Ovation at Riverwalk, a 260-apartment age-restricted community to be opened in autumn 2019 near the campus of the Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center in Plainsboro, has filled two positions. Deb Hornstra has been appointed director of community relations, and Saiqua Ferdous has been named director of customer experience.
Hornstra, a 14-year real estate professional in the Princeton area, will lead marketing, public relations and sales. She earned a bachelors degree from Syracuse University and a masters degree from Sarah Lawrence College.
In her role has director of customer experience, Ferdous will respond to inquiries and greeting visitors to the Welcome Center, slated to open mid-November in Princeton Forrestal Village. Once the community opens, she also will be responsible for communications and supervision of the concierge staff and training of the service team. Prior to joining Ovation at Riverwalk, Ferdous served in several hospitality and customer service positions at hotels in New Jersey. She earned bachelors and masters degrees from The University of Dhaka in Bangladesh.
Ovation at Riverwalk amenities will include a piano bar, pool, fitness and yoga studios, golf simulation suite, and a walking trail alongside the Millstone River.
OncoSec, 24 North Main Street, Pennington 08534. Daniel O’Connor, CEO. www.oncosec.com.
OncoSec Medical Incorporated, a company developing cancer immunotherapies, has appointed Kellie Malloy Foerter to the position of chief clinical development officer.
Foerter will be responsible for leading OncoSec’s ongoing clinical trial of a new kind of immunotherapy against late-stage melanoma that combines one of two existing immunotherapy drugs, Keytruda or Optivo, along with TAVOTM, a plasmid that is designed to make the immunotherapy treatment more effective. She will also lead a clinical trial of the same treatment against triple-negative breast cancer.
“I am delighted to welcome Kellie to the OncoSec team, as I know firsthand the rigor and creativity she brings with respect to clinical trial design, execution, and analysis,” said Daniel J. O’Connor, CEO of OncoSec.
With nearly three decades of experience in clinical research, Malloy Foerter joins OncoSec from Syneos Health, where she served as executive vice president and general manager of clinical solutions. Among her responsibilities there were oncology and hematology trials for the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies. Earlier, she held executive positions for 20 years at inVentiv Health (previously PharmaNet), most recently serving as senior vice president of clinical research. Prior to inVentiv, she worked in research at Covance.
Amy Klein is leaving the nonprofit group VolunteerConnect after seven years as executive director. Her last day with VolunteerConnect will be November 28.
She said the decision to leave was based on a desire to be closer to family on the West Coast. During the transition, board members will oversee management and provide guidance for specific areas within the organization. The organization said in a press release that an interim executive director will be announced in the near future.
“We will miss Amy’s leadership, vision, and her ability to make strategic connections with central New Jersey nonprofit organizations,” said Dennis Kilfeather, chairman of the VolunteerConnect board.
VolunteerConnect helps connect charities with skilled volunteers for professional services.
Every day researchers at Princeton University make discoveries that push the frontiers of science forward. But except for avid readers of scientific journals, the average member of the public has little idea what exactly is going on there. On Thursday, November 8, the university offers the public a chance to see the fascinating work taking place in the university’s research labs.
The Celebrate Princeton Innovation event, online at invention.princeton.edu, is a website and video series that highlights this research. The event will be 5 to 8 p.m. at the Frick Chemistry Lab atrium, where a selection of researchers will discuss their work.
One of them, assistant professor Bridgett vonHoldt in the ecology and evolutionary biology department, has more reason than most to reach out to the public. She has enlisted the public in her ongoing work, which probes the nature of the relationship between humans and dogs.
VonHoldt’s research group is studying the link between a handful of gene mutations found in dogs that make them friendly to humans. Her research indicates that without these genetic changes, dogs would be no more inclined to curl up at your feet than wolves are.
What’s more, she found, human beings may have an analogous set of genes related to sociability. In a study published in 2017, an interdisciplinary team led by vonHoldt sequenced part of the domesticated dog chromosome and found DNA that was associated with social behavior. In particular, the researchers found that one set of genes called the Williams-Beuren Syndrome Critical Region was highly linked to dogs’ tendency to seek physical contact, help, and communication from humans.
‘Dogs are a biomedical model for humans disease because it is known they share many conditions. As such, understanding genetics in either one can inform us about the other.’
