Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Lend Us an Ear: 'Lend Me a Tenor' is a Heckuva Hit!

By Carol Van Zoeren
Carol is a 40+ year veteran of community theater and retired from DuPont.

Lend Me a Tenor (running at Candlelight Theatre now through June 23) is a six-door farce by prolific playwright Ken Ludwig. Originally produced in the late 1980s, the premise is that a world-famous operatic tenor, Tito Merelli (Paul McElwee), is coming to guest star with a mid-tier opera company. All involved are desperate and determined that this be a success, to raise their standing (individually and as a company) in the opera world.

“Desperate and determined” is an excellent foundation for a farce. And each actor has taken this idea to heart. Heading the action is Max (Jared Calhoun), beleaguered yet ambitious assistant to the Company’s General Manager, Saunders (David Wills). Calhoun and Wills clearly enjoy playing off one another. Their scenes crackle, reminiscent of Bialystock and Bloom in The Producers. I must commend these actors who, in an extremely long nose-to-nose silence, manage to keep a straight face so the audience can laugh, at first uncomfortably, and eventually raucously.

McElwee conveys the arrogance of an international opera star, but he really shines when he too becomes desperate and determined. As his wife, Rebecca Schall embodies the hot-tempered Italian firebrand. Hallie Hargus as Maggie, Saunders’ daughter and Max’s girlfriend, captures the rebellious streak of emerging womanhood. Julia Kershetsky plays Diana, the opera’s sultry soprano star. Hargus and Kershetsky are hysterically naughty in their parallel illicit trysts. Gerri Weagraff nails the flighty society type, and rocks a costume that’s another nod to The Producers. Rounding out the cast is Anthony Connell as the star-struck Bellhop. While Connell is an excellent lead actor, he is also a master of smaller roles. He bides his time in the background, and finds the peak moment and precise delivery to wring all the goody out of his few lines.

While the individual performances are all excellent, what truly elevates this production is the ensemble as a whole. There are short-burst, back-and-forth between two or more actors, and the timing is impeccable, punctuated by the precise slamming of doors. I have noticed this before in Bob Kelly shows: each actor is good, and their ensemble work makes the show great. Kudos to him, and to the cast for doing the hard work to get this timing spot on. And another thing 
— under a less-disciplined director and cast, farces can accelerate to runaway trains, leaving the audience as exhausted and confused as the actors. Kelly and cast intersperse short-burst mania with slow burn comedy, carefully mining the text for the best laughs. 

On the technical side, the costumes were effective. I mentioned Weagraff’s above, but also note the Pagliacci costume, makeup and hair that made the mistaken identities totally believable. (Oops, maybe that was a spoiler. Sorry.) And kudos to the scenic designer, Envision Productions. It’s not easy to build a set with doors that are robust enough to endure this much slamming.

Oh, the curtain call is a special treat. Jus’ sayin’.

Bottom line? Candlelight’s production of Lend Me a Tenor is a heck of a lot of fun. Sit back and enjoy!
See www.candlelighttheatredelaware.com

Footnote: In the original late 80s version, Merelli was going to star in Othello, in blackface. Guess that seemed funny at the time. Thankfully, this has been updated to Pagliacci, with the tenor in clown face.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

DiAE 'Spotlights' the Arts in Delaware in Signature Event

This post content comes from a release from the Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education...

Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education (DiAE) will host Spotlight, An Evening of the Arts on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at The Queen in Wilmington. DiAE will also honor Delaware's 17th Poets Laureate, the Twin Poets
Delaware State Representative Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Al Mills.

A VIP pre-party kicks off the evening with fare from Food for Thought, a cash bar and a teaching artist experience with Jason Keller of J.K. Percussion. The main event will include a rousing West African drumming and dance performance by artists Tony Vacca, Abdou Sarr and Massamba Diopwho is featured throughout the Academy Award-winning score of Marvel's Black Panther. Guest artists-in-training from Warner Elementary School will have the opportunity to share the stage with the performers. 

DiAE has designed educational experiences with Warner and Stubbs Elementary Schools to prepare students for the performance. Prior to the event, students will participate in an immersive workshop series facilitated by DiAE teaching artist Jason Keller. Students will have the opportunity to learn traditional West African rhythms and play them in unison, experience poly-rhythm techniques and create an ensemble piece to share with their peers. Fifth Grade students from Warner will participate in West African music and dance workshops with Tony Vacca and Abdou Sarr.

The DiAE school arts-integrated residencies, performances and workshops are supported by Light Up the Queen Foundation, with additional support from Children and Families First Delaware, Warner Shortlidge Arts Alliance, Red Clay Consolidated School District and the Delaware Division of the Arts, in partnership with the National Endowment of the Arts. 

Tickets for VIP pre-party & show are $50 (or $35 educator discount); show-only tickets are $15.
All can be purchased online

Monday, April 29, 2019

Bootless Hosts Parody of Child Pageantry with "Honey"

By Mike Logothetis
"Logo" grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.


Over the weekend (April 26-28, 2019), Trolley Square’s underground theater, Bootless Stageworks, offered its space to stage a very funny new musical called Close Your Legs, Honey. From Friday night through the Sunday matinee, a pre-teen beauty pageant was taking place in the basement of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church.

The show follows girls in a Tennessee pageant as they dance, sing, answer interview questions, pose for the judges, and spend time backstage. In the cut-throat world of child pageants, the young ladies are the heroines as well as the villains in this short musical. But the focus is on little Honey and her commanding “Mama,” who was a beauty queen in her youth.

Show co-creator Hannah Parke plays the titular Honey perfectly. In Honey, we see a child trying to please her demanding mother (Katherine Perry) as well as step forward in her own voice. Honey has an innocent, but independent streak and can’t always understand why the other pageant girls don’t really like her. Jenna Kuerzi (Sweetie), Colleen Murphy (Angel), and Kendyll Young (Baby) act wonderfully as foils to Parke’s Honey. Each girl has her own personality quirks and demons.

Smarmy host (Grant Struble) keeps the action rolling, introducing each segment of the pageant. A lot of the fun comes through visions provided by Mama’s “go-go juice.” Each time she and/or Honey sip a little too much, Tennessee’s own Dolly Parton (Camille E. Young) appears before them. Dolly has some of the best songs in the show and commands the stage, just like in real life.

The physical humor in the show was outstanding. Having adults portray children’s eccentricities in a blocked and choreographed musical is not easy. Movements need to be precise and children are anything but that. The women portraying the pageant girls were off-step as contestants, but right on cue when backstage 
 i.e., not being judged. Kudos to director/co-creator Shamus Hunter McCarty and choreographer Dana Kreitz for their work portraying little kids doing anything to please adults.

The final musical number has the pageant girls rejecting the pageant system and their parents to rebelliously embrace who they are. But who’s the pageant winner? In the end, the audience wins and the cast and crew deserve a big round of applause.

