January 31, 2024

SPECIAL PROJECT: The Arts Council of Princeton recently received a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support a totem pole project with Tlingit artist Nathan Jackson.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) has been approved by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for a Grants for Arts Projects award of $25,000. This grant will support a project titled “Monumental Sculptures: Understanding the Totem Poles of the Northwest Coast,” a program honoring and celebrating the artwork of the Tlingit peoples of the Northwest Coast. more

“EMBRACE THE EVERYDAY”: Works by award-winning acrylic painter Thomas Kelly are on view at Ficus Bon Vivant, 235 Nassau Street, through May 6. An opening event is on Sunday, February 4 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

“Embrace the Everyday,” on view in the art gallery at Ficus Bon Vivant through May 6, features Thomas Kelly’s expressionist style paintings and invites viewers to relate to moments observed or relationships they experience in their own everyday occurrences. The community is invited to an opening event with the artist on Sunday, February 4 from 3:30- 5 p.m. more

ART TALK AT MCCC: Abstract artist Douglas Witmer will deliver the Distinguished Lecture at Mercer County Community College’s West Windsor Campus at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, February 7, followed by an opening reception for his exhibit “Currents” at The Gallery at Mercer at 5:30 p.m.

Acclaimed abstract artist Douglas Witmer will offer his insight into the creative process and how art responds to the dynamic conditions of the 21st century as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) on Friday, February 7, followed by the opening reception of his exhibit “Currents” at the Gallery at Mercer.

Witmer’s talk, “Painting Do-er: A Reductive Abstract Artist in Response to Conditions of Our World,” begins at 11:45 a.m. in the Communications Building, Room CM108 on MCCC’s West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. Witmer will share insights into his creative philosophy and how art responds to the dynamic conditions of the 21st century.  more

January 24, 2024

By Nancy Plum

Mahler Chamber Orchestra, a collective of players from around the world, has been heard in Princeton in the past, dating back to before the pandemic. Last weekend, Princeton University Concerts presented the renowned ensemble in a ground-breaking format of an immersive virtual installation. For four days, the public had the opportunity to be part of a multi-dimensional orchestral world as the Chamber Orchestra presented works of Mozart, Ives, and Mendelssohn, conveyed to listeners via headsets including a display screen, stereo sound, and sensors. The 45-minute concert was part of the Chamber Orchestra’s “Future Presence” project, a virtual reality initiative to enable fluid dynamic interaction among listeners, music, and performers.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

This is an anniversary year for Franz Kafka, who died on June 3, 1924, a doubly noteworthy centenary, given the immensity of the author’s posthumous presence, which suggests that if ever a writer was born on the day he died it was Kafka. No wonder, then, that a photograph of his face dominates the January 24 entry in A Book of Days for the Literary Year (Thames and Hudson 1984) when all he accomplished on that day in 1913 was to interrupt work on a book he never finished. Originally titled The Man Who Disappeared, it was retitled Amerika after his death by his best friend and executor Max Brod, who is best known for ignoring Kafka’s wish that all his unpublished writings be destroyed. more

PORCH-TO-PORCH MUSIC: Applications are now available from the Arts Council of Princeton for the third annual Princeton Porchfest on April 27. Community members can apply to perform or host performances on their porch. (Photo by Denise Applewhite, Princeton University)

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) has announced that the third annual Princeton Porchfest will take place on Saturday, April 27 from 12-6 p.m. Applications for performers and porch hosts are available now.

Porchfest is a walkable music festival where neighbors offer up their front porches as DIY concert venues. Talented local performers play rotating sets throughout the neighborhood during this day-long celebration of music, art, and the community. Attendees are invited to stroll from porch to porch to sample live, local talent.  more

MAKING MUSIC: Students from Westminster Conservatory are among those who will perform as soloists at its annual showcase on February 4.

The Westminster Conservatory will present its annual showcase featuring students and ensembles from the Conservatory and Rider University on Sunday, February 4 at 3 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus.

The performers will be the Westminster Community Orchestra conducted by Ruth Ochs; the Rider University Chorale directed by Tom Shelton; and Matthew Gao, clarinet, Daniel Guo, alto saxophone, and Madeleine Nieman, soprano, winners of the Westminster Conservatory Concerto Competition. Each soloist will perform with the Community Orchestra.  more

FAMILY SAGA: Arthur Miller’s play “All My Sons” portrays a World War II-era clan with all their issues, on stage at Kelsey Theatre in West Windsor January 26 through February 4.

