April 17, 2024

“OUTLAWS OF THE REVOLUTION”: beginning May 4, the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pa., will present an exhibition about the Doan Gang that roamed Bucks County during the 1770s. It will be on view through December 31, 2026. (Photo Courtesy of Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle)

The Doan Gang roamed Bucks County, Pa., in the 1770s, and were known for exploits that included stealing horses and selling them to the British, robbing the Bucks County treasury, and in general, disrupting the new governments of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. Later romanticized, they were considered both villains and heroes. more

April 10, 2024

By Stuart Mitchner

Last Friday when news of the local earthquake hit, I was at the library checking out the Criterion DVD of Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dogs (1949). At home I returned to Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Vintage International 1997) to find my place bookmarked at page 217, just as Toru Okada, “Mr. Wind-up Bird,” was packing a knapsack “kept for earthquakes and other emergencies.” When the late-afternoon aftershock rumbled through the house, I was on page 245 just as Okada was experiencing “a strange reverberation.” Call it what you will, a minor coincidence or magical realism in action, these things happen when you’re reading Murakami, not to mention the name game connection wherein the hero of Stray Dog is a detective named Murakami and the older detective showing him the ropes is Sato, a name he shares with the yakuza hero of Tokyo Vice, the exciting new series I hope to write about in a future column. more

“FLIGHT OF A LEGLESS BIRD”: Performances are underway for “Flight of a Legless Bird.” Written by Ethan Luk, and directed by Luk in collaboration with retired Program in Theater faculty member R.N. Sandberg, the play runs through April 13 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. Above, from left: Disparate circumstances cause Robin (Wasif Sami) and Leslie (Luk) to meet, after which a unique, unexpected bond is formed. (Photo by James DeSalvo)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

In the film Days of Being Wild (1990), actor Leslie Cheung delivers this line: “I’ve heard that there’s a kind of bird without legs that can only fly and fly, and sleep in the wind when it is tired. The bird only lands once in its life … that’s when it dies.”

Flight of a Legless Bird is an exquisite, poignant play that portrays two queer artists who metaphorically, as Cheung’s dialogue says, “fly and fly.” Both are fleeing from circumstances in which they feel trapped. Certain events cause their “flight” paths to intersect, and they have a chance encounter that affects them in unexpected ways. more

CHAMBER CONCERT: The Puget Sound Piano Trio performs works by Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Del Aguila at Trinity Church on April 24 at Trinity Church. (Photo by Sy Bean)

On Wednesday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) presents PSO principal cellist Alistair MacRae, violinist Maria Sampen, and pianist Ronaldo Rolim of the Puget Sound Piano Trio at Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street.

The trio is the ensemble-in-residence at University of Puget Sound School of Music in Tacoma, Wash. On the program are Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio in E Major, Hob.XV/28; Miguel Del Aguila’s Barroqueada, Op.128; and Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op.66. more

SUMMER MUSIC: The Adventures of Matt Black is among the bands set to descend on Unionville Vineyards on July 13 for the annual Sourland Mountain Festival.

The 19th Annual Sourland Mountain Festival is on Saturday, July 13 from 3-8:30 p.m., rain or shine. Early bird pricing is now available.

Bands representing talent from the region will appear at Unionville Vineyards to celebrate the Sourland region. Proceeds benefit the Sourland Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the history and ecology of Central Jersey’s Sourland Mountain region.  more

MUSICAL COMEDY HABIT: “Nunsense” is on stage at the Kelsey Theatre of Mercer County Community College April 19 through May 5.

Tainted food, nuns in freezers, and lots of laughs are in store when The MTM Players bring the musical comedy Nunsense to the Kelsey Theatre stage, April 19 to May 5, on Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) West Windsor Campus.

After a bad batch of vichyssoise accidentally kills off 52 of the Little Sisters of Hoboken by the convent cook, Sister Julia (Child of God), the survivors empty the coffers to bury the deceased, but run out of cash before the last few bodies can be laid to rest. With the remaining deceased nuns on ice in the kitchen freezer, they decide to stage a variety show to raise the extra funds they need. But — will their prayers be answered before the health department discovers their secret?  more

Gianna Reisen’s “Play Time” is among the works to be presented by the New York City Ballet at the last section of its 75th season, April 23-June 2, at the Koch Theatre in Lincoln Center. Other choreographers to be represented include Amy Hall Garner, Justin Peck, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Pam Tanowitz, Kyle Abraham, Jerome Robbins, and the company’s founder George Balanchine. Visit nycb.org for tickets. (Photo by Erin Baiano)

“NATUREZA MORTA 1 (DEAD NATURE 1)”: This digital print is featured in “Denilson Baniwa: Under the Skin of History,” on view April 13 through September 1 at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge gallery on Nassau Street.

