Sunday, December 19, 2010

Newark Christmas Cheer

If Santa is hiring any new elves, I would highly recommend Dr. Michael Larkin for the job. His effervescent enjoyment of Christmas and Christmas music is a delight to behold!

This year’s program was named Forward to the Past: A Christmas Concert based on Dr. Larkin’s study of Christmas music of Western Europe. Fifteenth Century (Guillermus Dufay), Sixteenth Century (Praetorius), including a softened and slowed En natus est Emmanuel preceded the Seventeenth Century Tomas Luis Vittoria’s O magnum mysterium motet and selections from the mass.

Then a jump to the Twentieth Century with arrangements by Dr. Larkin of many popular Christmas tunes, including selections he took from the movie White Christmas.

Mindy Bowman accompanied the choir in the modern part of the program where Mike Alexander sang O Holy Night, Jay Williams soloed in Count your blessings and Della Lied gave a beautifully clear rendition of Love, you didn’t do right by me. Her solo reminded me of the arrestingly clear voice of Joan Baez singing Little Drummer Boy on a Christmas album I have long lost.

Dr. Larkin gave great energy to directing the audience in refrains of popular carols and it seemed like an old Newark party in the beautifully decorated vault of the Newark United Methodist Church.

They will perform the same program at Saint Helena’s Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington on Sunday, December 19.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Carols in Color: A Spectacular Celebration

Photo: Gabriel Bienczycki
As the lights go down and "Carols in Color" begins, you are transported, both to the Biblical time of the Book of Matthew and from the humble school auditorium where the show is being performed. This year, Wilmington Christian School hosted the two-act retelling of the birth of Jesus in dance and song -- but don't let that fool you: this is high-caliber theater worthy of a Broadway stage.

A little background: Carols in Color is an original production of the Eleone Dance Company in Philadelphia, conceived by the company's founder, E. Leon Evans, II. It combines modern dance and a live Gospel chorus, as well as music from various artists such as Be Be and Ce Ce Winans and Kirk Franklin, to tell the Christmas story starting from the moment Mary learns she is carrying the baby Jesus. The Christiana Cultural Arts Center presents the show in Wilmington annually, and several local students participate in the show.

The first act of Carols in Color focuses on the confusion, helplessness and hardship Mary and Joseph faced as they dealt with her very unexpected pregnancy. Most of the first act is comprised of gorgeous solo dances -- Gabriel, Mary, Joseph and the Angel of God -- with their voices sung by a second performer on stage. Songs include "What Shall I Do," "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and "No Place To Go." By the end of act 1, the baby has been born, and the stage begins to fill.

The second act opens with "Go Tell It On The Mountain," as Mary holds the baby Jesus, and the joyous celebration doesn't let up, through spectacular dance sequences and choral pieces. Featured are "Hallelujah" from Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, "The First Noel," "Silent Night," with "Angels We Have Heard On High" finishing the show with the entire cast of dancers and singers on stage.

The music, costumes, choreography -- it all comes together for an unforgettable Christmas celebration.

Carols in Color was one show only in Delaware, but you can see it in Philadelphia at the John E. Allen Jr. Theater at Freedom Theater from December 12 - 21; call 1-800-838-3006 for tickets.

The Nutcracker: Family Fun in Dover

The Dance Theatre of Dover’s performance of The Nutcracker was good family entertainment. Little girls in poofy dresses and boys in suits with their parents in tow poured in through the front doors of the Schwartz Center for the Arts. This little jewel of a Victorian-style theater (built in 1904), nestled in the Capital’s historic district, is the perfect spot for ballet, theater and music: because of its size and excellent acoustics, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

The story of The Nutcracker is not unlike many popular fairy tales- there is always a lesson to be learned, usually by way of a frightening or difficult rite of passage. Clara (nicely performed by Laura Ward) must give up her treasured nutcracker doll and suffer a horrible encounter with a dancing corps of rats. The moment of terror is offset by visions of dancing flowers, candies and shimmering snowflakes.

Alycia Powell as the Snow Queen brought beauty and grace to the stage. Though Catherine Brooks appeared only briefly as the dainty Ballerina Doll, a snowflake and a flower, her precision and finesse were notable. Light on his feet was Eric McCutcheon, as he danced the part of the Nutcracker Soldier, and in the Spanish dance.

This rendition of the ballet-with music by Peter Ilych Tschaikovsky, choreography by Leve Ivanov and additional choreography and staging by Teresa Emmons-seemed to get everyone into the holiday spirit.


Artist Rowena Macleod at the Art Loop

Tower Hill School treasures and supports the arts. That much is clear when you walk into the P.S. du Pont Arts Center, home to a beautiful gallery part of the 2010-2011 Wilmington Art Loop. This month, the exhibit features six artists: Caroline Beck, Yolanda Chetwynd, Debbie Hegedus, Rowena MacLeod, Teal Rickerman and Cathy Spence.

Liza Appel filled the space with her lovely viola playing, as people milled about the exhibit of photography, masks, collage, prints, fiber art and paintings. The exhibitors- all teachers and professional artists-are each accomplished and compelling.

Rowena MacLeod, new to the faculty at Tower Hill, coined the phrase “compeignage” to describe her medium, combination of collage and painting. The rich colors and detailed settings within her pieces exude warmth, unity and feminine strength. MacLeod’s folksy, earthy style hearkens back to that of Marc Chagall or perhaps Paul Guaguin. “Let’s Repaint this World” reminds me why so many of us become artists: we want to make the world around us beautiful- or merely bearable, by fixing its ugliness with a brushstroke or the pluck of an instrument. The artist stands, paintbrush in hand, creating a setting- a world. Often MacLeod’s figures have a large right hand. MacLeod told me she feels the large hand must be the dominant one- the creative one.

