Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Snow Cancellations Tuesday, Dec. 17

MARK TWAIN HOUSE: Tonight's Empty Mansions event with Bill Dedman has been postponed to Thursday, Dec. 19 at 7pm. The Museum also closed early at 1 pm today.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review: A Christmas Carol -- Hartford Stage

Photo: T. Charles Erickson
A Christmas Tale That Lifts Spirits --  Literally
By Lauren Yarger
Just how many times can you see Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol?

Apparently quite a few (more than 250,000 have seen the Michael Wilson adaptation getting its 16th run at Hartford Stage). This year’s annual holiday tradition gets a bit of an update, all supervised by Wilson and directed by Maxwell Williams, that includes redesigned costumes; enhanced flying effects and choreography for the ghostly apparitions; the introduction of additional characters; and the latest in lighting design technology.
Bill Raymond returns to play Ebenezer Scrooge, whose obsession with making money in A Victorian London that has prisons and workhouses for those not fortunate to have any,  has turned him into a mean, unpleasant man who has no desire to help his fellow man. Raymond plays all evening performances while Charles Turner is Scrooge for the student matinees.

Scrooge pays his clerk, Bob Cratchit (a humble and moving Robert Hannon Davis) virtually nothing on which to support his large and destitute family (Rebecka Jones is Mrs. Cratchit and Ethan Pancoast and Fred Thornley IV rotate in the role of poor crippled Tiny Tim). He has no regard for his charwoman, Mrs. Dilber (Noble Shropshire) or for local merchants Bettye Pidgeon (Johanna Morrison), Bert (Alan Rust) or Mr Marvel (Michael Preston), all who are forced to give up some of their wares on Christmas Eve as collateral against debts they owe the old miser.

Scrooge doesn’t even have any regard for the Christmas greetings and annual invite to dinner bestowed on him by his nephew, Fred (an affable Curtis Billings) and his wife (Gillian Williams), even though Fred is the son of his late and beloved, sister, Fan (Lauren Cassot or Allegra Rosa).

This Christmas, some spirits fly in (Flying effects by ZFX, Inc.) and give him a look at the past, when he was a happy boy and young man engaged to a beautiful woman, the present, where he discovers he isn’t kindly regarded and the future, which looks bleak for both him and Tiny Tim.

It’s an interesting adaptation, focusing on the ghosts and this year’s version seems a bit more scary with new lighting and loud sound effects.  The story never grows old. There is something magical about witnessing Scrooge’s change of heart (but Raymond rushes the lines during the transformation scene so much that you almost might miss it). Scores of Harrt students and local youngsters round out the large ensemble and you can’t help leave with a little holly around your heart.

The cast:
Bill Raymond…. Ebenezer Scrooge (evening performances)

Charles Turner…. Ebenezer Scrooge (student matinees)

Curtis Billings…. Fred, Young Scrooge;

Robert Hannon Davis…. Bob Cratchit

Rebecka Jones…. Mrs. Fezziwig, Mrs. Cratchit

Sarah Killough….Ghostly Apparition; Fred’s Sister-In-Law

Johanna Morrison…. Bettye Pidgeon, Spirit of Christmas Past, Old Josie

Michael Preston…. Mr. Marvel

Alan Rust…. Bert, Spirit of Christmas Present, Mr. Fezziwig

Noble Shropshire…. Mrs. Dilber, Jacob Marley

Charlie Tirrell…. First Solicitor, Undertaker

Gillian Williams…. Fred’s Wife, Belle

Student actors from The Hartt School…. Lexi Alioto, Jenny Brescia, Patrick Chittendon, Alex Dilallo, Jacob Grannan, Michael Coale Grey, James Hussey, Laura Sue Johnson, Timothy
Longo, Rebecca Maddy, Andrew Mazer, Madison Obery, Emmaline Riley, and Julian Sarria.

Local youngsters:  Ethan Pancoast and Fred Thornley IV (rotating the role of Tiny Tim). Other youth actors include Sophie Alter, Tiana N. Bailey, Alexander Bilodeau, Luciana Calcagno, Lauren Cassot, Meg Conner, Bridget Dawson, Padraigh Fitzgerald, Miranda Flood, Silvan Friedman, Tyra Harris, Campfield Heinrich, Emily May, Aidan McMillan, Dermot McMillan, Eric Murphy, Allegra Rosa, Ankit Roy, Ava Rozmajzl, Aleksei Sandals, Ben Stone-Zelman, Brandon Szep, John Henry Wenz and Sammy Wetstein.