Bootless Stageworks did not produce this traveling show, but offered its space to share the fun with Delawareans lucky enough to have attended. The book, music, and lyrics to Close Your Legs, Honey were written by Parke and McCarty. Orchestrations and arrangements were by Damien Figueras and Matthew Mastronardi provided additional music. Eleanor Safer was the stage manager for this short theatrical run in Wilmington. It’s no surprise the show was a hit at the 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

For more information on the musical, visit www.closeyourlegshoney.com.

Bootless is a collaborative group of self-proclaimed theater geeks that are always looking for the strange, unusual, weird 
 but always entertaining — adventure in live theater, comedy and music. 

Visit www.bootless.org for a list of future events and shows.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Go Back to the '90s with CTC's Wacky & Wild "Pub Plays"

Legendary O'Friel's Irish Pub
owner Kevin Freel emcees
Pub Plays.
Photos: Jim Coarse/Moonloop Photoggraphy
By Mike Logothetis
"Logo" grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.


Party at the pub like it’s 1993 with City Theater Company (CTC)! CTC wraps its 25th season with “Pub Plays” — a love letter/throwback to the company’s early days downtown at O’Friel’s Irish Pub. In fact, former pub owner Kevin Freel acts as a host/historian for the production, speaking at the onset and at other intervals between the five short plays.

The evening showcases a full program of plays in a nod to CTC’s tradition of comedic, experimental, and new works. Both Delaware and national playwrights’ works are presented.

The featured plays (in order) are: Sure Thing by David Ives; Beef Junkies by Jonathan Dorf; Green Eggs and Mamet by Matt Casarino; All About Emily by Drury Pifer and Betty by George Tietze.

Adiah Simpson 
in CTC's Pub Plays.

Tietze is also the director of “Pub Plays.” His
Betty is a new original work, in which he stars as David along with Adiah Simpson (HerBot6000) and the disembodied voice of Mary Catherine Kelly (Betty). The work provides an interesting look at artificial intelligence (or a higher being?) trying to be human, but unable to understand the subtleties of humanity. Simpson’s physical performance is superb. Her neutral face with programmed expressions and movements is mesmerizing. Tietze’s David is a sympathetic character, but also makes the audience wonder if this setting is in a prison or sanitarium or futuristic apartment complex. The staggered ending is a clever theater construct which adds to the story and the underlying question about the nature of the relationship between David and Betty.


Another good pairing of actors was in the opening Sure Thing starring Rebecca Cook and Anthony Paparo (photo at right). David Ives has written a comedy of opportunity and potential happening between a man and woman during a chance encounter. Bill and Betty may or may not be looking for companionship in a series of micro-conversations (along one arc) with alternate reactions and results. It’s a fun mixture of Groundhog Day and Mad Libs. 

Paparo has a sleezier turn in a second two-actor play with David C. Hastings. Green Eggs and Mamet is Delaware playwright Matt Casarino’s experiment in rewriting Dr. Seuss’ "Green Eggs and Ham” as if David Mamet had penned it. Clever wordplay, literary references, and mystery bounce between the two men who meet at a bar. There is a lot of cursing that rhymes!

Beef Junkies is a twisted and bizarre tale by Jonathan Dorf that seems to take place in an apocalyptic future devoid of meat 
 beef, chicken, pork, fish, and ostrich(!). Kerry Kristine McElrone (Cowgirl) twitches her way into your brain, jonesing for freshly killed beef from the last cow on Earth. Her partner in crime is Tietze (Cowboy), a conniving man intent on getting his due through any means. Shepherd, played by Christopher Banker, is the only sympathetic/kind character and is willing to do anything to protect his charge. Can Betty the Bovine and Sal the Salmon be saved?

The late Drury Pifer’s All About Emily takes a long path to make a straightforward point about the not-so-disparate world of academic minds and mental institutionalization. From the get-go, the audience knows zaniness is afoot with the male characters being played by women and the women by men 
 save for the lone, sane PhD student Cindy, played by Cook. Professors McClack (Allyson Sands), McDingbat (Tricia Sullivan), and Nougat (Kelly) speak nonsensically with conviction based in their learned heads. Sentences like: “I only give A’s…Why subvert the system?” dominate the stage, along with a lot of flies to swat! Emily Dickinson (Banker) is a joy to watch spew bizarre statements (about seducing cabbages) while in feminine poses. But the overarching joke gets stale and runs a tad long even with the actors doing wonderful physical comedy. I can only conclude by saying, “Aloha!”

CTC specializes in intimate, immersive theater, and “Pub Plays” is able to connect with the audience through these five interesting vignettes. City Theater Company has more production space in Studio One than in its previous “Black Box” location, but the action remains in the forefront and close to the audience.

A bar set inside the "pub" offers a wide selection of soft and alcoholic drinks to enjoy during the show. Twin Lakes Brewery Company will provide complimentary beer tastings at the May 3 and 4 performances.

“Pub Plays” continues tonight (April 27, 2019) and will conclude its two-week run from Wednesday through next Saturday (May 1-4, 2019). All performances begin at 8:00pm. The show runs about 2.5 hours, which includes one “Colossal CTC Bonus Super One-Time Scene Change.” 


City Theater Company’s new home — Studio One at the Grand Opera House — is located at 818 North Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801. General admission is $30, and tickets can be purchased at the box office or online. Special ticket pricing is available for military personnel, students, and youth (ages 15 & under). But be advised for younger audience members: Some content contains coarse language, alcohol consumption, drug references and sexual situations.

Call The Grand Box Office at 302.652.5577 or visit thegrandwilmington.org for details.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Sensational Singing Steals the Stage at the Music School

By Christine Facciolo
What do you get when members of the voice faculty of The Music School of Delaware come together for an evening of song? A night of “Sensational Singing.”

Sopranos Joanne Ward and Marybeth Miller, alto/jazz vocalist Maria Rusu, countertenor Augustine Mercante and bass Colin Armstrong offered a program that spanned every conceivable genre and period: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, jazz, folk and Broadway.

Ward, who chairs the voice faculty, applied her strong, crystalline soprano to a set of contemporary songs that traced the journey of a couple from their courting days (Seymour Barab’s setting of James Stevens’ poem "The Daisies” from his song cycle The Rivals) to commitment (Norman Dello Joio’s setting of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s How Do I Love Thee) to their parting through death (Gwyneth Walker’s setting of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar).

Ward lightened the mood with Sheldon Harnick’s contemporary madrigal The Ballad of the Shape of Things. Richard Gangwisch’s piano winked while Ward’s vocal — wisely 
— played it straight. Marvelous!

Ward and Miller then combined their very different sopranos in a rendering of Lucy Simon’s Clusters of Crocus/Come to My Garden from "The Secret Garden.”

