Saturday, April 10, 2021
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Catch ‘Roebling’ To Go

Playwright Mark Violi

Playwright Mark Violi says his play “Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge,” currently available for online viewing through Theater to Go through April 9, “is very much a local story.”

In addition to the Brooklyn Bridge being in close proximity to the region, the story focuses on the Trenton family that made the bridge and helped make Trenton a powerful industrial center in the first part of the 20th century.

But the drama is in the story that begins with genius bridge designer John Roebling, who after a bridge accident dies and leaves the project to his engineer son, who also becomes incapacitated during another bridge accident, leaving the responsibility to finish the project to his wife, Emily.

Nevertheless, the bridge is the star.

“It is not a stretch to say that the bridge made New York City what it is,” says Violi during an interview in 2020. “Before, Brooklyn and New York were two separate cities. The bridge gave it the impetus to grow to what it is now.

“When it was completed, it was the longest, tallest bridge in the world. It used innovative techniques such as the wire rope that John Roebling had pioneered. The caissons used to build the bridge were at a depth and scale never used before.”

In addition to seeing the bridge as something “gosh-darn beautiful,” Violi says his relationship with the bridge started when he lived for a brief period in the town of Roebling.

“My mother talked about the bridge, and I saw a documentary about the Roeblings and how the bridge was built. And I thought more people should know about it. The local connection made it appealing to me, but the cultural aspect of the bridge made it worthy of a story being told.”

He says he started writing plays around 2003. “I had always wanted to write, and I didn’t know how. Looking back, I didn’t even know what a story was. I didn’t know about structure and taught myself. I read a bunch of books.

“I had been an actor for a long time. I had experience on the stage, so I figured if I was going to write something it should be a play. When I heard the (Roebling) story, it spoke to me. It felt this is what I have to write. Once I was confident enough I began writing it.”

And while Violi wanted to be sure he presented factual information and spent over a year doing research, he says he “allowed myself some artistic license ,and there are thing in the play that are truncated for the medium and to streamline the story. As an actor I had learned to trust my instinct.”

Violi says once the work was done, “I had access to actors through Kelsey Theater (at Mercer County Community College), and there was a reading that was helpful. I took the feedback and cut two scenes out.”

After another reading at the Villagers Theater in Franklin, Violi says, the play “sat in my drawer.”

The Roebling family as portrayed in a 2016 Kelsey Theater production of Violi’s play.

That was until one of the women involved with the reading took a position at Actors’ Net Theater in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where they were looking for new plays, and Violi was asked to submit work. The company proposed doing “Roebling” as a full production and sold out.

Violi says his connection to the company that has produced both live and the current digital presentation was through Theater to Go producer and director Ruth Markoe.

“Ruth and I had a relationship going back years ago at Kelsey Theater, where I worked with her as an actor,” says Violi. “Someone from the Roebling Museum saw ‘Roebling’ at Actors Net and talked about producing it in the town of Roebling. So I asked Ruth to direct. I know she had seen the show at Actors Net so she seemed the person to ask.”

The author of the play “Riding the Comet,” a dozen screenplays in circulation, and co-writer for the film “John Hart Patriot” was born in Trenton at St. Francis Hospital and raised in Hamilton, where his father worked as a heating technician and his mother held secretarial positions.

“I don’t know where my interest in the arts came from. They didn’t take me to museums or Broadway. I think it started in high school when I studied art and was in the choir.

“When I was growing up I could always draw. When you have such an apparent skill I pigeonholed myself. I always wanted to be an artist. Then I got in the high school show and remember that the director for the show and musical director took me out of class and told me, ‘You should be an actor.”

“I never thought about being an actor. I always wanted to be an artist. So I had enrolled in art school and decided to go to Rowan instead where I was a graphic design and illustration major. But I had some experience with acting as well. But I was too busy to do too many shows. After graduation and moving back to Hamilton, I wanted to get back into acting,” says the 1991 Hamilton West graduate.

Violi lives in Hamilton with his wife, Jackie, and their two children. It is also where he runs Web Hound Studios, a company that offers services in website development, print design, copy writing, marketing strategy, social media, video, and brand management.

“I was a senior web designer for Munich Reinsurance America in Princeton for 14 years. That was mostly three days a week. So it afforded me sometime at home to work with other clients through Web Hound and for last several years I have been working fulltime with it.”

Returning to the play, Violi says he’s pleased “to get the story out to so many people. The story itself has value in our culture. The story of how the bridge was built exemplifies the best of America and shows what we can do with a big idea and talented and determined building.

“When you consider that John Roebling was a German immigrant and Emily Roebling didn’t have the right to vote but is leading men in the construction of the biggest engineering endeavor since the pyramids, that’s a significant thing.”

Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge, by Mark Violi, a streamed presentation of Theater to Go’s 2016 Kelsey Theater production, $10. www.theatertogo.com.

Opportunities

Call for T-Shirt Designs

Attitudes In Reverse has announced its 13th Annual T-Shirt Design Concept Contest and is eager to receive students’ creative ideas for communicating the importance of seeking help for mental health disorders.

AIR is a Princeton-based nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth and adults about mental health, related disorders, and suicide prevention. Students are the main target audience because 50 percent of mental health disorders develop by the age of 14 and two-thirds of disorders develop by the age of 25. AIR aims to eliminate stigma, fear and embarrassment about mental health disorders so that individuals who experience symptoms can recognize them and be comfortable seeking help to prevent the disorders from interfering with their lives.