The human genome has a counterpart to this region in the canine genome. Certain mutations in this region in humans cause them to become overly gregarious and engage in other hyper-social behaviors.
The 2017 study was a followup to a dissertation paper that vonHoldt published in 2010 in which she identified the dog version of the WBSCR genes.
“My dissertation research identified a number of genomic regions associated with positive selection in the domestic dog relative to gray wolves,” vonHoldt says. “Statistical ranking of them led to the second position being a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) near a gene known to be involved in Williams Beuren Syndrome. The characteristics of the syndrome were strikingly similar to those of domestic dogs.”
For the most recent paper, vonHoldt’s colleague, Monique Udell, an assistant professor of animal and rangeland sciences at Oregon State University, studied 18 domesticated dogs and 10 captive wolves and took DNA samples from them.
She put the dogs and wolves through a series of tests designed to measure their affinity for socializing with humans. For example, a sausage was placed in a “puzzle box” that required the canines to pull on a rope to get it. The more sociable animals looked to the humans for assistance.
The study showed that the wolves, which lacked many of the specific genetic mutations, sought little help from humans, while domestic dogs, which had the mutations, spent more time looking to humans for help solving the puzzle.
Since making this discovery, vonHoldt has built on this finding to create a genetic test that measures how many of the hypersociability mutations an individual dog has. That test could be used, for example, by animal shelters to determine which dogs might be most suitable for adoption. “I have never thought about commercial products for my research before,” she says.
A Princeton University press release about her work suggests some commercial applications: “Genetic testing could also give trainers and breeders a way to determine an animal’s social tendencies. The test may make it possible to determine at an early stage whether a dog is suitable to become a service or guide dog. The test, which requires collecting a cheek swab, could be added to existing genetic test kits marketed to dog owners.”
Beyond these practical applications, vonHoldt’s work could help answer one of the oldest questions about the nature of the relationship between humans and dogs. How, exactly, did wild wolves evolve into the lapdogs and companions we know today? Scientists have tended to assume that at some point, humans took in wolf puppies that approached their camps, and bred together the ones that were the most trainable, and over time, turned them into hunting companions.
‘My work is still constantly evolving and uncovering new numerous questions that need to be addressed. One insight creates a dozen questions.’
VonHoldt’s research changes this story slightly: at least one expert, after reading her study, said it now seems more likely that the original dog breeders selected the friendliest dogs; the ones that had this particular mutation, rather than the ones that were quickest on the uptake.
“The study is exciting because it provides such strong support for the ‘survival of the friendliest’” hypothesis of dog domestication, Brian Hare, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University who was not involved in the work, told Science Magazine. “In ancient wolves with these gene disruptions fear was replaced by friendliness, and a new social partner was created.”
VonHoldt says there is still much work to be done on this question. “Canine geneticists still do not agree about the timing and location of dog domestication,” she says. “Though this is not the goal of my own research, it is something that the community continues to work towards understanding.”
Her work has implications beyond just dogs. It’s possible that similar mutations in other species could result in animals that are very friendly, just like dogs.
“My finding is suggestive that some genes, when mutated or abnormal, could produce similar results in maybe all mammals, or all vertebrates, etc.,” vonHoldt says. “Some genes are conserved in their functions and no matter in which taxon they are mutated, they could produce a similar response. I’m unsure if my gene of interest is that such gene. Dogs are a biomedical model for humans disease because it is known they share many conditions. As such, understanding genetics in either one can inform us about the other.”
VonHoldt has been pursuing this work in between her other duties as an assistant professor. Essentially, she has been working on a shoestring budget. Therefore she has turned to the public both for funding and for direct help in the research. She has used the science crowdfunding website www.experiment.com to raise $4,510 for her dog domestication studies.
“I find a consistently positive response when thinking about canine research, but the overall motivation to support scientific research is difficult,” she says. “Our current political administration has cut funding to research and science and the environment, etc. Many people are turning to crowdfunding. It can be successful but when our government does not support science, that message percolates throughout the nation that science is not a priority. Thus all types of funding are increasingly challenging.”
