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On the Move: Leadership Changes, AR Glasses, and More

Kurt Schulte, left, and Lou Alloway.

Succession

Schulte Restorations, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell 08525. 609-466-8230. Lou Alloway, president. www.SchulteRestorations.com.

Kurt Schulte, founder and owner of Schulte Restorations on Mercer Street in Hopewell, is retiring and will be turning over ownership and operations of the company to Lou Alloway, the company’s sales and estimating manager.

Schulte, a 1982 Princeton University graduate, founded Schulte Restorations in 1985 as a general contracting company, focusing on restorations of historical homes in the greater Princeton area. Through the years the company undertook larger, more complex reconstruction and restoration projects.

Alloway, a fifth-generation master carpenter, joined Schulte Restorations in 2002. For a brief period, Alloway left Schulte Restorations so he could run another general contracting concern, rejoining Schulte Restorations last year.

“We think a lot about the ‘personality’ of Schulte Restorations, and we’re very proud of it,” Schulte said. “Our work and our relationships with our customers, contractors, vendors, and employees are an outgrowth of that. Lou has been an integral part of our company and history since 2002, and he’s uniquely qualified to carry it on.”

“Leaving something I’ve built over the last 35 years is not easy. I’ve loved my job and the people I work with every day. But it’s time for me to leave it in the hands of someone I trust and to try new things,” Schulte said. “I’m looking forward to having the time to travel more, to read more, and to explore new areas of interest.”

The transition of Schulte Restorations to Alloway’s control and ownership is underway and will be complete with Schulte’s official retirement on December 31, 2019.

Third Eye Launches X2 Glasses

ThirdEye, a company that makes mixed-reality and augmented-reality glasses, has launched its X2 glasses, which it says are the world’s smallest mixed-reality glasses (U.S. 1, June 19, 2019). The glasses are being marketed for commercial use in field services, health care, manufacturing, airlines, architecture, education, and insurance.

The X2 glasses weigh six ounces, offer a 42-degree field of view and include thermal, ambient light, and flashlight sensors and built-in proprietary SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) system, called VisionEye SLAM, that allows for advanced MR features not available on a monocular device. The glasses also include two gray-scale cameras, a high-resolution RGB camera (13-megapixel HD), three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer, and three-axis compass. A 1750mAh single battery and noise-cancelling microphones allow for long battery life, 40 percent faster charging with quick charging, and audio commands.

The X2 Glasses run on the Android operating system with hundreds of apps in the ThirdEye App Store. ThirdEye also offers ThirdEye Workspace, an enterprise software platform built into the X2 Glasses, which includes advanced AR/MR capabilities such as live AR remote help and 3D SLAM based CAD modeling and overlay.

“Our goal is to become the most recognizable smart glasses in the AR and MR industry, and so far we’ve created the widest field of view in the smallest form factor possible,” said Nick Cherukuri, founder of ThirdEye Gen. “The X2 Glasses are unlike anything else on the market right now — between the affordable price tag, powerful technology and beautiful form — we are giving workers all across the enterprise the opportunity to really elevate their level of work. Coupled with our advanced AR software platform, we’re simultaneously providing companies with nearly 40 percent savings in productivity improvements.”

ThirdEye is one of the first companies to integrate 5G into its products and services. By adding 5G mobile edge computing into the X2 Glasses, it provides a much larger bandwidth and lower latency, allowing for more data to be transferred at a higher speed. The company was also recently granted two significant patents to further develop its technology and establish leadership within the AR/MR space — OLED Driver and AR Assistance Large Data Streaming.

TheX2 Glasses are now available for purchase at $1,950 and will be delivered in October.

ThirdEye Gen, 300 Alexander Park, Suite 206, Princeton 08540. 609-423-1660. Nick Cherukuri, founder. www.thirdeyegen.com.

Investment News

Edison Partners, 281 Witherspoon Street, Suite 300, Princeton 08540. 609-896-1900. Chris Sugden, managing partner. www.edisonpartners.com.

Edison Partners made two major investments this summer, leading financing for mobile banking platform MoneyLion and healthcare data platform PurpleLab.

New York-based MoneyLion offers fee-free checking, zero-fee managed investment accounts, low-cost credit, rewards opportunities, and other features. In 2019 the MoneyLion financial membership grew at an annualized rate of more than 1,000 percent with respect to both accounts and daily average transactions, Edison Partners said in a press release about the transaction.

“MoneyLion takes a wholly unique approach to consumer financial services by bundling banking, credit and investing under one roof and giving millions of Americans their first opportunity to navigate savings, wealth creation and financial management responsibly and conveniently, without the associated high banking fees,” said Chris Sugden, managing partner at Edison Partners, who led the investment and is a current board member. “CEO Dee Choubey and team are building a powerful financial membership with proven economics and capital efficiency. We’re thrilled to continue to help MoneyLion bring their full-stop financial shop experience to more consumers and achieve their long-term goals.”

Edison did not disclose the amount of its investment in MoneyLion.

The firm also led $3 million in growth financing for Purple Lab, a healthcare data and analytics platform based in Furlong, Pennsylvania.

The company will use the capital to bolster its analytics capabilities and sales and marketing operations.

PurpleLab utilizes medical and prescription claims data to produce quantitative and predictive performance measures for 1.8 million healthcare providers across the nation.

“Outcomes and costs are the most important metrics in healthcare today. Our platform harmonizes medical terminologies and provider reference data to help researchers and analysts gain predictive insights into provider-level outcomes and costs before they happen,” said Mark Brosso, founder and CEO of PurpleLab.

“PurpleLab has the potential to become an industry leader with a differentiated solution that provides a holistic view of care to better measure outcomes, effectiveness, and cost efficiencies, which is paramount for value-based care models,” said Gregg Michaelson, partner at Edison Partners, who led the investment. “Mark Brosso, who previously founded and led Edison portfolio company Health Market Science, has deep expertise in the industry and repeated successes in healthcare analytics.”

Deaths

Christopher Valentine Dietz, 83, on September 14. He held many positions during his political career including administrative law judge in Trenton and president of the state Parole Board, where he revolutionized the parole system to refocus its efforts on rehabilitation and reintegration.

John Apai, 86, on September 12. He was a well-known photographer who owned a photography studio in Princeton for more than 25 years.

Andrew Spencer Bruno, 87, on September 5. He learned the art of marketing at Gallup and Robinson and in 1970 founded his own business, Spencer Bruno Research Associates, which continues today as Bruno and Ridgway Research Associates in Lawrenceville.

James H. Moore, 85, on March 21. He worked for Gallup & Robinson in Princeton as an account executive, conducting research studies on advertising effectiveness. He was later vice president and director of client services with Mapes and Ross, Inc., another Princeton-based advertising research firm, and also worked at several New York firms.