Miller returned a bit later applying her ethereal soprano to John Corigliano’s Three Irish Folksong Settings: I. The Sally Gardens, II. The Foggy Dew and III. She Moved Through the Fair. Corigliano’s “otherworldly” approach evoked a journey through an alien landscape. The songs pitted Miller’s voice against the rhapsodic line of Melinda Bowman’s flute, placing these well-known folk tunes in a new environment.

Miller showed off her versatility joining with alto Maria Rusu in an energetic rendering of Wrong Note Rag from Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town.

Countertenor Augustine Mercante offered two bittersweet selections with Schubert’s In Abendrot and Alec Wilder’s Blackberry Winter, countertenor David Daniels’ signature song. Although it is a song of joy, In Abendrot is a leave-taking song, moving us to tears as it reminds us of the fleeting beauty of a sunset — and of our own mortality.

Mercante does not just sing (albeit exquisitely) a lyric so much as he lives and loves it. That depth became evident in his emotional and mature exploration of Wilder’s Blackberry Winter with its pained realization of “I’ll never get over losing you/But I’ve learned that life goes on.”

Mercante opened his set with A Chloris by Reynaldo Hahn, who as ex-lover of Marcel Proust, has much to share about separations, sentiments and remembrance.

Bass Colin Armstrong treated the students of singing in the audience with a concert rendition of Amarilli, mia bella, the most well-known of Giullio Caccini’s solo madrigals and a staple of just about every vocal teacher. It was a nice change to hear it so beautifully delivered in performance.

Armstrong also offered a rendition of the nostalgic I’ll Be Seeing You. He decided to include the rarely heard chorus, which opens with the line “Cathedral bells were tolling/And our hears sang on/Was it the spell of Paris/Or the April dawn?” An eerie reminder of what had just happened in the City of Lights two days earlier.

Armstrong’s set also included J.S. Bach’s So du willst from Aus der tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir, BWV 131 which he performed with Maria Rusu.

Then it was Rusu’s time to shine and shine she did in a set of jazz classics, including On Green Dolphin Street and Tony Bennett’s signature The Good Life by Sasha Distel. Her scatting skills were amply displayed in Sandu, by trumpet great and Wilmington native Clifford Brown.

The evening concluded with an a capella performance of the soaring Make Our Garden Grow, from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.

For more magic of music, see www.musicschoolofdelaware.org

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"HONK" If You Like DTC's New Family Production -- We Do!

By Guest Bloggers Erin, Ellie & Maggie Lacey
Erin is a mom of 4 kids and works as a Business Processor for Point to Point Wealth Management in Wilmington. When not at work or home, she can usually be found costuming her kids' shows at the Delaware Children's Theater. Ellie is an 8th Grade Vocal Major and Maggie is a 7th Grade Piano major at Cab Calloway School of the Arts.


Have you ever felt like an ugly duckling, like you are different and you don’t fit in? That pretty much describes me from age 9 to age 16. Gangly, with a bad perm and glasses, I devoured stories like The Ugly Duckling to help keep the hope alive that some day I would fit in. 


The HONK cast rehearses "Wild Goose Chase" at Delaware Theatre Company. 
Photo by Ann Marley.
Because of this, I was very excited to get to meet two of the stars of Delaware Theatre Company’s Honk: The Ugly Duckling Musical to hear about what makes this show so special. I was extra excited to have my daughter Ellie with me to ask all the questions.

Kim Carson from Hellertown, Pennsylvania, plays Ida, a mom trying to keep her ducks in a row. Camiel Warren-Taylor from West Chester, 
Pennsylvania, is “Downy”, Ugly’s sassy sister.  Kim is a veteran of DTC and is the winner of the 2018 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical as Helen in Fun Home at the Arden Theatre Company. 

She said that being a mom to 2-year-old Johnny has made her understand her role as Ida, Ugly’s mother, in a different way. “Bud [our director] asked me if I would be as emotional when Ida thinks Ugly is dead, and I think that those emotions are just so much closer to the surface now” she said. Camiel likes how Ugly handles the teasing and taunting from the others. She said that she has been teased for her name, but she as she says, “There is a reason for my difference and it makes me special.” Camiel is a spitfire with big dreams, and I can’t wait to see her make her DTC debut.

My daughter Ellie, at age 14, is in 8th Grade, and from what I can tell, middle school hasn’t gotten easier since I was an ugly duckling. She loves this show because of its message of inclusion and forgiveness. “More than ever, we need to accept people for who they are and celebrate diversity,” she says. “It’s important for parents to know that their kids will be all right, even if they are different.”

Honk: The Ugly Duckling Musical is the kind of show that is so entertaining that you don’t really notice you are getting a lesson along with it. The music is interesting enough to keep adults' attention and kids will love the adorable characters. 


Honk: The Ugly Duckling Musical opens April 17 and runs through May 12, 2019. Delaware Theatre Company is offering a “relaxed performance” on April 30 for ducklings and their families who would like a sensory-friendly performance. 

Tickets start at $25 ($20 for student tickets with valid ID) and can be purchased at www.delawaretheatre.org or by calling 302.594.1100.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Remembering Victims of Gun Violence Through Moving Spirituals Performance

By Christine Facciolo

Countertenor Augstine (Gus) Mercante offered some perspectives on his long — and sometimes complicated — relationship with the African American spiritual in the program notes of his March 31 concert, There's a Man Going 'Round: Remembering Victims of Gun Violence, as part of The Arts at Trinity series at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wilmington.


He first fell in love with the repertoire when at age 16 he auditioned for All-State Chorus. Burleigh’s Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child was the audition piece. Years later, he submitted the work to fill the English Art Song requirement for a voice competition and was shocked when one of the judges told him that white singers shouldn’t sing spirituals in a concert setting.

Countertenor Gus Mercante accompanied by pianist
Hiroko Yamazaki. Photo courtesy of Gus Mercante.
Fast forward to the summer of 2006. Mercante was studying at the Mozarteum when he got an invitation from internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry to sing for her in her apartment. After they sang for each other, he asked her if she though white people should be sing spirituals. She looked right at him and said: “Anyone with a soul can sing a spiritual.”

Mercante certainly has soul, plus a robust high male voice of unique strength and deliberate, rhapsodic lyricism and expression. Mercante does not just sing a song, he brings it to life. (Note: If you haven’t seen him perform a comic English opera with Brandywine Baroque, definitely put it on your to-do list.)

The program, dedicated to the victims of gun violence, opened on an appropriately somber and sorrowful note with two selections from Bach Cantatas: Wir mussen durch viel Trubsal and Kreuz und Krone sind verbunden.

Mercante raised the specter of death with a dynamic rendering of the Schubert Lied Der Tod und das Madchen, with dramatic vocal characterizations of Death and the Maiden.

Less dramatic, but equally powerful, were Faure’s setting of the Verlaine poem "Clair de lune,” Nocturne Op. 43, No. 2 — kudos to Mercante for including this much-neglected song — and Schubert’s Im Abendrot, all of which juxtaposed the melancholy of the characters with the beauty and grandeur of the moon and the sunset.