“We started the Annual T-Shirt Design Concept Contest in 2009 to raise students’ awareness of mental health and suicide prevention. When students wear the shirts featuring designs inspired by the contestants, they will spark important conversations. A student would ask about AIR and the conversation would naturally lead to more awareness, which, in turn, leads to a much greater likelihood that the student will pay attention to signs of mental health disorders in himself and others and take steps to get help when needed,” said Tricia and Kurt Baker, Co-founders of AIR.

Entries into AIR’s Annual T-Shirt Design Concept Contest are due Friday, April 30. The entry form is available online. All contestants will be recognized during the 10th Annual Miki & Friends Open AIR event, which will be held on Saturday, May 22, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at West Windsor Community Park. Prizes will be an iPad for first place and a $50 gift card for second place. The designs inspired by the winning concepts will be printed on T-shirts that the contestants and all volunteers will receive and will also be available to event attendees who donate $50 or more. The designs will also be featured on AIR’s website, www.air.ngo.

Summer Camp Offerings

The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University is offering half-day virtual summer art camps for children ages 6 to 14. One-week sessions are offered Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. from July 6 through 30 via Zoom.

Programs are divided into cohorts for ages 6 to 9 and ages 10 to 14. Session topics include “The Four Seasons & The Secrets of Drawing”; “Crazy About Cartoons & Art and Nature”; “Art Meets Science & Art Through the Ages”; and “Over the Rainbow: Exploring Color & Fantastical Beasts and How to Draw Them.”

For all details and to register, visit go.rutgers.edu/summerartcamp. For questions call 848-932-6787 or email education@zimmerli.rutgers.edu.

Premiere Stages, the professional theatre company at Kean University, has announced that Camp Premiere, the annual summer theater program for middle school and high school students, will be held in-person and outdoors on Kean University’s Union campus. Camps will strictly adhere to all state mandated COVID-19 safety requirements and recommendations.

Theatremakers runs July 12 through 23 for students entering grades 6 through 8. Through structured improvisation, storytelling exercises, and acting games, campers craft and star in their own theatrical presentation, performed live and outdoors for friends and family.

Actors Studio runs July 26 through August 6 for students entering grades 9 through 12. Students focus on the craft of acting through physical and vocal warm-ups, improvisation, acting technique, and scene study. Working closely with industry professionals, campers perform scenes from contemporary plays, selected specifically for unique talents and areas for growth. This camp culminates in a live outdoor performance of the campers’ work for friends and family.

Camper registration forms, the tuition payment portal, and scholarship applications can be found on Premiere Stages’ website at https://premierestagesatkean.com/play-factory/camp-premiere. Email questions to Nick Gandiello, education and play festival manager, at ngandiel@kean.edu.

Call for Art

The Trenton Museum Society’s annual juried Ellarslie Open is accepting submission for its 2021 edition to be on view at the museum and online from June 26 through October 3.

Artists are invited to submit work through Friday, April 30. This year’s juror is William R. Valerio, director and CEO of the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia.

The exhibition also offers participating artists 10 categories of awards, including $1,000 for Best in Show. A free public reception is set for Sunday, June 27, from 1 to 4 p.m.

The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion is Cadwalader Park’s address is 299 Parkside Avenue, Trenton. For more information and prospectus, visit www.ellarslie.org.

Plants for Sale

Herb Society of America – Delaware Valley Unit has moved its annual herb sale online. Visit https://herbsocietydelawarevalley.square.site to place an order for contactless pickup at the Holcombe Jimison Farmstead in Lambertville. Pick-up days are Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16.

Proceeds fund horticulture scholarship at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

Email hsa.dvu@gmail.com with “plant sale” in the subject line with any questions.

The D&R Greenway is also accepting online orders for its 2021 Native Plant Sale. Orders will be accepted through Wednesday, April 28, for pick-up on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, May 6 through 8. Visit www.drgreenway.org.

The Greenway is also seeking volunteers for its native plant nursery to help accept plant stock deliveries, pot bar root stock, and pot newly germinated seedlings. Email volunteer@drgreenway.org to volunteer or for more information.

Grants Available

The New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund (NJACRF) is accepting applications for a second round of recovery grants to assist the cultural sector. New Jersey arts, historical, and cultural organizations can apply for up to $50,000 in support of operating expenses related to personnel, facilities, professional services, and more. Application information and updated program eligibility and priorities are available online at www.njartsculture.org.

For more information on the NJACRF see U.S. 1, March 24.

New CEO Prescribed for Penn Medicine Princeton Health

James Demetriades talks with Reina Fleury, vice president of human resources and chief human resources officer.

James Demetriades, the recently named CEO of Penn Medicine Princeton Health in Plainsboro, is taking charge of one of the region’s major medical centers during an era of unprecedented change.

That includes the current impact of COVID-10.

“We are in the mist of significant change in the way health care is delivered,” says Demetriades during a recent telephone interview. “We have absolutely seen the telehealth of which Princeton was on the vanguard shift into primary care and health practice.”

Pointing to Penn-Princeton’s ability to support 80,000 behavioral health outpatients in 2020, Demetriades, who succeeded Barry Rabner on March 1, says, “Princeton Health has successfully pivoted in the age of COVID. We see this as a long-term change in the way in which health care is delivered.”