Jean H. Esch, 86, on September 8. She worked as a bookkeeper for Gordon & Wilson Plumbing in Hightstown. She then worked for Leonard Van Hise Real Estate for 17 years as a saleswoman and office administrator. After leaving the real estate agency, Esch worked as the tax collector for the Borough of Hightstown. She completed her career working for New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association in Robbinsville for nine years, retiring in 2004.

A Huge Victory for Preserved Land in NJ and Beyond

The land conservation community in New Jersey was stunned five years ago when the private, for-profit PennEast pipeline company announced plans to build a gas pipeline across miles of preserved open space and farmland in Hunterdon and Mercer counties.

“How can they do that? It’s preserved land!” was a typical reaction.

This week the long-awaited answer came: Under the U.S. Constitution, PennEast cannot legally condemn land preserved by the state.

On September 10 the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals found that the state’s “sovereign immunity” under the Eleventh Amendment protects it from federal lawsuits brought by private companies. The court rejected Penn­East’s claim that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can delegate its authority to condemn state lands to a private company.

The decision means that the company can no longer use eminent domain to seize 42 properties preserved by the state, many of them in partnership with counties, municipalities, and private land trusts.

The ruling is a major victory for New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and for New Jersey taxpayers, who have invested billions of dollars in preserving open space and farmland for future generations. The ruling has implications beyond New Jersey, as it applies to all state-preserved lands where the state is not a willing partner in condemnation proceedings.

While the decision reduces the chance that the PennEast pipeline will be built, the company has said it is reviewing the decision and its options. An appeal would require petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court.

PennEast first announced its plans in 2014 to build the 120-mile pipeline from the fracking fields of the Marcellus Shale formation in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to Mercer County.

New Jersey officials and landowners were immediately struck by how much of the pipeline route would cut through preserved lands.

Forty-two of the 131 properties targeted for condemnation — nearly a third — are state-preserved farmland and open space. They include special places like the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain, the Milford Bluffs, the Wickecheoke Creek Greenway and some of the state’s first preserved farms in the Rosemont Valley.

In January, 2018, over huge objections from landowners up and down the route, PennEast obtained conditional approval from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the pipeline. Penn­East immediately sued in federal district court to use the federal government’s eminent domain power to condemn the 131 properties along the route in New Jersey under the U.S. Natural Gas Act.

But the new court decision puts an end — at least for now — to the company’s right to access and take state-preserved properties. It also leaves the company’s permit application with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in limbo.

It has been five years since the project was announced. Since then countless studies have shown that the pipeline is not needed and would have severe impacts to water, land, and communities.

It is now time for the companies behind PennEast to scrap the pipeline project. Gas experts have clearly demonstrated that the Penn­East pipeline is not needed. New Jersey has more than enough pipeline capacity even during periods of peak demand, and the project has no proven public benefit.

For more than 60 years voters in the nation’s most densely populated state have staunchly supported open space and farmland preservation, voting to spend billions of dollars to acquire land that grows our food, safeguards our water supplies, protects wildlife, and provides public recreation.

These precious preserved lands should never be sacrificed for a private company’s profit-making endeavor.

To learn more about the court decision and the proposed Penn­East pipeline, visit the ReThink Energy NJ website at www.rethinkenergynj.org.

And for more information on preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.

Michele S. Byers is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Edison Builder Smashes Foes on ‘Battlebots’

Al Kindle in his Edison garage with Blacksmith.

This is a story about Al Kindle. But it’s also a story about Kindle’s creation, Blacksmith.

Blacksmith weighs 250 pounds, a touch over what Mike Tyson did in his prime. It is shaped like a tank turret on wheels, and is armored like one too, protected by plates of hardened AR500 steel, the same stuff that shooting range targets are made of. Blacksmith’s most distinctive feature, and the one that gives it its name, is a huge sledgehammer that swings hard enough to buck Blacksmith off the ground as it strikes, and also belches 1,800-degree flames from the hammerhead.

Blacksmith was built for war: it’s a Battlebot.

“Battlebots” is a robotic combat tournament televised on the Discovery Channel. Its participants travel from all over the world to Lakewood, California, every year to fight in a grueling two-week competition for the coveted Giant Nut trophy. Kindle, who lives in Edison, leads one of two teams from New Jersey that are participating in the season of “Battlebots” currently on the air. The other is Paul Ventimiglia and his robot, Bite Force, the defending champion.

“It’s a radio-controlled robotics competition that happens to be combat-oriented,” Kindle says. “A lot of people have heard of the FIRST robotics competition for high school students. The obvious difference is that we are trying to kill each other.”

“Battlebots” is a combination of FIRST, ultimate fighting, and e-sports. The “bots” cannot truly be called “robots” since they are remote controlled. As in mixed martial arts, there are rules: no nets, no explosives, no electricity, no liquids; and there is a weight limit of 250 pounds. Beyond that pretty much anything goes. Bouts are three minutes long and take place in an arena called the Battlebox, where competitors must contend not only with each other, but with hazards such as spikes, rotating screws, pulverizer hammers, and “killsaws” that rise up from slots in the arena’s heavily battered steel floor. The winner is the last one standing, and if both make it three minutes, a panel of judges declares a victor.

Kindle has been competing in robotic combat for 24 years, longer than some of his Battlebots opponents have been alive.

Kindle grew up in the house in Edison where he now lives with his wife. His father, a sheet metal worker, taught him mechanical skills — the tractor they worked on together is still in the garage where Blacksmith was built.

In 1994 Kindle had just graduated from high school when he saw a show on the Discovery channel called Next Step, which had a segment on an event in San Francisco called Robot Wars. It was an early version of Battlebots. “It was the greatest, most absurd thing I had ever seen,” he says. The next year he and a friend built a robot, got in an old mail van, and drove across the country to compete. Building a radio-controlled bot was second nature to Kindle, as he was already into radio controlled cars and helicopters. “The bot was terrible, but so were most of the other ones,” Kindle says.

Over the next few years “Robot Wars” was picked up by the BBC and filmed in Britain. The competition returned to the U.S. in 2000 as “Battlebots” and was aired on Comedy Central. Kindle brought another bot to Las Vegas in 2000, but he rates that metal gladiator as “terrible,” and it was never shown on TV.

“Battlebots” was cancelled in 2003, but robot combat continued as a hobby. Kindle joined a group called the Northeast Robotics Club, which holds robot battles at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and at the Motorama Motorsports Expo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, every year with 30-pound bots.

The show was revived again by ABC in 2015. “I was originally mad because I had no idea they were even doing it,” Kindle says. “No one contacted me. I was like, what the hell!”

He didn’t want to miss out on the next season though. By then Kindle and his friends were established in their careers and could afford the massive costs involved in building the heavyweight that were featured on Battlebots. Kindle, who graduated from DeVry with a degree in electronics, works as an electromechanical technician at SPEX SamplePrep in Metuchen, where he builds scientific sample preparation machines. (Oddly enough, a machine the company built was recently featured on the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, where it was used to prepare a shark tooth for a DNA sample to see if the same shark was responsible for two attacks on swimmers.)

