Friday, September 28, 2012

Art IS everywhere in New Castle County, too!!!

Love's Messenger in Brandywine Park
I confess it took us two tries to see all of the pop-up art in New Castle County (a continuation of our Delaware pop-up journey is chronicled in the blog Art is everywhere in Kent and Sussex County), but we had two absolutely gorgeous days in which to view the sights.

The first trip was in the late afternoon – starting from Newark and seeking endlessly on the green (or mall, if you call it that) and discovering John Sloan’s Spring Rain was really on Main Street – mounted on a brick dormitory wall. Not only was it confusing to locate, but I realized that as a Newark resident, I had driven by the outdoor art many times since it was posted.

Then a quick trip to New Castle to see Edward Moran’s Standing Out – a mighty war ship poised in front of the Court House Museum, where you can see the Delaware River flowing just down the street and imagine the ship sailing on it. Right beside the picture, one of our favorite Sunday Coop Market veggie vendors was letting his great display of eggplant, apples and okra lure people in. One of us yielded to the apples.

A trip to Crabby Dick’s let us see Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s Lady Lilith taught me about the first wife of Adam, Lilith. That was not anything I had remembered from Sunday school. Of course, after posing with beautiful Lilith, we just had to have supper at Crabby Dick’s – indoors looking out the window towards Pea Patch Island. Thus endeth our first New Castle County pop-up run.

The second trip was also a beautiful day. We met at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts where we had just been to a concert. Walking from the DCCA to the Riverfront took us directly to Howard Pyle’s Attack on a galleon which had itself been attacked – robbed of its sign! We penciled in the proper title for the record and sped off to the Grand Opera House to see Romeo and Juliet by Ford Maddox Brown where we found a young family looking at Tom Maloney’s great statue. We began to stare at the painting and had a great discussion with the family.

Two more stops: the Jasper Crane Rose Garden in Brandywine Park had Love’s Messenger by Marie Spartali Spillman. The painting has a beautiful Pre-Raphaelite model feeding a pigeon and looking towards a river through a window and the Brandywine flowed right behind the picture’s window. Beautiful weather, roses, art, sigh.

When we sought out Howard Pyle’s Marooned, we were surprised that we had to go into the pub and onto their terrace to actually see the work, which is large and quite striking. But somehow, placing a large work between tables and umbrellas on a pub terrace seemed strange.

Milking Time at the Woodside Farm Creamery
Afterwards, we set off for Hockessin to see the very last work on our list: Milking Time by Winslow Homer which was placed on the wall of a barn at the Woodside Creamery. The milkmaid and the farm boy fit in so seamlessly with the cows and barn and fields that one could imagine Mr. Homer painting it after being inspired by Woodside Farm ice cream. We, too, celebrated the completion of our pop-art art tour with a generous serving.

Please do this again, Delaware Art Museum!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Real Thing at the Chapel Street Players

Tom Stoppard’s 1982 play, The Real Thing, is a beautifully constructed kaleidoscope which shows us how relationships ebb and flow and gives us the fly-on-the-wall view that would never be possible to have in real life.

The play has so many British cultural references that the cast took the challenge and all mastered some very good British accents and Thomas Russell, who played Billy, mastered a natural and convincing Scots accent. They pulled off the Stoppard word-play quite blithely even though the full and mostly American audience on opening night did not always understand the joke.

The characters are mostly actors and playwrights and it is perhaps for that reason that they find it so hard to communicate in a straightforward manner. Two philanderers in the crowd even find it impossible to tell their spouses they want to leave them until they finally get caught (Phew!). Before long, though, one of the flighty lovebirds decides they need to stray from the new relationship.

Stoppard could have been and supposedly was writing about his own life. He left his first wife to take up with an actress in one of his plays. But whether or not he meant to write a biographical essay, he went quite deeply into the psychological aspects of relationships, illustrated their shortcomings, and ended his play with an optimistic view of love.

Jeremiah Dillard as Henry and Georgiana Staley as Annie (above)did a wonderful job of showing how the first blush of love wears thin quickly in a passionate affair. Their development after they move in together is what makes the play an absorbing study of life and love. When Brodie the soldier appears in their flat after years of influencing Henry and Annie from afar, they both realize where their priorities lie. Their final scene provides an end to their constant search for something better.
The Real Thing runs September 21st, 22nd, 27th, 28th, 29th at 8 p.m. and September 23rd at 2 p.m.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A "Spelling Bee" to Remember at NCT

Photo: Marilyn Scanlon
Judging by the number of open seats at the New Candlelight's Saturday opening of William Finn's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the relatively obscure comic musical doesn't have the up-front draw of big names like Miss Saigon, Annie or Cats. That's too bad, because Spelling Bee is every bit as entertaining as the bigger shows, and more fun than your average musical.