“We’re going to see a whole host of nontraditional competitors,” he continues, using an example of urgent care at home. “We’re working to develop a hybrid model — we want to reach people where they’re comfortable. Patients want to seek care close to home and outside institutional centers, and we’re working to see consumer preferences within our community.”

The medical landscape has also been changed over the past decade with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, which Demetriades says “was a net positive for both hospitals and patients. More people than ever had health coverage, which meant they had greater access to care.”

In addition to practice and increased coverage, the past several years has also refashioned the concept of hospitals and facilities.

Unlike single hospital buildings — like the former Princeton Hospital on Witherspoon Street — current practices emphasize complexes with amenities, designs, and multiple services.

Demetriades, who also served as what was then called Princeton Healthcare’s vice president of professional services from 2010 to 2020, and executive director of surgical services from 2007 to 2009, says, “When we were envisioning our new campus, we had the foresight to anticipate that change. On our campus we have essentially services that span the lifecycle of care for our communities.”

That includes services provided by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the hospital, a day care center, senior living projects, fitness and wellness centers, and rehabilitation care support from Merwick Care and Rehabilitation Center.

Penn Medicine Princeton Health CEO James Demetriades, bottom left, with members of the Princeton Health senior management team.

He says as Princeton Healthcare began planning its transition from Princeton in 2007 and the opening of the new facility on a 171-acre Plainsboro tract in 2012, the administration was looking to create a facility that would provide the previously mentioned broad level of services.

He sees the current engagement of services on the Penn Medicine Princeton Health campus translating into a $1.2 to $1.5 billion asset to the general community.

Explaining how such costs will be maintained, he says Penn-Princeton sold other health service providers land parcels, “so the not-for-profit hospital that sits at the center of the campus doesn’t bear the costs.”

As for expenses related to updating medical technology, Demetriades says, “One of the fortunate aspects for us is that we’re in a building that is eight years old. In the health care business we’re an infant. So a lot of the equipment we have is brand new. But we’ve continue to reinvested when new technology has hit the market — we have continuously reinvested to bring cutting-edge services and to stay current and not lose ground from an investment perspective.”

He adds that being part of Penn Medicine is an asset and that Princeton Health is “a wholly owned entity of the University of Pennsylvania. We are fully integrated as part of the Penn system.”

Penn Medicine, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia, has roots in the nation’s first hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital, founded in 1751; first medical school, The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, 1765; and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 1874.

Under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, its network of facilities also includes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health.

Demetriades says Princeton Health took a very deliberate approach to its partnership with Penn Medicine and noted several advantages for area patients. “Penn is one of the preeminent medical centers in the country. They help raise the quality and expertise.” That includes state-of-the-art protocols, record keeping, and “seamless” participation with Penn Medicine members’ services not available in Plainsboro.

“I think the other piece is that not only do they have one of the best clinical reputations but from an economic perspective Penn is one of the healthiest medical centers in the county. That has allowed us to invest in our services. That became apparent as we have come through the pandemic and many organizations have struggled.”

Originally from northeast Pennsylvania, Demetriades lives in Yardley, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Laura Prosser, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and their two daughters, ages 5 and 6.

He attended Tamaqua High School before earning a bachelor’s of science in healthcare administration from the University of Scranton and an M.B.A. in healthcare administration from the Temple University Fox School of Business in Philadelphia.

“Scranton had a top-notch hospital administration program, and I went to Temple because it is nationally ranked for healthcare administration,” he says about his choice of training.

“I think being a healthcare worker is the most virtuous calling there is,” he says regarding his career path. “My 94-year-old grandmother was a nurse at our local hospital when I was growing up and served as a nursing supervisor and nurse manager of the emergency department. I spent a lot of time in hospitals, and I was fascinated by their complexity. When I was an 18-year-old undergrad, I knew that I wanted to be involved in running hospitals.”

He extends his hospital work beyond Princeton as a Reserve Medical Service Corps officer in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

With the majority of his professional career at Princeton, Demetriades also served as vice president for trauma and surgical services at Reading Hospital and Medical Center from July, 2009, to November, 2010. “I had an opportunity to break into the vice president ranks. Then I was recruited back to Prince­ton to be part of the executive team working on the new hospital project. I loved Princeton, I loved the organization, and I was very excited to come back and be part of the planning, design, and move to the new hospital and campus.”

Accessing his skills at the start of his tenure of overseeing a facility with a $550 million annual operating budget, Demetriades says, “I bring a very strong operations background. I know how this organization functions and how it ticks. I have a strong relationship with our physician community, nursing staff, clinicians, and everyone who makes this organization.”

He adds he also brings a keen eye to the future and depends on four factors: “quality; growth and access to care for our community; patient experience; and elevating our staff so they can achieve their professional goals and advance in their careers and recruiting top-notch talent into the organization.”

But for now Demetriades says, “I think the first thing we need to do is manage the transition to a post-pandemic world. A great deal has changed, and it continues evolving as we speak. Our challenge is to respond to the evolving healthcare environment to best meet the needs of our patients and community.”

Penn Medicine Princeton Health, 1 Plainsboro Road, Plainsboro 08536. 888-742-7496. James Demetriades, CEO. www.princetonhcs.org.