Shakespeare ’70 presents All My Sons, Arthur Miller’s tale of morality, guilt, responsibility, and irrevocable loss of innocence during World War II, at the Kelsey Theatre on Mercer County Community College’s West Windsor Campus, January 26-February 4.

The Keller family lives in a middle class, God-fearing neighborhood, where residents start and end their lives on the same block; where grape juice and gossip are never more than a few steps away; where power is gained through business and poker games; and where secrets divulged are over freshly baked apple pie. Joe Keller is a successful, self-made man who has spent his entire life in the single-minded pursuit of wealth for the sake of his family, and who loses sight of his morality — and pays the price.  more

“IT’S THE HARD KNOCK LIFE”: “Annie” comes to the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick as part of a new tour the weekend of February 2-4. (Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

Jenn Thompson, who at the age of 10 took the role of “Pepper” in the original Broadway production of Annie, directs the current production of the musical, coming to State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick February 2-4.

The Tony Award-winning show will be performed on Friday, February 2 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, February 3 at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, February 4 at 1 p.m. Tickets range from $40-$105.   more

STILL GOING STRONG: “The Cher Show” covers the lengthy and still active career of the famous singer, at the State Theatre New Jersey February 9-11.

State Theatre New Jersey presents the Tony Award-winning musical, The Cher Show for four performances on Friday, February 9 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, February 10 at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, February 11 at 1 p.m.  more

“BLUES OF THE RUBY MATRIX”: This 1958 oil painting is part of “George Segal: Themes and Variations,” on view through July 31 at the Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick. An opening reception is on January 27 from 4 to 7 p.m. (Courtesy of the George and Helen Segal Foundation)

Marking the centennial of George Segal’s birth in 1924, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers–New Brunswick welcomes visitors to experience more than 60 works, some familiar, others rarely seen, in “George Segal: Themes and Variations.” The exhibition, on view through July 31,  highlights not only the breadth of Segal’s work, but also the people and the state that helped to shape his career.

The public is invited to a free opening reception at the Zimmerli on Saturday,  January 27 from 4 to 7 p.m. more

“PORTRAIT OF GIRL DRAWING”: This work by Annika Crawford won “Best in Show” in the 2022 “Youth Art Exhibition” at Phillips’ Mill. This year’s exhibition opens on January 28 and runs on weekends through February 18.

To kick off the new year, Phillips’ Mill Community Association in New Hope, Pa., will feature its annual “Youth Art Exhibition” showcasing artwork from local high school students. Now in its 11th year, the exhibition opens at the historic Mill on January 28 and runs on weekends through February 18.  The show will also be available online at phillipsmill.org/art/youth-art-exhibition.

Working in collaboration with school art teachers who curate the artwork submitted, the show features paintings, works on paper, photography, digital art and 3-dimensional work. There are 23 schools participating this year. more

January 17, 2024

By Stuart Mitchner

January is the birth month of two ageless poets of the snow, Anton Chekhov, born on the Feast Day of St. Anthony the Great, January 17, 1860, and Franz Schubert, born on January 31, 1797.

Chekhov’s 1886 story “Misery” has a wintry atmosphere like that of “The Hurdy-Gurdy Man,” the last song in Winterreise (1828), Schubert’s song cycle about a man whose snowy wanderings end with an old organ-grinder playing “with numb fingers as best he can,” holding his little plate, “with no reward to show,” for “no one wants to listen.” Chekhov’s epigraph for “Misery,” which I first read as “Heartache” in Avrahm Yarmolinksy’s edition of The Portable Chekhov, is “To whom shall I tell my sorrows,” a reference to the plight of a bereft St. Petersburg cabby, who sits unmoving in the snow, waiting for a fare.  more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Symphony Orchestra continued this season’s focus on composers and musicians associated with Princeton this past weekend with performances of works by Princeton-educated composers, one sung by a University graduate now an opera superstar. On Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in Richardson Auditorium, Princeton Symphony Music Director Rossen Milanov led the musicians in an imaginative program of music ranging from the 18th century to current times. 

Princeton University’s compositional Ph.D. program has launched some of the most innovative creators of new music working today. Nina Shekhar, currently a Ph.D. candidate in music composition at the University, has already achieved acclaim and awards for her work. The one-movement orchestral Lumina, performed by Princeton Symphony in this weekend’s concerts, well demonstrated Shekhar’s inventive approach to instrumental music. Beginning with long notes from bowed xylophone and glockenspiel, followed by periods of silence in which the residual sound echoed through the hall, Lumina was full of suspense and contrasts between light and dark. Shekhar used the full orchestra in the instrumentation, with solos from clarinetist Pascal Archer and flutist Scott Kemsley emerging from the orchestral palette. Shekhar’s piece possessed a pulsating feel, both from natural acoustics and musical effects, and was rich in majestic symphonic sound.  more

THE EIGHTIES RETURN: Freestyle artists from a few decades back, including TKA, shown here, come to State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick on January 27.