Under the direction of Robert M. Kelly, Spelling Bee tells the story of -- well, a spelling bee. If that sounds dull to you, you're probably not familiar with the quirks, pressure and sheer drama of spelling bees, and you've definitely not seen the subject handled in such a funny and charming way. And when I say funny, I mean Spelling Bee is hilarious.

In the first Act, Rona Lisa Perretti (Lindsay Mauck), the moderator and winner of the 3rd Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, introduces the competitors: Reigning champion Chip Tolentino (Anthony Connell), mini political activist Logainne "Swartzy" Schwartzandgruennier (Michelle Cabot), caped homeschooled outcast Leaf Coneybear (Billy Hart), sniffling nerd William "Barfy" Barfée (David T. Snyder), parochial school genius Marcy Park (Dana Kreitz), and anxious and addled Olive Ostrovsky (Victoria Healy). Then, in addition to the six scripted characters, she calls the names of four real audience members who join the actors on stage to participate in the bee. So basically, no one knows what's going to happen. When you see it -- and you should -- Act I will play out differently, and that, of course, is part of the fun. We had a great, sharp group of audience volunteers on Saturday, and really, there aren't many things funnier than the dance number that included the volunteers (who, of course, didn't know the choreography). It adds a level of interactive-ness, even among the seated audience, that few shows have.
Billy Hart, Michelle Cabot, Dana Kreitz and Anthony Connell. Photo: Marilyn Scanlon

As great as the audience participation is, the show is about the six young spellers, Rona, and her co-moderator Vice Principal Panch (Ryan Ruggles). Over to the side is Daniel Bontempo as Mitch Mahoney, a parolee earning community service credits by escorting losing contestants off the stage and comforting them with a juice box. Keep an eye on Bontempo -- Mitch is a small part, but he magically transforms into other characters in the minds of the contestants. He plays the more nurturing of of Swarzy's two fathers, with Hart dropping the goofy facade of Leaf to play her uber-competitive, win-at-any-cost dad. He also plays Olive's absent father, a distant man in a business suit who sings to her, along with Mauck as her really absent mother, in the most moving scene of the show.

Yes, as hilarious as it is, the show is moving, even emotional, with heart that exists in any really good work of comedy. These are children under tremendous pressure to excel, hormones just starting to rage, and they all have a sadness about them. One by one, they are eliminated, each responding in a different way. The last two standing are the ones who most want to be there, and you feel it, because all of the actors play their parts perfectly. I've said it before -- if you haven't been to the NCT, you're missing out. I hope word spreads about this show, and it starts selling out night after night until it closes on October 28. It deserves it.

For tickets and show times, go to

Monday, September 17, 2012

Here She is Delaware, and You Don't Want to Miss Her!

The Wilmington Drama League (WDL) opens its 79th season with the quintessential Broadway musical, Gypsy. Tommy Fisher-Klein does a capital job directing this classic show with a book by Arthur Lurents, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Mr. Fisher-Klein’s production uses a minimalist set by John Fisher-Klein, so the audience focuses on the characters and the true story of a stage mother in the early 1900’s who’s determined to make her two daughters into stars.

Tina Sheing plays the obsessive stage mother, Rose, who will stop at nothing to make her daughters’ dreams come true, or really Rose’s dream of startdom. Ms. Sheing captures the many facets of the character – loving, overbearing, selfish, ruthless, controlling, resourceful, determined and loud!  She is a woman who won’t take no for an answer. Ms. Sheing’s intensity is like walking over a partially frozen pond, you know when she will crack and explode into a tirade when another character attempts to stop her mission. Sheing’s superb voice handles the show’s iconic songs, such as Some People and Rose’s Turn, with great verve.

Among the many standout performances, Ms. Sheing shares the stage with Pat Sutton as Rose’s “spineless” beau and her daughters’ manager, Herbie, and Ashley Wright as Rose’s shy daughter, Louise, who plays second to her star stealing sister, but later becomes the world’s most famous burlesque performer, Gypsy Rose Lee. Both Mr. Sutton and Ms. Wright give transformational performances. Initially both characters are stunted by Rose’s domineering personality, but by the end, both find their own voices and gain control of their own lives. In addition to Mr. Sutton and Ms. Wright’s excellent performances, Lizzy Sprague as the charismatic June, Rose’s beautiful and talented daughter; Dan Sanchez as one of June’s backup dancers, Tulsa, Nicole Hemphill as the younger version of June (Baby June); and Talia Speak as the younger version of Louise (Baby Louise) give fine performances.