She is also reaching out to the public through her official university website at vonholdt.princeton.edu to ask the public to gather data on their own pet dogs. Through her site, she asks dog owners to fill out a survey asking about their dogs’ behavior, and then send in videos of the dog interacting with humans under carefully controlled circumstances. Would-be contributors who go through these steps are then sent a kit to take a cheek-swab DNA sample of their furry friends.
“I have had several hundred samples donated to me from the community, public, colleagues, and friends,” she says. “I have sent several hundred more sample kits out, with many never to be returned to me. People love the idea of helping a scientific study but that does not always translate into action.”
The daughter of an Air Force father and a mother who worked as a teacher, social worker, vet tech, and business owner, vanHoldt moved around a lot as a kid. She studied psychology as an undergraduate at Eckerd College, and earned a master’s in biology from NYU. When she joined the PhD lab of Robert Wayne at UCLA, she studied the genetics of gray wolves of the Rocky Mountains. “That soon expanded to evolutionary questions about domestication and genomic changes that occurred as a result of intense selection. My current lab works on various taxa, from plants to microbes to birds to caribou and of course canines,” she says.
She never had a dog until she and her husband got their Old English Sheepdog, Marla, who has been sequenced and genotyped many times. Despite her long years of research on dogs, it wasn’t any lab result but the experience of having one as a pet that altered vonHoldt’s thinking about them.
“I’m a cat person and have always had cats,” she says. “Marla is my first dog. Having her makes me think more about the foundation of that bond and how it is established and maintained. Our current relationship with dogs has evolved immensely since their domestication began thousands of years ago. That is a complex process that involves humans altering breeds for our own desired pets, and the dog genomes being plastic enough that we could shape it.”
VonHoldt says she is amazed by certain aspects of canine genetics.
“I marvel at (this may sound silly) the fact that people can know pretty close to exactly what a litter of purebred dogs will be like (e.g. looks, personality, disease risk, etc.),” she says. “I am typically obsessed with variation and understanding how it is a treasure trove for adaptation and evolution. I spend more time thinking about hybrids and admixture and how when two distinctly different entities reproduce, what do we know about their offspring? What can we predict? It’s almost nothing! But for dogs, I’m amazed at how most labs or beagles or bloodhounds are exactly what the breed advertises them to be. That high level of repeatability is amazing. Environment is certainly crucial for influencing many aspects of an individual. However, for dogs and their overall lack of intra-breed variation, I find this fascinating.”
Although vonHoldt has made several important discoveries, much work remains to be done, and it’s not going to happen without money.
“Science needs funding,” she says. “My work is still constantly evolving and uncovering new numerous questions that need to be addressed. One insight creates a dozen questions. We are a long ways from knowing the inner workings of what shapes canine traits, let alone behaviors.”
I just read your “haunted” article in the October 31 issue. I worked for the New Jersey Division of Mental Health for 25 years, the first 10 in central office where I became acquainted with Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, and the last 15 as an administrator on the TPH staff. In spite of all that was presented in the U.S. 1 piece, I can’t recall that over any of those years I ever heard the word “haunted” with reference to TPH from anyone across the hospital staff or patients.
I am aware of Dr. Cotton and his tragic “mental illness/focal sepsis” procedures, at times erroneously praised in its day, which was based on his falsified “research” data reporting (see the Princeton Alumni Weekly, May 11, 2005). And somewhat ironically his family had even established the “Cotton Award for Kindness,” which was given to selected staff for each of many years, including when I worked there.
Thank you for your coverage of Better Angels (www.Better-Angels.org) in Richard K. Rein’s October 31 column. During these politically contentious times, we must find ways to reach out to our fellow citizens. It is so easy to shut people down and out, in conversations with belittling turns of phrase, in social media by culling our contacts.
It is a challenge to remain curious and open when facing thoughts that don’t align with our own; but we must continue to seek out thoughtful people who don’t always agree with us politically. We must learn ways to talk and listen productively, and to hold our politicians to the same standard. It is fundamental to the success of this amazing democratic experiment of which we Americans
What cosmic plan placed a family of Quaker pacifists in the middle of the Battle of Princeton?
This was the fate of Thomas Clarke and his kin, a third-generation Quaker family at Stony Brook Quaker Settlement, living in a white clapboard farmhouse (circa 1772), situated in the middle of a 200-acre farm off what is now Mercer Road.
