience members are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys for donation to Toys for Tots, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve that distributes toys to children in need.

The tale begins when Christopher Robin and friends from the Hundred-Acre Wood share a story of a Christmas Eve a long time ago. Eeyore, the old gray donkey, who lives by himself in the thistle corner of the Hundred-Acre Wood, has lost his tail. All seems lost until Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet round up all their friends organize a search party. The show features songs and themes of caring, sharing, and the importance of friends.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children, students and senior citizens. Visit Kelseytheatre.org.