February 20, 2019

RiverQuest’s ‘Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise’ Offers Remarkable Insight, Views of CT River

This juvenile bald eagle flew alongside the RiverQuest during our recent afternoon cruise. Photo by Michael Pressman.

Oh, what a trip!

The RiverQuest at the Connecticut River Museum dock

RiverQuest hosted several members of the Fourth Estate recently on a wonderful Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise. Temperatures were distinctly chilly last Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 13), but the heated cabin stayed warm while the boat gently sailed upstream from the Connecticut River Museum.

View from on board the RiverQuest.

The views were stunning throughout the trip and, despite the frigid temperatures, the majority of the 30 or so on board stayed outside most of the time to enjoy the whole experience to the full.

Look hard and you’ll see the mast (slightly right of center) of the sunken luxury yacht in Hamburg Cove.

As we sailed north, apart from all the wildlife on the water and in the sky, we saw the mast of the luxury yacht that has sunk in Hamburg Cove and the always delightful view of Gillette Castle high atop its East Haddam perch overlooking the Connecticut River.

Gillette Castle commands a stunning of the river.

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule shared a vast amount of fascinating facts, figures, history, happenings, and anecdotes about the river and its inhabitants, ably accompanied by naturalist and crew member Cathy Malin.

Naturalist Bill Yule shared a great deal of interesting information with the passengers.

Both were on board for the duration of the trip and, while not busy disseminating information in a lively and engaging manner, they were actively spotting and identifying wildlife of all shapes and sizes on, above and alongside the river and its banks.  They also took great care to ensure the  passengers were at all times warm, comfortable … and supplied with plenty of hot coffee!

Cathy Malin kept her eyes on the prize and was rewarded with sightings of 13 bald eagles on this trip..

Although named an ‘Eagle Cruise,’ the sighting of an eagle cannot, of course, be guaranteed, but we were fortunate to see 13 bald eagles on our trip, one flying immediately alongside the RiverQuest, and also enjoyed numerous sightings of cormorants, black-backed gulls, and common merganser ducks.

An adult bald eagle spotted during our cruise keeps a close watch on everything happening on the river beneath him. Photo by Michael Pressman.

The bald-headed eagle — the national emblem of the United States of America — reaches maturity at around age four when it acquires its signature white head and maximum wingspan of approximately six feet.

All eyes — and binoculars– were on the sky … and water.

Declared an endangered species in 1973 with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, bald eagle populations slowly began to recover following the ban on DDT, and by 2007, populations had recovered to such an extent that the species has now been removed from the endangered species list.

There were a number of professional photographers on board sporting rather larger lenses than our cell phone!

The magnificent raptors are, however, still protected on the federal level by the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Spotting eagles was the job of everyone on board.

Every winter a number of bald eagles migrate south looking for open water on which to feed as the lakes and rivers in Canada and northern New England  freeze. Many of these magnificent birds stop in Connecticut and winter along major rivers and large reservoirs, where they can also be seen feeding and sometimes nesting on the banks of the Connecticut River.

A record of all the birds seen during each trip is kept in the Connecticut River Museum.

Counts taken in 2018 indicated there were 80 pairs of nesting bald eagles in Connecticut, which produced a record 68 chicks.

The Connecticut River Museum was the start and end-point of our trip.

The Connecticut River Museum is currently hosting a “Big Birds of Winter” exhibit, which offers an excellent overview of all the birds that might be seen on the river.

This mock-up of an eagle’s nest and the raptor silhouettes are part of the Connecticut River Museum’s “Big Birds of Winter”exhibition.

Your $42 ticket not only gives you two hours on the river aboard the RiverQuest, but also admission to all the exhibits at the Museum.

Our unequivocal opinion of this wonderful trip is simply, “Take it … it deserves two big thumbs up!”

Editor’s Note: For more information on Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruises, visit this link. For more information on RiverQuest and all the trips they offer, visit this link.  For more information on the Connecticut River Museum, visit this link.

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Don’t Miss a Swashbuckling Party at the Connecticut River Museum, Saturday

The Privateer Crew is ready for your arrival on Saturday. Photo Credit: CRM

Arr” you in?

Come down and show your swagger on Saturday, Feb. 23, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Grab your sword, hoist your sails and get to the Privateers’ Bash, presented by Gosling’s Rum, at the Connecticut River Museum. Come in costume (or not!) and let off a bit of winter steam. Relive riverfront history at the 13th annual Privateer Bash; a playful nod to the privateers who made their wealth by plundering foreign ships of their valuable cargo.

Grog, grub, music, and dancing will fill the floors of our exhibit galleries while Brad and Brian will help create a tropical mood with the sound of the Islands. Savory bites will be provided in-part by Gourmet Galley, Coffee’s Country Market, Catering by Selene, Da Vinci Pizza and David Allen Catering. Treasure can be found with great prizes up for raffle, plus booty awarded for best costumes.

You can’t help but have a good time at the Privateer Bash! Photo Credit: CRM

A $50 Privateer ticket includes hors d’oeuvres, grog, and one complimentary drink. Or take advantage of a two-ticket purchase deal and buy two Privateer tickets for just $85. A $75 Commodore ticket includes hors d’oeuvres and grog plus an open bar. Tickets may be purchased by calling 860-767-8269, online at www.ctrivermuseum.org, or at the door on the evening of the event.

All proceeds benefit the Connecticut River Museum. Support for the Privateers Bash is provided in part by Bogaert Construction, Reynolds’ Garage & Marine, Sapia Builders Corp., All Pro Automotive, Essex Law Group, Marwin Mechanical Services, Kleinschmidt Associates, Brown & Brown/McCutcheon Burr & Sons, Essex Steam Train & RiverBoat, Pages, Inc., Shore Discount Liquor, CCA Services and Young’s Printing. In-Kind support provided by McChesney Design and Connecticut Rental Center. 

The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street on the Essex waterfront and is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. The Museum is dedicated to the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley. For a full listing of Museum programs, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269.

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Essex Winter Series Presents Midiri Brothers Sextet This Afternoon

Paul Midiri who will play in the Midiri Brothers Sextet on Sunday, Feb. 17. File photo courtesy of Essex Winter Series by Tom Salvas.

ESSEX – Essex Winter Series’ presents its Stu Ingersoll Jazz Concert featuring the Midiri Brothers Sextet with special guest Jeff Barnhart on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 3 p.m. at John Winthrop Middle School, Deep River.