There are a few ways to enhance the experience as well with some special packages available form Hartford Stage:
· A Christmas Carol Experience – Enjoy unlimited hot cocoa, fill up a bag at the pre-show candy Bar, decorate a cookie at intermission and take photos with real costumes from the show. $10 per person (in addition to purchase of ticket for selected performances). December 14, 15, 21 and 22 matinee performances.

· Behind the Magic – The production staff hosts a behind-the-scenes look at all the amazing special effects that make ghosts soar through the air, snow fall and more. Dec. 15 at 4 pm. $5 per person (in addition to purchase of ticket for Dec. 15 matinee performance).

· Family Fun Night – The ghosts will greet and entertain. After the show, get autographs from all your favorite characters! Thursday, Dec. 19 at 6:30 pm. Free with purchase of ticket for evening performance on Dec. 19.

· Market Days – Get all of your holiday shopping done at Hartford Stage. Local vendors will showcase unique gift items in our lobby, free to the public from 12:30-2 pm. Buy a ticket for the matinee performance of A Christmas Carol and have an extra chance to shop during intermission and post-show. Sunday, Dec. 15.

Theater Review: Accidental Death of an Anarchist -- Yale Rep

Eugene Ma, Steven Epp, and Jesse J. Perez in Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Photo � Joan Marcus, 2013.
Political Farce Brought into the Modern Age
By Lauren Yarger
Actor Steven Epp and Director Christopher Bayes who teamed up for A Doctor in Spite of Himself and The Servant of Two Masters at Yale Rep join forces again for Dario Fo’s bizarre political farce Accidental Death of an Anarchist – and count on Epp to interject a whole lot about the modern US economic and political situation.

Based on an actual 1969 event in Milan, Italy, where an anarchist accused in a bombing fell from the fourth-floor window of the police station where he was being questioned, Accidental Death of an Anarchist asks the question, “Did he jump, or was he pushed?”

As the police attempt to come up with a plausible explanation, they are assisted by a judge overseeing the case. What these inept law officials don’t realize, however, is that this is not really the judge, but a Maniac (Steve Epp) impersonating him.

Maniac gets the bumbling police, Pisani (Allen Gilmore), the Constables (Eugene Ma) and the Superintendent (Liam Craig) to reenact their interrogation of the anarchist to find out what really happened. Chaos ensues as the police story keeps changing to cover gaps in it. Inspector Bertozzo (Jesse J. Perez), who questioned the Maniac earlier, starts to suspect he has seen the judge somewhere before…

Things get even more complicated when a journalist, Feleltti (Yale grad Molly Bernard) arrives on the scene to get the story.

Directed by Bayes, the men might burst into a little song and dance, give chase through the shabby office with its looming window (Set Designer Kate Noll) à la the Keystone Cops or suddenly look like a Three Stooges imitation. All of this is enhanced by music and sound effects provided by Musical Director and Composer Aaron Halva and Composer and Sound Designer Nathan A, Roberts from stage right.

The cast pulls it off with some pretty amusing, over-the-top, physical humor and outlandish costumes designed by Elivia Bovenzi. Gilmore gets the spotlight with a stand-up routine, Ma causes sputters with his oblivious, donut-eating cop impression, Perez entertains with bendy limbs and Craig gets to vent. Bernard even gets a moment to ponder why hers is the only female character in Nobel-Prize-Winning Fo’s play.

Then there is Epp, a Beinecke Fellow this Fall at Yale, who eats up the stage with the zany characters and even launches into an “unscripted” pro-liberal diatribe about the state of politics and the economy in the United States today (the play actually calls for current commentary to be added and in doing so, remains contemporary despite its roots in an event in another country five decades ago).

What Epp does impersonating a war veteran with a wooden hand is pretty funny and had one woman in the audience amusingly cackling throughout the bit. In fact, the audience laughed a lot during the whole two-hour show performed with an intermission and it was fun to hear residual laughter – the kind that erupts when people are struck again by the humor in something they just heard – or just got.

Even the scenery is humorous in this production – projections, designed by Michael F. Bergmann, delightfully cause the entire set to move up and down to accommodate the building’s elevator.