This sturdy house was central to the Battle of Princeton, fought on January 3, 1777, between the Continental Army under the command of General George Washington and British Crown Forces. The Clarkes turned the house into a hospital after the battle, taking in both British and American wounded, most famously American General Hugh Mercer.
In fact, as General Mercer was being treated for critical injuries he incurred during the battle, a British officer, Captain McPherson of the 17th Regiment, was being cared for in the room next door.
And despite being seen by the famed Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence as well as a renowned doctor and figure in medicine, Mercer died at the Clarke House nine days after the battle. Mercer County — and many towns, streets and roads, buildings, etc. — are named in his honor.
As seasonal historic educator at the Clarke House Will Krakower has immersed himself in the battle and its main characters and seems to know General Mercer intimately. He muses that, had Mercer lived, there would be even more things named after him: he was that great of a battlefield general.
His descendants would also prove to be noted military men, Krakower says.
“Hugh Mercer had many descendants, including a couple who fought for the Confederacy — Waller T. Patton and George Smith Patton, the latter of whom was the grandfather of George Patton” of World Wars I and II fame Krakower says.
Songwriter Johnny Mercer is apparently also a direct descendant of Hugh Mercer.
These are just a few of the curious details a visitor might gather in a visit to the Clarke House. Some might come to reflect on the house’s place in the battle, some for the “Arms of the Revolution” exhibit there, others to peruse the old farm building and its surroundings.
Yet others might be interested in the subterranean history of the home and its surroundings.
There is in fact, an ongoing archaeological dig by Princeton University students at the Battlefield. The dig site was right in front of the Clarke House when we were there, and Krakower says they have found nails and slate, a shoe buckle, some buttons, and shards of Chinese porcelain so far, which await further investigation to pinpoint their provenance.
Led by Nathan Arrington, associate professor of art and archaeology, and Rachael DeLue, professor of art and archaeology, the dig is part of a hands-on course within the university’s Department of Art and Archaeology titled “Battle Lab: The Battle of Princeton,” a new course introduced this fall.
The students involved in the dig will present their findings at a free Public Archaeology Day on Saturday, November 10, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Princeton Battlefield on Mercer Road.
Haddonfield resident Krakower explains that, though it was utilized as such, “The Clarke House was never meant to be a field hospital. It was just a farm house, and these people were Quakers, who had an aversion to war,” he says. “So it was very ironic that one of the crucial battles of the Revolutionary War took place all around them.”
“Remember, this is one of those places where history hung in the balance,” he continues. “In the grand scheme of things, people view (the Battle of Princeton) as a small battle, lasting only two hours. But if Washington had lost here who knows what would have happened? When you think about the battles of Trenton and Princeton, these are not ‘war-changing’ battles, but they were ‘war-saving.’”
Krakower adds that before the Ten Crucial Days campaign, the only deadly encounters the British had had with the colonial army had been in Boston in 1775 and 1776, and now they were intimidated by the Trenton and Princeton victories.
“The British evacuated from Boston, then they steamrolled over our troops, probably thinking, ‘aha, we can run right over them, they’re not trained,’” Krakower says. “So the victories in Trenton and Princeton help Washington because there’s a change in the British mindset. In 1777 there was a different appreciation for the Continental army, and the British realized this was not just an army that could be beaten.”
Krakower believes the dying Mercer knew that the tide was turning with the Battle of Princeton, and that the victory would be a morale booster for the troops.
“He was a veteran of three wars, so he understood the value of the strategic movements, and he was one of the more experienced battlefield commanders,” Krakower says. “He was a very smart guy. He marches to the place and holds the ground out there in the field with the troops.”
Though it wasn’t considered gentlemanly for either side to kill an officer, the British attacked General Mercer with bayonets numerous times once the general was on the ground. Krakower thinks he was shot off his horse, or else the horse was shot out from under him.
As he was surrounded, the Scotland-born Mercer drew his saber and fought back, which infuriated his opponents. One struck him on the head with the butt of a musket, causing a concussion.
Although Dr. Rush gave Mercer a good prognosis and thought he would recover, Mercer, himself trained as a surgeon and apothecary, knew intuitively that his wounds were mortal.
Krakower notes that during the Revolutionary War most soldiers on both sides were not killed instantly, but died when their wounds became infected. So it was for General Mercer, who probably died from sepsis and/or a punctured lung, both aggravated by the concussion.