The exhibit is open from 8-3 weekdays, until December 17.

(pictured: "Let's Repaint This World" and MacLeod with daughter Fiona standing in front of "Time Revealed")

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Scary Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night

Evangelina. Photo: Holly Quinn
Brianna Hansen's Nightmare Before Christmas Party, held December 4 upstairs at OperaDelaware, featured my very favorite things: creepiness, Christmas, music, wine and local-artist shopping. Inspired by the Tim Burton film by the same name, it was Halloween-meets-Christmas, complete with costumes and mashup decorations (most impressive: the lovely Christmas tree topped with a glittering skull).

Singer-songwriter Evangelina started off the night's live music in the spirit of the scene, opening with her take on songs from Nightmare Before Christmas, followed by traditional (and one not-so-traditional) Christmas songs. I really enjoyed the short set and am looking forward to checking out her original music. She was followed by The Way It Is, aka Michael Sanchez, who came all the way from Chicago with his drum kit and electro backing tracks. It's unusual to see a solo artist on the drums -- and very cool. Local faves The Hold Up put on a great rock 'n roll set with original songs like "Zombies Ate My Neighbors" that kept the spirit going as the night rolled on. Newark singer-songwriter Rory Sullivan performed songs from his debut CD Here All Along (available on his website) before the night capped off with DJs and dancing.

The Hold Up
It's not too late to buy gifts from some of the local artists featured -- Kristin Margiotta, Malika Oyetimein, Leila Marvel, and Pat Higgins all sell their art, books, jewelry and more online.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Traveling at the Theater

Around the World in 80 Days is the Delaware Theatre Company's newest production. Mark Brown’s clever adaptation of Jules Vernes’s novel is witty, probing and entertaining.

Phileas Fogg, (Greg Wood) wagers he can travel around the world in 80 days. He is accompanied by Passepartout (James IJames), and in 80 days, they make their way around the world.

Director Aaron Posner’s production is terse, yet humorous. Brian Sidney Bembridge’s simple set is cleverly crafted: the circular platform unifying the swirling action on stage echoes the play’s themes of rapid world travel and self-exploration. The stacks of trunks on stage serve as elephants and trains.

There are no set changes and only five actors. Four of the actors play several parts. Dan Hodge is Detective Fix, a man who trips over his own feet, sabotaging his own investigation. Benjamin Lloyd appears as 16 different characters and many are side-splittingly funny. He runs the gamut of accents, from Chinese to Scottish and Brooklynese. As the “Newspaperman” Farah Bala gives quick updates about Fogg’s location and activities. She also plays the lovely widow Aouda, the apple of Fogg’s eye.

The play takes us on a journey of self-discovery. The friendless Fogg finds love, humanity and forgiveness during his whirlwind tour of the world.

Photo: Matt Urban

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reckless: A Demented Holiday Celebration

Victoria Rose Bonito and Eric Longo. Photo:CTC
To say that Rachel's husband Tom ruined Christmas is a bit of an understatement. It was Christmas Eve, and Rachel was bursting with holiday cheer. The next thing she knows, she out in the snow, alone and scared. Tom has told her he's hired a contract killer to take her out that very night, forcing her on a long bizarre journey away from her family and into a strange new life. If you like your comedy dark and your holiday fare unconventional, City Theater Company's "Reckless," directed by George Tietze, is right up your alley.

Jim Burns and Victoria Rose Bonito. Photo: CTC
As Rachel, Victoria Rose Bonito does a flawless job of bringing her character's troubled, over-the-top bubbliness to life. Bonito, making her City Theater Company debut, is the backbone of the show -- I don't recall a minute when she wasn't on stage -- and there was never a dull moment. The rest of the small cast is made up of CTC veterans: Jim Burns and Kerry Kristine McElrone as Lloyd and Pooty, the couple who take Rachel in (and who are not quite what they seem); Maggie Cogswell and Tom Holtsberry in several scene-stealing roles, including a shady office supervisor and a game show host; Michelle Jacob as all six of Rachel's very different therapists over the years; and Eric Longo as Tom and Tom Jr. A solid cast all around.

Jim Burns, Victoria Rose Bonito and Kerry Kristine McElrone. Photo: CTC

The opening night show was a blast, despite some technical difficulties. For the record, I thought the cast doing the music and recorded soundtrack live was terrific -- I didn't guess it was a SNAFU, if anything I thought using live acapella voices for the music was a clever touch.

"Reckless" is playing at The Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios through December 18. For tickets, click here.

Arts Auditions for the New Year

Delaware Valley Chorale
The Delaware Valley Chorale and director David Christopher are calling for singers for their mid-season auditions. Join DVC for a performance of the Brahms Requiem. Audition dates are Saturday, January 8, 1:00 to 3:00pm, Sunday, January 9, 2:00 to 4:00pm, and other times by appointment. To schedule your audition, contact Barbara Kidd at 302.234.4866 or All singers must prepare a solo or an excerpt from a choral piece that demonstrates range and voice quality, and are asked to bring two copies of the audition piece. Singers will also be asked to sight read a simple passage of music (diatonic within a modest range).


