May 11, 2022

“CANAL MULE”: This photograph by Alina Marin-Bliach is featured in “Exploring the World in Black and White,” her dual exhibit with Joel Blum, on view May 14 through June 12 at Gallery 14 in Hopewell.

New Jersey artists Joel Blum and Alina Marin-Bliach each take their own approach to exploring the world of monochrome images in “Exploring the World in Black and White,” on view May 14 through June 12 at Gallery 14 in Hopewell. While color images have their own realm of interest and beauty, black and white images allow the photographer to emphasize texture and details that may not be readily seen in color. Using the natural textures and contrast the photographer is able to create special feelings about the scene and the world captured in the image.

Gallery member Blum of East Windsor looks back to the work of the early photographers who, sometimes using the most basic of equipment, influenced the future artists with monochrome images that reached a level of perfection not matched today. Think artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, the master of candid images; the magnificence of Brassai in Paris at Night; or more modern artists like Richard Avedon or Michael Kenna, and a list or others too long to include here. This show is Blum’s tribute to these early “influencers” of the art world. The exhibit has no unifying theme, rather it simply searches out his thoughts in the monochrome paradigm. more

CHALK ART: Princeton Makes will host its inaugural Chalk Festival on Saturday, May 14 from 12 to 4 p.m. Shown is a work created for Communiversity, which formerly featured the event.

The Inaugural Princeton Makes Chalk Festival will take place on Saturday, May 14 from 12 to 4 p.m. outside the Princeton Makes store at the Princeton Shopping Center.

The Chalk Festival will feature local middle and high school students making large chalk drawings in the courtyard.  These drawings will be either reproductions or original art of the students. There will also be a chalk area specifically for younger children who want to create their own works.

The Chalk Festival continues a 25-year tradition of public chalk drawings which had been done by local students at Communiversity. The founders of the event, Lisa and Jim Levine, had been looking for another venue for the event, and the Princeton Shopping Center made space available for it to continue the tradition.  more

“FLOATING THOUGHT 13”: This work from the series “A Natural Thickening of Thought” is part of  “Body Matters / Martha Friedman,” on view May 20 to July 10 at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge on Nassau Street.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents new mixed-media works by the artist Martha Friedman in “Body Matters / Martha Friedman,” on view May 20 to July 10 at Art@Bainbridge. Friedman, a senior lecturer in Princeton’s program in visual arts, integrates elements of choreography, printmaking, drawing, poured and cast rubber, mold-blown glass, plaster, wax and concrete in her complex multimedia practice.

Highlighting Friedman’s interest in historical practices for preserving, representing and studying the body, the exhibition brings together two new series of sculptures — Mummy Wheat (2021) and A Natural Thickening of Thought (2022) — that draw on influences as diverse as ancient Egyptian mummification, Greco-Roman portrait busts and the early 20th-century drawings of neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Shown together for the first time, these works highlight Friedman’s interest in bodies as site and subject for scientific exploration as well as for conceptualizing a spiritual realm.

“‘Body Matters / Martha Friedman’ continues Princeton University Art Museum’s commitment to activating Art@Bainbridge with powerful works created by today’s most exciting practitioners,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “Through her provocative and compelling use of widely divergent materials, Friedman’s sculptures and paintings challenge the boundaries of these disciplines even as they invite us to reconsider our ideas about the human body and brain.”

In the exhibit, rubber — the artist’s primary medium — serves as a metaphor for the body. A liquid that becomes a malleable solid, both stretchy and resistant, its texture mimics flesh. Friedman collaborated with dancer and choreographer Silas Riener, a member of the Princeton class of 2006, in casting his head and shoulders to create the mold-blown sculptures for the exhibition. This process pushed the limits of Riener’s physical training as a dancer; he held his posture for 90 minutes as Friedman covered his eyes, ears, nose, head, and torso in rubber, withstanding heat and breathing through a small slit at his mouth. Friedman suspends his animation in sculpture, freezing his body in time. more

May 4, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

“The only way to even begin to understand language is to love it so much that we allow it to confound us and to torment us to the extent that it threatens to swallow us whole.”