The first half of the concert wrapped up with two contemporary selections: the resigned simplicity of William Bolcom’s Waitin’ (from Cabaret Songs) and H. Leslie Adams’ Prayer (from Nightsongs) which Mercante delivered with maximum emotional impact through dynamic contrast and textual clarity.

The second half of the program, which was devoted to spirituals, opened with Mercante processing into the sanctuary singing the traditional Guide My Feet. The set included Burleigh’s Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, which sparked Mercante’s interest in the Negro spiritual. This set contained some very moving performances, notably a powerful rendering of the apocryphal There’s a Man Going ‘Round and Crucifixion, which nearly brought some audience members — including this one — to tears.

And if you closed your eyes, you might have sworn it was the late Marian Anderson singing Burleigh’s My Lord, What a Morning.

The concert concluded on a triumphant note with the glorious Ride On, King Jesus.

Mercante was ably supported by Hiroko Yamazaki at the piano, while Sherry Goodill and Marion Yager Hamermesh of the Hanover Dance Collective brought visual interest and kinetic energy to select songs.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Apply to the Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency

Post content from a press release from Light Up the Queen Foundation...

A friendly reminder that Light Up the Queen will be accepting applications for the Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency through Sunday, April 7, 2019 until 11:59pm (EST). 

If someone you know is a jazz composer/performer between the ages of 17-25, this is for them. The Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency is designed to give participants an intense learning experience that will help them find their sound, mature as a musician, and make lasting connections with like-minded peers.

The residency program will include numerous performance opportunities, with a final concert to be formed on June 23 — the last day of the program — at 3:00pm at The Queen Theater in downtown Wilmington.

This year's residency will be from June 9-23, 2019 and is fully subsidized, meaning housing and meals are included. Want to learn more about the program and apply?

Visit https://lightupthequeen.org/boysie-lowery-living-jazz-residency/.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Whether to Shock or Enchant: Bootless Stageworks Expands Wilmington’s Arts Offerings

Content of this post originated from the blog by JulieAnne Cross of inWilmDE.com...

The cast of Disenchanted.
Photo courtesy of Bootless Stageworks.
For nine out of the last ten years, Bootless Stageworks has staged horror-themed musical theater productions, usually in the summer, such as Evil Dead, The Musical and The Texas Chainsaw Musical!, featuring the company’s signature “splatter zone,” a section of seating where tarps and ponchos protect guests from a thorough soaking of stage blood. And where other guests wear white shirts that will serve as a stained souvenir of their experience. 

But don’t let the preponderance of singing, sweltering gore-fests fool you.

From “a galaxy far, far away” to human trafficking right here in this country, Bootless has tackled subject matter holding what is likely the broadest appeal of any theater company in Delaware, and is making its mark on the greater performing arts community by opening its doors wide to talented neighbors.

The Bootless origin story starts like just about every other arts nonprofit in our state: a group of talented friends was looking for a way to express themselves. These friends included Rosanne DellAversano and James W. Fuerst, the husband and wife team who are both co-founders and leaders of Bootless. At first known as Arden Club Theatre, after five years, Bootless gained its 501c3 in 2009…and immediately needed to seek a new venue.

During its early years, Bootless put on shows at the Church of Saints Andrew & Matthew, Reach Academy for Girls, Bellanca Air Service Hangar (replete with on-site firefighters, since the hangar was not equipped with sprinklers), empty storefronts at Riverfront Wilmington and OperaDelaware Studios.

After wandering the theatrical desert, Bootless signed a long-term lease with St. Stephen’s Church at 13th and Broom in 2014. Bootless has diligently renovated the church’s basement social hall into a 75-seat theater and flex space, and began offering five to six year-round performances in their own home.

Since then, the Bootless crew has invited hip hop, drag, comedy, open mic, and even other theater companies to share the same stage where Bootless puts on musicals, operettas, operas and stage plays.

Recent artistic guests have included Wilmington drag performer Miss Troy (possibly more widely known for her alter-ego, Aunt Mary Pat DiSabatino), a documentary presented by the Afrikan Connection and live comedy presented by Nova Scotia-born Belynda Cleare.

If generating income through refreshment sales seems like the goal of opening up their venue to entrepreneurial guest artists, you’d be underestimating Bootless’ support of performers.

DellAversano says, “Bootless firmly believes that choosing to be a working performing artist is one of the toughest career paths. It isn’t the standard nine-to-five job, and only in rare cases does it make one rich.” She adds, “The reward is usually the sheer joy of seeing a total stranger laugh, cry, contemplate or discover because of your interaction with them. During those ninety minutes or so of togetherness, there is nothing else but what is taking place on stage and being shared. It’s a profession that is uniquely intimate with millions. And, the experience provided by the artist has a real value.”

She describes the typical experience of a performing artist, which is often sharing their talents for free. The term “starving artist” is neither new nor, sadly, outdated.

Empathizing with the artists she engages, DellAversano says, “You wouldn’t ask a plumber to complete repairs for free. Why then is it perfectly fine to ask or assume an artist will work without pay? Food can’t be bought and bills can’t be paid with exposure.”

In a stroke of irony, Bootless’ founders, board and executive staff are volunteers, yet they see that their artists, including designers, musicians, playwrights and composers, get paid, and offer the same opportunity for guest artists.

DellAversano says, “Most of the time, we provide our space for free, so long as we can run concessions. Whether it be Brandon Jackson or Belynda Cleare with their comedy shows, Jea Street with his CD release party, Joe Belardo with his Open Mic Night, Miss Troy & Friends with Drag Me to Story Time, or the Afrikan Connection with the documentary film The Black Candle, Bootless does not charge a fee for the use of its venue. Plus, the artists/exhibitors keep their entire ticket sales.” 

The drag community has found a supportive home with Bootless. Preceded by Death is a Drag, a Bootless original murder mystery drag show in 2012, a number of drag events have been staged at the Broom Street facility, with more in the future.

Bootless regularly presents works that are new to Delaware audiences. IN fact, the 2016-2017 season only featured a single “standard” work — Spring Awakening — and in 2010-2011, all the company’s productions were either originals or Delaware premieres.

Approximately thirty productions in Bootless’ ten-year history were regional or local premieres. That’s too many to list, but highlights include: Orange Is The New Musical (East Coast premiere, 2017), In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) (Delaware premiere, 2016), Terminator, The Second (East Coast premiere, 2014), Jerry Springer, The Opera (regional premiere, 2012), Star Wars, A New Musical Hope (regional premiere, 2013) and a few more summer gore-fests.

Lest one think their repertoire is all pop culture and sex, note that Bootless has also tackled historical subject matter, such as The Trial of Thomas Garrett, commissioned for A Day in Old New Castle in 2010.

DellAversano says that Bootless is in contract discussions to bring several more new works to Wilmington by 2020, including a new musical based on famous serial killers, in the style of Assassins, with many members from Bootless working on its plot lines and music.