City Theater Company
Open call for the 2011 CTC Community Series, featuring the work of playwright Alex Dremann. Auditions will be held for actors ages 18+ on Monday, January 10 and Wednesday, January 12, from 7:00-9:00pm at OperaDelaware Studios, 4 S. Poplar Street in Wilmington. A prepared monologue is preferred but not required; auditions will also consist of cold reading from the scripts.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Newark Holiday Art Markets

Stained glass by Greg Baldwin

On Friday after work, I pulled in to the parking lot near Newark Natural Foods to check out the multiple Christmas art markets on either side of the cooperative.

My first stop was the Newark Arts Alliance. The decorated windows gave a great view of the beautiful and varied items on display: jewelry, weaving, art, ceramics, stained glass, silk clothing and lovely cards. Works by Julie Darrow, Carole Fox, Marian Howard, Karen Hornor, Ingrid Jackoway, Robanne Palmer, Melissa Paquette, Lisa Pilchard, Wendy Shipman, Doortje Shover and Paulette Visceglia are featured in their Holiday Art Market. The site is so small, quiet and full of light which dances through the lovely glass works and shines off the ceramic glazes and luminescent silver jewelry.

Buying a gift from a local artist helps our community thrive economically and -- if you live in the Newark area – this also means you do NOT have to brave the frenzy of I-95 to find something unusual, beautiful and unique. The Newark Arts Alliance will keep this market open until January 2. Not only that, but they are offering free gift wrapping (now that is a deal!) and will have ornament projects for your children to entertain themselves with while you are shopping.

But wait, that was only the first art show in this very spot! Just across the way, Open Studio artists were meeting and greeting visitors to their second annual Christmas art show. It is being held in THE MEADOWS, which is on the west side of Newark Natural Foods. Don’t worry; there are plenty of signs to show you the way.

Greg Baldwin has many varieties of stained glass pieces of all sizes and prices. Ray Briscoe has some humorous woodcarvings of trolls and funny farmers with heads of open pods in the brightest of pea green. Frances Hart has many of her very delicate watercolors of flowers. Susan Schulz’s jewelry is sleek and silvery, with smooth workings to set off delicately polished stones. MCEI’s weaving has intricate detail. She, too, has smaller works like elegant hot pads if your wallet is feeling too puny to buy one of her larger woven pieces. But for me, the highlight of the afternoon was talking to Paula Camenzind as she sipped spiced tea from one of her elegant blue/pink luster cups.

The Open Studio will be open again on Saturday, December 4 from 10 to 5 and Sunday, December 5, from 10 to 5.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Afternoon with Distant Voices

The young man's words conveyed a range of feelings, from confusion to anger, and, sometimes, momentary happiness. His name was Hiroaki Nishimura, an American citizen interned in the Japanese American Internments camps during World War II. He is also the father of Julie Nishimura, who co-founded Distant Voices Touring Theatre her husband, Danny Peak, who turned Hiroaki's journals into a moving live performance. "Distant Voices" is presented as a reading by Peak with details from newsreels and historical documents read by David Stradley and Michelle Jacob adding context to what was happening. The 15-minute excerpt from the 70-minute piece simply told Hiroaki's firsthand story -- parts of it -- without commentary. It's a powerful piece that begs many questions; and in all presentations of "Distant Voices," whether at a school or library or museum, includes a question and answer session.

At the DVTT Salon on November 21, the discussion was largely centered on anger. Hiroaki's journal entries showed disappointment and resentment, but no anger and little despair. Guest Hiro Nishikawa of the Japanese American Citizens League shared more stories of young interned men revolting, sometimes leading them to harsher, high security camps, and of men -- Americans, remember -- refusing service when their draft numbers came up even though it meant giving up more freedom for prison. Yet many men did serve, even while their families remained in camps. It's easy to see how the discussions can cover days, as it does when DVTT brings the show, along with pre-preparation sessions, to schools.

The second part of the show brought us into the 2000s, with an excerpt from the post 9/11 piece "September Echoes." The full show explores the aftermath of the attacks from several points-of-view; the 15-minute excerpt focused almost exclusively on a young Syrian in Seattle named Nadin. Nadin's family's home was raided by Immigration and Naturalization Services after 9/11 and she and her parents were held for nine months. Her story was taken from a speech she had given, delivered powerfully by Michelle Jacob. There are some obvious parallels between Nadin's and Hiroaki's stories, as well as contrasts.

Distant Voices offers educational programs for middle and high school, including workshops and a 45-minute show. often free of charge. To help fund these educational programs, DVTT will be holding a wine tasting benefit on Sunday, December 19 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at Deerfield Fine Wines in Newark. The event will include a selection of 25 wines, entertainment, free child care and a discount on wine purchases for a $10 suggested donation. For more information on the benefit or to find out more about the outreach programs, contact Danny Peak at

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Comic Potential at the Chapel Street Players

From the moment the lights go up, you can’t help but notice Jacie (Courtney Wallace) give a broad but quiet smirk as she plays the nurse on a hackneyed production with the unctuous doctor, the sobbing mother and the son who is being told he will have to lose his foot.

And suddenly, the doctor is not only unctuous, but full of ‘u’s, reassuring the mother and son that he will ‘umputate just below the unkle’….and then the exasperated director rants that his techs must fix this actoid, a robotic actor. And make sure he stays away from the fax!

Wallace’s Jacie is the light that keeps the stage going as she plays an actoid with a heart – a heart that begins to warm to the company director’s nephew. She is wonderful, spewing past scripts on cue for any event she had not been prepared for, and the results are fantastic – like pushing a button on a Chatty Kathy.

This futuristic comedy had a slow start on opening night but everyone seemed to warm up to the enthusiastic audience. Courtney Wallace has that rare ability to act like an actoid and really act within her spurts of role – including outrageous hamming and miming.