The incomparable Midiri Brothers Sextet performs a phenomenal jazz program celebrating the great reedmen, including Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Jimmy Noone and many othersJoseph Midiri is considered a virtuoso of clarinet and saxophone, and Paul Midiri’s wide-ranging talents include vibraphone, drums, and trombone. The added bonus will be Essex Winter Series’ Jazz Advisor and pianist Jeff Barnhart, who will join the group with his dynamic energy.

“I am thrilled to have multi-instrumental virtuosi Joe and Paul Midiri return for a concert, this time with their jazz ensemble, the Midiri Brothers Sextet,” said Barnhart. “The Sextet has been a mainstay of the CT Jazz scene throughout the Great CT Traditional Jazz Festival and the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival, and their legions of fans will be out in force to see their new show celebrating music of the great jazz reedmen. Don’t miss it!”

The lineup includes Joseph Midiri, co-leader, reeds; Paul Midiri, co-leader, vibraphone; Danny Tobias, jazz cornet, trumpet; Pat Mercuri, guitar, banjo; Jack Hegyi, bass; Jim Lawlor, drums; Jeff Barnhart, piano.

Essex Winter Series’ 42nd season continues on March 17 with violinist Tai Murray (the 2019 Fenton Brown Emerging Artist) joining the New Haven Symphony Orchestra under the direction of William Boughton for a program featuring Mozart, Prokofiev, Barber, and Hadyn.

The final concert of the series is Chanticleer, known around the world as “an orchestra of voices,” celebrating their 40th year with a program of favorites composers, from Palestrina and Victoria to Mason Bates and Steven Stucky, as well as audience favorite arrangements by Jennings, Shaw and others.  The concert will take place on April 7.

All performances take place on Sundays at 3 p.m. with the February jazz concert at John Winthrop Middle School, 1 John Winthrop Middle School Road, Deep River; the March concert at Valley Regional High School, 256 Kelsey Hill Road, Deep River; and the April concert at Old Saybrook Senior High School, 1111 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook. Seating is general admission and tickets may be purchased by calling 860-272-4572 or visiting www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2019 season is generously sponsored by The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Masonicare at Chester Village, Tower Laboratories, Guilford Savings Bank, and BrandTech Scientific.

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Third Annual Festival of Women’s Plays Opens 2019 Season at the Ivoryton Playhouse, March 1

Waltrudis Buck’s play, ‘Water Without Berries’ iwill be read on the opening night, March 1, of the Third Annual Women Playwrights Initiative at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Tickets are on on sale now for the Ivoryton Playhouse’s Third Annual Women Playwrights Initiative – Passion, Power and Prose 2019.

Tori Keenan-Zelt

The Initiative includes the Ellie Award and a $500 stipend for each of the four women playwrights chosen and provides a safe, nurturing environment for the development of new, one-act plays by and about women and the issues that shape their live, including a week of intensive rehearsal with the playwrights, directors, and actors.

The weeklong workshop culminates in two evenings of staged readings which will take place on Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT, followed by discussions with playwrights, actors and directors.

Friday, March 1, at 7 p.m., there will be two readings presented.  

  • How to Be A Widow by Tori Keenan-Zelt and directed by Susan Einhorm.  In this wickedly funny play, two young women grapple with the freedom and power of their new widowhood.
  • Water Without Berries by Waltrudis Buck and directed by Todd Underwood. Two brothers—a school teacher and Shakespearean actor—return to Harlem to persuade their infirm grandma to leave the tenement where they grew up. In this bittersweet drama, yearning, art, rivalry, and hope struggle against the relentless forces of reality.

Kathleen Cahill

Saturday, March 2, at 7 p.m. there will be two readings presented.  

  • Partner of – by Rachael Carnes and directed by Leslie Snow. What can her grandmother and mother teach young Sally about agency, expectation, and the roles society permit women? Through the lens of three enslaved women, the property of Thomas Jefferson, we face what it means to be the “partner of –”
  • The Robertassey by Kathleen Cahill and directed by Hannah Simms. Roberta’s trip to Ireland becomes a surreal odyssey when the airlines lose her suitcase containing her father’s ashes. The dialogue is sharp, and the tone is magical, in a comedy that explores the universe’s indifference, filial obligation, forgiveness, and the power of love.

Rachael Carnes

To purchase tickets for the Friday, March 1, or Saturday, March 2, readings – each start at 7 p.m. – call 860.767.7318 or visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Tickets are $20 for an adult each night; $15 for a senior each night; $10 for a student.  Buy tickets for Friday and Saturday night performances for $30 adult; $25 senior; $10 student – call the box office 860.767.7318 to book a two-day package.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT  06442.

For more information about the Women Playwrights Initiative and to read bios of the playwrights, visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

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Letter From Paris: Life in the ‘City of Light’ is a War Zone … with Wheels!

Nicole Prévost Logan

Paris is waging a war on wheels.

In order to survive crossing the street, pedestrians have to defy car drivers while on the sidewalks, the war is between the people who walk and those on wheels in a multitude of forms.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a socialist, has made it her mission to reduce pollution in the French capital by shrinking the space open to vehicles.  It is a laudable cause and many Parisians appreciate its immediate results. 

Thanks to the closing of the roadways along the Seine, people have regained the previously lost pleasure of walking leisurely near the water, away from the noise of the traffic, while their children can play freely.

It is possible now to walk miles and discover Paris from east to west.  More boats line up at the quays and have become floating cafés.  In warm weather, tons of sand and palm trees appear overnight to give the berges (banks) de la Seine a summery look. 

But the process of narrowing avenues with larger sidewalks and creating bicycle and bus lanes can be overwhelming for residents.  For months, the ambitious project to reduce the Bastille circle to merely an intersection of avenues has turned the area into a gigantic worksite. 

People have to struggle through ever-changing makeshift paths amid the noise and dust of heavy equipment that is variously moving mountains of dirt or asphalt, installing fire hydrants and electrical cables, and relocating bus stops.  Everyday the urban landscape changes causing irritation among Parisians and resultant excessive horn-blowing. 

For pedestrians, crossing a street feels like an obstacle course.  When the lights change, motorcycles seem to think they are at the Le Mans 24 hour race (the most famous car race in France), backfire their engine to make as much noise as possible and surge forward riding only on their back wheel.  Pedestrians had better get out of the way! 

Arriving at a traffic light, drivers will not stop until it turns to amber.  The crossing space, called les clous in France (it used to be-marked by what looked like oversize thumbtacks), is encumbered with trucks, cars and busses through which one has to meander to find a passage. 