With general admission ticket prices usually lingering in the $15-22 range, it’s clear Bootless also cares about its audience. Plus it’s ADA accessible and free parking is easy to find. It makes up for moderate ticket pricing, like every other nonprofit theater, with fundraising.

Be sure to support this scrappy theater company by attending one of the mainstage productions, an open mic night, a comedy night, a visiting theater company’s production or one of the two upcoming drag shows this spring. Our picks:
  • Spice Girls Drag Tribute (Miss Troy & Friends) on Thursday, May 16 at 7:30pm.
Up next on the main stage is the INternational hit musical Disenchanted!, making its Delaware premiere from March 22 to April 6. It’s a hilariously twisted, adult themed, Disney spoof-tacular princess musical. In New York, 700 women auditioned for a one-night-only workshop of the musical, which sold out and resulted in a standing ovation, and went on to 2014 and 2015 runs, studded with celebrity audience members.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Artist Roderick Hidalgo: Torch of INspiration

Content of this post originated from the blog by Jill Althouse-Wood of inWilmDE.com...

When you are driving to interview an artist and the only thing you know about him is that his latest series of work is entirely black, as in… black layered on black, black poured over black, and black dotted with more black, you end up mind-diving through all the clichés. Is this guy Emo? Goth? New York City slick? Commander of the Night’s Watch? Darth frickIN’ Vader? Meeting Roderick Hidalgo in person defied all these preconceived notions. If I had to describe him in a word, it would be exuberant. 

Gummies on Parade by Rick Hidalgo.
Photo by Joe del Tufo/Moonloop Photography.
Hidalgo greeted me at the door of his Hockessin studio/gallery space dressed in — you guessed it –– black. To be fair, I had dressed in black, too –– a trick I was employing to put my subject at ease. But I didn’t need to put Rick Hidalgo at ease; he was already in his bliss. I arrived on the day that his work was being photographed. It was a celebration of completed works which lined the walls, but huge worktables in the center of the space charged the gallery with that edgy chaos of works-in-progress. Looking more closely at these densely layered relief paintings in the photographer’s queue, I felt grateful that I was writing about these pieces and not trying to photograph them. How could a camera capture all that is going on in this wall art without the usual delineating crutches of color and tone?

Many of the pieces are heavy in relief. That sculptural quality will help viewers of the photographs get a sampling of the work, but you need to see these painting/sculpture hybrids in person to have the full experience. I wanted to reach out and run my fingers over the terrain of them. Some areas are slick, transitioning to rougher textures, while other of the works are subtler and more nuanced in their layering. Hidalgo uses different mediums and often collages objects onto canvases. One series of small square canvases features clear cubes adhered to the surfaces. Another work is a collage made up entirely of toy army men sprayed black. And then there was a piece that I can only describe as a black breast with a mirrored finish. Think what you like. Hidalgo forgoes interpretation and invites viewers to come to the pieces with his or her own varied life experience. The army man piece has created associations for war vets and peaceniks alike but for different reasons. And for some, the connection creates a map back to their childhood.

Hidalgo’s work wasn’t always so narrow of palette. Perusing his online gallery, I saw examples of early encaustics and poured lacquer paintings where bright color bloomed and spilled into hypnotic galaxies of pattern. He told me that he was honing his craft, learning techniques and getting a handle on his materials. Seeing the progression from his earlier pieces, it was easy to believe that his current work is a rejection of color and all that came before.

Hidalgo denies this. “I’ve been developing this language over fifteen years,” he said as we survey the line of finished pieces before us. His wasn’t some deep descent into the shadow realm as much as a “coming full circle,” an embrace of all that came before. I considered this for a moment, and he was right. In painting, black is a coming together of all pigments, not the rejection of them.

“This is the work I have been gearing up for. I have found my voice.”

He isn’t using that voice for his art alone. Hidalgo transcends the scope of a singular artist by promoting other local talent. See him as a tastemaker or a rule-breaker, but either way, his vision is on the rise in Wilmington. Besides his Hockessin gallery where he hosts bi-monthly exhibits of local and international artists, Hidalgo has been curating shows in the corporate galleries of Capital One in Wilmington. And he is gearing up to present a group exhibition next month at The Delaware Contemporary that will act as a complement to “Blackout,” the solo show of his latest works. The group show,“The Fire Theft,” will showcase eleven local artists as they riff on the myth that tells the story of how the earth got fire (and color).

Curious, I had to look up the myth. According to the story, there was a time when the world was cold, barren, and bleak. In this devastating landscape, there existed one fabulously plumed bird with a rainbow of tailfeathers. This special bird was tasked with flying to the sun to steal some of its fire to bring back to the desolate earth. The bird was successful, but upon returning with the flaming torch, he scorched the whole landscape and all of its inhabitants. But fire brings new life, and from this blackened environment, bright flowers blossomed, and creatures started sprouting scales and feathers in every hue. However, the bird was too charred by the journey for his original jeweled plumage to return. He remained black and charred, sacrificing his own color in the process of bringing light and color to the earth.

Does that sound like a metaphor for a certain artist’s journey? Perhaps. But forget all the clichés about sacrificial lambs or tortured artists where Roderick Hidalgo is concerned. Dude is one joyful black bird who is bringing the torch of INspiration to Wilmington.

For more information on Roderick Hidalgo or RH Gallery in Hockessin, check out his website or Facebook page. “Blackout” works by Roderick Hidalgo and “The Fire Theft” Group Exhibition, curated by Roderick Hidalgo, RH Gallery will be on display at The Delaware Contemporary, 200 South Madison Street; Wilmington, April 5-26, 2019 with an opening reception: Friday, April 5, 2019 from 5-9pm during Art Loop Wilmington.

Piffaro Channels Greek Muse for Dancer's Delight Performance

By Christine Facciolo

The calendar may have read March 17, but nary a note of an Irish gigue was to be heard in the sanctuary of Christ Church in Greenville, Delaware.

Rather, there were plenty of bransles, courantes, bourees galliardes and voltes as Piffaro joined with viol consort Sonnambula to present “Dancers’ Delight,” a celebration of Michael Praetorius’ Terpsichore.

Back, (L-R): Grant Herreid, Priscilla Herreid, Joan Kimball, Greg Ingles
& Fiona Last of Piffaro. Front: Sonnambula’s Jude Ziliak & Toma Iliev.
Photo courtesy of Piffaro.
I was unwittingly — and quite happily — introduced to those sunshine tunes via the 1967 pop hit Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead which incorporated La Bouree (32) as a musical interlude. Of course, there was no Internet back then to help me research what that sparkling tune was. It wasn’t until I got to graduate studies in Musicology that the mystery was solved.

Terpsichore — which takes its name from the Greek muse of dance — is a compendium of more than 300 (312 to be exact) dances collected, arranged and published by German composer Michael Praetorius in 1612. Most of the entrees are French dances — and Praetorius strives to include all varieties — but some come from elsewhere in Europe, for example, England and Spain.