I keep returning to that impassioned sentence from Jhumpa Lahiri’s Translating Myself and Others (Princeton University Press $21.95). The sense of spontaneous energy behind Lahiri’s use of the word “love” is in stunning contrast to the standard “I was struck by” or “I admired” used in other, earlier contexts; in one of the translations she quotes from, the word love is “merely ‘a container we stick everything into,’ a hollow place-holder that justified our behaviors and choices.” Here it comes across as fresh, reinvigorated, uncontained, unconditional, and even heroic, given the challenges she brings tumultuously into play.

The Cracked Kettle

Lahiri’s embattled devotion to language reminds me of Gustave Flaubert’s performance on a similar theme in Madame Bovary: “Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to when we long to move the stars to pity.” In the original it’s “la parole humaine est comme un chaudron fêlé ou nous battons des mélodies à faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les étoiles.”

The English version has a Shakespearean kick that makes Flaubert’s mot-juste French appear unwieldy; but that’s how the words look on the page: say them aloud, and it’s another story, another song.

Looking in the Mirror

Lahiri says that “to translate is to look into a mirror and see someone other than yourself.” Even when you’re not the translator, you can imagine Constance Garnett’s bespectacled face in the mirror when reading Chekhov. You know and trust her, she’s given you the Russians, and in Chekhov’s stories and letters, which you come back to again and again, her translations bring you closer to him than any other. Of Garnett’s Turgenev, the first of the Russian giants she brought to English-speaking readers, Joseph Conrad said “Turgenev is Constance Garnett and Constance Garnett is Turgenev.” Ernest Hemingway makes essentially the same point in A Moveable Feast. For him, the language of Tolstoy was the language of the Englishwoman who began to go blind while translating War and Peace. D. H. Lawrence recalls seeing her sitting in her garden “turning out reams of her marvelous translations from the Russian. She would finish a page, and throw it off on a pile on the floor without looking up, and start a new page. That pile would be this high — really, almost up to her knees, and all magical.” more

By Nancy Plum

Sibling musical prodigies can be found throughout history — brother and sister Mozart, the Haydn brothers, and a large family of Bachs — but there is nothing in classical music today quite like the Kanneh-Masons. Raised in Nottingham, England, the seven brothers and sisters of the Kanneh-Mason family each play violin, piano, and/or cello, all at a very high level. They appear professionally both individually and collectively, have won numerous awards, and are especially known for their livestreams of innovative arrangements and performances.

Two members of this acclaimed family came to Richardson Auditorium last Wednesday night as the last performance of Princeton University Concerts’ 2021-22 season. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, accompanied by his sister, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, played a program of four 19th and 20th-century sonatas for cello and piano, none of which were lightweight pieces and all of which showed that these two siblings have musical skills way beyond their years.

Cellist Sheku has already made history in the United Kingdom as the first cellist in history to reach the U.K. Album Chart Top 10. His popularity as a musician was instantaneous from his performance at the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and he is now in demand as a soloist throughout the world. Pianist Isata has won her own share of awards, drawing on her training at London’s Royal Academy of Music and forging her own path as a piano soloist.

Sheku and Isata mesmerized the audience at Richardson last week with the chamber music of Ludwig van Beethoven, Dmitri Shostakovich, Frank Bridge and Benjamin Britten. One of Sheku’s most striking characteristics as a performer is his range of facial expressions while playing, showing that this young artist pours emotion into every note. Opening with Beethoven’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, No. 4 in C Major, the Kanneh-Masons showed consistent expressive intensity, with clarity in the accompaniment and elegant melodic lines from the cello. The first movement “andante” introduction included a graceful dialog between cello and piano, with Isata playing delicately light trills with a flowing right hand.  more

“THE ART OF PLEASING PRINCES”: The Princeton University Players have presented a staged reading of “The Art of Pleasing Princes,” performed April 28-30 at the Whitman Theater. Directed by Solomon Bergquist, the new musical takes place in a fantasy kingdom that is beset by court intrigue and labyrinthine conspiracies.Above, from left, are Maddox (Alex Conboy), Rowan (Lana Gaige), Jason (Andrew Matos), Louis (Delaney Rose), and Maya (Miel Escamilla). (Photo by Elliot Lee)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Princeton University Players, a student-run organization whose website describes it as “Princeton’s home for musical theater,” has presented a staged reading of a new, student-written show, The Art of Pleasing Princes, at Whitman College’s Class of 1970 Theater this past weekend.