Even when the light turns green, a war of nerves starts between drivers and pedestrians. Tourists and out-of-towners hesitate and are too polite.  This is a big mistake, which is interpreted as an opportunity to move forward rapidly by drivers.  But old-time Parisians are more daring and will bluff their adversaries at the wheel.  At busy intersections, the vehicles coming from side streets do not even slow down, turning the scene into ridiculous grid locks .

Sidewalks are supposedly designed for pedestrians. Wrong!

A ‘trottinette’

A ‘gyrorue’

Today the latter share the space with an ever-increasing number of humans on wheels: big-engined motorbikes taking a short-cut then parking right in front of their destination, bicycles, skateboards, electric scooters or trottinettes — the current rage — and monowheel scooters or gyroroue.  The list is open-ended since technology invents new devices all the time. 

Traffic on sidewalks is not regulated and follows the rule of the jungle, which means no rules at all.  

Last month, I attended a big event along with hundreds of residents of my arrondissement to hear our mayor present his New Year wishes.  Among the elected members of the conseil municipal (town council), I spotted the person in charge of transportation and commented on the war-like atmosphere in our streets. 

He was very evasive, saying, yes, we are aware there is a problem, but I wondered what this transportation official was actually doing besides “being aware of the problem.” 

I almost forgot … I should add another category to my story about the wheels onslaught and that is the hordes of tourists pushing their suitcases … on wheels!

Living in Paris is an enjoyable challenge.  Having no wheels definitely keeps you on your toes.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Ivoryton Playhouse Hosts Auditions for ‘Godspell, Mama Mia and Cabaret’ Today

The Ivoryton Playhouse will be holding local auditions for Equity and non- Equity actors for the 2019 summer musicals – Godspell, Mama Mia and Cabaret – on Friday, Feb. 8, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Ivoryton Playhouse Rehearsal Studio, 22 Main Street in Centerbrook, Conn.

The Playhouse is looking for actors, singers and dancers to fill all roles. Check their website for production dates at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

All auditions are by appointment. Bring a picture and resumé and prepare a song in the style of the show.

For audition appointments, call 860-767-9520, ext.207 or email lizzy@ivorytonplayhouse.org

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Letter from Paris: Picasso’s Early Years on View in Blue … and Pink

Nicole Prévost Logan

In October 1900, Picasso – at age 19 – arrived at the Gare d’Orsay in Paris from Barcelona. So, it is appropriate that the Orsay Museum would host an exhibition about the young Spanish artist.

The blockbuster, which opened in the autumn of 2018, was called “Picasso. Bleu, Rose” and refers to the 1900-1906 years. It is a long overdue theme, never before treated in France.

For several reasons, this period is unique among Picasso’s long career. It reveals the precocious virtuosity of such a young person as a draughtsman;
never again will he express such intense emotions; Harlequin — a main character from the Commedia del’arte — is introduced for the first time and will remain his double throughout his life’s work. The image at right shows “Arlequin with an acrobat” (1905) portrayed as a young and emaciated boy.

Between 1900 and 1904, Picasso made several trips between Spain and Paris, until he settled permanently in the French capital where he rented a studio, along with other artists, in a dilapidated building baptized the Bateau-Lavoir (washhouse.)

He liked to hang around at the tavern of Els Quatre Gats (Four Cats) in Barcelona where he met Catalan friends – such as Santiago Rusinol or Ramon Casos. The exhibit shows hundreds of the small portraits and sketches, sometimes humorous, that he created at full speed.

With a voracious curiosity, he would watch the colorful, loud crowds at cabarets, bordellos, night clubs or caf’concs (cafés with a music hall performance) of Montmartre.

Toulouse Lautrec was his idol.

Like him, Picasso depicted the dejected night-life customers stunned under the effect of absinthe. “Arlequin and his companion” (1901, Pushkin museum, Moscow) shown at left represents a couple totally alienated from each other, sitting at a bistro table, with vacuous expressions on their faces.

The man is Harlequin, dressed in his usual costume with lozenges.

The “Portrait of Gustave Coquiot” (1901, Musee d’art moderne, Paris) at right is emblematic of this garish night life. The collector and art critic is depicted as a well-fed individual, with half naked girls dancing in the background, his mouth snarled in a lecherous grimace, under an insolent mustache.

But those years were lean years for Picasso. Both in Barcelona and in Paris Picasso lived in utter poverty.

This was the height of his “Blue Period” — the color of the bottom of the abyss. Beggars, orphans, the poor — Picasso showed his empathy for all of them.

He would take for models the former prostitutes incarcerated at the Saint Lazare prison in Barcelona, where many were dying of venereal diseases .

One usually links the Blue Period with the death of his close friend Casagemas in 1901 The painting at left of the young Catalan artist on his death bed, (1901, Musee Picasso, Paris) is realistic and shows the bullet wound on his temple after he committed suicide. The feverish multicolor strokes around the candle are reminiscent of van Gogh’s technique.

Abject poverty did not prevent Picasso from leading a lively, bohemian life among artists, poets, writers in the Montmartre district of the French capital, which was the center of the artistic world at that time.

The German art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler immediately discovered the genius of Picasso. Things started looking up when art merchant Ambroise Vollard bought several of his paintings. His melancholy disappeared when he fell passionately in love with Fernande Olivier, one of his many companions whose body and face he kept deconstructing.

The distinction between Blue and Pink Periods is rather artificial. Sadness lingered on through both periods.

Pink became predominant when the artist became interested in the circus world. Several times a week he would go to the cirque Medrano. But unlike other artists like Seurat, Rouault or Matisse, he was not interested in the spectacles per se but rather in what happened backstage and in the miserable existence of the acrobats.

In “Acrobate a la boule” (at right), a frail adolescent is trying to keep his (her) balance on a round ball watched by a heavy set acrobat sitting on a massive cube. Art historians give a deep meaning to the scene, to the contrast between the spiritual world, taking risks, being continually in motion with the stability of life grounded in the earth.

In the summer of 1906, Picasso’s life took a new turn. Being with Fernande on the hillside village of Gozolf, he seemed totally happy, enjoying the sun and inspired by the pink and ochre color of the clay. He discovered the Iberian sculptures of the fifth and sixth centuries BC influenced by Phoenician and Greek cultures as well as 12th century medieval sculptures.

His art seems to be changing course. In “Deux Nus” (1906, MOMA), shown at left, the bodies of the naked women, are deformed, with disproportionate legs and heavy torso. Picasso was ready for another discovery … African art.

Matisse showed him an African statuette in the apartment of Gertrude and Leo Stein. Picasso was stunned.