Kindle put together a team of friends: Alan Young, John Wolan, James Iocca, and Kyle Singer. Wolan has been Kindle’s friend since childhood, while Iocca and Singer were also in the Northeast Robotics Club, where Young was Kindle’s main rival. “He was my nemesis,” Kindle says. “I got Alan because I didn’t want anyone else to have him.”

The team brainstormed ideas for a bot. “They had an application process, and they stressed having themes for TV,” Kindle says. The producers wanted bots that would stand out from the rest.

By this time, the art of robot combat was rapidly being perfected. Competitive bot builders had rediscovered an ancient principle of mechanics, which is that a spinning wheel is a great way to store kinetic energy — and deliver it all at once to the face of a hapless target. Most of the top robots had spinning bars or drums of steel as a main weapon, with the most fearsome being able to send a 250-pound robot flying 15 feet in the air, or bash and chop opponents to pieces in seconds.

Kindle knew that most of the entrants would be spinners. So to stand out he picked a less popular weapon: a hammer. “We wanted to be on the shortest pile of applications,” he says.

Fire was the icing on the cake. “We thought they like fire, so let’s put fire on it. All of my teammates said we should put fire in the hammerhead. I was like, are you nuts? How the hell are we going to do that? I was just thinking we would shoot fire out the front and it would look cool. My teammate, Alan, he’s a brilliant guy, said, ‘I’ll make it work, don’t worry.’”

Weeks later, the show’s creator Greg Munson, gave Kindle a call and asked him just one question: Was he sure he could make a robot that shot fire out of a hammerhead? “Yes,” Kindle lied.

The team spent the next few months building Blacksmith in Kindle’s garage and driveway as well as at the home of his mother-in-law, which is across the street. Since all the team members worked full-time jobs, weekends were a frenzy of welding, grinding, hammering, and building.

Igniting flammable gas consistently is much more difficult than it appears, which is one reason that flamethrowers on Battelbots tend to be unreliable. But Young did eventually get Blacksmith’s signature weapon working as advertised, and Blacksmith was ready for the 2016 “Battlebots” season.

Blacksmith shooting fire during a battle.

Kindle knew that the hammer wasn’t going to be the most devastating weapon in the field of competitors, but he built Blacksmith tough enough to resist blows from the deadliest spinners in the tournament. One of the secrets to Blacksmith’s durability is that its vital batteries and motors are far inside its tank-like frame, with lots of space between the outside armor and the electrical components. “People ask me what the best armor is,” Kindle says. “It’s air.”

Over the seasons, Kindle’s bot has developed a reputation for extreme toughness. It may not be the deadliest bot in the competition, but it is one of the best built and can take hits that would knock out lesser machines.

Battlebots is filmed over a two-week period. One thing viewers don’t see is the immense amount of strain this puts on the teams. Kindle says he and his wife, Cara, have not taken a real vacation since 2015. Battlebots competitors make real sacrifices in their personal lives for the glory of competition.

In addition to being time consuming, it is tremendously expensive to build a 250-pound battlebot. “Blacksmith in the box ready to fight this season was $20,000 to $25,000,” Kindle says. It’s insane.” This cost includes two entire frames, wheel drive motors and spares at $500 apiece, $5,000 worth of steel … the list goes on. Blacksmith has shelves of parts, including custom-machined pieces of armor designed to fight specific opponents. With a 250-pound weight limit, parts can be strategically added and removed to counter enemy weapons. For example, Blacksmith uses a huge steel plow when fighting low-hitting horizontal spinners, saving weight elsewhere by removing heavy top armor.

While Blacksmith may cost as much as a new car, the expense is offset by sponsors who want to see their names associated with Battlebots’ spectacle of engineering know-how and mechanical mayhem. NPC Robotics, Kloeckner Metals of York, Pennsylvania, and Jet Precision Metal of Hawthorne all sponsor Blacksmith and provide parts.

The biggest sponsor, however, is Nuclear Blast Records, a name that is familiar to those who are fans of heavy metal music like Kindle is. What better way to advertise bands like Slayer and Hammerfall than with the most metal of battlebots?

Kindle was the one who pursued a Nuclear Blast sponsorship, having recognized them as a good fit. A long-time metalhead, Kindle got an e-mail address from a friend who runs a metal music mail order business and asked for a sponsorship. As a result Blacksmith gained its most enthusiastic sponsor, and Kindle says he has even gained crossover fans for Blacksmith from metalheads who heard about it from the record label.

He even made a cutout of the Nuclear Blast logo on the hammerhead: a radiation hazard symbol that’s backlit by the flames. Extremely metal. Kindle says he would like to have a metal band play Blacksmiths’ walk-up music: Ideally, Overkill, an Old Bridge-based band.

Blacksmith also generates income from merchandise and toy sales. Kindle sells Blacksmith T-shirts, and Hexbug has made remote-controlled Blacksmith toys. Kindle says he will just about break even financially this season.

From its debut, Blacksmith’s flaming hammer proved to be incredibly photogenic, and photos of its fights were often used to promote “Battlebots.”

In its first fight, Blacksmith fought and knocked out two opponents in a multi-bot “rumble.” Next, it fought Bronco, which used a pneumatic flipper to toss Blacksmith around the arena, eventually knocking it out by hanging it on one of the battlebox walls.

Its last fight of 2016 was an epic battle. Blacksmith faced off against Minotaur, a compact Brazilian bot with a terrifying drum spinner that sounds like an airplane engine when spun up to full speed.

The bout began with Kindle using a plow attachment to keep Minotaur at bay, pushing it around the arena and trying to shove it over the wall or beneath the pulverizer hammers. But a little under a minute in, Minotaur’s spinner got a grip and launched Blacksmith 10 feet into the air. But Blacksmith kept coming after that hit, and two more in rapid succession that sent the boxy bot reeling in a shower of sparks. Blacksmith retaliated with hammer blows that did nothing to faze its opponent.

Over the next minute, Minotaur’s mighty drum spinner dismantled Blacksmith piece by piece, breaking the plow off, then the hammer, sending the hammerhead flying. Despite massive damage, Blacksmith kept attacking, flailing at Minotaur with its hammer shaft until finally relentless attacks from Minotaur set Blacksmith’s batteries on fire, disabling the bot, gutting it, and ending its season.

“We went out in a blaze of glory,” Kindle says.

The fight was so spectacular that it quickly became the most viewed video of all time on ABC’s YouTube channel. It now has 13 million views, and between that and its viewership on Facebook of more than 20 million, Kindle says it’s probably the most viewed Battlebots video ever. “Unfortunately we get our ass kicked in that fight,” he says. “The rematch was much better but nobody cares because we didn’t get hurt.”