With a book and lyrics by Mel Hornyak and Elliot Valentine Lee, and music by Lee, the musical is set in a pseudohistorical fantasy kingdom — but with a viewpoint and aesthetic that are resolutely contemporary. The show subverts tropes of the fantasy genre — and to an extent, musical theater.

A rogue prince leads an unlikely group of co-conspirators in a plot to assassinate his estranged, tyrannical father. Along the way, we discover the protagonists’ secret ambitions and forbidden relationships.

The performance is classified as a staged reading, as the performers are permitted to use scripts. However, the show has the choreography, costumes, and props of a full production.

The Art of Pleasing Princes opens with a recognizable image. The king’s favorite guard, Jason Bartok (infused with affable sincerity by Andrew Matos) is kneeling at the feet of the monarch’s daughter, princess Maya Astor (Miel Escamilla), proposing marriage to her. The tableau will be seen again later, with a twist.

The opening number (“Your Day in Court”) begins with a waltz that is artfully exaggerated in its delicacy. The courtiers profess excitement at the (presumably) impending royal wedding, and set the too-perfect scene: “Every man has his duties; every servant his place; every lady her suitors … our lives our perfect, charmed.”

Clearly, this equilibrium is just waiting to be upended. Indeed, as the musical language gradually sheds the pastiche, the lyrics describe the scene as a “careful charade.” The ensemble sings of the ruthless politics at court, “You won’t know if you’ve made a mistake here, ‘til you’re the only one kept from the ball.” more

MUSIC FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD: Guitarist, harp guitarist, and composer Muriel Anderson brings her wide-ranging music to Christ Congregational Church on May 20. (Photo by Bryan Allen)

On Friday, May 20 at 8 p.m., the Princeton Folk Music Society presents an evening of fingerstyle guitar music with Muriel Anderson, a guitarist, harp guitarist, and composer who embraces music from all over the world. The concert takes place at Christ Congregational Church, 50 Walnut Lane, and will also be livestreamed.

Anderson is the first woman to have won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship. She has performed or recorded with Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Victor Wooten, Tommy Emmanuel, and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. She fell in love with the guitar at an early age, and learned every style available to her, beginning with folk, bluegrass, and then jazz in high school. more

A COLLABORATIVE ARTISTIC EFFORT: Lisbeth Burgos, front, and Hakim Hachicha rehearsing for “2 Events 3 Days — an Immersive Outdoor Art, Video and Dance Experience” at Mercer County Community College. (Photo by Kyle Bethea)

The Academic Theatre and Dance Company and Mercer Dance Ensemble will present “2 Events 3 Days – an Immersive Outdoor Art, Video and Dance Experience” on the grounds surrounding Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) Kelsey Theatre on May 7, 8 and 9.

The production combines the efforts of MCCC students, instructors, alumni, community members, artist Tamara Torres, and Moving Productions – an interdisciplinary performance company – into two immersive experiences, according to MCCC Academic Theatre and Dance Company Coordinator Jody Gazenbeek-Person. “The Academic Theatre and Dance Company and Entertainment Tech Company have also joined forces with Mercer Dance Ensemble to present new and exciting forms of dance and video art that reflect present-day culture,” he said.

On Saturday, May 7 at 2 p.m. and Sunday, May 8 at 2 p.m. the Mercer Dance Ensemble will dance Torres’ Shadows under the choreographic direction of Jody P. Gazenbeek-Person, bringing the canvases of Trenton artist Torres. Jill Molinaro’s Fireflies is on the program, along with Shelley Gail Weiss Lightman’s Out of the Box aka Etudes and Such, to the music of Hector Villa Lobos accompanied by Sarah Lightman and Empty Shell Performers. more

Six teenagers from a Canadian chamber choir take one last ride on a rollercoaster that changes the course of each of their lives forever in “Ride the Cyclone,” the musical on stage at McCarter Theatre through May 29. McCarter Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen is the director; book, music and lyrics are by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond. Visit mccarter.org for tickets. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Cecile McLorin Salvant

The 2022-2023 season of Princeton University Concerts (PUC) will feature 23 events spanning the academic year from September through May.