As a result, after numerous sketches, (the Steins bought most of them when Picasso was still unknown), Picasso produced the ‘Demoiselles d’Avignon’ (1907, MOMA), which remains probably the most important painting of the 20th century.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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With Approach of Brexit Deadline, a New Conundrum Emerges: UK Grows More Divided, EU More United

Nicole Prévost Logan

It was a close call for Theresa May and probably the most difficult time of the 900-odd days of the Brexit negotiations. 

On Monday, Dec. 10, her proposed “deal” faced opposition from all sides. Several of her ministers had already resigned: Boris Johnson,  Dominic Raab and David Davis, successive Secretaries of State for Brexit. Even her own Tory party was divided. 

Europhile Jo Johnson, brother of Boris, refused the terms of her “deal.” On the left, the Labor Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, wanted to remain in Europe, but within a large customs union, to maintain trade relations and be in control of immigration. Both Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP), on whom May’s Conservatives rely for a majority in parliament, preferred  a “Norway plus” formula. 

A coup de theatre occurred in the House of Commons on Dec. 12: the leader of the conservative Brexiters, Jacob Rees-Mogg, led a motion of no confidence against the prime minister. She won by 200 votes to 117. This vote meant  a reprieve for May until Jan. 21, 2019 to make a final decision on the “deal.”  She cannot drag out the timetable indefinitely, however, since the process has to be completed before the European elections on May 26.  

During that fateful week, in a desperate effort to save her plan, the British Prime Minister raced from the House of Commons to make hasty visits to the European countries most sympathetic to her ideas such as The Netherlands or Germany.  She returned to London and made a statement in front of 10 Downing Street on a cold winter night, cheered a little by a Christmas tree standing nearby. On Dec. 13, she was back on the continent to attend a meeting of the European Council hoping to wrench out a few more concessions from the weary Europeans.

She returned to the UK empty-handed.

May warns that “no deal” would be catastrophic for the UK.  She says that only by achieving a deal can the UK hope to preserve its independence and remain in control of its economy and borders. The Brexiters’ argument is that during the transition period, which starts on March 29, 2019, the UK will remain within the EU Custom Union, unable to sign bilateral cooperation agreements with other countries and forced to make financial contributions, while having no say in the decision-making process.

The 27 EU members ratified the hefty 600-page withdrawal document of the UK after smoothing out a few thorny issues. One is the administration of the Gibraltar enclave.  Spain had to be satisfied lest it used its veto. The other one dealt with the demands by fishermen from France,  Denmark and a few other countries to retain access to the waters — rich in fish — around the British Isles.  Until today, they have been allowed to do so as per the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

But by far the most crucial point is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  Both the UK and the EU want a “backstop” — a device designed to maintain the UK with the EU Customs Union until a trade agreement is signed — but for different reasons. For Brussels, it is a non- negotiable red line, a temporary measure, like an insurance to be applied during the transition period scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2020. Ireland does not want to see the re-emergence of the bloody conflict, which finally ended on Good Friday 1998.  

Theresa May wants a legally-binding text agreement that proposes a backstop to prevent the return of a physical border. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his team are ready to make adjustments to create a “backstop” more palatable to the British, saying, “Let us be imaginative and creative.”  He now offers other solutions such as setting up control points about 10 miles from the border in industrial buildings .  

On the whole, the 27 European Union (EU) members are displaying an exceptional show of unity, which may come as a surprise for outside observers.  One would  expect the EU to be tough with the UK to prevent a possible ‘domino effect’ inspiring others to leave a continent already torn between populism and nationalism. 

In fact, the exact opposite is happening. and none of the 27 seem willing to leave Europe. In France, Marine Le Pen changed her mind quickly about keeping the Euro.  In Greece, Prime Minister Tsipras and his Syriza party are not in conflict with Brussels any longer.  The Italian government has agreed to reduce its deficit in accordance with the EU rules.  Eastern Europeans appreciate greatly the assistance they receive from Brussels and also the protection the latter gives them against their Russian neighbor They do not show any intention of leaving the EU.. 

The scenario of a new referendum is gaining ground.  Since the European Court of Justice has just declared that a EU member state can unilaterally withdraw its intention to leave the Union, the task of the “Remainers” would be simplified. If they win the referendum, it will be back to square one — an outcome generally favored by the Europeans. 

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Letter to the Editor: Needleman’s New Year’s Resolution is to be 33rd District’s ‘Common Sense Advocate’

To the Editor:

The holiday season is a time when we enjoy good cheer and look forward to the promise of a bright new year. It is a time when we resolve to do the things that didn’t get done in the old year, and fix the things that need fixing.  

For me, the coming year will be both demanding and promising. On January 9, I will be sworn in to represent the 33rd district in the State Senate, a responsibility that brings with it significant challenges and exciting new opportunities. That’s why my only resolution this year is to be the common sense advocate the towns in our district need and deserve. As your voice in the state senate, I will keep you posted on progress in addressing the issues that concern all of us.

Meanwhile, I hope we can all enjoy the festive spirit and good will that make the holiday season so enjoyable. I wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year. 

Sincerely,

Norm Needleman,
Essex

Editor’s Note: The author is the State Senator Elect for the 33rd District, which includes Lyme.

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Letter from Paris: Riots Fuel ‘Yellow Vest’ Rebellion Against Macron’s Reforms, Stir Memories of May ’68

Editor’s Note: We are watching events in Paris today with deep dismay. Nicole Logan’s topical column gives her opinion on the background to the tense situation unfolding there.

Nicole Prévost Logan

France is in a tailspin.  

The crisis started with the fury against the seven-cent tax hike on diesel fuel. The movement of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) spread like wildfire through the social networks as they blocked the roads all over France. For three weeks in November, the demonstrators congregated in Paris each Saturday. Their confrontation with the police culminated in scenes of violence, which shocked the world: Place de l’Etoile obliterated by the smoke of tear gas, graffiti desecrating the Arc de Triomphe, and a policeman being attacked near the monument.  

Riots have been occurring in cities all over France but are centered on Paris. File photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

Since the Champs Elysées and the Place de la Concorde were cordoned off by the police, the casseurs (hooligans) spilled over Avenue Kleber and Avenue de la Grande Armee, where they looted shops and set fire to six buildings. Hundreds were wounded and 412 demonstrators arrested. By the day’s end, a picture of desolation remained with the smoldering remains of 35 cars and streets littered with whatever was used as a projectile by the radicalized mob.

The tension is mounting. The government seems unable to contain it. The gilets jaunes are widening their demands to lower all taxes, raise salaries and retirements as well as the dissolution of the National Assembly. At this point they will not stop short of the resignation of Macron. 