People on the Move: Management Moves, Abel Prize, Deaths

Management Moves

Taft Communications, 2000 Lenox Drive, Suite 200, Lawrenceville 08648. 609-683-0700. Ted Deutsch, CEO. www.taftcommunications.com.

Lenox Drive-based Taft Communications has appointed Ted Deutsch as the firm’s chief executive officer. Concurrently, Deutsch becomes the majority owner of the firm founded in 1983 by the husband-and-wife team of Pete Taft and Mara Connolly.

“It’s an honor to accept the leadership mantle from my partners who have won so many decades of success for clients by doing things that matter,” Deutsch said in a statement. “Our growing, diverse, and talented team today –— combined with strong, purpose-focused work — makes me more excited than ever about building on the reputation and legacy that Mara and Pete created.”

Deutsch joined Taft as a consultant in 2012 after two decades in agency and corporate communications positions, including as VP of communications and public affairs for Sandoz Inc. and Avis-Budget Group. Deutsch earned a B.A. in history from Princeton and M.S. in foreign service from Georgetown. He has served as president of Taft since 2014 and became a minority owner in 2018.

Connolly and Taft will remain on Taft’s board, with Connolly contributing creative counsel on select projects, and Taft continuing to provide leadership communications counsel to C-suite executives.

“We first met Ted as a friendly competitor over a decade ago and ever since have enjoyed a partnership in every sense of the word,” Pete Taft said in a statement. “Ted has led the threefold growth of our Taft Communications business, and we are thrilled about the continued vitality of the firm under his leadership.”

“Pete and I saw in Ted someone who shared our values, our vision, our philosophy about the world — and our sense of humor!” Connolly said. “The Taft management team is committed to curiosity and creativity, making a rewarding and fun environment for our own team, and remaining 100 percent focused on the client’s idea of success. We can’t wait to see how he and the team move us forward.”

Beyond, 902 Carnegie Center, Suite 160, Princeton 08540. Robert O. Carr, chief executive officer. www.getbeyond.com.

Brent Rose

Beyond — the Carnegie Center-based technology firm that helps businesses streamline operations — has promoted Brent Rose, its chief sales officer, to the newly created position of chief revenue officer. Rose’s expanded responsibilities will include sales, marketing, and product development, with a focus on customer experience.

Beyond was founded in 2017 by Bob Carr, who created the company after selling the payment processing firm he founded and led, Heartland Payment Systems, for $4.3 billion in 2016. In explaining Rose’s new position, Carr noted, “Brent has walked in the shoes of every level of salesperson we have at Beyond, knows the products in the marketplace better than anyone, is ethical to the core, and wants everyone to win.”

“With our model, the merchant gets a good value, the successful salesperson gets paid a very handsome amount of money, and the company wins,” Carr continued. “Brent believes in this value proposition and has the intelligence and work ethic to execute it.”

Ware Malcomb, 400 Alexander Park Drive, Suite 304, Princeton 08540. 609-362-9740. Michael Bennett, principal. www.waremalcomb.com.

Arturo Ponciano

Ware Malcomb, an interior design and architecture firm with an office off Alexander Road, has promoted Arturo Ponciano to studio manager, interior architecture & design, in the Princeton office.

Ponciano joined Ware Malcomb as senior project manager in 2017 specializing in repositioning and corporate fit-out projects.

“Arturo’s extensive interior design expertise coupled with his calm demeanor make him a valuable mentor and strong leader,” said Marlyn Zucosky, director of interior architecture & design for the firm’s Princeton and Newark offices. “Arturo’s dedication to our team and clients is apparent in everything he does, and we look forward to his continued growth in years to come.”

Ponciano holds a bachelor of architecture degree from the University of Miami.

Maplewood at Princeton, One Hospital Drive, Plainsboro 08536. Lisa Williams, executive director. 844-782-3078. www.maplewoodatprinceton.com.

Maplewood Senior Living has announced the appointment of three people to leadership positions at its location on the campus of Penn Medicine Princeton Health that is scheduled to open this summer. The 98,000-square-foot senior living community will feature 105 studio and one-bedroom units and care options including assisted living and memory care.

Lisa Williams will serve as executive director. She has more than 20 years of senior living care experience, with 16 of those spent as an administrator. She graduated from Rowan University and earned her master’s in public administration from Kean University. She currently serves as a chair on the NJ Assisted Living Council.

Michael Tucker was named director of business development, with responsibilities for developing partnerships with healthcare professionals and community organizations focused on seniors. He earned his bachelor’s in business administration from Rider University.

Leslie Conover will be the community relations director and work directly with families to help them navigate their living options. She graduated from Rider and has more than 25 years of sales experience in hospitality and senior living.

IAS’ Wigderson Awarded Abel Prize

Avi Wigderson

Avi Wigderson, a professor in the school of mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, has been named a recipient of the 2021 Abel Prize.

He will share the prize — considered to be the Nobel Prize of the math world — with László Lovász, a Hungarian mathematician who was previously a visiting professor at the Institute. They will split $7.5 million Norwegian krone, or about $877,000.

The Abel committee cited the duo “for their foundational contributions to theoretical computer science and discrete mathematics, and their leading role in shaping them into central fields of modern mathematics.”