The new season “is move exuberant and, in scope, more reflective than ever of a PUC where everyone can find a personal connection to music,” said Marna Seltzer, director. Highlights include events with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and pianist Mitsuko Uchinda; informal Performances Up Close with audience members seated on stage, family concerts, and a new “Healing with Music” conversation and performance series, hosted by Clemency Burton-Hill, that sheds light on music’s role in the lives of musicians facing significant illness and personal upheaval.

More than half of the artists will be making PUC debuts, including violinist Janine Jansen, pianist Vikingur Olafsson, jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, and trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth. Returning favorites include the Brentano String Quartet, Steven Mackey, violinist Alexi Kenney, and tenor Lawrence Brownlee.

Lawrence Brownlee
(Photo by Shervin Lainez)

PUC is continuing its partnership with the Princeton Garden Theatre. Documentaries to be featured this season are The Ballad of Fred Hersch and Falling for Stradivari. The Richardson Chamber Players’ series will resume, with two Sunday afternoon events featuring mixed chamber music programs performed by University performance faculty and students. PUC will also continue to facilitate the Neighborhood Music Project, an educational initiative connecting students in neighboring communities with the guest musicians through classroom visits and field trips to concerts.

Subscriptions are currently available for purchase, and single tickets go on sale August 1. Visit Puc.princeton.edu or call (609) 258-2800.

ART FOR A CAUSE: Unique works by regional artists including Rye Tippett, pictured here, will be auctioned at the “Honoring the Past, Creating the Future” Gala on May 24 to honor of the New Hope Arts Center’s 20th anniversary.

New Hope Arts Center (NHA) has announced its “Honoring the Past, Creating the Future” Gala in honor of its 20th anniversary. The gala will be held at Hotel Du Village in New Hope, Pa., on May 24 and benefit the arts center’s programming and future expansion initiatives. In addition, the evening will offer silent and live auctions hosted by New Hope Mayor and NHA Chairman of the Board Laurence Keller. The auction will feature unique works, ranging from fine art to sculptures, from some of the region’s prized artists including Robert Beck, Malcom Bray, Kevin Kopil, Michelle Lester, Justin Long, Sean Mount, and Rye Tippett.

“We are delighted to see that founder Robin Larsen’s nascent vision continues to grow and come to life,” said Keller. “It’s not only an honor, but a true community inspiration to be part of New Hope Arts and witness the reality of our collective passion and commitment. Our area’s arts scene is truly elevating, and I’m proud to say that the New Hope Arts Center has been a valuable and treasured contributor and surely deserves celebrating. I’m eager to be at the auction podium to engage the community for one of New Hope’s greatest causes on May 24.” more

“MARINA”: This painting by Larry Mitnick is part of “Moorings,” his joint exhibition with Heather Barros, on view May 5 to June 5 at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville. An artist reception with Mitnick will be held on Saturday, May 7 from 1 to 4 p.m.

“Moorings,” featuring recent paintings by Heather Barros and Larry Mitnick, addresses connectedness on several levels. In the exhibition, on view May 5 through June 5 at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville, both artists use lines to visually tie a set of abstract shapes to something else. These imagined shapes are buoyant; fast lines secure them. Barros’ elements may be anchored to an unseen ground, while Mitnick’s shapes are often bound to companion travelers. Movement is implied even if the motion is constrained, so the paintings suggest a tethered kinesis.