Mike Freeberry as Adam Trainsmith had perfect pacing – first keeping a shy and quiet demeanor as he visits his uncle’s production set and then blossoming into an inventive writer as he falls for Jacie the actoid and realizes his own Comic Potential.

Dina Bogino and Bill Starcher not only provided excellent comedy in the smaller roles, but their synthetic actoid acting was perfectly done – with exact repeats and total freeze motion.

The set was brilliant. Joseph Pukatsch built a great backdrop of moveable pieces that converted into different sets in seconds with excellent work by Robert de Remigio’s crew. This absolutely made the second act – allowing us to zip back and forth between scenes as if we were watching the sort of futuristic television production playwright Alan Ayckbourn envisioned.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Allergen Brings Hi-Tech, Fine Art Together

Back when (or, possibly, where) I studied art in the early '90s, there was a clear division between the technical and what is considered "fine art." Fine art students like myself didn't take computer classes. Not even Photography students -- and this was at one of the top art schools in the country. I thought it was pretty silly, even then. I didn't have my own computer, but, it seemed to me, what could be more "modern" than using computers in modern art? I took a computer class and was one of only two students who were not graphic design majors in the room. I felt over my head -- programs were more complicated 1992, and I didn't even know how to use a mouse -- and I never created anything memorable in that class. Still, I believed that computers and art were meant to be together.

Today, of course, computer technology is more accepted in the arts than it was 20 years ago, but I still get excited when I see an art show with work created with the computer as a medium.

"Allergen," an exhibition of illustrations by Patrick "PDub" Warner now on display at Union City Grille, is one of those shows. You wouldn't necessarily know it when you first walk into the gallery -- some of the pieces are huge, much larger than a typical physical digital piece. Warner explained that, to create pieces that large, they had to be printed by a sign company, who essentially made giant color copies on a special poly canvas. The result is striking, with bright, bold colors and a glossy finish. Warner is a commercial artist, and some of the pieces were converted from his own commercial work, giving it a genuine "pop" feel.

Several pieces represent flowers (a lily, a rose and an orchid) floating over a background of vintage war imagery. Other pieces feature a zip-gun, a frog, a rattlesnake and a spectacular larger-than-life parrot. My favorite pieces are one appropriately titled "Sunflower Galaxy" and the show's title piece, "Allergen," a violet explosion of flora and splashes of "ink" and "paint." The image on the opening postcard doesn't do it justice -- this is one worth stopping in to see in person.

"Allergen" runs through December 31.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Uniting Two Worlds

Delaware is truly lucky to be home to a musician as talented and versatile as Xiang Gao, creator and director of 6ixwire Project. Best known as a brilliant violinist, this Chinese born artist has set out on a mission to bring together east and west, old and new, the familiar and unfamiliar, through his musical and dramatic endeavors. As part of the Master Players Concert Series, the University of Delaware presents Erhu and Violin and The Butterfly Lovers.

The Butterfly Lovers is a collaborative effort between Gao and playwright/actor/director Danny Peak. Peak wrote the powerful narration, based on a centuries old Chinese folk tale. Gao arranged the music—a concerto written by Chen Gang—for violin, erhu and piano. With beautiful images by Vincent D’Amico projected behind the stage, the performance draws the audience in on a personal and emotional level: love, betrayal and loss are ideas everyone can relate to.

To see Cathy Y. Yang play the erhu, a Chinese two-stringed violin, is to witness pure joy. Each sound that comes from the instrument is perfectly executed and seems to emanate from her soul. The ensemble playing between Yang and Gao is astounding; the two not only echo each other’s phrases, but also the timbre of the other’s instrument. The folksy themes—at times joyful, playful, and filled with longing—are those of the ill-fated lovers, Shanbo and Yingtai.

Stephanie Shade reads an earnest and strong-willed Yingtai, a brilliant young woman who disguises herself as a boy so she might have the opportunity to study. Peak is the young Shanbo, who is completely taken with his lover’s beauty and intelligence. Their performance intertwines perfectly with the music and the visual elements. Also delightful is Rita Sloan, an award-winning pianist and faculty member of the University of Maryland School of Music.

The second half of the program includes Pablo de Sarasate’s Themes from Carmen, Fantasy Op. 25, scored for violin, erhu and piano. Another expert arrangement by Gao, the piece showcases the players’ virtuosity. The last portion of the evening features a jam session with fabulous amateur musicians. Their rendition of Van Morrison’s Moondance rocked the hall. Gao spoke about music and its purpose in the world, reminding us how he enjoys working with varied genres and performers. He also gave us a brief bit of music history, discussing the shared Persian roots of violin and erhu. Here, Gao has successfully married the instruments and styles to expand our musical and cultural horizons.



Monday, November 8, 2010

OperaDelaware’s La Traviata

Colleen Daly sang the role of Violetta in the Opera Delaware production of La Traviata on November 7 with graceful acting, poise and magical melismas which soared to daring heights of C and D-flat without straining.

From the haunting cello lines in the overture to the luscious ballgown Violetta was wearing in front of moveable dressing room mirrors, everything was smooth as silk. The mirrors rolled away to become windows in Violetta’s luxurious ballroom as she stifled her tubercular cough to become the hostess with the mostess. Her control melted as her admirer, Alfredo (sung with powerful passion by Alok Kumar) slowly became courageous enough to declare his love.