This is not particularly profound music; most Renaissance composers directed their serious energies toward the church. But it is eminently listenable. Crisp, short and punchy, these dances deliver a certain impact with the distinct sounds of the instruments, the varied rhythms and the sheer tunefulness.

The program featured about 30 representative selections, grouped according to the type of dance.

The Terpsichore provides scant information about which instruments should play which parts but the resources available for this concert drew on a wide assortment of strings, harpsichord, percussion and winds, including shawms, recorders, krumhorns, dulcians, sackbuts and bagpipes. The resultant sound was wonderfully colorful and at times, delightfully coarse. The lively spirit of the performances — there was even an exuberant jam session on the Bransle de la Torche — made the entire experience feel authentic.

The musicians were clearly having a ball. Priscilla Herreid was magical as always on recorder and both she and Joan Kimball were soothingly mesmerizing on bagpipes. The Renaissance brass was also superb — you’d swear you were listening to modern valved instruments so robust and secure was their tone.

The concert also introduced to the Wilmington audience Fiona Last, inaugural participant in Piffaro’s Renaissance residency program designed to identify and cultivate professional players who are interested in pursuing period double reeds and brass.

For anyone wanting to experience this rarely performed work again, the program will be repeated when Piffaro guests with Sonnambula, ensemble-in-residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the Met Cloisters on June 1 at 3:00pm in New York City.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Totally Awesome Players & Delaware Young Playwrights Festival Hit the DTC Stage

DTC's Totally Awesome Players.
Photo courtesy of Delaware Theatre Company.
The content of this post comes from Delaware Theatre Company's email newsletter...

Totally Awesome Players Performs Two Original Plays
Over 25 years ago, Charles Conway, Danny Peak and some brave young actors  with support from the Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities (DFRC)  began this inspiring ensemble of kids called the Totally Awesome Players (TAP) Program. This troupe, and its newer cohort, TAP 2 ensemble founded in 2012, employ acting skills and the creation of a play to increase the collaborative skills and active creativity of adults with intellectual disabilities.

Now, the group of adults still meets weekly to collaborate with one another and put on a show. This season, as always, began with a theme: Time to Change, brainstorming how our lives can change in small ways and large ways, and how we react to the changes that we are unable to control. 

From there, the group of 33 performers and nine volunteers devised two original plays: The Best Laid Plans, a story of four students in detention exploring the paths their lives might take, and One, Two, Three, Change, a woman’s journey of positive small changes that transform into larger life changes.

The players worked tirelessly from November to March, not only improving their acting and memorizing skills, but retaining and growing the fundamental pillars of the program established back in 1992: You Can’t Be Wrong 
 a brainstorming rule that encourages any and all ideas, and No Negatives  toward yourself or others.

On Monday, March 18, 2019 the ensemble will share their original works on the DTC mainstage in the culminating performance. Admission is $5, and a reception follows the performance. 

The TAP troupes meet weekly, and participants create, write, rehearse and perform a play. These original plays are presented on the mainstage of DTC and other community venues. The program has also offered in-school workshops at the Howard T. Ennis School, a school for students with significant disabilities located in Sussex County and Kent County Community School in Dover.

The winners of the Delaware Young Playwrights Festival.
Photo courtesy of Delaware Theatre Company.
DTC Fully Produces Five Student Plays
The Delaware Young Playwrights Festival (DYPF) is a program designed to provide an outlet for Delaware students in Grades 8-12 to get the professional playwright treatment. DTC brought in designers and professional actors to bring their plays to the stage with lights, projections, sound, costumes and props.

After months of writing and editing, the culminating performance was attended by 175 people and honored all 83 students who wrote plays this season. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Delaware Young Playwrights Festival Winners
  • The Lines of Our Lives Jordyn Flaherty, Charter School of Wilmington
  • In All Honesty | Jalyn Horhn, MOT Charter High School
  • (A Little Bit) of the Book of Exodus | Tristen Hudson, St. Elizabeth School
  • Senior Year Shakespeare | John Morrison, St. Elizabeth School
  • Star Signs and Book Shops | Madelyn Thomas, St. Elizabeth School

Friday, March 15, 2019

Rehoboth Art League Hosts 23rd Young at Art Exhibition

This post content comes from a Rehoboth Art League press release...

On Saturday March 16, 2019 the Rehoboth Art League (RAL) will host the works of over 250 young artists. Students from 25 public and private schools in Sussex County will gather for the opening of the 23rd Annual Young at Art exhibit on the historic Henlopen Acres campus of the Art League. This year’s exhibit will be on view in the Corkran and Tubbs Galleries from March 16 through March 31, with an opening reception on Saturday, March 16 from 10:00am-2:00pm, with award presentations at 11:00am.

The exhibition will feature teacher-selected artwork created by students in elementary, middle and high schools in Sussex County. Each art teacher has selected the best student works to represent the school, which will be judged with ribbons, cash awards, and scholarships. In addition to a Best in Show Award and Awards of Excellence Prizes for elementary, middle, and high school students, two promising students will receive Pre-College Scholarships to the Delaware College of Art and Design. Furthermore, six promising young middle school artists will receive a Picasso O’Keeffe Scholarship to be used towards art supplies or classes.

This event is free and open to the public. Also, on display in the Step-Up Gallery is our Members’ Sales Exhibition, showcasing an eclectic collection of fine art and crafts by RAL Member Artists.

This exhibition is being underwritten by PNC Bank and is sponsored by the Village Improvement Association, The Howard Pyle Studio Group, and Old World Breads. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Chelsea Anokye-Agyei to Represent Delaware in 2019 Poetry Out Loud Finals

Chelsea Anokye-Agyei in performance.
Photo by Joe del Tufo.
This post content comes from a Delaware Division of the Arts press release...

From an initial field of 20 Delaware high school students and then 12 state finalists, Chelsea Anokye-Agyei, a senior from Hodgson Vo-Tech High School, earned the title of 2019 Poetry Out Loud Delaware State Champion at the state finals held in Smyrna on February 26. The first runner-up was Samuel McGarvey from Tall Oaks Classical School, and the second runner-up was Sarah Stevenson from Milford Senior High School.

Anokye-Agyei’s final recitation, The Albatross by Kate Bass, earned her high marks with the judges. The full poem can be found on the Poetry Foundation’s website.

For her winning presentation, Anokye-Agyei will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington with a chaperone to compete at the national championship on April 29-May 1. Hodgson Vo-Tech High School will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. Samuel McGarvey, the first runner-up, will receive $100, and Tall Oaks Classical School will receive $200 for its school library.

The Poetry Out Loud state competition, sponsored by the Delaware Division of the Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Bootless Stageworks Hosts Comedy Night

By Mike Logothetis

On Friday night, Trolley Square’s underground theater, Bootless Stageworks, staged a rollicking comedy night open to all ages. Four comedians took the stage to tickle the collective funny bone of about 70 people. The headliner was Stavros Halkias, a New York-based comedian, originally from Baltimore, whose star is quickly rising.