Despite his viral fame, Kindle says he has only been recognized once, in a pizzeria. Cara was recognized before Al was, at a bank.

“Battlebots” was cancelled by ABC but came back on the Discovery Channel and the Science Channel in 2018, and Blacksmith has been in both seasons since then. In 2018 it only won one of its five matches, but bounced back the next year, and had fought its way to a 3-2 record. As of this writing, Blacksmith had made it to the “round of 16,” the post-season playoffs of the Battlebots sport.

Blacksmith currently sits war-beaten and battle scarred in Kindle’s garage. One of its armored attachments is gouged from a battle with Rotator, a horizontal spinner, and its top armor has two patches where the steel fang of a biting robot, Quantum, sunk into it and could only be removed with the aid of a hydraulic press.

Kindle, who has a sense of humor with a self-deprecating edge, has become almost as famous as his bot on Internet communities dedicated to Battlebots thanks to his non-poker-faced reactions to various misfortunes. “You can’t take yourself too seriously,” Kindle says.

Kindle does take the competition seriously in that he wants to win. And he acknowledges that may be difficult with his hammer, which isn’t powerful enough for his satisfaction. “The hammer’s just not going to hit hard enough no matter what we do,” he says. “Unless you do high-level pneumatics or hydraulics or something, it’s just not.”

As for the flames, they are mostly just for show. Kindle says opponents protect their bots’ innards with flame-resistant material when fighting him, so the fire can’t really do any damage.

But the flaming hammer is Blacksmith’s identity, and it just wouldn’t be the same without it.

“We’re kind of locked into it. This is our bot, as much as we all would rather just put on a vertical disc spinner and beat everybody. … everybody likes this one, and so we’re going to try to win with this one,” Kindle says.

Kindle says that anyone watching Battelbots like he was back in 1994, and who was inspired to get into the competition, would do well to check out the Northeast Robotics Club. “Most builders are happy to help new builders get started,” Kindle wrote in an e-mail. The Northeast Robotics Club is online at nerc.us and a Facebook Group called Northeast Robotics Club. Another good resource for beginners is the “Robot Combat” Facebook group.

Kindle will be at the Franklin Institute event on Saturday, October 5, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., where 3 and 30-pound robots will slug it out. For more information, visit buildersdb.com.

One thing that viewers of the show don’t see much of is the camaraderie between bot builders between matches. “The producers always commented on that,” Kindle says. “They would say, ‘you guys are the nicest group of people, and it’s horrible for TV.’ They would rather us hate each other, but it would all be fake.”

Kindle says that from local events all the way up to Battlebots, the builders are quick to help each other out with a helping hand or spare parts to get one another working. “I don’t ever want to win because your bot wasn’t ready, or your bot wasn’t the best it could be because you needed a part and maybe I had it, maybe I could have helped you. People find that strange, but we’ll help each other right up until we’re in the box,” Kindle says. “Then we try to kill each other. That’s just the way we are.”

PSO Opens Its Season with a True Life Sister Act

Christina and Michelle Naughton.

Mozart wrote his concerto for two pianos for himself and his sister. Michelle and Christina Naughton, who will play the piece with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, are related even more closely than the composer and his sister. They are identical twins. Michelle is eight minutes older than Christina.

The Naughtons perform the Mozart Concerto in E-flat Major, K. 365 in Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium on Saturday and Sunday, September 21 and 22.

The performances mark a homecoming. The Naughton sisters were born in Princeton in 1988.

They also mark an anniversary. Rossen Milanov, who conducts the Princeton Symphony Orchestra in an all-Mozart program and selected Mozart’s K. 365 Concerto for the event, is celebrating his 10th year as PSO musical director.

Michelle was available for a telephone interview with U.S. 1. K. 365 is a special piece for the Naughtons, as well as for Milanov. Milanov conducted the pianists’ Philadelphia Orchestra debut in this piece.

The piece presents similar material for both pianists, Michelle reports. “There is no big difference in terms of complexity,” she says. “Choosing the part to perform is as simple as drawing straws or tossing a coin.”

“The piece has a sibling-like rivalry,” she adds. “It’s a type of conversation, and it’s interesting to guess what Mozart wrote for himself and what he wrote for his sister.”

“The interplay with the orchestra,” she says, “is really a spontaneous collaboration between the pianos and the orchestra. The possibilities for different colors and timbres are enormous.”

Michelle is enthusiastic about playing for the first time with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. “It’s like getting to know new friend for the first time,” she says. “We’ve already worked on the music separately. I expect a big bonding experience as we get to know each other and to find out what we can do together. It will be a new experience — coming together in a new hall, with a new ensemble. There will be a lot of give and take.”

Michelle is conscious that performing as a duo has several advantages for herself and her sister. Thinking of the loneliness of long trips, the first item she lists is “traveling together.”

Then, turning to the evolution of the duo’s history, she cites other pluses. First on her list is “enjoying playing together.” That enjoyment, she believes, leads to “spontaneity while performing.”

“That spontaneity,” she says, “takes a long time to develop. It takes a huge amount of preparation. For us it’s one of the rewards of getting to know each other very well musically.”

When I ask her about the impact of being twins on the spontaneity of the duo, she says, “I ask myself that same question. Maybe it’s having the same training. Maybe it’s having been together throughout our training.”

Then she decisively adds, “But maybe it’s that being twins, we were together a great deal of the time and came to understand each other quite well, often in ways that are not comprehensible. Maybe familiarity saves a lot of rehearsal time.”

And maybe, she adds, familiarity avoids some disagreements when performers plan a program.

Disagreements between the Naughtons are in the moment and evolve into unanimity, Michelle says. “One of us sometimes feels something that the other doesn’t. It’s a matter of individuality. When we finally agree, it’s likely to be something that neither of us suggested originally. Preparing a work is a journey into the unfamiliar. After spending hours trying to figure things out,” she admits, “we really don’t know how we reached decisions.”

“Selecting repertoire is always fun,” she says. “When we’re putting together a recital, we act as if we were putting a meal together. We think about the order of the components and how they fit together.”

“We think of it from the point of view of listeners and consider the themes and the links between pieces. We look into the emotions in pieces from different musical periods. We plan as if it were a journey. Quite likely, the audience is unaware of how we put a program together. We do not expect listeners to be conscious of our process.”

In performance the Naughtons shift roles, Michelle says. “It’s not a matter of leader and follower. We look at a score together and a leader and follower emerge. Who takes the lead depends on the situation. It’s an ongoing dialogue that depends on the music. It gradually becomes clear to us who that should be. I can’t describe it in words. Our rehearsals have an intuitive quality.”

In their daily practice, they sometimes disagree before deciding about details of performance, Michelle says. Their daily disagreements tend to be about pedaling, articulation, and voicing.

Michelle, presumably speaking for both sisters, considers performance “a conversation without words.” Indeed, she says, “Music can express more than words do.”