It is an unprecedented, unstructured popular anger directly aimed at the president.  The opposition parties – with much glee – are surfing on this tsunami.

The government is making concessions to meet people’s demands. Unfortunately these concessions always arrive too late. The more the government concedes, the more the gilets jaunes demand, apparently comforted by their success.  On Dec. 4th, Prime Minister Edward Philippe announced a six-month freeze on fuel and utility taxes followed by their cancellation the same evening. And the price tag of this measure? Four billion euros. This was the first admission of defeat by the Macron team – a measure very hard to swallow since it went against its own environmental principles. 

What are the causes of this crisis? Mistakes made by a president attempting to reform the country from the bottom up? Ungovernable French people? Perhaps a combination of both.

During the first 16 months of his mandate, Macron undertook structural reforms  to turn France into a modern and competitive country. These reforms dealt with political institutions, the labor code,  the impressive — but somewhat antiquated — railroad system or  SNCF (Societé Nationale des Chemins de Fer), crowded universities  by abolishing a chaotic and ridiculous entrance selection by lottery. 

But French people do not like changes and are attached to their privileges, tax niches and social benefits acquired over decades. An attempt at reforming the system was bound to face an uphill battle .

All these reforms were part of a general plan — a vision — which the president had placed at the core of his electoral campaign and on the basis of which he had been elected. in 2017. He gave himself five years to achieve his goals. 

Unfortunately for him the people wanted immediate results. He wanted to raise the French economy and society from the bottom up and encourage the active population. This was different from a “trickle down” process, but was not perceived as such by the French.  Soon the label,”President of the Rich,” was firmly attached to him.

Macron’s strategy was to consult with trade unions, elected local officials or business people at the Elysée Palace before making any decisions.

Apparently tetanized by the fast pace of the president’s method, the population seemed at first to accept the reforms. But gradually, overwhelmed by the sheer number of new regulations, taxes, or reforms facing them them every morning, its discontent started as an underground rumble until it finally exploded. The last drop was the additional tax on diesel. 

Overall, the French population is justified in its revolt against an unbearable tax burden. France is the world number one champion of taxes with 48 percent of its Gross Domestic Product coming from tax revenues versus 40 percent in the other European countries and less than 30 percent in the US.  One of the buzz expressions among the gilets jaunes is “ras le bol” (meaning “we are totally fed up.”) There are hundreds of hidden taxes in France. For example, did you know that here, one has to pay a tax on “oiseaux de companie” (pet birds)?

The French have a special craving for social justice as shown in their attitude toward the Impot de Solidarite sur la Fortune (ISF) or wealth tax. Macron had split that tax between property wealth — which he retained — and financial holdings such as stocks. In order to encourage investments — particularly on green energy — he created a “flat tax” of only 30 percent.  What he did was misunderstood by the public opinion and may be scrapped soon.    

Today Macron’s room to maneuver is very small.  Since the opposition has no leader to replace him, where is the country going?  Cohn Bendit, the hero of May 1968, the largest French uprising in the past 50 years, gave a frightening prognosis, “I see the present movement in France as a possibly the first step toward totalitarianism, headed by an illiberal despot.” 

The situation is evolving by the hour.  More demonstrations of force are already planned …

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Musical Masterworks’ MMModern Presents ‘Quinteto Latino’ Tonight at Centerbrook

‘Quinteto Latino’ will perform Friday, Nov. 9, in the Centerbrook Meeting House.

Experience contemporary chamber music featuring Quinteto Latino tomorrow evening (Friday, Nov. 9) in a Musical Masterworks’ Modern concert starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Centerbrook Meetinghouse. Whether exploring new twists on traditional folk songs or premiering works by living composers, these five musicians blend both the vibrant colors and vigorous rhythms of Latin American music through the tones of the flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, and bassoon.

Admission is $35 and student admission is $10. Admission includes a reception prior to the concert at 5:30 p.m.; the concert begins at 6:30 p.m.

After the performance, continue your evening with a $40 per person Prix Fixe dinner at the new Los Charros Cantina at The Essex in Centerbrook. Price includes choice of appetizer, tacos, dessert and house margarita. Only available to MMModern concertgoers. Make your dinner reservation by calling The Essex at 860.237.4266 and reference MMModern.

This special performance has been generously sponsored by The Howard Gilman Foundation, Clark Group, Phyllis M. McDowell, Tower Labs and Wade Thomas.

For full details and to purchase tickets, visit Masterworks at www.musicalmasterworks.org or call 860.434.2252.

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Letter to the Editor: Needleman Thinks, Acts Independently; Works in a Bipartisan Manner

To the Editor:

The time has come where we all need to get out and vote and try and pick representatives who will lead us out of the partisanship that is causing so much negativity and lack of progress in our governments; local, state and national.

If you saw 60 Minutes on Sunday, September 30th you saw Jeff Flake, a Republican Senator from Arizona and seemingly a reasonable and thoughtful person, admit that if he was running for Senator again, he would have not have reached out to Chris Coons, Democratic Senator from Delaware, to put some sense in the discussions over the allegations of sexual misconduct of Judge Kavanaugh. He stated that there is no longer any reward in politics for acting on personal beliefs and values if those beliefs and values do not fall in line with the political party with which you are affiliated. How sad. While this is a well publicized national issue, the same type of partisan behavior is happening much more quietly on local and state levels. I personally want to respect the person for whom I vote and want to believe that that person will do what he or she thinks is right, not what is being driven through the political party. And accept it that the chosen leader may not always support issues the way I would, but that leaders have a bigger and broader view than I could possibly have for what is good for the state or the nation.

It is for that reason I support Norm Needleman for Senator in the 33rd district. He is a man who follows his own mind and has proven in Essex his willingness to extend past party lines and attempt to do the right thing.

Getting out to vote this election is very important. Find out what you can about candidates, and vote for those who you think are most likely to help solve our local, state and national problems by working with the people and other leaders from all parties. I believe Norm is that person for 33rd district Senator.

Sincerely,

Robert Ward,
Essex.

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See ‘Once’ at Ivoryton Playhouse Through Oct.14

Katie Barton plays the lead role of Girl in ‘Once,’ which opens Sept. 19 at Ivoryton Playhouse.

The Broadway smash hit Once, has opened at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

On the streets of Dublin, an Irish musician about to give up on his dreams and a beautiful young Czech immigrant are drawn together by their shared love of music. Over the course of one fateful week, an unexpected friendship and collaboration quickly evolves into a powerful but complicated love story, underscored by emotionally-charged music.