Mitnick’s new paintings build upon his previous work. Floating, geometric shapes are layered upon one another. His translucent application of color likens acrylic paint to paper collage. His forms are painstakingly precise, both in geometry as well as in placement, yet his compositions are not contrived. They retain the crucial, subtle suggestion of randomness. That is their life’s breath. “I avoid centers,” he said, regarding that randomness. “I like to use the edges of my compositions to suggest multiple points of focus, both near and far.” And, in this show, taught, horizontal lines attach one grouping of shapes to another. more

“YELLOW SPARKLE”: This photograph by Marilyn Minter is featured in “Screen Time: Photography and Video Art in the Internet Age,” on view May 7 through August 7 at Art on Hulfish in Palmer Square.  An opening celebration of the exhibition will be held on Saturday, May 7, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What does it mean to be an artist in a pixelated world? “Screen Time: Photography and Video Art in the Internet Age” seeks to answer this question with work by a group of global and intergenerational contemporary artists who explore the evolving role of video and photography in the era of digital communication and social media. Their work considers the role of artists in a society in which online culture is omnipresent and new platforms for self-expression are constantly developing.

The exhibition will be on view at Art on Hulfish, the Princeton University Art Museum’s photo-forward gallery in downtown Princeton, from May 7 through August 7.

Spanning three decades, the works on view in “Screen Time” are by turns wry, playful, nostalgic, and critical in their considerations of how the internet has transformed the ways in which we present ourselves, connect with others, and engage with the layered technologies that inform our wide-ranging digital experiences. The exhibition explores themes ranging from scientific and geographic systems, ecology and environmentalism, and fashion to intellectual property and the influence of social media. more

“MASTERING ALCHEMY”: Works by metal patination artist and educator Stephen Bruce will be on view at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie May 7 through May 29. A Gallery Talk is scheduled for May 21 at 2 p.m.

Metal patination artist and educator Stephen Bruce will have his first major exhibition, Mastering Alchemy,” at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie from May 7 to 29. He will give a Gallery Talk at the museum on Saturday, May 21, at 2 p.m.

The California artist uses different acidic solutions to etch sheets of copper or brass into earth-toned abstract paintings that conjure the power and serenity of water, earth, and sky. Bruce’s seascapes are inspired by aerial views of the oceans. His abstracts evoke the colors and patterns of geological formations. His landscapes capture ineffable moments in a sunset, a sunrise, or on the horizon.

Bruce will offer demonstrations and hands-on workshops in two area public schools, Fisher Middle School in Ewing and Grace Dunn Middle School in Trenton, through his organization the Skidmore Project. Providing all materials at no cost, the Skidmore Project encourages young students to learn how to notice and acknowledge their own creative spirit, showing in practical terms how science and art are accessible, useful, and connected. The May 21 Gallery Talk will include a special showing of students’ works created at Dunn and Fisher Middle Schools, said the show’s curator Deborah Oliver. more

“SOLSTICE”: This oil painting by Rye Tippett is featured in “Whistling in the Moonlight,” on view at Morpeth Contemporary in Hopewell through the end of May. An artist’s reception is on Saturday, May 7 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Morpeth Contemporary now presents Rye Tippett “Whistling in the Moonlight,” his third solo show at the gallery, which will be on exhibit until the end of May. The artist’s reception is this Saturday, May 7, 5 to 8 p.m. and open to the public.

Be it over land or water, Tippett’s vast skies stir the imagination. Drawing on his own experience walking in the fields late at night, he asks: “That’s the moon behind the trees, or is it?” Hovering in his paintings’ skies are adventure-seeking dogs, ghost-like sperm whales, and other animals mixed with relics of the past — from historical warships to vintage cars. Tippett finds inspiration in literature and history, machines, and inventions, pairing the wonder of the natural world with his favorite manmade creations. more

April 27, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

“….nothing can be lost of the self, of a lifetime of bringing forth selves …”

—C.K. Williams (1937-2015)

April and poetry have been lovers since William Shakespeare accomplished the birth-death rhyme of the ages by entering and leaving the world on the 23rd day of the “cruelest” month. Another poet of the theater born in Shakespeare’s month is the subject of Alexis Greene’s biography Emily Mann: Rebel Artist of the American Theater (Applause $29.95). 

There’s no turning away from the face on the cover of this book. Emily Mann is looking right at you, eye to eye, as if saying, “Get up on the stage. Show me what you’ve got. Transcend yourself. Give me a poem in 10 words. Amaze me! Bring me to tears. Make me laugh. Delight me. Do the impossible, the goal Faulkner set for writers: “Put the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin!”