Some criticisms: It’s entertaining, but probably would be better as a 90-minute, no intermission piece. The joke kind of wears thin by the end. Epp’s commentary about modern politics is funny to be sure, but would have even funnier had he thrust some barbs at the current liberal administration which is just as worthy of jest. Have you heard the one about how you aren’t going to lose your health plan, have to change doctors or pay more with the implementation of Obamacare? Bud a bum, bum. There also was a missed opportunity as the script calls for the singing of a bit of a song from the Sound of Music, which everyone had just seen the night before in the much-talked- about TV remake on NBC. Where was the Carrie Underwood joke??

Do provides two possible endings for his farce just for some added fun and thought. The production has two endings of its own too – it runs at Yale Rep through Dec. 21, then gets another run March 7-April 20, 2014 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, which is co-producing with Yale Rep.

The show runs through Dec. 21 at Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven. Performance times vary. Tickets $20-$98: (203) 432-1234; www.yalerep.org.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Theater Review: Christmas on the Rocks -- TheaterWorks

Ronn Carroll and Harry Bouvy. Photo: Lanny Nagler
Christmas on the Rocks Serves Up Refreshing Mixed Drink of Nostalgia, Humor
By Lauren Yarger
The setting is a dead joint somewhere in the cosmos, but this Christmas Eve, Mac (Ronn Carroll) tends bar for some rather unusual customers in TheaterWorks’ world premiere of Christmas on the Rocks.

The customers are grown up versions of children from holiday classics. Bringing them together here is the brainchild of Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, who expertly directs a three-actor team: Carroll as the bartender and Harry Bouvy and Christine Pedi, who bring to life male and female characters in shorts by seven different playwrights.

First up is All Grown Up by John Cariani (Almost Maine). Ralphie, from the movie “A Christmas Story” admires a leg lamp that Mac has on the bar. It reminds him of a Christmas long ago when he wanted a BB gun. Having to wear his aunt’s gift of a pink bunny suit that year might have caused the boy some long-term issues we weren’t aware of while watching the classic Jean Shepherd story….. You get the idea.

Next up is Susan Walker, from “Miracle on 34th Street, now a divorced realtor in The Cane in the Corner by Jonathan Tolins (Buyer and Cellar). Susan’s belief in Christmas and happy endings has waned since Kris Kringle made her and her mother believe in Santa all those years ago. Can he and a house that’s for sale bring another much-needed miracle for Susan?

In Say It Glows by Jeffrey Hatcher (Tuesdays with Morrie), Hermey, the elf who wanted to be a dentist in the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” cartoon, is rather gay, and very miffed about having to attend an annual tribute dinner for Rudolph. It seems the reindeer became a little hard to deal with after he guided Santa’s sleigh through the storm that Christmas and fame has caused his head to be bigger than his glowing red nose.

The bartender makes an exit and Pedi gets some solo time in the spotlight as a Seussical-rhyming Cindy Lou Who, who’s no longer 2 in a clever Going Green by Matthew Lombardo (High, Looped). Life hasn’t been anything to sing “fahoo foray” about. Cindy Lou hits the booze pretty hard and recounts her troubled marriage to the Grinch. The details, shall we say, are less kid-friendly than the cartoon.

Theresa Rebeck (Bad Dates, TV’s “Smash”) tackles the dickens out of “A Christmas Carol” with God Bless Us Everyone. Enter a cynical, still tattered looking, Tim Cratchit: “God bless us, everyone! I’ll have a pint,” he says. You can’t help but laugh, but in one of the more serious-toned vignettes of the evening, Tim reflects on the cost of health care, how not “everyone” is blessed with it and how money doesn’t buy happiness. He frustrates Mac with his negative attitude….

Pedi returns in Still Nuts About Him by Edwin Sanchez (La Bella Familia) as a grown up Clara, still clad in her nightgown and ribbons, who is trying to come to grips with her cheating husband and the fact that she’s growing old. What she does with a nutcracker is pretty hilarious.

The collection of stories concludes with Merry Christmas, Blockhead by Jacques Lamarre (I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti). A depressed Charlie Brown stops in to take a break from disappointing developments in his life concerning his dog and his psychiatrist wife and meets a red-haired woman…

Overall, the concept is brilliant (kudos to Ruggiero). It’s funny and a different kind of show to break up the same-old, same-old presented at the holidays. Pedi and Bouvy are terrific (especially with just two weeks of rehearsal), making complete transitions between characters and taking them far enough, but not too far, to skillfully make them funny and likable. Transitions are aided by costumes and wigs from designers Alejo Vietti and Brittany Harman. Carrol, however, shines as the brightest star in this Christmas tree, playing the perfect straight man to all the other zany characters.