Kumar’s tenor was so rich that his tone remained round and full – resoundingly secure, even in passages where the orchestra was silent. He built in intensity from his shy brindisi, his happy bollenti spiriti, to his tortured che feci.

Maestro Mark Graf coordinated the solos, duets, trios, quartets with aplomb – and pulled a great performance out of both singers and orchestra, especially the Finale.

The duet between Germont (Brian Carter) and Violetta was incredibly gripping. Germont paced himself as he slowly built his arguments to convince Violetta to release her hold on his son. When he pulled his last trump card, telling Violetta that illicit love is bound to fade (Un di, quando le venere il tempo avra fugate), his voice was unctuous--fatherly but threatening with doom--and his song was punctuated perfectly by the strings. The clarinets, smooth and melodic throughout the opera, added poignancy to Piange, piange.

The lighting gave us the illusion that the moving mirrors had become windows with panes. That and the detailing of the costumes with showy petticoats and beautiful shiny materials just put a cherry on the top of a beautiful production. Next shows are November 12 and 13.


And the Verdict Is…Excellent Collection!

(photo at left: Floating Forms (detail) by Bob Goodnough)
Sometimes, there are less-appealing reasons to visit the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington. I can offer one positive cause to head to 500 N. King, with a warning: do NOT bring your cell phone! (By law, no cell phones are permitted in courthouse buildings. And they’re not kidding.)

Last month, fellow Arts enthusiast and advocate Bill Shea invited community members on a guided tour of The New Castle County Courthouse Art Collection. While I arrive late to the start (again: DO NOT BRING CELL PHONES), I was thankfully not alone. Three tardy comrades (the cell phone thing again) and I made our way to the 12th floor for a "self-guided" adventure, hoping to catch the group.

The indoor and outdoor collection, acquired by the Courthouse Art Committee, contains works of 10 artists--both local and national--with four pieces specifically commissioned for this endeavor.

My favorite pieces included Untitled (2002; acrylic on board) by Tom Bostelle; photographs detailed with watercolor overlay by Richard K. Hermann; Kinetic Sculpture (2007) by Tim Prentice which hangs in the main lobby of the courthouse; and several by Daniel Teis, whose diverse works of abstract textures and colors can be found on nearly every floor of the building.

Artist Margaret Winslow, an active member of the New Wilmington Art Association, served as curator for the tour, which ended outside at the brillant steel & neon sculpture entitled Beacon by Brower Hatcher.

I asked Margaret about her favorite piece in the collection: Gregor Turk's Con/Text, a rubbing of wax & oil on paper, which wasn't featured in our tour catalog but is a must-see on the list.

Next time you're out & about downtown, take some time to view this fantastic collection. But P.S. Did I mention: DO NOT bring your cell phone!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Film Brothers Movie Co-op Opening November 13

Gordon and Greg DelGiorno of Film Brothers Productions

 Brothers Gordon and Greg DelGiorno have been running their production company, Film Brothers, since 1999. They started with a focus on making feature films, but found that it was their special events brought in much of the revenue. They run the annual Film Brothers Festival of Shorts (which has been held under the umbrella of Fringe Wilmington for the past two years), and have branched out into areas such as online video commercials for small businesses, and their newest venture, the Film Brothers Movie Co-op.

The first thing Gordon wanted to make clear about the Movie Co-op -- about to inhabit the space at 205 N. Market Street -- is that it's not just for filmmakers. "It's for all kinds of artists, musicians, writers," he says. The space, a combination gallery, lounge, office and screening room (with additional adjacent space for bands) is not just the 10-year-old production company's home base, it's also going to be a space for the arts in the community.

Maybe you need a place to show and sell your artwork or put on a performance for one night -- through the Co-op, you can essentially rent the space for a reasonable fee and use it to suit your needs. Seating can be added, parts of the room can be sectioned off, wall space can be utilized. By day, the space will be open from 11-4, so artists can find information, network, work on their laptop and help the co-op run smoothly.

The arts is only one part of the picture, though: the co-op is also about brings businesspeople together with artists. "Art is about doing business," Gordon says. Both businesspeople and artists sometimes fail to recognize the importance of the other, to the detriment of both.

"You have people who have creative ideas, but they don't know business," says co-founder Greg DelGiorno. "Business people know that creativity is important, but they might not be that creative. We want to bring businesspeople and artists together."

They also want the local  politicians to commit to supporting the arts in Wilmington. At Wednesday's grand opening of the LOMA Coffee Shop a few doors down, Gordon issued the politicians, including ribbon-cutter Governor Jack Markell, a challenge: "What can you do to help art grow and function?" -- a challenge that was received optimistically: "The governor stepped up."

 In the coming months, Film Brothers plans big events such as a movie-themed Battle of the Bands in March, and a Street Festival on Market to help raise funds and create business opportunities next June. In the meantime, they hope for plenty of involvement, and a full calendar, starting with the Movie Co-op Opening on Saturday November 13, featuring local arts and the opportunity to learn more.

Find Film Brothers on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chicago at the Wilmington Drama League

The orchestra was perched on a rooftop in a brilliant set design by Kurt Kohl which let the audience see them and made them part of the show. As soon as we were seated, Chris Tolomeo and his jazz orchestra started some warm-up numbers from his CD to set the feeling of 1920s speak-easy. Then Kitty (Leeia C. Ferguson) came out in a gangster’s raincoat to do the house announcements in a well-written 1920's patois – letting those dancer legs peak out through the thigh-high slits.