The Clarke House pays tribute to Mercer’s heroism and death with an upright cannon barrel on the porch just outside the front entry.
Inside is the actual room where Mercer lay for nine days, a modest space with a small fireplace, corner cabinet, and bed — which may not be 100 percent accurate.
Krakower says his predecessor put the bed in there, but the room was probably a parlor originally. It would not have had a bed, but the wounded Mercer would certainly not have been on the floor, and at the very least the general would have rested on a cot.
One cannot help but notice the heft and very good condition of the doors, antique locks, and doorknobs, and the resilient quality of the glass. If not original it is very old and has that imperfect look of hand-crafted glass from a certain era.
One door sustained a bullet graze or ricochet during the Battle of Princeton, and though it has been painted over many, many times, you can still see the dent.
There is also an accompanying bullet hole in the wall adjacent to the door: Krakower says in years past the hole was dug out to make it easier to see (and perhaps more dramatic) but even in its original state, the damage was nothing to be dismissed.
He says the high ceilings and wide doors of the structure are less Colonial in style, closer to late-18th century Federal architecture. Thomas Clarke himself may have visited the United Kingdom and liked this newer design.
The Clarke House also hosts an “Arms of the Revolution” exhibit, which is actually one of the largest collections of period firearms and paraphernalia on display anywhere.
The exhibit encompasses a good cross section of the weapons and accessories used by the soldiers and militia men who fought on both sides during the American Revolution.
In addition to military shoulder arms and pistols, one can also view military swords, canteens, powder horns, cannons, cannonballs, an artillery caisson, a cartridge box and hunting pouch, artifacts from the battle, maps, and other images of the Battle of Princeton.
One cannonball on display had to be moved and, interestingly, it cracked open to reveal a center filled with pebbles, oyster, and other shells. This could have two implications: the ball could be some kind of projectile weapon, which would scatter shrapnel upon explosion. Or, the cannonball had been under water for so long that creatures and things found their way inside.
Born in Mount Holly and raised in Burlington County, Krakower says his father, now retired, taught history before becoming a guidance counselor in the Bordentown school system. His mom, who also has a profound interest in history, teaches English as a Second Language in the Lumberton Township School District.
So it didn’t take much for Will to become passionate about the subject at a young age.
“My dad, brother, and I watched the movie ‘Gettysburg’ (the 1993 film starring Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels), then we went to Gettysburg, and from that moment on, it was history, history, history,” Krakower says.
He kept his childhood passion alive and in 2016 graduated from Rutgers with a BA in history and a minor in classics. Krakower expects to earn his master’s degree with a focus on public history from Rutgers-Camden in 2019.
In 2015 he became the senior historic educator at Washington Crossing State Park, working primarily in the Visitor’s Center and the Johnson Ferry House as an interpreter and living historian. He was also involved in researching historic figures and parties involved with General Washington’s Crossing and the Ten Crucial Days campaign.
“I had been at Washington Crossing, and Princeton is a satellite campus, so we’re all under the same umbrella,” he says. “When John Mills (the longtime historic educator) said he was going to retire, they sent me over to Princeton to learn. Since then it’s just been me.”
His position at the Princeton Battlefield and Clarke House is currently part-time, but Krakower is hoping it will become full-time. He has quite a few ideas about what might be done at the historic site.
“I’d like to bring living history back to this site, make it look as though it’s still the 18th century, with soldiers on the ground camping, for example,” Krakower says. “I’d like to have (living history) interpreters on the site, dressed for the time period. But not just soldiers; I’d also like to have Quaker farmers to bring the time period to life.”
“We’re a very immersive society today, and you don’t just show (young people), you immerse them. It’s one thing to look at a map, another to reach out and touch history,” he adds, noting his admiration for the living history personnel at the Old Barracks in Trenton. “Those guys have it down to a science.”
Krakower has researched and written about the French Revolution, the American Civil War, and World War I. However, having lived in Mount Holly, then Burlington, then Haddonfield, and working at critical locations within the Revolutionary War, 18th-century American history has really taken hold of him.