The basement theater space was set up as a nightclub with close to 20 tables facing the intimate stage, which featured a faux brick backdrop. The full bar served beer, wine, liquor, and mixed drinks at very reasonable prices. Snacks could be purchased at the bar or you could nibble on free popcorn at your table.

Local stand-up comedian Brandon Vincent Jackson acted as the emcee for the evening, telling jokes and introducing the three main comics. Wilmington’s Guy Schiavi opened the evening of stand-up with a short 15-minute set that got the audience loosened up.

Second on the docket was the electric Ian Fidance. Fidance is an offbeat yet upbeat stand-up comic, actor, and writer originally from Wilmington who now calls Brooklyn home. The mustached entertainer has grown to be a standout stand-up with a fresh, positive voice in comedy. His own online bio reads: “A delicious cup of tea best drank live, Ian’s comedy has been described as ‘bizarre yet funny’ by The Interrobang.” Fidance’s half-hour routine was energetic and very funny. You can hear some of his musings on his podcast called “Ian Fidance’s Wild World.”

Headliner Stavros Halkias has made appearances on Adult Swim, XM Satellite radio, IFC, and the MSG Network, where he wrote and performed on the Emmy nominated, “People Talking Sports and Other Stuff.” He’s been featured in Tig Notaro’s “Bentzen Ball,” the New York Comedy Festival, and toured nationally with Wham City Comedy, Tom Papa, and Robert Kelly. Halkias is also a co-host of the popular podcast “Cum Town” and widely known for his body-positive Instagram account (@stavvybaby2).

While only 5’7”, Halkias looms larger than that on stage. He has a bearing that oozes confidence and swagger. Halkias commands the stage and your attention, but not in a brash way. His banter and cadence were rhythmic and natural. While most touring artists praise the host city, Halkias repeatedly downplayed Wilmington, its importance, and relevance…and it was funny! “Stav” is obviously very quick-witted and composed several jokes on the fly. He riffed and got the audience to share information and anecdotes. Halkias took those nuggets and spun them into comedic gold.

Yes, things got lewd, but it played into his honesty as a performer. He opened up about his life growing up Greek in Baltimore in a family torn apart by his father’s infidelity. He expounded on his missing front tooth. He repeatedly reminded us of his stature and girth. He regaled us with his successful and failed sexual escapades. All in all, we soaked up his hysterical ponderings and bits for over an hour. After closing the night to roaring applause, a near stampede followed him to the merchandise table for meet-and-greet sessions and selfies. The audience couldn’t get enough of him during or after the show.

Bootless Stageworks performances take place in the basement of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church at 1301 North Broom Street in Wilmington. The regular company is an ensemble company of skilled emerging artists committed to producing contemporary theater experiences that are stimulating, adventurous, challenging, immediate, and present. Bootless is a collaborative group of self-proclaimed theater geeks that are always looking for the strange, unusual, weird, but always entertaining adventure in live theater, comedy, and music. Visit www.bootless.org for a list of future events and shows at Bootless Stageworks. The next two DE Live Comedy Nights (hosted by Belynda Cleare and Lonnie Webb with DJ E’Nice) are on April 13 and May 25 at 8:30 pm.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Three Delaware Organizations Receive $54,000 in Federal NEA Grants

The content of this post comes from a Delaware Division of the Arts press release...

As the only funder in the country to support arts activities in all 50 states and five U.S. jurisdictions, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced that three Delaware organizations will receive $54,000 in federal grants. This is the first of two major grant announcements in fiscal year 2019 and includes three of the agency’s funding categories: Art Works and Challenge America to support projects by nonprofit organizations, and Creative Writing Fellowships. Through these grants, the National Endowment for the Arts supports local economies and preserves American heritage while embracing new forms of creative expression.

“The arts enhance our communities and our lives, and we look forward to seeing these projects take place throughout the country, giving Americans opportunities to learn, to create, to heal, and to celebrate,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Delaware Shakespeare will receive a Challenge America grant in the amount of $10,000 to support a touring production of Romeo and Juliet, with related outreach activities. Proposed guest artist Lindsay Smiling will direct the production.

"Delaware Shakespeare is honored to be a recipient of an NEA Challenge America grant which will support our 2019 Community Tour production of Romeo and Juliet,” said David Stradley, producing artistic director of Delaware Shakespeare. “Our tours, bringing professional theatre to the full spectrum of humanity in our community by traveling to non-traditional venues such as prisons, homeless shelters, and mental health facilities, have been transformative for the organization and for audiences. The national recognition and support for this program from the NEA is a welcome affirmation for the vital necessity of this work."

OperaDelaware will receive an Art Works – Opera grant in the amount of $14,000 to support new productions of a new orchestral reduction of Derrick Wang's Scalia/Ginsburg and Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury as part of the 2018-19 festival.

"We are humbled to receive this support and incredible vote of confidence from the NEA for the fourth year in a row,” said Brendan Cooke, executive director of OperaDelaware. “This year's award allows us to bring Derrick Wang's wonderful opera, Scalia/Ginsburg to Wilmington, with the world premiere of a new orchestration of the work, crafted specifically for our orchestra and the magnificent Grand Opera House."

The State Education Agency Directors of Education (SEADAE), Delaware will receive an Art Works – Arts Education grant in the amount of $30,000 to support professional development training for teachers and teaching artists using the National Core Arts Standards as the basis for assessing student learning in the arts.

“It is a pleasure to be recognized by NEA regarding the work we do in ensuring equitable access to arts instruction across the country,” said Joyce Huser, SEADAE president and education program consultant, fine arts, Kansas State Department of Education. “Through the support of the NEA, all directors of the arts in state departments of education will receive the professional learning they need to support students and teachers across the country.”

The NEA Challenge America category primarily supports small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations—those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.

Art Works is the NEA’s principal grantmaking program designed to support artistically excellent projects that celebrate our creativity and cultural heritage, invite mutual respect for differing beliefs and values, and enrich humanity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Serafin Quartet 'Reunites' Two Celebrated Composers

By Christine Facciolo

Born one year and 300 miles apart, Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann met for the first time in Leipzig on August 31, 1835. The Serafin String Quartet reunited them at Wilmington’s Trinity Episcopal Church with a program of two of their most Beethoven-inspired works: the A minor quartet, Op. 13 (Mendelssohn) and the A major quartet, Op. 41, No. 3 (Schumann). The date was also — coincidentally — the 210th anniversary of Mendelssohn’s birth.  

Mendelssohn, often referred to as the “classical romantic,” was a most celebrated composer during his lifetime. His stature slipped somewhat during the 20th Century, but this most underrated of the Romantics is enjoying a resurgence in popularity as many top-flight recordings and performances of his works indicate.