Lights down, then up again showing back of a dancer who starts 'All that jazz' using the brilliant choreography created by Jody Anderson - whose 2007 Candlelight Theatre production of Chicago won the Philadelphia Theatre Alliance Barrymore Award. Not only were all the dancers top quality, but the production on opening night was as tight as anything I have seen in Delaware. Yet it was Barbara Wright's perfect cold stare/warm smile combination as Velda Kelly that made the show for me. I had seen Catherine Zeta-Jones in the film but I was even more captivated by Ms. Wright's dancing and her ability to give that "I'll-smile-when-I-murder-you" look throughout the show.

Watching a few clips of the movie showed me that although the fade-ins and technical gloss give it polish, there is a dimension missing on film that you get with live theatre that I could hardly describe. When Billy Flynn, the shyster lawyer (Jeffrey Santoro) does his shtick with the dancing girls and feathers - your mouth is still hanging open and asking: can this be Delaware? The well-seasoned musical backbone of the Tolomeo orchestra gave a tremendous boost to the smoothness of entrances and dancing.

Music Director Steve Weatherman and Choreographer Jody Anderson deserve much praise for this well-rehearsed show, but credit for coordinating the entire production goes to Director Matt Casarino who said he had never had a show so ready on opening night. The casting, the music and the dancing are so good that I highly recommend you catch a show during the run concluding November 13.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Toast to the Fallen Woman

Danielle Rice, executive director of the Delaware Art Museum, hosted a delightful open discussion about fallen women of the Nineteenth Century and asked the audience why the theme permeated literature, music and art of the time. She started the ball rolling by showing slides of art depicting fallen women. Her first example was William Holdman Hunt’s The awakening conscience since it had been completed in the same year as Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata (the fallen woman). Her partner in leading the discussion was Lee Kimball, general and artistic director of Opera Delaware, who will present La Traviata at the Grand Opera House on November 7, 12 and 13. The two are friends, which made the lively discussion even more fun. Mr. Kimball bravely pointed out that usually it is the fallen woman who gets killed or arrested or punished, while the fallen man tends to walk away with only a few regrets.

After the discussion, the crowd mingled and enjoyed delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks which they brought to the entrance hall of the museum, where the grand piano was waiting for Jeffrey Miller, chorus master and associate music director of Opera Delaware and Colleen Daly, soprano and Alak Kumar, tenor. The two will be singing the lead roles in La Traviata and if this foretaste in which they sang La Brindisi is any indication, the next time we hear those two could be at Lincoln Center.

The intimacy of the setting, the lively discussion and the informal concert made it feel as if we were attending a party at Barone Douphol’s house watching Alfredo flirt with Violetta in front of her rich lover…

Having had the hors d’oeuvre, my appetite has been whetted for the main course. See you at the Grand.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

UD Orchestra in Puglisi Hall

Although I was slightly disappointed not to find Edgard Varese’s Ameriques on the program on October 20, hearing the Stravinsky arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner and his Scherzo a la Russe provided an equally eclectic salute to the United States and the fascination of European composers for the freedom and wildness they saw in this country in the first half of the Twentieth Century. The big band flavor with which Stravinsky had spiked his film music was a great vehicle for the large brass section of the college orchestra and Yael Hernandez did a fine job with the piano part.

Robert Brandt’s rendition of the first set of Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs showed his extremely strong baritone voice. He almost knocked me out of my chair with his ‘Hi-ro, the boatman’ but he lacked the playfulness of the fine solo passages by Tara Rozanski on the flute and the great trumpet and trombone entries in Simple Gifts. The viola section was superb in their entrances in I bought me a cat.

But in Dvorak’s late Nineteenth Century tribute to the country which had just begun to tolerate the wild sounds of Brahms and Beethoven, the UD Orchestra hit their stride. Their intensity and musicality showed the skilled leadership of Dr. Brian Stone. The second movement’s soulful melody was played beautifully by Bryan Walker (English horn) and the brief duet by first cellist Rachel MacLeod and concertmaster Eliza Krivo seemed magical to me. But as I worked my way through the mass of exiting musicians to congratulate them, I interrupted the conversation between English horn teacher Lloyd Shorter and soloist Bryan Walker. They patiently waited for me to utter my compliments and as I walked away, I heard Mr. Shorter say, …"and one more thing…"

Well, they are students after all.


Drawing Marathon Draws Artists

DCAD held its sixth Drawing Marathon on October 16. Over 70 artists participated in this day of figure drawing. The event, which was open to the public, began at 9 am and ended at 9 pm. Faculty, students, alumna and both the amateur and professional were all in attendance.

Cloth backdrops-some colorful and one all white- were artfully arranged, with still-life objects placed around to create the illusion of spaces in a house. When I arrived, the poses were already well underway. Artists were painting, drawing-even sculpting! It was inspiring to see so many levels of ability, styles and mediums all in one place. There was a quiet hush over the room, as the artists enjoyed the day, sharpening their skills and working their visual “muscles”. The poses ranged from 20 minutes to six hours in length.

One artist was creating a fabulous bust from clay. Another used the “20 minute pose” to create a drawing of the same figure in various poses. I enjoyed seeing the variety of ways the artists could use a figure and still life in their pieces, and wished I hadn’t brought a note pad, but a sketchpad instead.


Vivacious Vivaldi

It was a perfect afternoon for Brandywine Baroque’s Venetian Carnival. A warm breeze was blowing the leaves from the trees outside the Barn at Flintwoods. The program was sold out, and the concert manager had to add more chairs to accommodate the extra guests. All told, over 100 people were fit into the intimate performance space to enjoy the concert. An all-Vivaldi concert is surely what people want to hear, these days. Often light and airy, this music is the antidote to our everyday worries.