“I’m New Jersey born and bred, so I knew about the story (of our state’s role in the Revolution), but once I got into it as my job, it became more and more interesting to me,” he adds. “I always say to folks, you can’t walk five miles in New Jersey without finding a historic plaque of some kind. We are at the crossroads of the Revolution, and I’ve been fortunate to live here.”
Thomas Clarke House, 500 Mercer Road, Princeton, open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. 609-921-0074 or www.visitprincetonbattlefield.org
The many worthy traits of Peter Kellogg and Stephen Weiner’s musical version of “The Rivals” are clouded by a need for sharper definition, including more targeted allegiance towards main characters, in the world premiere being mounted at Bristol Riverside Theater through November 18.
Colorful, quick-paced, often witty, and always ambitious, this tune-laden take on Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s classic comedy of manners entertains, sometimes grandly, but it never rises above being amiably superficial.
The will to amuse is there. Performances, particularly by Harriet Harris, Chris Dwan, Emma Stratton, and Joe Veale, command attention. Kellogg and Weiner demonstrate where this show could go with a couple of songs that impress with their cleverness and originality. Jason A. Sparks knows how to have fun with individual choreography.
Despite those assets, director Eric Tucker, whose talent is obvious via his recent productions of “Hamlet” and “Saint Joan” at McCarter, has not, in this early going of “The Rivals,” established any reason to care about anything happening within the upper class Bath milieu the musical depicts. More damaging, lead characters, though well played by Kevin Massey, Erin Mackey, and Ed Dixon, do not register as anyone whose passions, intrigues, dilemmas, and legitimate affections matter. The musical sails on without making anyone’s plight so urgent or so ardent that you long for them to succeed.
Sprightliness has its place, but it can’t make up for lack of depth or even for satire that only takes hold when Harris, an actress with infinite and proven wiles, murders the English lexicon as the iconic Mrs. Malaprop.
Justifiably broad in keeping with the oversized tone of Tucker’s staging, Harris delights by tossing off Malaprop’s confused diction in an offhand, unwitting manner, only stressing the intentional comic errors when her character believes she is making a salient point. Harris makes you listen to her, then adds to her performance by establishing Mrs. Malaprop’s vanity and hauteur via looks, postures, and eyelash beatings that manage to be both subtle and exaggerated.
Harris’s castmates also do well. Acting is not the problem here. But until the writers and director create a more distinct edge for Sheridan’s story, more focus on key figures, and a way to bond the audience with the romantic fates of Jack Absolute and Lydia Languish among others, “The Rivals” will be all froth with no substance.
Though a world premiere, “The Rivals” has the marks of a work in progress, one, in spite of current wrinkles, that is worth continuing.
Providing more impact for characters is the place to start. Right now, the best delineated roles are those of the servants, Lucy and Thomas. Emma Stratton and Joe Veale give them a clear presence that allow them to ascend above the muddle the more crucial Jack and Lydia face, the single note given to Faulkland, and the wonder about why Bob Acres is even in the show.
Kevin Massey is a versatile Jack, shrewd in showing the character’s duplicity and attractively dashing as a man about town. He can bring “The Rivals” to a higher level but only if Kellogg’s book doesn’t take for granted Jack is the hero who ultimately deserves Lydia.
Tucker’s staging takes everything too fast. You hear Jack and Lydia are in love, but it’s never really shown. It’s a manifest destiny on paper but not on the Bristol stage.
Erin Mackey’s Lydia is an ultimate comic heroine. She truly loves Jack, or at the start of “The Rivals,” the man Jack is pretending to be to see if Lydia will love him for his charms and graces rather than his wealth and title. That love has to be fed and thwarted by the sentimentality Lydia inherits from reading romantic novels in which impoverished men or women gain status by marrying out of station.
Then, there are characters more perfunctory than useful. Jim Weitzer earns deserved laughs by making numerous entrances and frequent comments stating his character, Faulkland, is “sensitive.” The repetition is effective and Weitzer makes it into a signature. The hitch is the portrait stops there.
Julia, Sheridan’s reasonable character, should try to help Faulkland get through his doubts and delusions, but Kellogg doesn’t know how to use her, and in the Bristol production, Charlotte Maltby is given a wig that dominates her character more than her dialogue does.
Worst is the waste of Bob Acres. Harriet Harris’s biggest rival for best of cast is Chris Dwan, a bundle of energy and comic gifts who jigs and gambols enthusiastically and plays a decided fop without overdoing it. Yet, Acres seems to have no place in this “Rivals.”