C.K.’s Warbler

All I can do is offer a touch of the poet who introduced me to Emily Mann in 2007 and whose April 2016 memorial service was the occasion of a more meaningful meeting. In C.K. Williams’s poem “Garden,” which is posted for the world to read in a shady spot on the D&R Greenway’s Poetry Trail, something alights on the poet’s hand and, startled, he instinctively, inadvertently flinches it off only to see “a warbler, gray, black, yellow, in flight already away. / It stopped near me in a shrub, though, and waited, as though unstartled, as though unafraid, / as though to tell me my reflex of fear was no failure, that if I believed I had lost something, / I was wrong, because nothing can be lost, of the self, of a lifetime of bringing forth selves.” more

By Nancy Plum

Last Thursday night’s concert by the Tetzlaff String Quartet in Richardson Auditorium was a new beginning on several levels. Not only was this a reschedule of Tetzlaff’s premiere performance on the University Concerts series from two years ago, but it was also the Quartet’s first appearance in the United States in five years. Violinists Christian Tetzlaff and Elisabeth Kufferath, violist Hanna Weinmeister, and cellist Tanja Tetzlaff brought a program of Haydn, Berg, and Schubert to Princeton last week, demonstrating a unique approach to chamber music and why the ensemble is one of the most popular quartets worldwide.

Led by first violinist Christian Tetzlaff, the Tetzlaff Quartet showed a consistently amazing ability to build drama in a piece through dynamics — often collectively bringing the ensemble sound down to almost nothing to disclose a side of the piece not otherwise heard. Opening with Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20, No. 5, the Tetzlaff musicians played phrase repetitions delicately and allowed repeated notes to gracefully and stylistically taper away. Christian Tetzlaff well maneuvered the technically demanding first violin part, which Haydn had composed for the particularly gifted concertmaster of his court orchestra. 

Throughout Quartet No. 5, the Tetzlaff players well captured the nickname of this set of pieces as the “Sun” quartets, but also showed that the sun can be dark and obscure as well. Especially in the second movement “Minuet-Trio,” sequential passages were always played with direction, and the musicians well captured Haydn’s folk-like and outdoorsy atmosphere in the “Trio.” First violinist Tetzlaff remained the musical leader throughout the work, executing especially complex and heavily ornamented passages, but always with the solid support of the other three players.  more

“THE LARAMIE PROJECT”: Theatre Intime has staged “The Laramie Project,” presented April 15-24 at the Hamilton Murray Theater. Directed by Ethan Luk, the play explores the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, as well as interviewees’ reactions to the idea of being depicted in a docudrama. Above, from left, are cast members Luc Maurer, Alexis Maze, Sabina Jafri, Rilla McKeegan, Ay Marsh, Arthur Yan, and Matthew Shih. (Photo by Rowen Gesue)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

In October 1998 Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was beaten and left to die near Laramie. Rescuers took him to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo., where he died of his injuries six days later.

Writing about Shepard’s attackers, a history.com entry notes, “To avoid a death sentence, Russell Henderson pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murder in April 1999 and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Later that year, Aaron McKinney attempted to use a “gay panic” defense at his own trial, claiming that Shepard’s advances disgusted him.” Both Henderson and McKinney are serving life sentences.

The history.com article adds, “Matthew Shepard’s death sparked national outrage and renewed calls for extending hate crime laws to cover violence based on a person’s sexual orientation.”

In 2000 the New York City-based Tectonic Theater Project presented The Laramie Project — first at Denver’s Ricketson Theatre, then off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre. Two years later the play was presented in Laramie.

Written by Moisés Kaufman in collaboration with members of the theater company, the docudrama explores the events and viewpoints surrounding Shepard’s death. We learn that Tectonic members arrived in Laramie in November 1998, a month after the event. Members of the theater company interviewed Laramie residents, and all of the dialogue is derived from those conversations, as well as Tectonic members’ journal entries. Published news reports also are excerpted.