While the show is entertaining, the stories aren’t linked by any garland that tells us why or how these characters happen to come to the bar, or why Mac doesn’t seem to be putting together who they are, however. They just blow into the bar with sound effect by Designer Michael Miceli.

And did they all have to have such tragic transitions into adulthood? Call me a holiday optimist, but as one who still tears up when the Whos gather to sing around that present-less tree, or when Susan realizes that Santa is real, or when Linus reads the Christmas story, I truly would enjoy some tales of kids who were actually happy after the story ended!

This show probably will see an afterlife of its own, through additional versions using more playwrights at TheaterWorks (let’s see some more female playwrights included!) and as this version is presented at regional theaters around the country. It deserves success. Raise your glass to a new holiday tradition.

Christmas on the Rocks plays through Dec. 22 at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. Performances: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 6:30 pm; Sunday at 4 and 8 pm. Tickets are $35-$55: www.theaterworkshartford.org; 860-527-7838. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Theater Review: Fences -- Long Wharf

Chris Myers, Esau Pritchett, Portia and G. Alvarez Reid. Photo: T.Charles Erickson
Wilson’s Messages Still Strong, but Character Portrayals Remain Too Much on the Fence
By Lauren Yarger
"Some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in.”
So goes one of the themes of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, Fences, about the African-American experience in 1950s Pittsburgh.

There also seem to be fences that separate some actors from the deepest part of their characters, however, in this production directed by Phylicia Rashad. We get a sense of actors playing parts, but not becoming the characters, so the Long Wharf Theatre production of Wilson’s still compelling tale of a former Negro League baseball star trying to come to grips with the responsibilities of life fails to hit a home run.

Troy Maxson (Esau Pritchett) might have been one of baseball’s brightest stars if he hadn’t been black and if he had been just a little younger when Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier in the majors. Those “might have beens” haunt the trash collector and he wants a better life for his sons, Lyons (Jared McNeil) and Cory (Chris Myers).

So far they have been disappointments. Musician Lyons always seems in need of a handout or a free meal and Cory is wasting his time trying to earn a football scholarship instead of trying to get ahead at his after-school job at the local A&P. Adding to the burden of responsibility Troy feels in trying to provide for family is his mentally challenged brother, Gabriel (J. Alvarez Reid), who recently moved to his own place – taking his government support check with him.

Keeping Troy in line and providing a little joy in his life is his feisty and loving second wife, Rose (Portia). She cooks, cleans, runs interference for the boys and keeps Tory satisfied. Also providing some camaraderie is longtime friend and former prison mate Jim Bono (Phil McGlaston), who stops by occasionally to help Troy and Cory – when the teen isn’t neglecting his chores for football practice -- build a fence around their shabby home (the exterior of the house, designed by John Iacovelli, provides the backdrop for the play).

There is a fence between the father and his son, however, made plain by Troy’s confession that obligation, rather than love, provides the motivation for his part in their relationship. Troy also forsakes the love and devotion of Rose to jump the fence and to enjoy a feeling of no boundaries when he has an affair with another woman.

Troy fathers a daughter with the other woman and splinters the foundation of the fence protecting the family. Further tragedy results and Rose becomes the only mother little Raynell (Taylor Dior) knows. Family links are stress tested. 

The story remains as relevant and insightful as when the play first appeared in 1983. Themes about the struggles of African Americans in America and whether the sins of fathers are visited upon their children apply today as much as they did in the 1950s, when it is set. Costume Designer Esosa and Wig and Hair Designers J. Jared Janas and Rob Greene effectively convey a sense of time without making the piece dated. Take away the references to the racial makeup of the major leagues at the time, and this story could be about a family in modern-day Pittsburgh.

Wilson expertly conveys characters all wanting something beyond their reach – just over the fence where the grass looks a little greener. It’s unsettling and revealing and a play worth seeing. This production, as directed by Rashad, doesn’t reach its potential, however, as the actors perform, but don’t embody the richly written characters.

Pritchett, who many times speaks too rapidly to be understood, doesn’t find the conflict within Troy that lets us experience or empathize with his frustration with life. Portia nicely portrays the warm, supportive side of Rose, and her first-act banter and embarrassment over sexual comments that Troy jokingly makes are some of the show’s finest moments. We don’t fully feel her pain and betrayal, however, when Troy nonchalantly, so it would seem, takes a lover or how she comes to terms with her marriage and her role as mother to Raynell. Dior is cute as a button, however, and breathes a breath of fresh air into the production, much like Raynell does for the Maxson family, for the brief time she is on stage in act two.