Better established and more effectively comic, though peripheral, is John Treacy Egan’s lusty and funny Lucius McTrigger. Egan, big-voiced and stage-dominating, does a great job. But, once more, he presents no real danger or angst.
Some structural parts of this “Rivals” also need work. The opening number, “No Place Like Bath,” is lively but seems slapdash and derivative rather than a piece that sets a scene, introduces characters, and makes a point.
Kellogg and Weiner show true mettle in other numbers that show wit and have spring to them, such as Julia’s wonderful “Up to Here,” Faulkland’s “I Love Her…But,” Malaprop’s “On a Day as Lovely as Today,” Acres’ “When I Slay My Rival,” and the women’s quartet, “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own.”
Weiner’s music takes on verve and newness in these songs. The composer’s tunes are always pleasant but often more brisk and jaunty than ear-catching or memorable. Kellogg’s lyrics can be smart and pointed, as in “Up to Here,” but sometimes just get a story out in too declarative a manner.
Tucker’s staging is at time curious. Seeing stagehand moving set pieces and having a stuffed animal be thrown from the wings seems more expedient than artistic. The changes of furniture got in the way more often than they fascinated or delighted.
Lisa Zinni’s costumes are among the wittier and most spot-on parts of the production. Joe Doran’s deft lighting is at times like a character of its own.
The Rivals, Bristol Riverside Theater, 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, Pennsylvania. Through Sunday, November 18. $46 to $53. 215-785-0100 or www.brtstage.org.
We’re tackling what’s known as “period poverty,” a problem on virtually nobody’s radar.
The lack of a reliable supply of feminine hygiene products (FHPs) causes girls to miss school, women to miss work, and shows in a different way how the basics most of us take for granted aren’t readily available to everyone. Five key points:
In low-income households where every penny counts, the purchase of FHPs can be seen as “discretionary spending,” which of course is not true.
Everyone thinks the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) went away decades ago when super-absorbent tampons left the market. But the same health risk exists today when girls and women can’t afford to change tampons and pads as often as they should. This is unconscionable in 2018.
Girls are starting puberty earlier than ever, including when they start menstruating. Neither they nor the schools are prepared for this; the schools have a meager budget for emergency supply of FHPs for nurses’ offices but that’s not enough. So what happens? These girls suffer embarrassment and may have to stay home from school (just as their mothers may have to stay home from work) because they don’t have a supply of FHPs. That’s why PPP is including all the schools — including elementary — in our distribution plans.
With food insecurity and clothing insecurity, there is a community mindset about dealing with the problem: we routinely have canned-food drives, free dinners such as Cornerstone serves, and food pantries among other solutions. For clothing, we have winter coat-and-mitten drives, backpack drives, and the like. Fortunately, many in the community are conditioned to be aware of these issues and respond accordingly.
Imagine this scenario: family members are shopping together in the grocery store, and one of the kids (mindful of a canned-food drive in his or her school or church) says, “Hey Dad, let’s get a few cans of soup for the food drive.” But NOBODY says, “Hey Dad, let’s get a couple of boxes of pads for those who need them.”
Similarly, when it comes to food insecurity there is an awareness and urgency borne from the perishable nature of fresh foods or packaged/prepared foods donated by restaurants and supermarkets. This creates momentum to push the food out into the community. But tampons and pads have no sell-by date so there’s no similar momentum. That’s also the good news about what we’re doing: we can collect, store, and distribute sensibly and where/when needed without worrying about anything going bad.
Princeton Period Project is the first effort of its kind in this area. We’re not talking about luxuries — but necessities. We can’t solve the whole problem but we’re going to do our best, and we’re encouraged by the early and very positive response. Many similar programs in place nationally are linked to homeless shelters or women’s prisons; ours is different in that we’re trying to meet broader community needs.
We welcome community support, donations of products or funds, and questions and suggestions. Also, we will be collecting FHPs at McCaffrey’s Supermarket in the Princeton Shopping Center on Saturday November 17. Stop by, shop, and learn more.
The Princeton Period Project Collection will hold a collection Saturday, November 17, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at McCaffrey’s Market in Princeton. Shop for and drop off unopened packages of tampons and pads for those in need. Details at www.princetonperiod.org.