An exhibition of work by the Indigenous Brazilian artist Denilson Baniwa will open April 13 at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge gallery. “Denilson Baniwa: Under the Skin of History,” on view through September 1, features work that engages with themes of Indigenous rights, colonial history, and environmental destruction.  more

“BLUE MONDAY”: This photograph by Jennifer Gershon of New Hope, Pa., is one of a trio of works that won Best Body of Work at the 31st annual “Phillips’ Mill Photographic Exhibition.” The show is on view at Phillips’ Mill in New Hope, Pa., through April 19.

Phillips’ Mill Community Association recently hosted an artists’ reception and awards ceremony for the 31st annual “Phillips’ Mill Photographic Exhibition,” which is on view through April 19.

Showcasing 135 contemporary works across many genres, from portraiture to abstraction, the 2024 exhibition was selected by juror Thom Goertel, a fine art and documentary photographer who has worked everywhere, from the White House to Iceland to Kenya. In a Phillips’ Mill Art Talk, available on the Mill’s website, he described his approach to jurying: “I did an initial pass looking for what jumped out, what were the ‘wow’ images, and after that I went back through for specific thematic areas we needed to address”. more

April 3, 2024

By Stuart Mitchner

I’m looking for Marlon Brando on the covers of Susan L. Mizruchi’s Brando’s Smile (2014) and William J. Mann’s The Contender (2019). Filmgoers and biographers have a right to their own Brando. This filmgoer’s Brando, the Byronic avenger of One-Eyed Jacks (1961), has little in common with the self-consciously seductive, smugly smiling man on the cover of Brando’s Smile; put some period clothing on him and he could be the boy next door in Meet Me in St. Louis. And the face staring at me from The Contender is clearly the choice of a biographer looking for an image expressive of the pain and pathos of the line Brando’s been associated with ever since his “I coulda been a contender” moment in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954). The main problem is that this painfully posed, well-groomed portrait taken by the celebrity photographer Philippe Halsman could, at first glance, be mistaken for that of some Brandoesque young actor of the day. more

“YAGA”: Performances are underway for “Yaga.” Directed by Kat McLaughlin, the play runs through April 7 at the Hamilton Murray Theater. Above, eager college student Henry Kalles (Tate Keuler) and the mysterious Anna (Kristen Tan) strike up a conversation, leading to dangerous events. (Photo by Lucy Shea)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

In an Encyclopedia of Legendary Creatures (1981), author Tom McGowen describes the “dreaded ogress Baba Yaga” as resembling a “frightfully ugly old woman” who had “stone teeth, and her food was people, especially children.” She lived in a hut “perched on four chicken legs” and “flew through the air after her prey in a large mortar, steered with a pestle.”

Noting the character’s basis in Slavic folklore, the website for World History Encyclopedia adds that she also is known “as guardian of the fountains of the waters of life and is sometimes seen as embodying female empowerment.”  more

STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE: The cast of the award-winning musical “Rent,” coming to Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College April 5-14.

Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) theater, dance, and entertainment technology are collaborating on the Broadway show Rent, April 5-14 at the Kelsey Theatre on the college’s West Windsor campus.

Based loosely on the Puccini opera La Boheme, Jonathan Larson’s Rent follows a year in the life of a group of impoverished young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York’s Lower East Side under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. The physical and emotional complications of the disease pervade the lives of Roger, Mimi, Tom, and Angel, while Maureen deals with her chronic infidelity through performance art, and her partner, Joanne, wonders if their relationship is worth the trouble. more

PROFESSOR PETE: Retired history professor Allan Winkler sings the music of folk legend Pete Seeger at a concert at Christ Congregation Church on April 19.

On Friday, April 19 at 8 p.m., the Princeton Folk Music Society presents a celebration of the legacy of Pete Seeger with Professor Allan Winkler. The concert will be held at Christ Congregation Church, 50 Walnut Lane.