“I am thrilled that the mathematics community has recognized with this prize the entire field of the theory of computation, which has been my academic and social home for the past four decades,” Wigderson said in a statement. “I feel lucky to be part of this extremely dynamic community, whose fundamental goals have at the same time deep conceptual and intellectual meaning, scientific and practical motivations, with pure fun problems and brilliant collaborators to pursue them with.”

Wigderson is recognized for his prolific contributions to the major areas of computational complexity theory, including randomized computation, algorithms and optimization, circuit complexity, proof complexity, quantum computation, cryptography, and understanding of fundamental graph properties.

“Avi Wigderson stands, in the tradition of Gödel and von Neumann, at the pinnacle of the theory of computation,” Institute director Robbert Dijkgraaf said in a statement. “His work shows how some of the deepest ideas in mathematics are intimately connected to a technology that is totally transforming our society. Avi is also a convincing advocate for computation as a powerful and promising perspective on all fields of knowledge.”

The Israel-born Wigderson has previously held appointments at the University of California, Berkeley; IBM Research, San Jose; Mathematical Sciences Research Institute; Princeton University; and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Deaths

Phyllis Marchand, 81, on March 25. She served 22 years on the Princeton Township Committee, including 14 years as mayor. She also worked as book indexer of The Woodrow Wilson Papers edited by Princeton University historian Arthur Link. Additionally she served on the boards of the D&R Greenway, McCarter Theater, HomeFront, and Corner House, among many others.

Wolfgang Stodiek, 95, on March 7. He began work at Project Matterhorn — eventually renamed Princeton Plasma Physics Lab — in 1959 and oversaw the laboratory’s conversion from conducting fusion experiments on stellarators to using tokamaks. Though he retired in 1996 he continued to work at the lab a few days a week until he returned to his native Germany in 2007.

Ian Jeffrey Reisnger, 35, on March 14. He worked for APH Builders in Hamilton.

Malvern R. Hoffman, 87, on March 2. He worked as a chauffeur for A-1 Limousine and previously owned an operated a Sunoco station in Ewing. He also volunteered with the Prospect Heights Volunteer Fire Company.

Marie A. Butterfield, 83, on March 13. She worked in bookkeeping at Trenton Trust Bank and later at Tiger Distributors Inc.

Philomena Kovac, 92, on March 18. She worked for the Horsman Doll Factory and spent 27 years as a food service worker for the Hamilton Township School District.

Robert S. Hirst Jr., 91, on March 18. The Navy veteran worked for the state Division of Taxation for 38 years and retired as acting chief auditor.

Judith Rauschert Bushnell, 84, on March 25. Early in her career she worked for Opinion Research Corporation in Princeton and after raising her family worked in several administrative roles at Princeton University in admissions, annual giving, and for Mathey College.

Louis A. Papp, 90, on March 25. He spent 32 years with the state Department of Transportation, retiring as a supervising engineer.

Rita Charlotte Sadovy on March 18. She retired from the state Department of Higher Education in 2011.

Robert H. Smith, 89, on March 25. The Army veteran began work as an accountant with Wolf & Co. and after several mergers retired from KPMG, LLC, Lawrenceville.

Zoraida Mary Platas, 92, on March 23. She was a supervising clerk and stenographer with the Mercer County Probation Department, where she worked for 34 years.

Ann D. Sciarrotta, 71, on March 22. She was an administrative secretary for 46 years with the Trenton Board of Education.

Janet Rose Moore, 66, on March 23. She was a social worker for the Visiting Nurses Association of New Jersey.

Carol M. Lawyer, 69, on March 20. She worked in numerous positions and ultimately retired from Educational Testing Service.

Thomas John McHale, 90, on March 19. He owned and operated McHale’s Pharmacy in Hamilton for 21 years and was staff pharmacist at Hamilton Hospital for an additional 21 years.

Of Birds & Bunnies

To the Editor: Why Should You Care About Birds?

I was having coffee with a friend once, and she said, “I’m not a birder. Why should I care about birds?” I said, “You love coffee, so you must love birds!”

The brilliant scarlet tanager spends winter in Central and South America. Like lots of colorful songbirds, she spends her winter vacation in the dense shade of coffee plantations eating bugs. In the summer, she wings her way back to the quiet Sourland forest canopy to lay eggs and raise babies just as her parents did before her.

This year when she comes back to New Jersey, our tanager may not recognize her home. Over one million trees are dying here due to an invasive insect, the emerald ash borer. That’s one of every five trees! If Ms. Tanager makes her nest in the fragmented forest, her babies may not be safe. Predators will easily be able to find them because the forest cover will be sparse. If she does begin to raise a family, they may not reach maturity.

The United States has lost 3 billion birds since the 1970s, causing the National Audubon Society to declare a “bird emergency” to protect the ones that are left.

If you think of a migratory path as a link in a chain, it’s easy to see that every link is equally important. We know that the Sourland Mountain is a strong link. In fact, the entire Sourland Mountain Region is a designated Continental IBA (Important Bird Area). Our region contains approximately 25,000 acres of mature, contiguous forest and 7,500 acres of wetlands. Resident and migratory birds eat bugs and caterpillars that feed on trees and farmers’ crops here — natural insect control!

Now, we would like to point a finger at bulldozers in the Amazon as the cause for plummeting bird numbers, but our link is weakening right now due to ash decline, deer overpopulation, and other threats. We all can help make it stronger.