First up was the lovely Sinfonia Alla Rustica, RV151. In three movements, the piece quickly transported us to Venice, with its ornate, textured lyricism. It was a thrill to hear Grant Herreid on the guitar, with his beautiful tone penetrating the full-bodied music. For other pieces in the concert, Herreid performed on his theorbo, a large, lute-like instrument with 14 to 19 courses or strings. The unfretted bass-strings or “bourdons” make it the perfect figured bass instrument for a small Baroque ensemble.

Cynthia Freivogel and Martin Davids performed together in the Concerto for two violins in A minor/RV 523 and the Concerto for two violins in D major, RV 511. Accompanied by the small chamber “orchestra”, these two violinists played flawlessly and perfectly in tandem. At times, their tones and phrasing were so similar and well-blended, it was hard to tell who was playing. They were paired with Douglas McNames and Donna Fournier (cellos), for the Concerto for two violins and two cellos in G major, RV 575. McNames and Fournier performed the Concerto for two cellos in G minor, RV 531. A winning piece, the two cellists played it with both warmth and gusto.

It’s always a treat to hear soprano Laura Heimes. Her silvery voice floated through the motet Nulla in mundo pax sincera. The standard repeats were the perfect opportunity for her to showcase her agile trills and ornaments.

Vivaldi exploited the rich, romantic timbre of the cello in his Concerto for Cello in B minor, RV 424. McNames handled the long, legato lines of the Largo with sensitivity and attention to phrasing. There were moments when it seemed Vivaldi had vaulted right out of the Baroque period and into the early romantic period: the structure of the phrases are lyrical and often brooding, and the thematic development is sophisticated.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Digested: Another Fringe Wilmington Recap

 I wanted my time at the second Wilmington Fringe Festival to be as bizarre, surreal and extreme as possible; unfortunately, it's impossible to see everything. I set my interary with the 48-Hour Film Festival at the center, plus some offbeat live performances, as well as the Visual show.

On Wednesday, I kicked things off with a tour of the Visual Fringe Gallery at the Shipley Lofts. The work ranged in visual media, from installation to video, illustration, painting and sculpture. It was a strong show overall for sure, with some standouts: Stephanie Bell's "Anxiety" series confronted viewers as they entered, with a gas mask-wearing woman with "guts" of wire spilling out of her stomach. Downstairs, I was most fascinated by Tiernan Alexander's "Cuddle," a wood cradle strewn with braided human hair and Daniel Potterton's pieces, which appear to be collages of found objects (things like take out menus, tickets, torn pieces of product packaging), but on close inspection are completely, intricately created by hand. An installation/performance piece by Ron Longsdorf was projected on one of the walls - a live Skype stream of the artist and a friend having a conversation in a cafe in South Carolina. Skype makes an interesting art medium, especially as viewers realize that they are also being video streamed to the other side (more on the piece here). For a full list of Visual Fringe artists, click here.

Splendid Spelling!

Bootless Artworks’ season opened with the spirited 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This farcical show, with music and lyrics by William Finn and Book by Rachel Sheinkin, worked well on the cafetorium floor of the Reach Academy for Girls in Claymont, Delaware. The four-piece orchestra, conducted from the keyboard by Musical Director Brittany Fisher, played behind the actors. Directed by Kimberly Pryor, choreographed by Alyssa Novello, and produced by James Fuerst, the show included guest “spellers” from the non-profit and arts community. The night I attended, playwright Matt Casarino, AIDS Delaware’s executive director, John Klein and the Draggillious girls lent their orthographic talents.

This sweet little musical has it all: drama, intrigue, improvisation, unrequited love and dysfunctional families. Leaf Coneybear, played endearingly by Justin Walsh, wears capes and flared pants he designs himself. Each turn at the podium, the poor guy (self-described as “not that smart”) must spell rodent words like “Capybara” and “Acouchi”. After he stumbles on “Chinchilla”, he sings a goofy, impassioned goodbye song with the help of his bass-voiced rodent at the microphone.

Logainne SchwartzandGrubeniniere, whose long last name is the result of having two dads, is a kind-hearted competitor who traces words on her arm. Ashli Rice is adorable in the role, lending a perky, innocent touch. She tries hard to please her two self-involved dads (Wade Brodsky and Justin Walsh) but finally asks them, “What about me?”

The first to lose the bee is Chip Tolentino, played convincingly by P.J. Schweizer. His crush on Coneybear’s sister inspires an “erection destroying perfection,” distracting him from his spelling. An all-American boy scout, he returns to haunt the other contestants well after he is eliminated. His ultimate demise is his job hawking candy and potato chips to the audience.

The nimble Jeremy Gable is a neurotic and peanut-allergic William Barfee (that’s “BarfAY!” The accent ague is there for a reason!), who sweeps the shape of every letter with his agile foot. Even while dodging water on the floor, he manages to collect the trophy.

Rosanne DellAversano, the company’s artistic director, is excellent as Rona Lisa Peretti, the bossy head of the bee. A bumbling Vice Principal Panch (William Swezey) is consumed by a hilarious burst of violent rage as he bemoans his “assistant” principal title. As the lovable thug on parole, Mitch Mahoney (Wade Brodsky) gives out juice boxes to the losers of the bee. The versatile actor also appears as several dads in the production.