Winner of eight 2012 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Once is an original theatrical experience. Featuring an impressive ensemble of actor/musicians who play their own instruments onstage, Once is an unforgettable story about going for your dreams and the power of music to connect us all.

Based on the 2007 movie of the same name, written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the show features all of the haunting songs from the critically acclaimed film, including the Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly”. This uplifting show strikes an unforgettable chord in audiences and speaks to the power of music to connect us all. As Irglova said in her remarkable Oscar acceptance speech, “Fair play to those who dare to dream and don’t give up.”

Ivoryton welcomes back Ben Hope*, who has performed at Ivoryton in Million Dollar Quartet and Stand by Your Man. Hope is making his directorial debut with this show, which is dear to his heart, since he performed the role of Guy on Broadway many times.  What makes this production special is that Hope is directing his wife, Katie Barton*, in the role of Girl. Barton has also performed in Ivoryton, playing the lead role of Tammy Wynette in Stand by Your Man.

Joining them in this production are Sam Sherwood*, last seen in Ivoryton in The Road — My Life with John Denver, as Guy; Steven G. Anthony* as Billy; Jonathan Brown as Svec; Margaret Dudasik* as Reza; Andreina Kasper as Bank Manager; Marcy McGuigan* as Baruska; John Mervini as Eamon; Morgan Morse as Andre; Rachel Mulcahy as Ex-Girlfriend; Don Noble* as Da; Victoria Wepler as Emcee and Cadyn Malary and Lizzie Pantano as Ivanka.

Musical direction is by Eric Anthony, set design by Glen Bassett, lighting design by Marcus Abbott, and costume design by Cully Long.

Once runs through Oct. 14, 2018.  Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p. m. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $55 for adults; $50 for seniors; $25 for students and $20 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org 

Group rates are available by calling the box office for information. The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

*denotes member of Actors Equity.

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Lock Your Cars! Thefts of Cars, Cash in Cars Reported in Numerous Locations in Old Lyme, Neighboring Towns

The Old Lyme Police have advised residents to be vigilant in locking their cars, and removing valuables and cash from their cars.  This follows a series of break-ins into cars that in many cases, were unlocked. A car was stolen from Hefflon Farms and break-ins were reported on Duchess Drive, Johnnycake Hill Rd. and Hawthorne Rd.  Neighboring towns were affected as well.

The Chester Resident Trooper TFC Matthew Ward #815 from Connecticut State Police – Troop F Westbrook issued the following statement to Chester residents Sept. 4:

Early Monday morning 9/3/18 we had several vehicles gone through in various areas of Chester – Railroad Avenue, Denlar Drive, Goose Hill and others.  Approximately 10 or so vehicles were gone through that we know of with a few items stolen. One residence had video surveillance and it showed the suspects trying to gain entry into the residence from keys taken out of one of the cars. 
Essex, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook also had several vehicles gone through with one car stolen from Essex and one car stolen from Old Saybrook. Please lock your vehicles and lock your residences at night. This has been happening alot in the surrounding areas. The suspects are from the Hartford, New Britain and New Haven areas and are stealing cars mostly.  Please be vigilant and report any suspicious people or suspicious vehicles in the area.    
Anyone with information about any of these incidents is asked to contact old Lyme Police or the State Police at Westbrook.
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HOPE Partnership Receives $3.93 Million DOH Grant for Essex Affordable Housing

HOPE Partnership has been selected as a recipient of the Department of Housing (DOH) High Opportunity Area Housing grant.  This award, in the amount of $3.93 million, will provide for the conversion of commercial condominium offices into 17 affordable housing apartments in the Village of Centerbrook, Town of Essex.

In 2015, a HOPE Board member first suggested the idea that vacant and underutilized office space at Spencer’s Corner might be an ideal location for much-needed affordable housing.  A three story, commercial condo complex in the village of Centerbrook, Spencer’s Corner has had many vacancies, which provided an opportunity for HOPE to explore opportunities with the unit owners.

Over the past three years, HOPE has worked closely with town leaders, zoning officials, engineers, architects and other stakeholders to ensure a well thought out plan that would provide safe, affordable and stable housing to members of the community.  This project will be known as The Lofts at Spencer’s Corner with one-, two-, and three-bedroom units on the second and third floors with affordable rents based upon the sliding scale set by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  HOPE has applied for the remaining financing needed through the Federal Home Loan Bank with Essex Savings Bank.

HOPE expresses gratitude to all those who have assisted in making this project a reality.  Working in partnership with their volunteer board of directors, Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman and Essex Town leaders, Spencer’s Corner’s Association, their development team and with the support of State Senator Art Linares and State Representative Bob Siegrist  and Connecticut State Leadership, HOPE is advancing its mission of making affordable homes a reality for families in the community.

 Founded in April 2004, HOPE Partnership is a non-profit organization committed to advocating and developing affordable housing opportunities to support families living and working in southern Middlesex County and surrounding towns.  In 2015, HOPE merged with Old Lyme Affordable Housing and is committed to serving the needs of residents in the community.  HOPE’s purpose is to advocate for and create high-quality rental housing targeted to people earning between 50 and 80 percent of the local median income.

For more information, visit this link

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Household Hazardous Waste Collection Scheduled for Saturday

A Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection will take place this Saturday, Aug. 11, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Acceptable items can be taken to the Essex HHW Facility on Dump Rd., Essex (Rte. 9 North, Exit 4.)

Visit this link for a list of acceptable items.

The next Household Hazardous Waste event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8.

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‘A Chorus Line’ Opens at Ivoryton Playhouse

From left to right, Kayla Starr Bryan, Lili Thomas, Sarah Warrick, Matthew Carp, and Cory Candelet form part of A Chorus Line.

The Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Chorus Line has opened at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

Stephanie Genito plays Cassie in ‘A Chorus Line.’

Casting for a new Broadway musical is almost complete and for 17 dancers, this audition is the chance of a lifetime and what they’ve worked their whole lives for.A Chorus Line brilliantly evokes both the glamour and grind of showbiz, and is the musical for everyone who’s ever had a dream and put it all on the line.

The iconic score features such classics as “What I Did for Love,” “One,” “I Hope I Get It,” and more. With its celebration and true-to-life depiction of performers and their struggle to achieve greatness on the Broadway stage,A Chorus Line has earned unanimous praise as one of the true masterpieces of live theater.