McNeill and Myers adequately convey enough of their characters for us to know who they are, but we only see the surface of Gabriel and Bono. Fight scenes choreographed by Michael Rossmy also look staged rather than genuine. 

This production’s fence posts are compelling themes and characters. More dynamic direction could have driven them firmly into the ground.

The show runs through Dec. 22 on The Claire Tow Stage in the C. Newton Schenck III Theatre. Tickets are $40-$75: www.longwharf.org; 203-787-4282. A full performance calendar can be found here: http://www.longwharf.org/upcoming-events.

Circo Comedia Entertains at Westport Playhouse

Jean Saucier and Patrick Côté in “Circo Comedia
Westport Country Playhouse will continue its 2013-14 Family Festivities Series with Circo Comedia, featuring unpredictable thrills, side-splitting comedy, and daredevil stunts, on Sunday, Dec. 15, at 1 and pm (recommended for age4 and up).\

Running time is approximately one hour. Family Festivities shows are presented on selected Sundays from November through March. Tickets are $20.

Following in the tradition of the Quebec Circus, Jean Saucier, master equilibrist, juggler, trick cyclist, acrobat, and magician performs his feats from dizzying heights while Patrick Côté, burlesque clown, expert roller skater, and drummer, innocently tries his best to be the (imperfect) assistant.

A unicycle launched the career of Jean Saucier. At age 11, Saucier cut a curious figure in his native Montreal when he delivered newspapers atop his one-wheeler. Mostly self-taught until the age of 18, he attended the École National du Cirque de Montréal. Cirque du Soleil noticed his talent and hired him. In 1987, Saucier was awarded the Bronze Medal at the Festival du Cirque de Demain in Paris for his bicycle routine together with his performing ensemble. Since then, much has changed as he discovered that he was destined to be a "Straight Man" - the serious side of comedy.

In 2004, Saucier began performing with acrobat/stuntman/drummer/roller skater Patrick Côté. In 2005, the duo won the First Prize (Public Choice) at the Mondial des Amuseurs of Trois-Rivières Festival in Québec. Côté trained as a gymnast and acrobat at Montreal's National Circus School. He discovered a passion for burlesque stunts and created his well-known alter-ego/comic characters "PatPatinFou" and "Le Baron Fou.” He continued to create several new characters for projects such as the Cirque du Soleil, among others. In 2005, he joined the troupe Les Parfaits Inconnus.

Upcoming Family Festivities presentations include “Dino-Light,” on Sunday, Jan. 19, “Sleeping Beauty Dreams,” on Sunday, Feb. 9, “Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly,” on Sunday, March 9, and “Seussical,” on Sunday, March 23.

In conjunction with the Family Festivities Series, the Playhouse will host a book collection of gently used and new children’s books for Read to Grow, Inc.

Family Festivities Partners are Meredith and David Bukzin, Galia Gichon and Adam Clemens, and Darlene Krenz. Family Festivities Corporate Sponsor is Pitney Bowes.

Everyone in the audience requires a ticket: www.westportplayhouse.org; 203- 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529; box office 25 Powers Court, Westport. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Connecticut Arts Connections

A Ghost of a Christmas Carol. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
Hartford Stage will host the annual Community Night benefit performance of A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas at 7:30 pm Wednesday, Dec, 4. The performance will be attended by 500 children from 24 local organizations including Local organizations attending Hartford Stage’s Community Night include the Boys and Girls Club of Hartford, Bristol Boys and Girls Club, Chrysalis Center, Dwight/Bellizzi Asian Studies Academy, Farmington Valley Transitional Academy, Footlights Center for the Performing Arts, Friendship Service Center of New Britain, Grace Academy, Global Communications Academy, Guilford Youth and Family Services, Handz-On, Hartford Camp Courant, Hispanic Health Council, Kinsella Magnet School, Lincoln Middle School, Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp., National Conference for Community and Justice, Nutmeg Big Brothers and Big Sisters, O.P.M.A.D., SAND Elementary, School Age Care, South Park Inn and Homeless Shelter, True Colors Inc. and YWCA Strive.

