Sunday, August 5, 2012

Beach Trip with A Little Arts on the Side

Mary Ann Benyo poses with work by the late Julie Baxendell
(photo courtesy of The Cape Gazzette).
Each summer we trek to “Rehowey”(a mash-up of ‘Dewey’ and ‘Rehoboth’ for those of us that loves both equally), I find delicious tidbits to fill my artsy appetite, and this year was no different.  On a particularly adventurous day, hubby and I headed OUT of the beach for a long-overdue stop in what could soon be Delaware’s next “artist colony”: historic Milford, Delaware. In a quick 22-minute jaunt north of the nation’s summer capital lies a wealth of artistic talent and experiences to which everyone should be flocking.

Our trip took us first to Mispillion Art League, which was wrapping up a fantastic exhibit from my favorite Delaware artist, the late Julie Baxendell. Julie’s partner had painstakingly compiled this retrospective of over 100 of her works in every media, and held a silent auction of the pieces of to benefit the Art League. Julie had an amazing sense for color and texture (she was a graphic designer early in her career), which she used to make subjects absolutely pop off the canvas.  Her recurring themes of boats, water, and seaside villages — local Sussex County but also Italy, Key West and Portugal — were bright, playful and realistic but also seemed to send out a serene, otherworldly vibe. (Read my previous blog on her work from September 2009.)

I was so sad to learn that we were too late to bid — everything had sold — but was thrilled for Mispillion and for Julie’s legacy. (We are fortunate to own two of her pieces already, so I guess I shouldn’t be greedy.) Thanks to Mary Ann Benyo for all the love and time that she put into this retrospective.

The curator there encouraged us (since we had nothing to bid on) to visit the Angelucci Studios & Gallery next door & above.  We were welcomed warmly by co-owner Gail Angelucci, and made our way around the exhibit space, filled with wood-turning, metal sculpture, stained glass (Gail’s specialty), pottery, photography, watercolor and more.  I especially enjoyed the solid yet delicate work by wood lathe artist, Steve Childers and the amped-up photography of Gervasio Ruiz, Jr.  We climbed the stairs to the second floor where 10 artists house working studios, including “The Pearl Lady” (Joan Frense Muholland) who greeted us decked in her fine work.

Back in Rehoboth, we enjoyed arts of the culinary variety, this year at Planet X Café — a funky, purple-hued Wilmington Avenue spot with large outdoor seating  area of cushy pillows and breezy décor.  Chef Justine is a master of eclectic fare focusing on organic, vegetarian/vegan dishes, and offering a cool list of unusual cocktails. Monday was ½ wine bottle night and we eagerly took advantage.  We enjoyed the pork dumplings, but I’ll highly recommend the stacked eggplant small plate and the delicious vegan lemon poppy cake with goat cheese frosting. 

Returning to great art at the beach: Our pal Jay Pastore, owner of Rehoboth’s contemporary art house Gallery 50, is hosting his 4th Annual Fine Art Auction on Saturday, August 11, from 6:00-8:45pm at the gallery.  AIDS Delaware will benefit from 100% of the sales that evening.  Jay has been a great partner not only for AIDS Delaware in this respect but also for the many artists who fill his walls. His gallery is one of my favorites to discover new media, up-and-coming artists, and unique pieces. And he makes them all attainable to those of us whose budgets aren’t without limit.  If you’re in Rehoboth next weekend, please stop by and check out the auction. He’s also offering a raffle for a $1,000 gift certificate to the gallery that night — and that could buy you a nice amount of ArtStuff.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hello, Dolly is Back Where She Belongs!

The Brandywiners’ 81st production is the iconic Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart Broadway musical, Hello, Dolly! The expansive Longwood Gardens’ Open Air Theater allows this musical extravaganza to come alive!

Based on the play The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, Hello, Dolly tells the story of the larger-than-life matchmaker and jack-of-all-trades Dolly Gallagher Levi (played by the charismatic Sue Hornung). After the passing of her husband, Dolly has become the go-to woman in New York to find love. Although it’s the 1890’s, Dolly is an independent woman who’s not afraid to go after what she wants in life, including a grouchy, half-a-millionaire, Yonkers grocery store owner and widower, Horace Vandergelder (played by Ms. Hornung’s real-life husband, Tom Hornung). The two have great chemistry and give exceptional performances.