Penned by legendary composer, Marvin Hamlisch,A Chorus Line opened at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway July 25, 1975, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett. An unprecedented box office and critical hit, the musical received 12 Tony Award nominations and won nine, in addition to the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The original Broadway production ran for 6,137 performances, becoming the longest-running production in Broadway history until surpassed by Cats in 1997, and the longest-running Broadway musical originally produced in the U.S., until surpassed in 2011 by Chicago.

Based on real Broadway dancers’ stories, A Chorus Line is funny, heartbreaking, and refreshingly honest and even today remains one of the best loved Broadway shows ever.

Edward Stanley plays Zack in the new production of ‘A Chorus Line’ at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

This production showcases many performers who have made the Playhouse their home over the past few years: Schuyler Beeman*, Ronnie Bowman Jr., Andee Buccheri, Cory Candelet, Stephanie Genito*, Sam Given*, Joey Lucherini, Amanda Lupacchino, Natalie Madlon, Alexa Racioppi, Jared Starkey and Max Weinstein. Performers making their Playhouse debut are Kayla Starr Bryan, Matthew Carp, Dakota Hoar, Liv Kurtz, Lina Lee*, Jennifer Roberts, Edward Stanley*, Cassidy Terracciano, Lili Thomas* and Sarah Warrick.

The production is directed and choreographed by Todd L. Underwood and musical directed by Michael Morris, with set design by Martin Scott Marchitto, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costume design by Kate Bunce.

A Chorus Line runs through Sept. 2. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Additional matinee performances are on Saturday, Aug. 18, and Saturday, Sept. 1. 

Tickets are $55 for adults; $50 for seniors; $25 for students and $20 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting www.ivorytonplayhouse.org 

Group rates are available by calling the box office for information. The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

*denotes member of Actors Equity

Photos courtesy of Ivoryton Playhouse.   

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Last Chance to see ‘Grease’ Today at Ivoryton Playhouse

Danny, played by Johnny Newcomb, and  Sandy (Kimberley Immanuel) are the leads in ‘Grease’ at Ivoryton Playhouse.  Both are members of Equity. Photograph by Anne Hudson.

IVORYTON — Dust off your leather jackets, pull on your bobby-socks and take a trip to a simpler time as Danny and Sandy fall in love all over again at the Ivoryton Playhouse. Opening July 5, and running through July 29, Grease, by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey,  features all the unforgettable songs from the hit movie including “You’re The One That I Want”, “Grease Is The Word”, “Summer Nights”, “Hopelessly Devoted To You”, “Greased Lightnin’” and many more.

Here is Rydell High’s senior class of 1959: duck-tailed, hot-rodding “Burger Palace Boys” and their gum-snapping, hip-shaking “Pink Ladies” in bobby sox and pedal pushers, evoking the look and sound of the 1950s in this rollicking musical.

Head “greaser” Danny Zuko and new (good) girl Sandy Dumbrowski try to relive the high romance of their “Summer Nights” as the rest of the gang sings and dances its way through such songs as “Greased Lightnin’,” “It’s Raining on Prom Night,” “Alone at the Drive-In Movie” recalling the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation.

The Burger Palace Boys comprising (Kenickie, (Natale Pirrotta*), Roger (Taylor Morrow), Danny (Johnny Newcomb*), Doody (Luke Linsteadt*) and Sonny (Max Weinstein) play a key  role in ‘Grease.’ * denotes member of Equity. Photograph by Anne Hudson.

Grease‘ opened Off-Broadway at the Eden Theatre on Feb. 14, 1972 but was deemed eligible for the 1972 Tony Awards, and received seven Tony Award nominations. The 1994 revival also garnered Tony nominations and the show went on to a successful national tour, featuring local hero Micky Dolenz as Vince Fontaine.

The movie that we all know and love opened 40 years ago and it is a testament to the music and the iconic characters that ‘Grease‘ is still the word today.

The best part of this quintessentially American high school story (aside from the music, of course) is what Danny, Sandy, Rizzo, Kenickie, Frenchy and the rest of the Rydell High gang taught us – that the people who really care about you will stay by your side no matter how different you are from one another, and support you just the same whether you’re a pom-pom-wielding goody-two-shoes, a leather-touting T-Bird or a starry-eyed, pink-haired aspiring beautician, who drops out of school months before graduation.

So throw your mittens around your kittens and hand jive the night away with the show that’ll make you want to stand up and shout, ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-wop-bam-boom!

This production stars Johnny Newcomb* as Danny Zuko and Kimberley Immanuel* as Sandy. Johnny made his Broadway debut in The Last Ship and was part of the national tour of American Idiot. He was last seen in Ivoryton as Roger in Rent. This season’s audience may remember Kimberley for her luminous performance as Luisa in The Fantasticks.

Other cast members that may be familiar to Ivoryton audiences are Alyssa V. Gomez* (Rizzo), Amy Buckley (Miss Lynch), Cory Candelet (Eugene), Jonny Cortes (Johnny Casino), Taylor Lloyd (Marty), Alexa Racioppi (Patty Simcox) Max Weinstein (Sonny) Amanda Lupacchino, Andee Buccheri, and Nathan Russo. Making their Ivoryton debut are Katelyn Bowman (Frenchy) Lawrence Cummings* (Vince Fontaine/Teen Angel), Luke Linsteadt* (Doody), Taylor Morrow (Roger), Natale Pirrotta* (Kenickie), Shalani Taylor (Cha-Cha), Audrey Wilson (Jan), Jamaal Fields-Green, Jared Starkey and Clementine Wurzbach

The production is directed and choreographed by Todd L. Underwood and musical directed by Michael Morris, with set design by Daniel Nischan, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costume design by Elizabeth Saylor Cippolina.

Grease opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse July 5 and runs through July 29. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm.Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.

Additional matinee performances are on Saturday, July 7, 14 and 28 at 2pm.

Tickets are $55 for adults; $50 for seniors; $25 for students and $20 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org 

Group rates are available by calling the box office for information. The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

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Middlesex Hospital Opens Renovated Essex Facility

Middlesex Hospital leaders celebrate the opening of the renovated Shoreline Medical Center. From left to right, Lori Pascarelli, Manager of Occupational Medicine, Jackie Calamari, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Dr. Matthew Lundquist, Chief of Occupational Medicine, David Giuffrida, Vice President of Operations, Brian Taber, Physical Rehabilitation Director, Donna Stroneski, Vice President of Human Resources and Robin Copperthwaite, Rehabilitation Supervisor.

ESSEX — Middlesex Hospital has opened its renovated building at 252 Westbrook Road in Essex.