The Serafin Quartet. Photo courtesy of the artists.
Mendelssohn was just 18 years old when he wrote his A minor String Quartet in 1827, which was also the year Beethoven died. The Beethovian influence is evident, as are influences from Mozart and Haydn. The quartet also displays the young composer’s facility with the cyclical technique and exhibits a degree of passion and drama not characteristic of Mendelssohn.

Kate Ransom’s first violin was reliably lyrical and dramatic in the highly expressive opening movement, while the ensemble played as if it were one. The musicians lovingly conveyed the aching sorry of the second movement, a complex and dramatic affair marked adagio non lento (“slow not slow”). Beautifully judged phrasing and dynamics characterized the fiendishly difficult third movement with its contrasting moods.

The finale returned to the emotional world of the first movement. Beethoven’s influence again evident with its stormy recitative over tremolo accompaniment. The Serafin delivered a glowing and energetic performance of this most complex movement yet managed a conclusion that was gentle and calming.

Schumann’s A major quartet was again delivered with tonal precision and blend. In the first movement, the playing was flexible and fluid, capturing the halting nature of the music with its unsettling syncopations. The musicians delivered the fugato and tempo risoluto sections of the second movement with a muscular certainty, while the finale was exuberant and full of toe-tapping dance.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Playhouse Takes a Family on Magical Trip to 'Neverland'

By Guest Bloggers Erin, Ellie & Maggie Lacey
Erin is a mom of 4 kids and works as a Business Processor for Point to Point Wealth Management in Wilmington. When not at work or home, she can usually be found costuming her kids' shows at the Delaware Children's Theater. Ellie is an 8th Grade Vocal Major and Maggie is a 7th Grade Piano major at Cab Calloway School of the Arts.


As a working mom of 4 kids, my evenings generally consist of the usual rush of carpools, dinners and mountains of homework, so I was thrilled to have a rare weeknight date with my girls, Ellie (age 14) and Maggie (age 12) to see Finding Neverland at The Playhouse on Rodney Square. In the Lacey house, music is a sport, and seeing musicals are like going to see your favorite team play. 

I had never seen Finding Neverland, but Ellie had when she was nine, having attended a Broadway Dreams Workshop with The Imagination Players. During that trip, they spent the afternoon with a cast member who taught them to sing and dance to Believe, one of the big ensemble numbers. 

After her trip, she was thrilled to have seen a real Broadway production, but was a little fuzzy on details, as nine-year-olds often are. I was interested to see the show for myself, and to hear how Ellie's perception of the show would change now that she was five years older.

Finding Neverland tells the story of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, as he struggles to write a new play after a flop. He goes to Kensington Gardens to try to find inspiration outside and meets a group of young boys and their mother, Sylvia. Their joy in their imaginary game is contagious and Barrie finds himself leading the boys in a game of pirates and realizes that his imagination is being reawakened by play. 

His closeness with the boys and their mother creates friction in his marriage, and his wild imaginings inspired by the boys are ridiculed by his producer and his actors. It is when all is darkest that he must decide if he will fall in line with societal expectations, or will he follow his heart to Neverland.

"Little boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older." 

This line from Peter Pan, said by J.M. Barrie in Act 1, was the first time I welled up during the show, but it definitely wasn't the last. There were multiple times when I was reminded of when the kids were younger and we could play make-believe games for hours. The interaction between the four young actors was believable as brothers, and I wanted to scoop the youngest up and bring him home with me. 

I was totally ready to enlist in Captain Hook's crew by the end of Stronger and the Gaelic-inspired Play was a joy to watch. There were some lovely quiet moments between the two leads, Barrie and Sylvia, even in times when the rest of stage was full of dancing. They would be focused on each other in the way that two people in love usually are. 

But it was a look between a Sylvia and her mother during Neverland Reprise in the second act that went all the way into my heart. Because of course, to parents, our children never do grow up. Instead, when you look at them, you see them at every age, as if you have your own personal Neverland.

It's a fairly low-tech show, as far as effects, but I found the simplicity sweet and engaging. My daughters loved it as well. Ellie did indeed have a much different impression of the show at age 14 than at 9. She particularly enjoyed the message of Stronger and said that she liked how Barrie faced his "haters" and did what he knew to be right. Maggie loved We're All Made of Stars, and really loved the interactions of the boys. She said that their make-believe games made her wish it was summer so they could get back to playing all day.

There were a number of opening-night glitches with set pieces and sound, but it didn't take away from the overall 'glowy' feeling of warmth that this show conveys. By the end, you will know that your imagination is powerful and love is the best magic of all.

Finding Neverland continues at The Playhouse at Rodney Square through Sunday, February 10. Tickets range from $40-95 at TheGrandWilmington.org.

Monday, January 28, 2019

UD's Master Players to Perform at Carnegie Hall

The content of this post originates from a press release from The University of Delaware...

University of Delaware Master Players Concert Series and Artistic Director Xiang Gao will perform “6-WIRE & Friends at Carnegie Hall” on Saturday, February 16, at 7:30 p.m. in Zankel Hall of Carnegie Hall in New York City.  Master Players celebrates its 15th year of bringing the world’s top musicians and ensembles to the University of Delaware.

The performance will be led by 6-WIRE (Xiang Gao, violin/director; Cathy Yang, erhu & Matthew Brower, piano), the Master Players Ensemble-in-Residence. 6-WIRE is inspired by the historical connection between the erhu, the Chinese 2-stringed violin, and the 4-stringed violin — both essential instruments in the East and West.  The ensemble mixes traditional romanticism and virtuosity with new chamber music.

6-WIRE ensemble. Photo courtesy of the artist. 
Founded and directed by Chinese-American violinist Xiang Gao, an award-winning concert presenter, composer and producer, 6-WIRE’s performances redefine traditional chamber music, delighting cross-generational audiences with forward-looking compositions and cutting-edge audio and video technology.  

The New York premiere of Clearwater Rhapsody for 6-WIRE and cello by MacArthur Genius Grant awardee Bright Sheng features the world-renowned composer at the piano. The concert will also feature the New York debut of compositions and arrangements by Xiang Gao. A composition titled 6th Sense for 6-WIRE and cello will feature UD faculty cellist Lawrence Stomberg in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

Members of the UD Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of UD Director of Orchestral Activities James Allen Anderson, open the program with the World Premiere of the 6-WIRE arrangement of Bach’s concerto for violin and oboe. 

In this performance, which includes guest harpsichordist Tracy Richardson, the erhu replaces the oboe part to bring a new sound to the masterpiece. Renowned Chinese violin-maker Yunkai Jiang created a violin-erhu hybrid cello called Gupinghu, and Master Players guest cellist Gabriel Cabezas will perform on the Gupinghu for the instrument’s New York debut.

Two World Premiere works on the program include Ealasaid, for 6-WIRE and UD Chorale, led by Paul D. Head, composed by Jennifer Margaret Barker and Meridian Flux by composer Mark Hagerty.