Casting is announced for the heart-felt, romantic comedy “Crossing Delancey,” a Script in Hand playreading at Westport Country Playhouse, on Monday, December 9, 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. The play is written by Susan Sandler and directed by Anne Keefe. Actors in the comedic story are Ari Brand (Westport Country Playhouse’s “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Broadway’s “The Neil Simon Plays,” Off-Broadway’s “My Name Is Asher Lev”) as Sam; Kieran Campion (Westport Country Playhouse’s “Journey’s End,” “David Copperfield,” and several Script in Hand playreadings, Broadway’s “Our Town,” “The American Plan”) as Tyler; Lynn Cohen (Broadway’s “Ivanov,” “Orpheus Descending”; films “Catching Fire: The Hunger Games 2,” Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” “Sex and the City” - TV and both movies) as Bubbie; Dana Steingold (Westport Country Playhouse’s “Into the Woods” as Little Red Ridinghood, and two Script in Hand playreadings, Broadway/National Tours of “The25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”) as Isabel; Cheryl Stern (Westport Country Playhouse’s “ Into the Woods,” Script in Hand playreading of “Beau Jest,” Broadway’s 2010 Tony Award-winning “La Cage aux Folles”) as Hannah; and Ronald Cohen (New York’s “Artist Descending a Staircase,” “Henry IV Part One,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Twelfth Night”)reading stage directions.

The Hartford Gay Men’s Chorus will open its second season with Join Hands and Celebrate! - a joyful mix of choral and contemporary holiday music, including a world premiere composition for “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Composer Evan Lurie and the revival of a 1930’s cantata, “The Music of Bethlehem.”Also featuring the Chorus’ new seven member a cappella group, On That Note!, the concerts will be at 8 on Friday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Unitarian Society of Hartford Church at 50 Bloomfield Ave. Tickets are $23 and can be purchased at www.hartfordstage.org or by calling 860-527-5151.

Madeline and The Bad Hat
Date: Sunday, Dec. 8
Time: 1 pm
Price: $16 Adults/$10 Children
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 300 Main St., Old Saybrook.
877-503-1286; www.thekate.org
ArtsPower's original musical, based upon the much-loved book, captures the blithe yet touching spirit of Ludwig Bemelmans's Madeline series. It traces the adventures of a young Parisian girl who, despite starting off on the wrong foot with a mischievous new neighbor , eventually learns that first impressions aren't everything.

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony will be performed Thursday, Dec. 5 at 8 pm in Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts University of Connecticut. The UConn Symphony Orchestra and a combined choir 180 singers strong will join forces with professional soloists. Tickets are available at www.jorgensen.uconn.edu or by calling 860-486-4226.General Admission tickets are $10, free for students and children.

Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts has received an unsolicited national grant award of $400,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

HSO, Hartford Chorale Will Perform Messiah at The Bushnell Saturday

Photo: Dan Burns
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra and Hartford Chorale will come together to perform Handel’s Messiah 7:30 pm Saturday, Dec. 7 in Mortensen Hall at The Bushnell Center for The Performing Arts.

Led by HSO Music Director Carolyn Kuan, this performance will feature guest soloists Rochelle Bard, Daniella Mack, Matthew Grills and Lester Lynch.

Handel wrote the 259-page musical score to Messiah over the course of only 24 days. Despite its rapid creation, this work has endured as one of the greatest pieces for chorus and orchestra of all time. This holiday performance will feature arias and choruses from the oratorio, including the cherished “Comfort Ye” tenor solo, dynamic “Rejoice Greatly” soprano solo, and powerful choruses including “For Unto Us a Child is Born” and, of course, the “Hallelujah” chorus.

Celebrating its 42nd season in 2013-2014, the Hartford Chorale is under the musical direction of Richard Coffey.

Soprano Bard was awarded First Place and Audience Choice in the Classical Singer Competition and Second Place in the Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition. She was a winner in the George London Competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Awards in San Francisco and Boston, and the Licia Albanese-Puccini Competition. Subsequently, she had her Lincoln Center debut in Alice Tully Hall at the annual Puccini Gala, and in Carnegie Hall for the Gerda Lissner Winners Concert. She is a resident of West Hartford.

Mezzo-soprano Mack was recently a finalist in the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. In the 2013 – 2014 season, she will return to San Francisco Opera as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia; make her Santa Fe Opera debut in a new production by Stephen Lawless; debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as the Kitchen Boy in Rusalka and return to Madison Opera as Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking.

