Between the Lines

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This article was prepared for the December 6, 2000 edition of U.S.

1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

For this `Carol,’ a Dark Look: Ming Cho Lee

by Simon Saltzman

At one point in one’s life one should do a `A


Carol,’" says eminent set designer Ming Cho Lee. Evidently Lee

has arrived at this precise point in his long and distinguished


Lee’s artistic vision — one that has brought him accolades for

almost half a century — will frame McCarter Theater’s brand new

production of Charles Dickens’ classic story, celebrating the 20th

year that the perennial favorite has been presented in Princeton.

Performances are continuing at McCarter to Thursday, December 24.

For the remainder of this article go to

A Christmas Carol, McCarter Theater, 91 University

Place, 609-258-2787. The new production of the Dickens’ classic runs

to December 24. $28 to $40.

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Between the Lines

At this time of year it’s virtually a cliche: The notion

that some particular event or piece of literature or work of art is

"beloved by children and grown-ups alike." But it’s also true:

That’s why the Gennady Spirin illustration for the McCarter Theater

production of "A Christmas Carol" seemed like the perfect

illustration to highlight Simon Saltzman’s interview with Ming Cho

Lee, the noted set designer for this year’s production (see page 28).

Spirin, a Russian-born, internationally known artist who happens to

live in Princeton, creates marvelous watercolor paintings, packed

with bejeweled princes and princesses, courtiers and villains in tall

hats and fur coats, and a menagerie of graceful birds and wild


His latest exhibit at the Firebird Gallery at 16 Witherspoon Street

opens with a reception on Saturday, December 9, from 5:30 to 7:30

p.m., and features original watercolors from two new picture books:

"Philipok" by Leo Tolstoy and "Joy to the World, a Family

Christmas Treasury."

Those of us who are past childhood may have forgotten how fiercely

loyal children can be to their favorites — and what a surprisingly

big business children’s books can be. Children’s fantasy author Brian

Jacques, for instance, has an avid following and, as with J. K.


famous Harry Potter, some Jacques books have made it onto the New

York Times best seller list. Set in England and peopled by woodland

creatures like mice, moles, hedgehogs, and squirrels, Jacques’


series is both explicitly adventurous and implicitly instructive.

One of our favorite U.S. 1 anecdotes concerns Jacques when he was

in London to tape a CBS Sunday Morning cover story broadcast earlier

this fall. He was accompanied by R. Timothy Moses, director of


for children’s books at Penguin Putnam, New York. The two were leaving

Jacques’ hotel room to go down to the lobby for an interview with

the London Times when Moses asked Jacques what he had tucked under

his arm. It was a copy of U.S. 1 Newspaper. Why?, Moses asked.


this is the best profile of me that anyone ever did," said


referring to Pat Summers’ profile (U.S. 1, January 12).

"But you must have been interviewed hundreds of times for hundreds

of stories," Moses recalls telling the author. "Make that

thousands," Jacques replied. Jacques then tried to give the copy

to the reporter from the Times, who said he was sure it was wonderful,

but that he would write his own.

In a subsequent phone call with Moses, we suggested that he must tell

a similar Brian Jacques story to every paper he calls just to make

them feel good. "Not bloody likely!" was his reply.

Moses also promotes Jan Brett, the subject of another Pat Summers

profile, who had a book signing in October at Jazams on Palmer Square.

We had heard from one would-be visitor that 80 people, waiting on

the sidewalk, prevented him and his two boys from getting near the

place. Moses’ response: "I’m surprised there were only 80 people.

Teachers and parents have been known to drive for two hours to one

of her signings."

It’s that time of year: It’s just for kids, of course, but the adults

even some Scrooges — get into the act as well.

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