The building was once home to the Shoreline Medical Center, which moved to 252 Flat Rock Place in Westbrook in 2014. On July 10, Middlesex Hospital’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine Department and its Physical Rehabilitation Department began seeing patients at the renovated facility.

The Physical Rehabilitation Department, which includes the Hospital’s physical and occupational therapy programs, has several offices located throughout Middlesex County. The department’s office at 192 Westbrook Road in Essex is now closed due to the department’s move to the renovated space.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine also moved from 192 Westbrook Road. As such, Middlesex Hospital no longer has any offices located at that address.

When it renovated 252 Westbrook Road, Middlesex installed new exterior wall framing, insulation, siding and a new roof. The inside of the building was rebuilt and includes a new HVAC system, ceiling, lighting, flooring and finishes. By doing this work, Middlesex invested in its facility, in the services it offers and in the Essex community.

“We are so excited to open this renovated facility,” says Middlesex President and CEO Vincent G. Capece, Jr. “This building will give our Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Physical Rehabilitation departments a new home. It will give them the space and resources to continue doing what they do best—caring for our community.”

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Letter From Paris: Exhibition Explores Work of American Female Artist in Male World of French Impressionism

Nicole Prévost Logan

“Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was the most French of all American artists,” said art historian Jerome Coignard.  She was the only woman – along with Berthe Morisot – to be recognized by the Impressionist movement and therefore permitted to show her works in their annual Salons. 

For 40 years she developed a personal and artistic friendship with Edgar Degas, which was somewhat surprising considering Degas was well known for his misogyny.  Her long association with the famous art merchant Paul Durand Ruel, especially after he opened a gallery on Madison Avenue, increased the exposure of impressionism in the US.

The Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris is currently holding a retrospective exhibition of monographs by Mary Cassatt titled, ‘An American Impressionist in Paris.’  It is a long overdue recognition of an artist whose works are found mostly in the US, but who is better known in France.  Jacquemart-André is one of the most elegant art galleries in Paris.  It was built in the 1860s as one of the townhouses of the imperial aristocracy in the “plaine Monceau” (an area of Paris in the 17th arrondissement.)

The property is slightly set back from Boulevard Haussmann, and on the upper level, opens up onto a vast courtyard under the watchful eyes of two stone lions.  The magnificent residence, with its eclectic furniture, boiseries (wood wall paneling), fireplaces and Gobelins tapestries, used to attract thousands of guests from the high society.

In the West Wing of the Metroplitan Museum in New York, paintings by Cassatt are hung in a gallery exclusively reserved for the works of other women.  Cassatt might have been upset by this apparent patronization by critics and art historians toward domestic scenes created by women.  She might have deemed it unfair because painters like Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) or Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) are famous for their paintings inspired by the intimacy of the home. 

Art historian Guillaume Morel comments that the many mother and child scenes painted by Cassatt were, in fact, more feminist than it appears at first.  He writes that she may have found herself endowed with a mission to represent scenes to which men did not have access.  Her “maternity scenes” effectively propelled her into modernism.

At the turn of the 20th century, women were tied to their homes, seemingly leading an indolent existence limited to feminine activities, primarily the care of small children.  They almost never ventured onto the public place – like a café, race track or a prostitute’s haunt.  The subject in “La Loge (The theater box)” (1878) is a departure from this tradition: a self-assured woman is by herself looking through her opera-glasses, and apparently unconcerned by the male spectator staring at her from another balcony.

Even in France, the obstacles inflicted on women artists were enormous: they were neither allowed in the Ecole des Beaux Arts nor were naked models permitted in their art classes.  Women could not copy the grands maitres (Old Masters) in museums like the Louvre.

The special talent of Cassatt was to have overcome these obstacles by taking advantage of her place in the privileged class, traveling extensively and establishing contacts with members of the artistic elite such as Isabella Stewart Gardner (Boston), Alfred Atmore Pope (Connecticut) or Henry Walters (Baltimore.)

From a very young age, she rebelled against the formal teaching offered in the few fine art institutions open to women.  She hated the idea of learning her craft through the use of castings and copies.  She showed an intrepid personality when she told her father she wanted to pursue her artistic education in Europe.  Her father admonished her, saying, “I would rather see you dead.”

And her response to her father’s threat?  She went anyway.

Cassatt was born in Pittsburgh into a well-to-do family.  Her father was an investment banker and her mother was educated in a school created by a former chambermaid of Marie Antoinette.  At the age of seven, she sailed for the first time to Europe with her family.  David McCullough, in his superb book titled The Greater Journey, published in 2011, describes the luxury steamers carrying less than 300 privileged passengers, who could afford the crossing in comfortable accommodations in an “interior richly embellished with satin wood, gilded ceilings … and indoor plumbing.”

The co-curator of the present exhibit held in Paris,  Nancy Mowell Mathews, rejects the expression “woman Impressionist.”  She comments, “Mary Cassatt did not paint differently from other Impressionists.  What she had in common with them was her taste for rough sketches, the unfinished feel of strokes and her daring cadrages (framing of the subject) mostly used in photography or  cinematography.”

Cassatt’s models – mostly members of her family – do not pose in a stilted attitude, but appear relaxed and natural.  In “The little girl in a blue armchair” (1878), the little girl is literally sprawling on a big, shapeless, overstuffed blue armchair.  And so is the small boy looking at us in the painting called, “Woman sitting with a child in her arms. 

“The Cup of Tea “(1880) is an unsurpassed exercise in Impressionist virtuosity.  Fast brush strokes  and the rejection of details are sufficient to render volumes.   The dramatic contrast between the fluffy, pink dress and the black of the solid armchair creates a strong composition.  In 1879, Cassatt was officially accepted in the Impressionist Salon.  The two following decades marked the summit of her career. 

Although Cassatt painted mostly in oils and pastels, Degas had also detected her exceptional talent as both draughtsman and engraver.  Her eaux-fortes (etchings) constitute a large part of her works, while “La Toilette” and “The letter ” (both dated 1891) show signs of japonism.  The engraving process with a pointe-sèche (dry point) is a painstaking and dangerous process since acid is used.

She was the friend of the most influential American feminists and joined their movement for equality, which had started in the US in 1840.  Toward the end of her life, she increasingly devoted her time to counseling American art collectors.  Among them was her close friend Lousine Hvenmeyer, wife of wealthy sugar baron, who owned more than 2,000 Impressionist works. 

After spending 60 years in France, she died in her estate, the Chateau de Beaufresnes in Le Mesnil Théribus, north west of Paris, although interestingly, she never took French nationality.

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