Tenor Grills is a 2012 grand prize winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He joins the Bayerische Staatsoper as a member of its prestigious Opernstudio in the 2013-14 season and made his debut with the company in the autumn as an Apprentice in Wozzeck. He also returns to San Francisco Opera as Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Last season, he sang his first performances of Fenton in Falstaff with Wolf Trap Opera and joined San Francisco Opera for Les contes d'Hoffmann and Così fan tutte. As a Resident Artist with Portland Opera, he will sing Goffredo in Rinaldo and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. Hartford fans may recognize Grills’ voice; he is a former employee of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra Box Office, where he worked as a ticket representative for the Talcott Mountain Music Festival.

Recognized for his charismatic portrayals and commanding voice, Lynch’s engagements during the 2013 - 2014 season include Amonasro in Aida with Pittsburgh Opera, Crown inPorgy and Bess with L’Opera de Montreal, Lescaut in Manon Lescaut in Baden-Baden, as well as concert engagements with the Berlin Philharmonic for Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder under the baton of Simon Rattle and the Bayerische Rundfunkorchester for Gordon Gett’s Joan and the Bells. During the previous season he portrayed Crown in Porgy and Bess with the Berlin Philharmonic, Amonasro in Aida with the Dallas Opera and joined the San Antonio Symphony for Verdi’s Requiem.

Tickets range in price from $20-$67.50. Student tickets are $10 and $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.

Orange is the New Black Author Comes to Hartford Stage

Piper Kerman
The Dec. 12 appearance of activist/author Piper Kerman ("Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison") has been moved to Hartford Stage.

Community Partners in Action, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and the Mark Twain Houseand Museum are co-sponsoring the author talk and book signing 7 pm at Hartford Stage (previously scheduled at the Stowe Center). Maureen Price-Boreland, Community Partners in Action's executive director, will facilitate the conversation.

Tickets, $25 (or $20 for members of the Stowe or Twain museums) are available by calling 860-280-3130 or online atpiperkerman.brownpapertickets.com.

After spending a year in Danbury’s federal correctional facility for women, Kerman compiled her prison experiences into the memoir, "Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison," now a wildly popular Netflix television series.

Kerman served 15 months in prison for a drug trafficking crime she committed 10 years prior. Compelling, moving, and often hilarious, the stories of the women she met while in prison raise issues of friendship and family, mental illness, the odd cliques and codes of behavior, the role of religion, the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailor, and the almost complete lack of guidance for life after prison.

The event will also feature a performance by Women on Our Own. An artistic outreach program from the Judy Dworin Performance Project, Women on Our Own is a group of women who, having re-entered the community from prison, are sharing their abundant and spirited vocal gifts with local and regional audiences. 

The Women on Our Own singer-artists, under the direction of singer/songwriter Leslie Bird, perform at concerts, work places and other community events, presenting original songs, as well as a selections of JDPP songs that have evolved from the organization's work with women at York Correctional Institution, their own arrangements of songs from the '60s and '70s and songs of spirit and affirmation.

Hartford Stage Switches Out Love & Other Fables for Vanya, Sonia, Masha & Spike

From the Broadway production of Vanya, Sonia, Masha & Spike: David Hyde Pierce, Sigourney Weaver, Kristine Nielsen, and Billy Magnussen. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Hartford Stage will postpone next spring’s Love and Other Fables and present instead the winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang, according to Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak.
Durang’s laugh-out-loud comedy will play the exact same dates, beginning May 22, 2014, so subscribers will not need to exchange tickets. Individual ticket buyers for Love and Other Fables will be contacted by the Hartford Stage box office with the option of either seeing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike or receiving a full refund.
Tony Award-winning director John Rando’s schedule next spring no longer permits him to direct Love and Other Fables, a project he has shepherded for two years. Hartford Stage hopes to present this new musical in a future season. Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Maxwell Williams will direct ‘Vanya.’
The toast of Broadway this year, ‘Vanya’ also earned the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Drama League, and Drama Desk awards, all for best play of the season. 
Vanya creates a wildly funny farce about a self-absorbed movie star — with her 20-something boy-toy in tow — who returns to the family farmhouse to visit her brother and sister. Her arrival and subsequent announcement quickly turn this reunion into an outlandish blast of hilarity. You can read a review of the show in New York here:http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/2013/03/theater-review-vanya-and-sonia-and.html#.Up3FucRDuFs
For information, visit www.hartfordstage.org or call the Hartford Stage box office at (860) 527-5151.

Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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