“The I Love You Song” is one of the most moving numbers in the show. Here, Olive Ostrofsky (Caroline Rhodes) sings sweetly about things “chimerical”- her spelling word – as she grapples with feelings of abandonment. Another character to find herself during the show is Marcy Park (Ahn Truong), a girl expected to do everything perfectly. Her quirky song “I Speak Five Languages” takes us on a whirlwind tour of talents in sports, languages and academics. When she flubs a simple word on purpose, she suddenly feels free.

The show’s theme of self-discovery peeks subtly through its sub-plots. Different every night because of the guest spellers and the improvisation, the show is truly entertaining!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fresh Thymes Joins the Loop

Fresh Thymes Art Show Program
Fresh Thymes on Lovering Avenue in Wilmington shared some of their creative eats at the Bite of the Fringe in September -- now they've jumped into the Arts scene full-on, as they hosted their very first Art Loop show on October 1st. Featured was the painter/printmaker Nicole Kristiana FitzGibbon, who showcased her series of fantastical creature prints. Some of the wildly-patterned animals come from fantasy, others are fantastical versions of real animals, from cats and rabbits to an anthropomorphic frog to gryphons and dragons.

The prints are made using a modern printmaking style, a combination of hand painting the outlines and colorful patterns separately, then combining them using a computer. Each detail is a small part of a larger intricate pattern, in a collage of brushstrokes.

In addition to the prints on the wall, all of the pieces can also be printed on a microfiber handbag, and samples of the custom-made bags were also on display. The bags, as well as a large selection of prints, are available in FitzGibbon's Etsy shop.

As for the space, Fresh Thymes is a charming little cafe with bright walls and great fresh food -- no doubt, the free hors d'oeuvres were part of the attraction.

First Friday at Fresh Thymes is a hit -- according to the artist's blog, the show at has been extended through November 30. And if you're disappointed about missing the opening, she'll be back for an encore First Friday at Fresh Thymes on November 5th.

Fresh Thymes Cafe
Lincoln & Lovering

Fringe Wilmington: Fantastic Fun!

Tongue & Groove and First State Ballet Theatre Photos: Joe del Tufo

Fringe Wilmington 2010 went off with a bang at preview night. Performers gave the audience short snippets of their shows, and I was able to figure out quickly which were the shows not to miss.

Also opening that night was the Visual Fringe, in the Shipley Lofts. Much of this work begged for interaction, with “in-your-face” tactile qualities. Melinda Steffy’s wonderfully textured contributions added warmth and depth to the installation. Brookes Britcher is as fascinating as his work, “Life on Paper is a Series of Decisive Moments”. The artist, who began as a photographer, explained to me how this work had developed from a large framed family photograph he had found discarded on the street. Britcher feels photography, as an art from, is still stuck in its “representational” phase. This sculpture, created from an empty postcard display stand, luminescent tape, duct tape, confetti, colored silly-string, a light, extension cord, along with the framed photograph, is an exploration of the abstraction of photography. The faces in the photograph are shadowy, barely visible behind the tape, and the postcard stand is empty, serving as architecture and perhaps stability in Britcher’s whimsical, powerful piece.


Friday and Saturday, I squeezed in as many events as I could. I managed to catch the 48-hour film competition screenings, the 21st Century Ballet, improvs by Tongue and Groove, adult plays by Shel Silverstein, Mosaic’s Slave Narratives, the Sharp Dance Company’s exciting Addictive Fragility, and the hilarious film, 200 Characters or Less.

The First State Ballet Theatre was in top form with the luscious Nonsense in the Sense of Innocence choreographed and scored by Viktor Plotnikov. Music of Vivaldi, Beethoven and others was altered, and electronic blips, creating a foreboding theme, were wound into the familiar tunes. A long, flexible knit “dream” cap on the dancer’s head, connecting her to the ceiling, wound a beautiful, stretchy blue/green thread. The images created by this ever-changing line were endless and dramatic. The image of the cap constantly reminded us the dances embracing her and unfolding on stage before her were products of her dream life.


The Philadelphia based Improv troupe Tongue & Groove was wonderfully fast-paced and entertaining. They used material solicited from the audience: “What is something you wanted to tell someone, but never did? Write down an unusual email or text saved on your phone.” With our answers, the troupe created overlapping scenes and dialogue. I was thrilled when an actor created an entire rant out of my submission, “You need to whiten your teeth.” (Yes, I find myself zoning out, looking at people’s teeth sometimes. Sue me.) Skilled ensemble actors, they did not shy away from the serious or macabre.


Riveting was Mosaic’s Slave Narratives. Created by Ed Shockley, a Philadelphia writer/actor, the show consists of vignettes of narratives and letters-from Mordechai Vanunu, Galileo, the American slave trade-to the Montgomery Bus boycott. Though the work was a window into individuals and their experiences with slavery, there was a unifying theme-a message about slavery and how it traps and hurts not only those enslaved, but the entire community. lary moten was touching and funny in his various roles. moten brought the audience into the show, clapping and chanting, “I cannot be denied” in Shockley’s tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.


SCO Productions entertained us with some wildly funny short plays by Shel Silverstein. Ever the linguist, Silverstein develops scenes around rhymes and puns. Dana Michael is hilarious and bawdy in Buy One, Get One Free, a naughty tale in which everything must end in the sound “eeee”. In Smile Jim Burns, Kevin Regan and Gordon Holmes play a bunch of dumb hit-men, who terrorize Gibby (Matt Casarino) for his creation of a “have a nice day” and other insipid expressions. Silverstein is at his absurdist best in No Skronking: an unsuspecting diner (Jason Fawcett) prods his server Bertha (Kerry Kristine McElrone) to explain what “skronking” is, since it’s forbidden.