The NJ DEP, NJ Forest Service, NJ Fish & Wildlife, National Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Watershed Institute, D&R Greenway Land Trust, One Tree Planted, Washington Crossing Audubon Society, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, Montgomery Friends of Open Space, Hunterdon Land Trust, Mercer County, Somerset County, Hunterdon County, Hopewell Township, West Amwell, East Amwell, Hillsborough Township, Montgomery Township, Hopewell Borough, Princeton Township, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and many, many others have joined the Sourland Conservancy in recognizing the importance of the Sourland forest and the threat of ash decline. We are all taking active steps to protect and preserve the clean water, fresh air, carbon sequestration, and critical habitat that the forest provides for all of us.

This spring and fall, Sourland Conservancy staff and volunteers will be joining our partners to plant thousands of trees. Please participate in a public planting event and plant native plants at home — in your yard or in a window box. Every native plant helps provide critical food and shelter for pollinators, birds, and other animals. Protect our clean water by reducing your use of pesticides and herbicides. The birds and butterflies will thank you.

Right now, the NJ DOT is deciding whether or not to increase helicopter traffic in the Sourlands. The applicant is a private golf club. This, to me, is a clear opportunity to act in our own self-interest and preserve this precious ecosystem — or stand by and do nothing.

It’s time for us to stop building unnecessary helistops and pipelines. It’s time to look around, see what we have, and take responsibility. We must tell our elected officials that we care — and we expect them to care, too. An election is coming up. Please sign our petition on change.org and call Governor Murphy, your state senator, and your assembly members today to urge them to Save the Sourlands.

Laurie Cleveland

Executive Director, Sourland Conservancy

An Easter Reflection

Editor’s note: Prior to Christmas, U.S. 1 published “Tannenbaum,” Hella McVay’s reflection on tradition and shared cultures. Below is an Easter sequel, titled “The Easter Bunny.”

With Easter coming, my mind jumps back into the classroom of a Catholic girls school. On the last day before Easter break, I wished my mathematics seniors especially in their final high school year many delicious, colored Easter eggs hidden by the Easter bunny.

The girls laughed. They were delighted and amused. Then I asked them how the nuns had explained to them in religion class the connection of the Easter bunny and the Resurrection of Christ.

A blank stare!

How did the Easter bunny get the eggs?

A blank stare!

I assumed that they knew, he did not lay them nor steal them.

So, I said! Think!

Spring… Eggs… Rabbits…

New life. How does new mammalian life most often start?

What are rabbits known for?

Looking at and understanding our “pagan” symbols, actions, and traditions might explain much of our behavior and lead us to a better appreciation of science. There is no need to abandon fun, joy, and peaceful pagan customs, as long we recognize them as such.

Rutgers Addresses Pandemic-Induced Mental Health Issues

Every 23 seconds of every day in the United States, someone attempts suicide. Every 11 minutes, an individual dies from suicide.

These most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts and 48,344 deaths by suicide annually in 2018 — represented the latest in an ongoing trend of significant increases in the suicide rate in the United States, a public health crisis affecting all ages and demographics.

And then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic’s negative impact on individuals’ mental and behavioral health has already been seen, and industry professionals expect a continued increase in a variety of mental and behavioral health issues, including risk for and incidence of suicide. At Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the Department of Psychiatry is looking at ways to proactively address the problem and avert a crisis.

A new web survey by the CDC revealed the incidence of people seriously considering suicide in the prior 30 days — approximately 11 percent of respondents — almost doubled over the previous year. For essential workers, that figure jumps to 21.7 percent.

Taking a Proactive Approach. Anticipating the more significant impact on clinicians’ mental health, the Department of Psychiatry led by Anthony Tobia, MD, professor and interim chair, is coordinating several initiatives designed to address mental and behavioral issues that could increase suicide risk.

Initiatives for health care professionals include “Quaranteams,” online communities, and semi-monthly film events, during which participants analyze films through a psychiatrist’s lens that provide medical staff the chance not only to socialize, but also offer a forum to review early warning signs and available resources to address wellness.

“Our goal is not only anticipating that next stage [of the disaster cycle], but also moving from tertiary care — watching it happen and then reacting — to primary prevention, doing it before anybody begins to have symptoms,” says Dr. Tobia.

Seeing the Community Impact. Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care also has developed mental health support services specifically for people who are struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Rehan Aziz, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and neurology, has seen that struggle among his own patients.

Individuals are reporting negative repercussions physically, socially, financially, and emotionally, he says. All of these losses are coming at a time of social unrest, a contentious election, and mixed messaging from authority figures.

“People have the idea that we’re under these restrictions and there’s no end in sight. There’s definitely increased depression, and it’s having an impact on people’s day-to-day activity and their normal sense of hopefulness,” says Dr. Aziz.

Ensuring individuals have access to the help they need could be a challenge, however.

“In the month before a suicide, 45 percent of patients see their primary care doctor, but only 20 percent of them actually see a mental health professional,” notes Dr. Aziz. “Part of the crisis is that people are either not able to access care or are not directed toward the appropriate care service. And in some cases, there is such a shortage of mental health professionals, those services are not available for them.”

As a result, it is critical to educate primary care physicians with respect to screening for depression, hopelessness, helplessness, and suicidal thoughts, Dr. Aziz says. The most important thing is early identification, Dr. Aziz stresses.