Princeton University’s Theatre Intime has presented The Laramie Project. In a program note, director Ethan Luk admits to having had doubts about the play’s relevance: “How does The Laramie Project speak to an audience more than 20 years after its premiere?” For the director, an answer can be found in events such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and the Brooklyn subway shooting: “Violence and injustice, both in explicit and implicit forms, still run rampant … perhaps that is why we find ourselves in front of the mirror time after time.” more

OUT OF THE CLOSET: The cast of “Perfect Arrangement,” about gay couples in the 1950s, which is on stage at Heritage Center in Morrisville, Pa., through May 8.

The Philadelphia-area premiere of screenwriter and playwright Topher Payne’s comic drama Perfect Arrangement brings a coming-out tale to the Heritage Center stage in Morrisville, Pa., presented weekends through May 8 by the nonprofit ActorsNET theater company.

Communists weren’t the only ones hunted during the “Red Scare” of the 1950s. Gays and lesbians were also targeted as threats to the U.S. as part of the “Lavender Scare.” “Coming out of the closet” was almost unheard-of, as it could easily end a career or even a life. And no one even considered the possibility of gay marriage.

“Topher Payne’s script is a romp,” said ActorsNET Artistic Director Cheryl Doyle. “In it, two U.S. State Department employees, Bob and Norma, are assigned the task of ferreting out ‘sexual deviants’ within their department. Unbeknownst to their boss, they are both gay. To keep their personal lives private, they marry each other’s partners and live in two adjacent apartments that conveniently share a closet. This allows them to appear to be ‘traditional couples’ to the outside world by simply switching places through the closet — that is until their pompous boss and his ditzy wife come to visit.”  more

DANCING HER WAY TO TV: Niki Metcalf plays Tracy Turnblad, the 16-year-old dancing fanatic in the musical “Hairspray,” which comes to the State Theatre New Jersey April 29 through May 1 as part of a national tour.

State Theatre New Jersey presents Broadway’s Tony Award-winning musical comedy Hairspray for four performances on Friday, April 29 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 30 at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m.

The national tour’s cast will be led by Andrew Levitt, aka Nina West (from RuPaul’s Drag Race) as Edna Turnblad; and Niki Metcalf as Tracy Turnblad, who makes her way onto a TV dance show in 1960s Baltimore, stealing hearts along the way. This new touring production reunites Broadway’s award-winning creative team, led by director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell. The show is based on the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters, who served as a creative consultant on the musical comedy.

Hairspray premiered at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater in June 2002. The show was a hit when it transferred to Broadway, winning eight 2003 Tony Awards including Best Musical, and became the longest-running musical to play the Neil Simon Theater, running 2,642 performances from July 18, 2002 until January 4, 2009. It is the 22nd longest running show in Broadway history.  

The State Theatre is at 15 Livingston Avenue. Visit STNJ.org for tickets, which are $40-$98.

CONTEMPORARY BALLET: Jermel Johnson, who is retiring from Philadelphia Ballet after this season, is among the dancers in Hans van Manen’s “Humankind,” a program of three works at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia May 12-15. (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev)

Philadelphia Ballet will perform Hans van Manen’s “Humankind,” a program of three works by one of the key figures of contemporary ballet. This final production of Philadelphia Ballet’s 2021/2022 season features a trio of van Manen’s ballets, including Grosse Fuge, Variations For Two Couples, and 5 Tangos. The program runs five performances, May 12-15, at the Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus. Tickets are now on sale at philadelphiaballet.org.

“It is nothing less than a thrill to be presenting ballets by Hans van Manen, one of the true international legends of the artform,” said Artistic Director Angel Corella. “Our company is privileged to share three of his most renowned works to our audiences here in Philadelphia.”

In this program, van Manen’s fascination with interpersonal relationships is brought to the forefront in a series of his most celebrated ballets. All works on the program will feature live musical performance by the Philadelphia Ballet Orchestra. The program also marks the final Philadelphia Ballet production for principal dancer Jermel Johnson, a member of the company since 2003.

Tickets start at $25. Visit philadelphiaballet.org or call (215) 893-1999.

MODERN ART AND FRIENDSHIP: Three friends square off over the importance of an expensive piece of artwork in the upcoming production of “Art” at Kelsey Theatre.