Seeger (1919-2014) is one of the most influential figures in American folk music. Singing first with the Almanac Singers, then the Weavers, and finally on his own, Seeger found himself in the forefront of every important social movement of the past 70 years. In the 1950s, he found himself under attack during the Red Scare for his radical past. In the 1960s, he became the minstrel of the civil rights movement. more

INSPIRED BY ROMEO AND JULIET: The 7 Fingers’ production of “Duel Reality” is among the highlights of McCarter Theatre Center’s 2024-25 season. (Photo by Arata Urawa)

Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen and Executive Director Martin Miller have announced McCarter Theatre Center’s 2024-2025 theater series. Included are a gravity-defying spectacle, a true story from Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project, two comedies making their New Jersey premiere, and a world-premiere musical.

The company returns to a full five-play offering for the first time since the 2019/20 season. Also returning as a season add-on is McCarter’s annual holiday production of A Christmas Carol.  more

Randy Rainbow

State Theatre New Jersey presents Randy Rainbow For President on Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Rainbow is a four-time Emmy and Grammy-nominated American comedian, producer, actor, singer, writer, satirist, host, and New York Times bestselling author known for his popular web series, “The Randy Rainbow Show.” He is known internationally for his musical parodies and political spoofs. His most recent show was Playing with Myself.

In 2019, composer and lyricist Marc Shaiman collaborated with Rainbow on his holiday EP, Hey Gurl, It’s Christmas!, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Comedy chart and No. 1 on the iTunes Holiday chart. His first full-length studio album, A Little Brains, A Little Talent, also debuted at No. 1 and earned Rainbow his first Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album in 2023. more

“PRINCETON MAKES BLOOMS”: Works by Adriana Groza and other member artists are featured in an exhibition on view at Princeton Makes in the Princeton Shopping Center April 4 to 19.  An opening reception is on April 4.

Princeton Makes, the artist cooperative located in the Princeton Shopping Center, will host an opening reception for “Princeton Makes Blooms —Art in the Basement,” an art show organized and curated by artist member Adriana Groza, on Thursday, April 4 starting at 4:24 p.m. This exhibition, set in the basement of Princeton Makes, celebrates the essence of spring through a collection of works by member artists of Princeton Makes. It will be open and available for viewing and purchase through April 19. more

“SUPPLICANT”: This mixed media work by Holly Roberts is featured in “Holly Roberts + Brander Furniture,” on view through April 27 at Morpeth Contemporary in Hopewell. A reception is on April 6 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Morpeth Contemporary presents an exhibition featuring the work of New Mexico Artist Holly Roberts as well local craftpersons Robert and Nina Brander. “Holly Roberts + Brander Furniture” runs through April 27, with a reception on Saturday, April 6 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Throughout her four-decade career, Roberts has consistently delved into the depths of her rich and varied inner world, reflecting her deep connection to both nature and humanity. Through her fusion of painting and photography, she has created a unique visual language that invites viewers into her intricate world of storytelling. In the early stages of her career, Roberts focused on transforming photographs through the application of paint, often completely obscuring the original image. However, as time went on, she began to recognize the inherent strength of the photograph itself. This realization led to a reversal in her creative process. Roberts now works on top of a painted surface, developing a narrative scene with collaged photographic elements.  more

“ART AT THE OLD BARRACKS”: Submissions are due by May 1 for this year’s “Old Barracks Gallery Show: Trenton Makes,” which will showcase the work of Trenton-area artists in the historic 18th-century building.

The Old Barracks Museum is celebrating Trenton area artists and Trenton art in a month-long gallery show hosted in its historic 18th-century building. The “Old Barracks Gallery Show: Trenton Makes” will showcase artworks that best exemplify Trenton art and artists. The show will hang during upcoming events to allow the public to experience these works throughout the month. more

This work by Helene Plank is featured in “Inspired Together,” her joint exhibition with William Plank, on view in the second floor Reading Room at Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, through June 1.

March 27, 2024

By Stuart Mitchner

Twenty years ago, I wrote about “Billy Collins and the Homeless Poets of Bryn Mawr,” my first article on an event that I’ve covered ever since, including the 2020 sale that was canceled after two days because of the pandemic.

Two years ago, my title was “How I Spent $8 at the BMW Book Sale and Came Home Happy.” This year I showed up at 3 p.m. on opening day, spent $13, and came home with a Royal Shakespeare Company curiosity ($1); a paperback copy of the play In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer ($3); a Limited Edition of Daniel Defoe’s Diary of Moll Flanders, illustrated and signed by Reginald Marsh ($6); and a “homeless poet” named Michael Roberts ($3).