Dr. Aziz says he tries to address four issues during his conversations with patients: a safety assessment; encouragement of increased social engagement, such as more FaceTime or Zoom calls; psychotherapy, or talk therapy; and medications, if the symptoms are severe enough.

For his part, Dr. Tobia said he is hoping to help develop programming that will resonate with people long after the pandemic is over.

“I’m not looking for any real change in a week or two or a month or two, but maybe in a decade from now, people look back and say, ‘You know, it was a horrible situation, but there was this one thing we did that I remember…’ That’s the idea. That’s what I really hope.”

What to Look for/Warning Signs. People who are thinking of committing suicide often exhibit a number of symptoms — some subtle, some more overt — that they are at risk. Those signs include:

• Loss of interest in usual activities

• Social isolation — less interest in maintaining social connections, even virtually

• Change in appetite, whether lack of eating, or eating more, that often results in weight change

• Change in sleeping patterns, from disrupted sleep and insomnia, or napping more throughout the day

• Low energy — taking more time to do things than they normally would

• Extreme mood swings

• Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless

• Feeling hopeless or “trapped”

• Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol

• Making a plan or researching ways to die

• Expressing thoughts of suicide. This can be as simple as “I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up again,” or “If I died right now, it wouldn’t upset me a lot,” or more active, “I’m thinking of ending my life.”

“If someone close to you or someone at work points out something is wrong, the reflexive action is to reject that and become defensive. But you shouldn’t brush it off in general, especially during this extraordinary time,” Tobia advises.

Helpful Resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24/7, English and Spanish, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

New Jersey Hopeline, 24/7 Peer Support & Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-855-NJ-HOPELINE (654-6735)

NJ Mental Health Cares, State-supported live help line for addressing COVID-19 stress, 1-866-202-HELP (4357)

SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline, 24/7 national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people experiencing emotional distress, 1-800-985-5990

Crisis Text Line, Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor, 24/7

Rutgers4U, Confidential support line during COVID-19 pandemic for Rutgers staff, faculty, and families, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 1-855-654-6819

Care for Your Coronavirus Anxiety (virusanxiety.com), Website offering resources for anxiety and mental health during COVID-19 pandemic.

 

CytoSorbents Announces New HQ

CytoSorbents Corporation has announced a 15-year lease agreement for 48,500 square feet on College Road East, scheduled to begin on June 1.

The immunotherapy company currently based in Monmouth Junction is best known for its CytoSorb blood purification technology to treat deadly inflammation in critically-ill and cardiac surgery patients. Its new Forrestal Center facility will accommodate U.S.-based administrative, clinical, commercialization, manufacturing, and research and development activities.

“We are incredibly pleased to work with National Business Parks to lease the facility at 305 College Road East, which has a solid existing infrastructure to meet our unique operational needs,” president and COO Vincent Capponi said in a statement. “With other modifications that will be made to the space, we will be able to consolidate all of our operations in one building and allow the launch of new product lines.

“The changes we are planning will also allow us to increase our CytoSorb production from our current $80 million annual capacity to approximately $300 to $400 million annually to support our future growth while allowing us to achieve further economies of scale.”

The company plans to continue using its existing manufacturing facility on Deer Park Drive in Monmouth Junction through the end of 2022. “As we bring our new manufacturing facility online next year, we plan to continue utilizing our existing Deer Park manufacturing facility in Monmouth Junction, NJ, exiting in a staged fashion between now and December 31, 2022, in close cooperation with our landlord, Princeton Corporate Plaza,” Capponi said.

“We look forward to welcoming CytoSorbents to our 305 College Road East property early this summer,” National Business Parks COO Vincent Marano said in a statement. “We are excited to work closely with CytoSorbents to customize the space to be the perfect combination of laboratory, device assembly, and administrative offices.”

CytoSorbents Inc. (CTSO), 7 Deer Park Drive, Suite K, Monmouth Junction 08852. 732-329-8885. Phillip Chan, CEO. www.cytosorbents.com.

 

 

Off the Presses: ‘Liner Notes for the Revolution’

“Quiet as it’s kept, Black women of sound have a secret,” starts Daphne Brooks in her new book, “Liner Notes for the Revolution — The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound.”

Brooks will discuss her ideas in a video-streamed conversation with past Poet Laureate of the United States and chair of the Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts Tracey Smith on Thursday, April 1, at 6 p.m. as part of the Labyrinth Books’ livestream presentations.

A professor of African American studies, American studies, women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and music at Yale University, Brooks is also the author of several award-winning books, including “Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910.”

Her new book is the first volume in a trilogy titled “Subterranean Blues: Black Women Sound Modernity.”

Continuing the above idea of a “secret,” Brooks says that Black women of sound possess “a history unfolding on other frequencies while the world adores them and yet mishears them, celebrates them and yet ignores them, heralds them and simultaneously devalues them.

“Theirs is a history that is, nonetheless, populated with revolutionaries” such as vaudevillian musical-comedian Muriel Ringgold; first blues recording artist Mamie Smith; opera soprano and the original Bess in “Porgy and Bess,” Anne Brown; and the more familiar artists Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt, Odetta, Aretha Franklin, the Supremes, and, more recently, Etta James.