Yasmina Reza’s comedy Art hits the Kelsey Theatre stage April 29 to May 1 on the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor.

The multiple award-winning play (translated from French by playwright/screenwriter Christopher Hampton) takes a comedic look at the bonds of friendship viewed through the prism of modern art, and asks the questions: How much would you pay for a painting that was a white canvas? Would it matter who the painter was? Would it be art?

The story begins when one of Marc’s best friends, Serge, buys a “very unusual” expensive painting. To Marc, the painting is a joke. However, Serge insists Marc doesn’t have the proper standard to judge the work. Yvan, another friend, gets pulled into the discussion. Lines are drawn and the friends square off over the canvas. Arguments become less theoretical and more personal and border on destroying their longtime friendships. So the true question is revealed: “How much is a painting really worth?”

Reza is an award-winning French playwright, novelist, memoirist, and actor best known for her satiric plays that speak to contemporary middle-class anxieties. Her work has been translated into more than 30 languages.

Shows are on April 29 and 30 at 8 p.m., and May 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18-$20. Visit KelseyTheatre.org or call (609) 570-3333.

“BEACHED BOATS”: This mixed media work by Thelma Freid is featured in an exhibit of her works on view at Gourgaud Gallery in Cranbury May 8 through May 27. An artist’s reception is on Saturday, May 7 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Gourgaud Gallery in Cranbury will host a show of original artwork by Thelma Freid from Sunday, May 8 through Friday, May 27.

An artist’s reception will be held on Saturday, May 7 from 1-3 p.m.

“Art has always been a part of my life,” said Freid. “I love to experiment with found objects such as corrugated cardboard, rust, bottle caps, etc. I use textures, patterns, and the interplay of light as well as making discarded material into art media.”

The show will feature original, framed pieces of various subjects and sizes. Most pieces will be for sale with 20 percent of all sales benefiting the Cranbury Arts Council. more

“PATH”:  This photograph by Robin Resch is part of “When Trees Talk and Rivers Sing,” a special installation of her work on view through May 12 at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Fox & Roach Realtors, 253 Nassau Street. An artist’s reception will be held Thursday, April 28 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Fox & Roach Realtors has announced a special installation of landscape photography, “When Trees Talk and Rivers Sing,” by Robin Resch in their offices at 253 Nassau Street. The exhibition is on view through May 12, and is open to the public daily from 9 a.m.  to 5 p.m. and on the weekend by appointment. An artist’s reception will be held Thursday, April 28 from 5 to 7 p.m.

“When Trees Talk and Rivers Sing” is an installation of nearly 40 landscape photographs taken by Resch across the country. In her landscape work Resch seeks to explore the power of nature and the duality of its ephemerality and continuum. Often it is the force of nature, a crashing stream, rolling fog, or rushing wind that alters and abstracts the image. Her intent is to share the emotive experience of the fleeting moment, that of the landscape as we pass through it — an analogy of the ephemeral nature of our own lives and the vulnerability of our planet.  more

“ERIC SHULTZ”: The cellist, painted here by Mel Leipzig, will perform with Mira Kang and Sandra Pucciatti at the closing reception for the exhibition “Painting the Moon and Beyond: Lois Dodd and Friends” on Saturday, April 30 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie.

The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie will host the closing reception for its exhibition “Painting the Moon and Beyond: Lois Dodd and Friends” on Saturday, April 30 from 1 to 4 p.m. In addition to meeting the show’s artists, attendees will hear a moon- and art-inspired concert of “Nocturnes, Arias, and Artistic Memories” performed by cellists Eric Schultz and Mira Kang and pianist Sandra Pucciatti. The program will include selections by Chopin, Sondheim, Bach, and Puccini.

Schultz is known as a producer and director of arts programming, including public television’s State of the Arts. Kang is an accomplished concert soloist who has appeared on many renowned stages. Pucciatti is the managing director of Boheme Opera NJ.

Following the concert, the museum will formally accept into its collection the painting Woodland Vase, by Mel Leipzig, who painted the artwork on site in the Trenton City Museum in 2019. more