Gordon, a Monmouth Junction resident, is happily retired and now volunteering full-time for a variety of nonprofits in greater Mercer County after a career in human resources.
An eagle-eyed reader, Mark Cehelyk of Princeton Landing, noticed an error in Richard K. Rein’s October 31 column on the partisan divide. Rein had recalled the resolve of John F. Kennedy as he stood up to segregationists trying to prevent admission of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi.
But the chilling audio tape of that encounter, which Rein recalled hearing at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis more than 20 years ago, could not have had Walllace, the governor of Alabama, on it. Cehelyk suggests that it was instead Mississippi governor Ross Barnett.
Rein recalled an indignant governor challenging Kennedy, saying in effect that “you don’t mean to tell me that you are going to send federal marshals to tell us what to do.” And Kennedy responding: “That’s exactly what I mean to tell you.” The details have faded. The memory remains of a president standing up to a bully.
The powerhouse that is the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra appeared at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton on November 2, with solo violinist Augustin Hadelich performing the rarely heard Violin Concerto opus 15 by Benjamin Britten.
Led by guest conductor Christoph Konig, the program also included Richard Strauss’ tone poem “Don Juan” and Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, “Rhenish.”
It was actually a return visit to Princeton for Hadelich, who opened the 2016-’17 Princeton University Concerts season. The hometown crowd loves him, and it’s easy to see why: Hadelich is astounding.
Strauss’s “Don Juan” kicked off with a heroic, effervescent sound that brought to mind a silver screen hero like Erroll Flynn in “Captain Blood.” Indeed, the piece has been described as a balance between swashbuckle and seduction.
The NJSO’s potent French horn section established its command right from the start, supported by rich, lush strings. Like Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life),” there are love themes among the machismo, introduced poignantly by solo oboe, then wending throughout the wind section. The Strauss work tiptoed to a quiet close, a little surprise.
The Britten violin concerto began with the timpani establishing a rhythmic motif that would return throughout the composition. The discreet introduction was soon juxtaposed with Hadelich’s virtuosity, as the violinist explored emotional, melodic lines balanced with explosions of sheer brilliance.
Once again the NJSO’s French horns shined, matching the big percussion section for volume. The dynamic range in this piece is impressive, and the ensemble rose and fell with Britten’s orchestration and Hadelich’s rhapsodic playing.
The lengthy cadenza is filled with chromaticism, harmonics, glissandi, and more, and requires immense technical skill. Hadelich managed this with otherworldly precision and vigor.
At one point he was bowing and plucking his instrument at the same time: I’d never seen anything like this, and neither had my concert neighbor, a violinist. As the cadenza closed, Hadelich appeared as though he had just come out of a trance.
He was brought back to earth soon enough, as the third movement continued to test his technique. Britten certainly used great contrasts in this movement, placing the whirlwind of the strings and soloist against the stubborn solidarity of the bass viols and lower brass.
Schumann’s “Rhenish” symphony marks a period of light in the composer’s somewhat unhappy life. He and his wife, composer Clara Schumann, had just moved to the Rhineland, and he was energized by the new surroundings.
The piece began joyfully, with a familiar melody in the horn section. Schumann was obviously influenced by Beethoven, and the “Rhenish” evokes the same cascading waters and rural scenery as Beethoven’s “Pastoral” symphony.
The NJSO’s majestic rendition of Schumann’s music took us on an excursion through the German countryside, balancing light folk and peasant melodies with darker, spiritual themes.
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, led by music director Xian Zhang, returns to Princeton on Friday, December 14, to perform Handel’s Messiah; Friday, January 18, 2019, with soprano Dawn Upshaw; Friday, March 22, for Brahms’ Fourth Symphony; Friday, May 17, with a program that includes “Four Iconoclastic Episodes” by Steven Mackey; Friday, June 7, with an All-Orchestral Season Finale. www.njsymphony.org
Before the concert Steven Mackey, guitarist, composer, Princeton University professor, and liaison with the NJSO, announced the return of the NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute in July, 2019. Led by Mackey, the symposium will give up-and-coming composers a chance to brainstorm and workshop with members of the NJSO, culminating in a concert performance of new, original works.