State Theatre New Jersey and Fever Records present Freestyle Flashback, featuring freestyle artists from the ’80s and ’90s on Saturday, January 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $39-$99. more

At State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick on Saturday, January 20 at 1 and 5 p.m., an interactive show follows an intrepid explorer across uncharted territories to discover a world of dinosaurs. Imaginative puppetry brings a giant Tyrannosaurus rex, Giraffatitan, Microraptor, Segnosaurus, and Triceratops to life. A special meet and greet after the show allows audience members to make friends with the dinosaurs. The theater is at 15 Livingston Avenue. Tickets are $19-$49. Visit Stnj.org.

HUNGARIAN TRADITIONS: Folk music from Hungary is on the program at Princeton Makes’ Java Jam on Sunday, January 21.

Princeton Makes, the artist cooperative in Princeton Shopping Center, will feature the Fészer Band at its monthly Java Jam on Sunday, January 21 at 4 p.m.

The Fészer band – Emma Turkanu, Hunor Kosbor, Bence Kalán, and László Gáspár – plays authentic Hungarian folk music at Hungarian events and festivals, dance houses and other private events. Their goal is to cultivate and pass on the musical traditions of Hungarian folk culture by preserving the original sound. The cohesive force of the band is friendship and a common need for musical development. Fészer treats its audiences to a high-energy, entertaining tour of Hungary’s folk music, song, and dance culture.  more

STORYBOOK FAVORITES: Beloved characters come to life for Off-Centre Stages’ production of “Into the Woods” at Mercer County Community College January 19-21.

James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim take characters known and loved and bring them together in the musical Into the Woods, being presented January 19-21 at the Kelsey Theatre on the campus of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor.

The story follows a baker and his wife, who wish to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King’s Festival; and Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk. When the baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child because of a witch’s curse, the two set off on a journey to break the curse. Everyone’s wish is granted, but the consequences of their actions return to haunt them later, with disastrous results. more

CLOSING SOON: Morven Museum & Garden is presenting several programs prior to the February 18 closing ofits “Striking Beauty: New Jersey Tall Case Clocks, 1730-1830” exhibition. (Photo by Sebastian Bach)

Morven Museum & Garden’s latest exhibition, “Striking Beauty: New Jersey Tall Case Clocks, 1730-1830” closes on Sunday, February 18. The first exhibition of its kind, it features more than 50 tall case clocks, representing almost as many different clockmakers, from both private and public collections. The freestanding pendulum clocks are as functional as they are beautiful, with faces made of intricate brass work or painted designs of objects like ships, suns, and moons.

The five-gallery exhibition features clocks from towns including Elizabeth, Newark, Burlington, Flemington, Salem, and more.  more

“PHOTOGRAPHING THE ABBOTT MARSHLANDS”: Photographer Frank Sauer will give a free talk at the at Tulpehaking Nature Center in Hamilton on Sunday, January 21 at 2 p.m.

The Friends for the Abbott Marshlands (FFAM) will host Photographing the Abbott Marshlands with Frank Sauer, “Voices for the Marsh 2024,” on January 21 at 2 p.m. at Tulpehaking Nature Center, 157 Westcott Avenue, Hamilton. The event is free. RSVP is required at tinyurl.com/3wnanuav.

Sauer has visited the Abbott Marshlands with his camera hundreds of times in the last five years, sometimes filming with his drone in aerial shots, sometimes shooting the beautiful vistas seen there along with closeups of the native flora. The nonprofit will facilitate talks and walking tours in advance of their biennial photography exhibit this fall. Sauer will serve as the juror of entry and of prizes for the “Voices for the Marsh 2024” photo exhibition.  more

January 10, 2024

By Stuart Mitchner

Robert Donat may be the only movie star Holden Caulfield would ever think of calling on the phone. Donat, who plays Richard Hannay, the hero of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller The 39 Steps (1935), “could draw us further into himself by his very modesty,” according to David Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film. Writing about Donat’s performance in Knight Without Armour (1937), another movie J.D. Salinger liked to show on his 16 mm projector, Graham Greene observed that he “is sensible, authentic, slow; emotion when it comes has the effect of surprise, like plebeian poetry.” In contrast to the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood that Holden hates, Donat has, in Greene’s words, an “invincible naturalness.”