Trained as soloists at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute and New York’s Juilliard School, the Naughtons have performed separately as well as together. “We have the same size hands,” Michelle notes.

When the sisters perform on one piano, Michelle reports, Christina prefers playing the bass part. And Michelle often lets her take the lower part.

Michelle and Christina, now 31 and based in New York City, were born in Princeton when their father, Jeffrey, was a faculty member at Princeton University. The twins were one-year-old when their father joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Naughtons started piano at age four. Their mother, Shirley, a high school mathematics teacher, was their first piano instructor and taught each of them separately. Michelle and Christina began playing together when they were in high school, Michelle says. “We didn’t think of it earlier,” she notes.

“Music was always a family thing,” Michelle explains. “Both parents love music and wanted to share it with us. Our father, a computer guy, would drive us to lessons, and our mother came along.”

Their ethnic background is mixed. Their mother, who grew up in Wisconsin, is of Chinese ethnicity. Their father’s background is primarily Irish. “I call myself Chi-rish,” Michelle adds. “We’re American, you know.”

They have no other siblings. “It’s hard to know if we have special connections because of being twins,” Michelle says. “I grew up as a twin and never experienced anything else.”

And what would she have done if she hadn’t become a pianist? I ask. And she replies, “Wished to become pianist.”

All Mozart, Princeton Symphony Orchestra, Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University. Saturday, September 21, 8 p.m., and Sunday, September 22, pre-concert talk at 3 p.m. and concert 4 p.m. $10 to $100. 609-497-0020 or www.princetonsymphony.org.

In Their Own Words: Griffin & Frankenthaler at PUAM

A self-portrait by Gillett G. Griffin, circa 1952.

Two soon-to-close Princeton University Art Museum exhibits offer visitors the opportunity to consider artistic exploration — as both a collector and creator.

“Legacy: Selections from the Gillett G. Griffin Collection” is a celebration of the life and career spanning from 1928 to 2016.

A Princeton University and community member, Griffin was also a noted artist, curator, scholar, teacher, and collector.

And while he donated thousands of artworks and artifacts to the museum, this exhibition contain only 55 pieces. But they represent his range of interests and include Greek, Roman, Egyptian, ancient Near Eastern, Islamic, African, Chinese, Japanese, and Pre-Columbian antiquities, as well as European and American prints, drawings, and sculptures.

Also included are some of Griffin’s paintings and drawings that museum organizers say “attest to Griffin’s own talents as an artist.”

A PUAM biographical statement on Griffin says the former museum curator of Pre-Columbian and Native American art had a passion for collecting that began “while he was a student at Yale University School of Art, where he studied painting and graphic design and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1951. He wandered into a New Haven junk shop and purchased a tiny ceramic head for 25 cents. Showing it to George Kubler, a renowned professor of art history at Yale, he learned that the head came from the Valley of Mexico and dated to before 400 B.C. So began a lifetime of collecting that would later inform his scholarship and teaching,” one that also included co-discovering the cave paintings by Mexico’s Olmec people that were identified as the oldest paintings ever seen in the New World, 800 and 400 B.C.

In addition to leaving his work, Griffin also left a statement regarding the art of collecting. It appeared as the introduction to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1964 publication “The Guennol Collection.”

True collecting is an intensely personal and private adventure. The collector, giving emphasis to certain specialized forms of art or to a specific artists, can be as creative in his pursuit of his quarry as the artist who unfolds his own vision of the cosmos to the rest of the world.

It may be that only the collector can truly appreciate the whole of his collection. For, apart from the intrinsic beauty of each object, collecting is an experience to be remembered – possibly preceded by a long search, frustrations, then the locale where the piece was first encountered and the personalities involved in its discovery, and , perhaps, a final anguish whether to purchase or not. The collector usually sees many things before the right one appears, but it can be — with luck — love at first sight.

The collector must be self-educated and one must know and feel a great deal about a number of disparate fields. A collector must occasionally rely on professionals to authenticate a purchase, but whether or not to acquire an object is ultimately dependent upon the integrity of the collector.

Legacy: Selections from the Gillett G. Griffin Collection is on view through Sunday, October 6. A tour and reception take place Friday, September 27, at 4 p.m.

Helen Frankenthaler in her studio in 1956.

Elsewhere “Helen Frankenthaler Prints: Seven Types of Ambiguity” allows the PUAM to display several art works gifted by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation to the museum as well as commemorate an artistic adventurer.

The exhibition combines the new work with other museum holdings and uses 50 pieces spanning more than five decades to examine “Frankenthaler’s compositional language, working process, collaborations, evocations of place, and historical referents” and “the vitality of the artist’s work in prints throughout her remarkable career.”

Frankenthaler (1928 to 2011) was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The daughter of Alfred Frankenthaler, a New York State Supreme Court judge, she was encouraged to study and pursue professional careers. That led the artist to study art and find herself as part of the groundbreaking American Abstract Art movement.

In 1968 Frankenthaler was the subject of a Smithsonian Institute interview and in the following excerpts talks about her state of mind after leaving Bennington College and the various mid-century art approaches she was learning and leaving behind:

It was Picasso and then there were all the others that I was learning to see and digest. But I think what got to my particular sensibility was, aside from learning Cubism, [Wassily] Kandinsky.

The next step was just to do it myself or teach it, or do something else. But not to learn anymore, except in my own terms.

And I was painting and changing and developing and going through that bridge from early Kandinsky and (Arshile) Gorky to my own thing. And I was just starting to part totally with subject matter.

In 1956 and 57 I think I let a lot of things come out in pictures (and) get simplified and simplified and simplified.

I went through something around 1959, 1960, where I was really using — something like orange green (probably Orange Breaking Through, 1961), black with shadow (probably Winter Figure with Black Overhead, 1959?). And then one that is clearly a nude (Nude, 1958), I mean anybody who knows pink and breast shape, the feeling of body being seen. Now it isn’t a figure in a room or in a landscape, but it is very much that feeling . . .

And then I first started working on the floor. . . I know that (Jackson) Pollock’s pictures and his method and material affected me greatly. . . I might have thought working on the floor is the way to do what I’ve got to do and keep doing it and I’m going to try it. But I don’t remember, say, coming back with a decision of, this is my mentor and I’m not going to do it. But if it did come from someone certainly it came from him no doubt.

I’ve always thought that with (Willem) de Kooning you could assimilate and copy. And that Pollock instead opened up what one’s own inventiveness could take off from. In other words, given one’s own talent for curiosity that you could explore, originate, discover from Pollock as one might, say, Picasso, or Gorky or Kandinsky in a way that de Kooning was a closed oeuvre.