Comic hijinks ensue as Dolly not only meddles in Horace’s life, but also his niece’s (Jenny Torgerson) life -- she’s in love with a struggling artist (Jeff Gorcyca) who Horace despises -- as well as the lives of Horace's employees’ (Alexander Bowditch and Chris Trombetter) -- two young men who disobey their employer and leave the store unattended to go to Manhattan for an adventure. While in the Big Apple the two men meet the women (Kate Connell Wright and Meghan Hindmarch) of their dreams. (Ms. Connell’s soprano voice is exquisite, especially in her act one ballad, Ribbons Down My Back.) With the help of Dolly, each characters’ life is forever changed!

Cal Brackin directs a solid show with enthusiastic choreography by Jody Anderson. Ms. Anderson’s exciting choreography is at its best during the show’s title number, when Dolly leads the chorus members through a rousing dance sequence. In addition to the leads, the other star, as in every Brandywiners’ production, is the outstanding chorus! The chorus members don’t just back up the leads, but instead they join their voices together and make them soar throughout Longwood Gardens.

While performing in 19th century costumes by Beverly A. Parnell and her committee, the chorus and the leads are a feast for the eye. Ms. Hurnung’s gowns and hats never disappoint!

Although the story is a little dated, Hello, Dolly has a memorable score. The music keeps everyone entertained during the two-hour production! 

Going to see The Brandywiners’ is a summer tradition for most people -- for some since 1932. A wonderful tradition for the young and the young at heart to enjoy together! Hello, Dolly closes August 4. To order tickets, call 302.478.3355 or visit Entrance to Longwood is included with the show ticket, so go early to explore the gardens and/or dine at the restaurant or café. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Aubrey Plaza Returns to Wilmington to Premiere Her Latest Film

Aubrey Plaza on the red carpet. Photo: Holly Quinn
Wilmington is not exactly movie premiere central. Jeremy O'Keefe's wrestling premiered in Wilmington in 2008, and Luke Matheny's 2011 Oscar-winning short film "God of Love" was celebrated with a special local screening, but such big-screen events are few and far between. So, when Wilmington's own Aubrey Plaza (star of NBC's "Parks and Recreation") decided to bring her first leading role in a feature film to Delaware for a red carpet premiere, it was a pretty big deal.

Delaware almost didn't get the film, Safety Not Guaranteed, on the big screen. After a successful debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, it was slated to open in select theaters across the country this summer. Unfortunately, none of those theaters were in Plaza's home state. "That was not OK," she said from the stage of the Grand Opera House before the screening, looking stunning in a little black dress. So, with the help of what seems like half of Wilmington (including but not limited to The Wilmington Drama League, The Grand, Theatre N, Ursuline Academy, AIDS Delaware, Delaware Community Foundation, McConnell Johnson, and PSCI), the Delaware premiere of Safety Not Guaranteed became a reality. The event was to be more than a screening: All of the proceeds from the tickets, which ranged from $20 for the movie and Q&A to $125 for a VIP experience including a meet-and-greet reception and afterparty, would go to The Wilmington Drama League.

The choice of beneficiary, said Plaza, was easy. The WDL was her "home away from home" growing up, where she performed with the Chrysalis Players and honed the skills that would eventually shape her career as a professional actress. She reminisced about Delaware with humor and charm, as she was joined onstage by WDL fixture Kathy Buterbaugh. Governor Markell presented her with "naming rights" to any unnamed space in Delaware (he would have simply named a plaza after her, but, he explained, it's not that easy -- "You've all seen 'Parks and Recreation,'" he quipped.) "They'll regret this," Plaza said of her newfound power with a smile.

As for the movie itself, it's funny, moving and unpredictable, with the kind of plot that reminds you that, with an endless parade of remakes, sequels and reboots on the screen this summer, there are still original ideas out there. If you missed the screening, keep an eye out for its home video release. It will be worth the wait.