However, the audience has to wait until the second act before three of the shows most comical characters are introduced, Tessie Tura (played by Jodi Persing), Mazeppa (played by Meaghan Gonzalez), and Electra (played by Maureen Cotellese). The three professional burlesque performers introduce Louise to the art of stripping with the humorous musical number You Gotta Get a Gimmick. Sure anyone can be a stripper, but to be a star you have to set yourself apart from the other burlesque performers. All three women give stellar performances and they know exactly how to bump and grind it!

After listening to so many beloved show tunes, I walked out of the theater joyfully humming some of my favorite songs from the show, Everything’s Coming up Roses and Together, Wherever We Go. I’m hoping to make it back to WDL to see it one more time!

Gypsy closes September 23. To order tickets, call 302.764.1172 or visit

Monday, September 10, 2012

Taiwan Film Festival at the Delaware Art Museum

The Delaware Art Museum is hosting the fourth annual Taiwan Film Festival presented by the Hanlin Chinese Culture Association, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, Taiwan, and the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York.

The films are spectacular and sometimes even daunting. This Sunday I arrived at the Art Museum a bit early and had a fun time speaking to members of the predominantly Chinese crowd of spectators. The film being presented was a documentary by Director Chaoti Ho called My fancy high heels. It starts in New York City following a Korean-American fashion designer who is a beautiful, soft-spoken and determined woman who has made a start in the maze of the fashion world. She speaks of her hard work, long hours and her passion for shoes which she regards as pieces of art. The director then shows us the two levels of Chinese production behind her shoes: a harsh end-production factory with a strict manager who speaks English as he sells to Western buyers and then the stage before that – an almost militaristic farm/factory where young people tend and process cattle raised exclusively to produce leather for the highest end of shoes on the market.

This movie forces the viewer to reconsider the entire shoe industry. The music and cinematography are graphic and the story is an extremely moving picture of a China which Americans may not know but in which their purchases and tastes are driving forces. The next film is to be a much more uplifting work about cinematography by Hsiu-Chiung Chiang and Pun-Leung Kwan. Let the wind carry me will be shown at the Delaware Art Museum at 1 p.m. on September 16. Free admission to museum and to film on Sundays.


Art IS everywhere in Sussex and Kent County

Abbot Handerson Thayer's The old lion in front of
 the Georgetown Public Library
Last weekend we decided to go to a restaurant on the C& D Canal and enjoy dining while the sun set on a fantastic view of the railroad bridge and a beautifully maintained marina. When we arrived at Aqua Sol, we saw an full-size reproduction of Howard Pyle’s Flying Dutchman which he had created for Collier’s Weekly in 1900. What fun to find one of the centennial works reproduced out in the woods near Lums Pond!!! We asked our waitress about the painting and she brought us a brochure from the Delaware Art Museum with a map and addresses of all fifteen works placed in various outdoor locations throughout the state. We vowed to see them all.

This past Saturday we headed for the beach to catch Edward Hopper’s Summertime which the Lewes Historical Society had placed at the entrance to the charming Lewes Farmers’ Market which is on Shipcarpenter Square – surrounded by some very old historic buildings. Then we headed to see friends near Angola and took off in the late afternoon for Rehoboth to see Howard Pyle’s Buccaneer in front of the Rehoboth Library. A quick coffee and we headed for the opulent Georgetown Public Library (built by the millionaire who owns the development we had just visited in Long Neck) where we saw Abbott Handerson Thayer’s The old lion. Thayer was a naturalist who wrote about the protective coloration of animals. His conclusions are now referred to as Thayer’s law and he is considered one of the theorists behind camouflage dress.

Rain began to fall copiously as we made our way to Milford’s Mispillion Art League to see our third Howard Pyle, The Mermaid, which was posted on the white wall of the Art League, with the darkening sky and stormy raindrops falling on it as we stopped to mug in front of it for a cell phone group picture.
Howard Pyle's Mermaid in Milford

After a snack in Milford – we hit the road again to start the Kent County tour. Absalom Jones by Raphaelle Peale, was standing alone behind a few orange construction barrels in the dark and rain. My friend positioned her car so that we could have light on the painting and we celebrated our fifth pop-up of the day before moving on to Smyrna. By the time we reached the parking lot of the Smyrna Opera House, the rain was pouring down and we drove as close as we could to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Veronica Veronese, snapping shots on the cell phone.

The chase of art was a delightful way of touring and appreciating our neatly compact state and we spent a long time wondering how the Delaware Art Museum planned this fantastic campaign – how they chose the works and the placements. I shall report again as we finish our pop-up tour of New Castle County.