I didn’t paint new long canvases until I had seen his and I’m sure that Pollock’s ambience affected me tremendously. I was much more drawn to Pollock’s painting on the raw canvas than I was to de Kooning’s easel cuisine and there it’s a matter of sensibility. Aesthetically, socially, in every way the de Kooning thing seemed to be much more productive, planned, admirable at the time. But I didn’t think so. I thought that Pollock was really the one living in nature much more than de Kooning.

I knew that what I was making was not what others were doing. I was embarking on sort of discovering what I was about.

I mixed funny shades of colors and used them but I used them because they made the drawing in my picture move. It wasn’t because I was in love with the idea of putting color down. But these colors were the expedient things to use for the way I drew and I say “draw” not meaning line, though it might have included line. But the way I drew or envisioned or made my work. And it happened that it came out stressing color. But I did not have a vision or a notion about color per se being the thing that would make me or my pictures work or operate.

I think as in anything involving work, experience, trial, error, accident, that suddenly there is an oeuvre and you read signs in it and then you either pick up or follow those signs or reject them and a strain or a sensibility or a wrist or an eye develops that becomes what a style is.

Helen Frankenthaler Prints: Seven Types of Ambiguity on view through Sunday, October 20. A free exhibition tour takes place Saturday, October 6, at 3 p.m. Additionally, a free symposium on Frankenthaler titled “A Vital Legacy” features a trio of conversations with artists, art historians, and others on Friday, September 19, at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, September 20, from 9 a.m. to 12:30.

Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton campus. Free. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Mondays. 609-258-3788 or artmuseum.princeton.edu.

French Theater Artists Arrive for Annual Seuls en Scene Festival

“Desordre du discours.”

The Seuls en Scene French Theater Festival returns to Princeton on Thursday, September 19, and continues through Saturday, September 28.

Now in its eighth year, the festival — whose name translates as “Alone on Stage” — is presented by Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, department of French and Italian, and the university L’Avant Scene French theater program.

The annual free event is produced by Princeton University faculty member and L’Avant Scene coordinator Florent Masse and features established and emerging contemporary French actors, directors, and writers.

The festival opens with “Desordre du discours” (The Disorder of Discourse), French actor and choreographer Fanny de Cahille’s performed re-enactment of influential 20th-century French philosopher and social historian Michel Foucault’s 1970 inaugural lecture at the College de France. It will be performed in French (with English subtitles) at Princeton University’s McCosh 10 on Thursday, September 19, at 8 p.m., and Friday, September 20, at 6 p.m.

“Le marteau et la faucille” (The Hammer and the Sickle) is director Julien Gosselin’s stage interpretation of a story by American writer Don DeLillo. Designed to “examine a dystopian world of high finance and violence in our societies,” the work will be performed in the Lewis Art Complex’s Wallace Theater on Friday and Saturday, September 20 and 21m at 8 p.m.

Director Gosselin will join in a public conversation in French with writer and director Pascal Rambert and author, journalist, and former director of French culture Laure Adler at the Lewis Arts Complex, Saturday, September 21, at 11 a.m.

“Qui a tue mon pere”

“Qui a tue mon pere” (Who Killed my Father) is French novelist Edouard Louis’s play using an injured factory worker to create a political critique of the violence perpetrated against the working class. Created in collaboration with French director and performer Stanislas Nordey, it will be presented in French with English subtitles at the Matthews Acting Studio, 185 Nassau Street, on Saturday, September 21, at 2 p.m.

“Avignon a vie” (Avignon for Ever) is Rambert’s “love letter” to the annual Avignon Theater Festival and its ability to depict the beauty and pain of the human condition. The festival also serves as partner or a source of productions for Seuls en Scene. Nordey performs the work in French at the Hearst Dance Theater at the Lewis Arts Complex, Sunday, September 22, at 5 p.m.

“blablabla,” director Emmanuelle Lafon and composer Joris Lacoste’s children’s version of their production “Encyclopedie de la parole” (Encyclopedia of Speech), is an evolving project begun in 20017 and, says its creators, “explores the spoken word in all its forms.” It will be performed in French at the Wallace Theater Lewis Arts Complex on Wednesday, September 25, at 4 and 8 p.m.

“La loi des prodigies” (The Prodigies’ Law) features actor Francois De Brauer in a one-man show where he uses minimal props and costumes to tell the life story of a man who develops a hatred of art and artists. It will be performed in French at the Matthews Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street on Thursday and Friday, September 26 and 27, at 8 p.m.

And “Radio Live” concludes the festival with radio journalists and producers Aurelie Charon and Caroline Gillet and illustrator Amelie Bonnin’s live stage program that involves music, real-life exchanges with a Bosnian war survivor, a former member of India’s “untouchable” social caste, and Princeton students. The event is presented in English at the Wallace Theater in the Lewis Arts Complex on Saturday, September 28, at 2 and 8 p.m.

Seuls en Scene French Theater Festival. Thursday, September 19 through Saturday, September 28. Tickets to all events are free but must be reserved in advance, either online at tickets.princeton.edu, in person at the box offices at Frist Campus Center and the Lewis Arts complex, or by calling 609-258-9220. For more information: arts.princeton.edu/events

McCarter Theater Review: ‘Gloria: A Life’

Mary McDonnell, center, and the cast of “Gloria: A Life.”

Emily Mann’s “Gloria: A Life” has so many intersecting and overlapping facets, the play, also directed by Mann for Princeton’s McCarter Theater, needs to be reviewed from several perspectives, as if it were a cubist painting.

Let’s start with the piece’s structure, a work of genius on Mann’s part.

The Gloria whose life is examined is Gloria Steinem, who first established a reputation in the silent, lonesome profession of writing but made her name as a firebrand speaker, rallier, lobbyist, and spokeswoman for Women’s Liberation.

Mann, charged with blending biography with achievement, takes a mostly linear approach but jettisons the standard narrative for a tone and atmosphere that comes straight from Steinem’s milieu. The overall impression is of series of gatherings, from intimate circle caucuses to full-blown demonstrations, in which Steinem hones and delivers her rhetoric while speaking, between slogans and aphorisms, about how she arrived to some of her conclusions and how experience deepened and sharpened her message.

It’s a remarkable feat, exposing the life, thoughts, and public evolution of a known figure in the exact style that generated that figure’s fame.

We see Steinem as we remember her, tying complex thoughts into four-word phrases, motivating women and others seeking redress from undue restraint and authority with rousing speeches, and employing style and wit many of her colleagues lacked or eschewed as immaterial.

Steinem, portrayed by the inviting, involving Mary McDonnell, is present in all of her liveliness and immediacy. The McCarter audience is often treated as a Steinem audience, prompted to applaud and show cheering approval. The magic part about this is the shilling never irritates. Steinem, via McDonnell, rouses folks, gets their juices going, starts their minds racing, and earns the effect that, in many circumstances, would backfire by seeming thick or coercive.