“Theirs is a history of the utopic and the transformative, the strange and strategically unruly” and, says Brooks, the “Black women musicians who have made the modern world.”

Getting to the heart of her argument, Brooks writes, “Black women’s musical practices are, in short, revolutionary because they are inextricably linked to the matter of Black life. Their strategies of performance perpetually and inventively philosophize the prodigiousness of its scope. But also — and quite crucially — Black women’s musical practices are revolutionary because of the ways in which said practices both forecast and execute the viability and potentiality of Black life.”

Yale professor and author Daphne Brooks.

Brooks links the efforts of these women to a “revolution in intellectual labor,” noting that she uses the world “labor” self-consciously and referencing back to “Black radical tradition theorist Cedric Robinson’s classic observations about the way that Black work matters in relation to modern life. He insists that we ‘pay close attention to what (W.E.B.) Du Bois was saying: slavery was the specific historical institutions through which the Black worker had been introduced into the modern world system. However, it was not as slaves that one could come to an understanding of the significance that these Black men, women, and children had for American development. It was as labor. He had entitled the first chapter to ‘Black Reconstruction,’ ‘The Black Worker’ . . . The profound urgency of Black women’s culture work cannot be overstated.”

After using an example of Mamie Smith’s 1920 “Crazy Blues,” which, the author says, “effectively blew up the segregated pop cultural scene by seizing hold of modernity’s new sonic technologies” and gave “Black thought, Black rage, Black desire” a “few and unhindered channels for expression in the age of Jim Crow terror” that enabled “Crazy Blues” be transformed into a “missive sent out to Black publics who bought her joint in droves. It said to them that all that feeling, all those strategies for living, could be improvised in the music, in sonic performances that bucked convention, mixed and made new forms, and expressed the capaciousness of Black humanity.”

Brooks says her new book “enters into this awesome, generations-spanning tradition of meditating on the insurgency of Black sound in three ways”:

First, she writes, “it lays claim to the idea that modern popular music culture would cease to exist in the ways that we’ve come to know it without Black women artists.”

After giving a nod to landmark Black feminist scholarship and pioneering critics, Brooks says her book intends to explore the work of “lesser-known figures as well as dearly beloved icons, all of whom curate sonic performances that not only push the boundaries of musical experimentalism and invention but also produce daring and lyrical expressions of Blackness and womanhood that affirms the richness of their lifeworlds.

“These Black women artists refuse the terms of being scripted as objects” but “choose to design their own mischievous and colorful, sometimes brooding and rage-filled, and always disruptive and questing definitions of a self that is intent on living a free life.”

Second, she notes, the book takes seriously the idea of “the archive” of “both the documentary record preserved by institutional powerbrokers and the faded pages we might imagine stored in an elderly sister’s trunk — as a crucial, culture-making entity that Black women musicians and critics have had to negotiate in relation to their own artistic ambitions and to the problem of Black historical memory more broadly.’

Furthermore, she adds, these Black women artists are archives who “have operated through their music as the repositories of the past” and “engaged in active projects to archive their own creative practices. To document the intellectual and creative processes tied to their music, all of which amounts to a Black feminist intellectual history in sound that has thus far gone unmarked and unheralded.”

And third, the book “excavates a counterhistory of popular music criticism, that deeply undertheorized form of critical writing that for several pivotal decades of the 20th century were closely entangled with the social and cultural economy and sustainability of popular music culture.”

A practice that Brooks said “marginalized African American women’s role in popular music history, resulting in a grossly skewed understanding of the place at the center of modern music innovation.”

And a mindset that was able to see the Black women music performers as “fugitive thinkers, critics, and theorists of sound.”

Written in a lively and expressive manner, the book shows Brooks’ passion and presents a fittingly provocative and researched argument to bring cultural and critical respect to Black women musicians. The discussion should prove the same.

“Liner Notes for the Revolution — The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound,” 608 pages, $39.95. Harvard University Press.

Author Daphne Brooks will be in discussion with Tracey Smith, during a Labyrinth Books livestream, Thursday, April 1, 6 p.m. The free event is cosponsored by the Princeton Public Library, Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, Princeton University Concerts, and the African American Studies Department at Princeton.

To register, go to www.labyrinthbooks.com/events/1251.

Business Meetings March 31 to April 7

Wednesday, March 31

Jeffrey Vega of Princeton Area Community Foundation.

Central NJ Nonprofit Council: Pandemic Partnerships, Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce. www.princetonmercerchamber.org. Panel discussion between area business & nonprofit leaders to learn about how businesses and nonprofits have come together during the pandemic in new and unique ways. Moderated by Jeffrey Vega of Princeton Area Community Foundation with panelists Jan Call of Firmenich, Richard C. Coyne of Withum, Mark Iorio of TDI Connect, and Michelle Napell, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Mercer County. Register. $25; $15 members. 1 to 2:15 p.m.

Friday, April 2

JobSeekers, Professional Service Group of Mercer County. www.psgofmercercounty.org. Glenn Pasch, CEO of marketing agency PCG Digital, discusses the myth of motivation, processes to keep you on track in your job search, and tips that help him focus when he’s not feeling productive. 9:45 a.m. to noon.

Tuesday, April 6

JobSeekers. sites.google.com/site/njjobseekers. Virtual meeting for those seeking employment. Visit website for GoTo Meeting link. 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.