Twin Ghost Towns

By the time I arrived at Stuart Country Day School last Wednesday, both gyms were virtually deserted, twin ghost towns, except for volunteers restocking the plundered tables. In Collectors Corner, the rarities I’d noticed on my visit the previous Sunday had been snapped up. Gone (no surprise) was the first hardcover edition of Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums in the original dust jacket, priced at a fraction of the $400 being asked online for copies in similar condition. Among the items buyers had passed over were Freddy Goes to the North Pole and three Signet paperback mysteries by Mickey Spillane — a quick study of my adolescent reading habits, from Freddy the Pig and Jinx the Cat to Mike Hammer.  more

VISUAL STORYTELLING: “The Wonder and the Worry,” among the features in the upcoming Princeton Environmental Film Festival, follows the careers of former National Geographic Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns and his daughter Louise, a young freelance photographer. (Photo by Saskia Madlener)

The Princeton Environmental Film Festival, a signature Princeton Public Library event, opens Friday, April 5 and runs through Sunday, April 14. The 18th annual festival features 22 films: eight feature-length documentaries and 14 short films.

Films will be screened in person at the library and streamed virtually, with some films available in both formats. Streamed selections will be available to view April 8-14. There will also be an off-site screening at the Princeton Garden Theatre on April 7. more

FEMALE PERSPECTIVE: Golda Schultz, soprano, makes her Princeton University Concerts debut with pianist Jonathan Ware in “This Be Her Verse.” (Photo by Dario Acosta)

Making their Princeton University Concerts (PUC) debuts, South African star soprano Golda Schultz and pianist Jonathan Ware will bring the original song cycle, “This Be Her Verse” to PUC audiences on Monday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Richardson Auditorium.

The program includes works by female composers Clara Schumann, Emilie Mayer, Rebecca Clarke, Nadia Boulanger, and Kathleen Tagg. It reflects Schultz’s great love of lieder, concert singing, and storytelling; she is as at home in solo recitals as she is starring in opera productions, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Porgy and Bess and the Royal Opera House’s Così fan tutte. more

ANOTHER ROUND: Members of BRKFST Dance Company are among the three additional artists announced as choreographers in residence at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts. (Photo by Shane Wynn)

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance at Princeton University announces three additional artists as Caroline Hearst Choreographers-in-Residence for the 2023-2024 academic year: Roderick George, Gabrielle Lamb, and BRKFST Dance Company.

All the artists are creating new works for Princeton students or guest teaching in spring classes. They join Amy Hall Garner, Shamel Pitts, and Donna Uchizono, who were Hearst Choreographers-in-Residence during the fall semester, and whose work was featured in the Princeton Dance Festival in December. more

“SUNCATCHER”: This acrylic painting by William Plank is featured in “Inspired Together,” his joint exhibit with Helene Plank, on view at Princeton Public Library through June 1. An art talk and exhibit opening are on March 27 at 6:30 p.m.

Artists Helene Plank and William Plank discuss “Inspired Together,” a joint exhibit of their work, on Wednesday, March 27, at 6:30 p.m. at Princeton Public Library. The presentation will be in the Community Room prior to the exhibit’s official opening in the second floor Reading Room.

Helene Plank gives new life to discarded buttons and beads by combining them to form intricate mosaics on canvas. The materials are hand sewn, rather than glued, to the canvas and are influenced by artist Georges Seurat and his techniques of optical blending. more

“A WANDER THROUGH THE WATER LILIES”: This work by Fiona Clark, artist-in-resident at West Windsor Arts (WWA), is featured in “Leave Your Mark,” the Member Art Show on view April 9 through June 1 at WWA. Clark is also the show’s juror. An opening reception is on April 12 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Artists have the unique opportunity to leave their mark in the world through their artwork. Fiona Clark, West Windsor Arts’ artist-in-residence, took that concept a step further when conceiving “Leave Your Mark,” West Windsor Arts’ 2024 Member Art Show.

“For this show, artists were asked to submit work that employs different techniques of mark-making,” said Clark, West Windsor Arts’ first artist-in-residence and the juror of the show. “What that means is open to interpretation, but there needs to be some kind of a tactical component — brushstrokes, pencil marks, fingerprints, woven fabric. It will be exciting to see the artist’s hand in their artworks.” more