Steinem/McDonnell — they become interchangeable — state that a purpose of “Gloria: A Life” is to provoke thought and conversation for days, and my bet is they’ll succeed. (The person I saw it with called me twice the next day with revelations and points of insight that continued a conversation that began at show’s end and lasted through an ice cream stop and a 35-mile ride home.)

McDonnell puts a charge in McCarter’s air. She and six castmates create both energy and controversy. The challenges, ideas, and calls for action Steinem brings forth create excitement bordering on electricity whether you agree with everything spouted or not.

Rhetoric is another of the facets.

“Gloria: A Life” reveals a lot. Facts and statistics are bruited as often as opinions, sometimes to provide information or shore up opinions. The relationship between women’s issues and those of minorities, particularly female minorities, Native Americans, and immigrants is clearly and frequently made. Mann and Steinem are both intent on stating that social subjugation and the denial of equality do not operate in a vacuum or touch a single segment of the populace.

Their arguments are interesting, at times arresting. Mann even finds ways to vary issues so all complaints and proposed solutions do not sound the same.

The rhetoric plays for the duration of the piece. Momentum and a perceptible audience will to support Steinem give her points of view the field — and the day.

A downside of that is facts may be cut-and-dried, but what they mean to individuals might not be. An idea that is rational in some contexts could have tentacles that require subtlety or expanded discussion to cover every aspect.

“Gloria: A Life” assumes agreement. It declares more than it couches things in “I’m Gloria Steinem, and this is what I personally think.”

From the idea of presenting a biography in which Gloria Steinem is the subject, this makes dramatic sense.

At times, though, Mann comes off as being just as much an advocate as she is a playwright. Her piece leaves little breathing room for attitudes of “not so far,” “not so fast,” or “that isn’t the only consideration or the entire story.”

Watching “Gloria: A Life,” the tendency is to be so caught up in Steinem’s logic and the sincere crusade she wages, it seems small to withhold applause or radical to shake your head “no” at a Steinem maxim, but “Gloria’s” truth is not everyone’s truth or belief, even if one would not go as far as the depicted Phyllis Schlafly or some callers Steinem endures while on live radio and TV to voice their disdain. It’s Steinem speaking as Steinem, so it’s plausible to have a sense of absolutism prevail. That may excuse, but it doesn’t totally relieve occasional feelings that force-feeding is afoot.

Theatricality is non-stop and abundant. Perfectly chosen projections underscore and illustrate the stadium feeling McDonnell and company create on stage. Mann, as director, has provided much for the eye and ear to take in. Her production moves as much as it is moving.

“Gloria: A Life” has no firm intermission, but it has a “second act,” in which people from the audience become a circle caucus and offer personal stories that expound on what they heard and saw. On opening night, the scripted section was stronger, but some stray comments from the house hit home.

Mary McDonnell is wonderful as Steinem, exuding Steinem’s intellect and the enthusiasm. She is abetted by six who play dozens of characters: Patrena Murray, Brenda Withers, Gabrielle Beckford, Mierke Girten, Erika Stone, and Eunice Wong. Murray is a constant conscience for the piece, Girten a hilarious Bella Abzug, and Stone an inspiring Wilma Mankiller. Beautiful rugs and chests assembled by set designer Amy C. Rubin and perfect costumes by Jessica Jahn enhance Mann’s production.

Gloria: A Life, McCarter Theater, 91 University Place, Princeton. Through October 6, Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday (and Wednesday, October 2), 2 p.m. $25 to $95. 609-283-2782 or www.mccarter.org.

Let’s Try: The Deck & Stella

The view of the Delaware River from the Deck restaurant.

When my dining companion and I stopped by The Deck restaurant in New Hope, Pennsylvania, for lunch on a recent Tuesday afternoon, the last thing we thought we’d need was a reservation. As it turned out, the place was jam-packed with diners, and the reason soon became clear.

Seconds after our gracious host escorted us to the last available table for two, our enthusiastic server, Sonia, inquired whether we were attending the matinee performance of “Mamma Mia!,” set to begin in an hour. When we assured her we weren’t, we were left to peruse the menu at a leisurely pace while staff scurried about to ensure that ticket-holding patrons would make the 2 o’clock curtain.

That gave us plenty of time to survey the decor as well. The Deck makes a great first impression. Part of a multi-million-dollar renovation/reconstruction of the venerable Bucks County Playhouse and surrounding property, its barn-red board and batten cladding on the interior and exterior carries through from the playhouse and references its first transformation from an 18th-century grist mill to its debut as a performance space in 1939.

The interior fittings and finishes make effective use of industrial-style materials, such as exposed ductwork and polished concrete floors, strategically accented with natural wood. The inviting bar to the left as you enter offers casual dining at the bar or a scattering of high-top tables. A bank of monitors over the bar displayed various sporting events, while a strategically placed piano stood ready and waiting for live entertainment in the evening.

In the main dining room metal-framed rollup doors along the wall facing the river display the postcard view of the Delaware River, Lambertville, and of course the bridge connecting the two towns. Dark wood metal-framed chairs, matching tables, ceiling in shades of gray, and industrial-style lighting all work together to craft an impression of quality and thoughtful design.

One aspect of a restaurant that concerns many diners is the noise level in the dining room. Despite the abundance of hard surfaces, a background playlist that seemed to be drawn from popular juke-box musicals and a dining room filled to capacity, conversation between diners at a reasonable volume was perfectly possible, thanks perhaps in part to the discreet sound-absorbing panels attached to the ceiling.

The well-structured menu in the main dining room, served throughout the day, is divided into an eclectic mix at a range of price points. “Snacks” include fried peanuts (lime, cilantro, shallots, and sea salt) priced at $7 and a Charcuterie Board offered for $16. “Grains + Greens” include a Garden Greens salad ($7) and a Laughing Bird Shrimp Waldorf (roasted grape, walnut, grilled pear, butter lettuces, cider + honey yogurt) for $16. The “Seasonal Plates” section offers more substantial fare, including a Grilled Grass-Fed Hanger Steak served with mashed Yukon potatoes, Bearnaise, and “roots-to-river vegetables” and priced at $32.

We chose gazpacho served with a toasted crouton and intensely flavored with roasted tomato, followed by the Chicken Paillard BLT on toasted sourdough and a surprisingly tasty (to this carnivore) “Beyond Burger” veggie burger from the “Picnic” section of the menu. Carrying through with the industrial theme, a mini deep-fryer basket contained a mini Mason jar filled with a spicy mayo-based dressing and a mini clay flower pot heaped with hot, crisped herb fries, and excellent slaw was included for good measure. A Nutella & Dark Chocolate Brownie (candied red beet, Bent Spoon vanilla bean ice cream) reminded us that the diet starts … any day now.

As 2 p.m. approached, we soon had the dining room virtually to ourselves, watching a Dragon Boat glide along the Delaware River as the hoard of sated diners shuffled enthusiastically through the doors and to the theater.