In The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years (Crown 1970), David Shipman calls Donat’s story “a heart-rending one,” using an adjective also favored by 7-year-old Seymour Glass in Salinger’s extraordinary, still unpublished novella, Hapworth 16, 1924, surely the longest, strangest letter home from camp ever written. What makes Donat’s story “heart-rending” is that this “highly gifted actor,” known “for a beautiful speaking voice and a quiet and diffident charm,” was plagued by chronic asthma. As Thomson points out, Donat’s “illustrious” career included only 19 films, due to the major roles he turned down because of “the profound tentativeness at the root of his stammer and nervous breathlessness.” Even so, in one of his least compelling parts, as the title character in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Donat beat out Clark Gable for the Best Actor Oscar, thwarting Gone With the Wind’s sweep of the 1939 Academy Awards. more

RARELY SEEN REPERTORY: When the Mark Morris Dance Group returns to McCarter Theatre January 27, audience members will see works spanning his long career. (Photo by Danica Paulos)

The Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) returns to McCarter Theatre on Saturday, January 27 at 8 p.m., as part of the company’s international tour. On the program are “A Wooden Tree,” “Excursions,” “Candleflowerdance,” and “Castor and Pollux.” These works span the decades of Morris’ ensemble, which was formed in 1980 and has toured with its own music ensemble since 1996.

In addition to creating over 150 works for his company, Morris conducts orchestras, directs opera, and choreographs for ballet companies worldwide. Morris was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation in 1991. He has received 11 honorary doctorates and awards, including the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society, the Benjamin Franklin Laureate Prize for Creativity, the Cal Performances Award of Distinction in the Performing Arts, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s Gift of Music Award, and the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award. His memoir, Out Loud, co-written with Wesley Stace, was released in paperback by Penguin Press in October 2021.

MMDG always performs with live music, the MMDG Music Ensemble. The Mark Morris dance center, opened in Brooklyn in 2001, is the home of the Dance Group and provides educational opportunities in dance and music to people of all ages and abilities.

LADIES OF DELTA NU: The cast of “Legally Blonde The Musical JR.” are rooting for their friend Elle Woods in this production at the Kelsey Theatre January 12-14.

Harvard’s favorite blonde will be center stage in the production of “Legally Blonde The Musical JR.,” presented by Tomato Patch Workshops at Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre, January 12-14.

Based on the award-winning Broadway musical and the hit motion picture, “Legally Blonde The Musical JR.” is a journey of self-empowerment and expanding horizons. The show follows the transformation of Elle Woods as she tackles stereotypes, snobbery, and scandal in pursuit of her dreams.

Shows are Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m., at  Kelsey Theatre on the MCCC West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. Tickets are $14-$16. Visit kelseytheatre.org.

SHOWCASING THEIR MUSICAL TALENTS: Students from Legacy Arts International’s All-Abilities Music Creation Program will perform their new compositions as part of Mozart’s Birthday Marathon on Sunday, January 28 at Princeton United Methodist Church.

On Sunday, January 28 at 3:30 p.m., more than 20 pianists and musical colleagues of Cristina Altamura, artistic director of Legacy Arts International (LAI), will gather at Princeton United Methodist Church (corner of Nassau and Vandeventer Ave.) to perform Mozart’s music and raise funds for the organization’s All-Abilities Music Creation Program.

“Among these performers are celebrated musicians and teachers such as Phyllis Lehrer, Ena Barton Bronstein, and Ingrid Clarfield, who for four decades have consistently contributed to the excellent standard of music making in Princeton’s extraordinary piano teaching scene,” said Altamura.  more

ON THE ROAD: The Marshall Tucker Band and The Outlaws play the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick on January 25 at 8 p.m.

State Theatre New Jersey presents The Marshall Tucker Band (MTB), with special guests The Outlaws. on Thursday, January 25 at 8 p.m.

The MTB has had an impact on generations of listeners who’ve been “Searchin’ for a Rainbow” and found it perfectly represented by this Southern institution over the decades. “I’ve been in tune with how music can make you feel, right from when I was first in the crib,” said lead vocalist and bandleader Doug Gray, who’s been fronting the MTB since the very beginning.

The band came together as a six-piece outfit in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1972, having duly baptized themselves with the name of a blind piano tuner after they found it inscribed on a key to their original rehearsal space. Their music catalog includes the hits “Heard It in a Love Song,” “Can’t You See,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “Long Hard Ride,” and “Ramblin.’”  more