The Deck Bar and Restaurant, 70 South Main Street, New Hope, Pennsylvania. Open Wednesdays and Thursdays, noon to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, noon to midnight, and Sundays, noon to 8:30 p.m. 267-270-2989 or www.playhousedeck.com

Stella by Jose Garces

Just across the courtyard along the riverside promenade from the Bucks County Playhouse and the Deck restaurant, you’ll find Stella by Jose Garces, the newest project of his Garces Group.

Since he opened his first restaurant, Amada, in Philadelphia in 2005, Chef Garces has firmly established his credentials as a James Beard Award-winning chef, cookbook author, and entrepreneur. And the Garces Group operates restaurants across the country. If you’re still not impressed, Chef Garces is one of eight American chefs to have earned the title Iron Chef from the reality/cooking competition program of the same name.

Perhaps equally impressive is the look and feel of Stella (the restaurant is named after the rescue pit bull of the movers and shakers behind the playhouse project, Kevin and Sherri Daugherty). Although the exterior is decked out in the same barn-red board and batten cladding as the playhouse and the Deck restaurant, the interior is fitted out in a bespoke yet understated style in keeping with Stella’s loftier culinary aspirations and with the upscale accommodations offered by the Ghost Light Inn, a boutique hotel offering 12 rooms in the same building and three additional rooms in an adjacent carriage house.

Although the venue has been in somewhat stealth soft-opening mode since the beginning of summer, it is now in full operation and has clearly been discovered; reservations well in advance are a must.

Chef Garces happily responded to my emailed questions prior to my visit to Stella:

What makes New Hope and the Bucks County Playhouse promenade a good fit for a Garces restaurant?

“We think that our hospitality and creative take on classic American fare using some of the best local ingredients fits in nicely with the gorgeous surroundings.”

What was your approach to designing the menu for Stella?

“Our approach was to use American regional cuisine as the inspiration. The landscape of American cuisine is so vast and varied, that it opened the door to a lot of different flavors and techniques.”

How would you describe the experience a first-time guest at Stella can expect?

“Depending on the season the views would change, but a first-time guest would experience the restaurant as a welcoming spot nestled into the riverside. There are also two fireplaces, inside and outside, that really adds to the vibe.”

What will guests at other Garces venues find familiar at Stella? What may surprise them?

“Across all Garces restaurants, the attention to detail on our dishes shines brightly. Our small plate format will be familiar to all of our guests, and we encourage sharing. In terms of a surprise, the first thing that came to mind is our spaghetti pie dish — it’s a take on an American classic that’s a baked spaghetti casserole.”

Now a visit. Stella’s main dining room shows a decidedly upscale, modern, industrial look and feel. There’s seating for 16 at the well-stocked bar on tall black wrought iron stools covered with persimmon hued upholstery.

Several long communal tables in the center of the dining space each seat another 16 or so on intimately spaced stools. Comfortably-spaced two-tops line the wall, and cleverly joined church pews form banquette-style seating.

The menu is organized into “Spreads” that include Smoked Eggplant & Pepper ($6) and Duck Liver Mousse ($8), “Small Plates” such as a salad of local lettuces ($11) and Maryland Peekytoe Crab ($18), and “Vegetables and Grains” like Asparagus Milanese ($12) and Spaghetti Pie ($18). “Meat and Fish” offerings range from Chicken and Dumplings ($19) to Wagyu Skirt Steak ($32).

Portions are reasonably sized and prices are fair value considering the quality of the decor, the quality of the preparations, and the reputation of Chef Garces. Sharing with dining companions is the way to go here.

One word of caution; diners on a strict budget should note that the well-curated wine list is priced in keeping with the upscale surroundings. The wine offerings on Stella’s website at the time this article was prepared included only one bottle priced below $50 (a rose from Provence at $45) and ranged up to a Signorello Estate 2014 cabernet sauvignon from Napa at $300, with a number of offerings in the $50 to $70 range.

That said the combination of setting, decor, cuisine, and the buzz that an accomplished celebrity chef brings to the table can make dining at Stella a stellar experience.

Stella by Jose Garces, 50 South Main Street, New Hope, Pennsylvania. Open Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4 to 11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. to midnight, and Sundays, 4 to 11 p.m. $20 valet parking available. 267-740-7131 or www.stellanewhope.com

Opportunities: Poetry, Scarecrows, and More

Audition

Kelsey Theater holds auditions for “Disney’s Frozen Jr.” on Saturday and Sunday, September 21 and 22, from noon to 4 p.m. Auditions will be held on the Mercer County Community College West Windsor Campus at 1200 Old Trenton Road. Auditions will consist of singing and dancing. Bring a photo, resume, and completed conflict calendar. Performers must be ages 7 to 18. Performance dates are Friday through Sunday, February 28 and 29 and March 1, 2020. For information contact Melissa Gaynor at melissa.gaynor.stagemgr@gmail.com. To register for an audition visit www.kelseyatmccc.org.

Call for Vendors

Bordentown Elks #2085 Women’s Auxiliary seeks crafters and vendors for its Craft & Vendor Show to be held Saturday, November 16, at the Bordentown Elks, 11 Amboy Road, Bordentown. An eight-foot table is $35. Contact Rosemary at 609-915-6754 or elkscraftshow@gmail.com.

Scholarships

The Princeton Mercer Chamber’s Women in Business Alliance and Stuart Country Day School are partnering to offer scholarships for 11 students to attend the NJ Conference for Women on Friday, October 25. The scholarship is open to young women currently in high school. Applicants must submit a 350-word essay detailing why they want to attend the conference and what women’s leadership means to them. Submission deadline is Friday, September 27, at 11:59 p.m. Visit www.njconferenceforwomen.com/scholarship.html.

Call for Scarecrows

Ewing-based businesses, schools, organizations, and civic groups are invited to participate in the town’s annual scarecrow scavenger hunt sponsored by the Ewing Green Team. The hunt runs from September 28 through October 23. Contact the Green Team at ewinggreenteam@gmail.com or register online at ewinggreenteam.org/scarecrow-scavenger-hunt-reg.

Additionally, groups and residents are invited to participate in the Annual Scarecrow Contest on Saturday, October 26. Scarecrows must be made of at least 80 percent recycled materials and will be on view at the Community Center. To learn more and to register, go to www.ewinggreenteam.org/scarecrow-contest.

Call for Poetry

The Princeton Section of the American Chemical Society (PACS) is sponsoring the National Chemistry Week (NCW) Illustrated Poem Contest for students in kindergarten through eighth grades. Students must write and illustrate a poem that fits the 2019 NCW theme of “Marvelous Metals.” Prizes will be awarded for grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. Winners will be announced at the NCW Activities Night at Princeton University on Friday, October 25. First place winners will advance to the ACS National Illustrated Poem Contest. Entries must be received by Friday, October 18 .Visit chemists.princeton.edu/pacs.