“Maybe We’re Just People”: A Review of “No-No Boy,” a Play by Ken Narasaki

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Chris Doi as Ichiro, leading the cast of No-No Boy

Posted on Medium.com today, my review of Ken Narasaki’s play, No-No Boy, produced by Pan Asian Repertory. The play, adapted from John Okada’s novel of the same name,  focuses on a particular consequence of the Japanese Internment during World War II–loyalty. Performances run Tuesday through Sunday, February 18. Read the review here.

 

Brunch in Princeton: Cargot Brasserie

Ham and Gruyère Omelet Mornay Sauce

Brunch at Cargot Brasserie

Cargot Brasserie opened near the renovated railroad station in Princeton last year (2017)—a welcome addition to the University Campus’ new Arts and Transit Neighborhood opposite McCarter Theatre. Fenwick Hospitality Group, which also owns Farm-to-Table Agricola in town, has an agreement to run both Cargot Brasserie and the nearby American Dinky Bar and Kitchen, a casual bar housed in the former passenger station.

The Setting for Brunch

I arrived early today as I was planning to walk around town until the “Hearts Afire” ice sculpture event at Palmer Square in the afternoon, and I wanted a leisurely day. The entry way opens onto a pretty, easy-on-the-eyes, yes, beige room, with a large bar, a banquette lining the opposite wall facing cane chair seating at moveable tables for two in one room and a large dining room in another.
It was quiet at 9:00 a.m. when I was seated and still comfortable an hour later. Inexplicably, the flat screen over the bar was broadcasting a soundless Midwest weather report for the entire hour. As a solo diner, I notice these things.

Fusion Polite Service

Service is fusion polite. There are lots of questions—”Water, still or flat?…With your croissant—butter or jelly?… The potatoes served with the omelet are fried in duck fat, or would you prefer a salad?” At the next table, the server began, “Good morning, gentlemen, can I get you guys something to drink?” My server was training a colleague, so there was some duplication of politesse, which was endearing.
The brunch menu focuses on French classics—croissants, pain perdu…my ham and Gruyère omelette was dressed lightly in Mornay sauce. Fenwick owns a farm, and the well-presented food is delightfully clean and fresh, and the cappuccino is generous.
One note—the croissant, ordered separately from the omelet, tasted wonderful, except the texture was less flaky than one desires. I had requested the butter, which arrived nearly frozen and inoperable, so I cannot give you a perception of its taste. These are things to work on. The omelet, by contrast, was perfection as was the lightly dressed salad. The service was timely and unrushed and offered with polite smiles.

Beyond Breakfast at Cargot Brasserie

At Cargot, you can purchase pastry items to “grab and go” as early as 7 a.m. if you are rushing to the train or, on a vacation day, to the canoe or kayak rental nearby. The restaurant serves Breakfast, Brunch on the weekends, Lunch, Afternoon Café Menu, and Dinner—including raw bar, and plats du jour, plus a pre-theatre menu, all French-inspired and sourced from the owners’ Great Road Farm. Cocktails, beer, and French wines from all regions, interspersed with those of a few other nations, complement the traditional and modern brasserie offerings. Make a reservation to avoid disappointment. I will be back to explore.
Cargot Brasserie Bar

The Bar at Cargot Brasserie

Where do you get the kale in the winter? Ask Farm-To-Table Agricola Restaurant in Princeton!

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So, it seems a little nutty to be heading to a farm to table restaurant when the mercury can’t find its way above freezing, right? But I’m on a mission to find kale salad, so I’m taking the 40-minute trek to Princeton.

Agricola: Fenwick Hospitality Group

With a nod to the previous establishment, Lahiere Restaurant, a nearly century-old Princeton institution, Agricola  opened to great fanfare in 2013. Big shoes to fill, and as a sentimental gesture, the Lahiere sign will continue to hang, in homage, above the street. Executive Chef and Partner, NJ-born Josh Thomsen has brought Napa credibility to the challenges of farm-to-table in the sometimes wintry Garden State. Along with partner Jim Nawn who owns the nearby Skillman farm cultivated by Steve Tomlinson, later joined by Kyle Goedde, Fenwick Hospitality Group has brought delight-your-mouth-and-senses meal experiences to the area. Fenwick also introduced the French brasserie Cargot, across from Princeton’s McCarter Theatre last year, and they also operate the nearby Dinky Bar & Kitchen. Welcome additions to the local scene.

Savoring the Farm-To-Table Experience

Ambience is casual and Agricola simply furnished with a lot of wood—tables, floor–and ceramics on the walls. When it’s crowded, the dining room is not the place for an intimate meal, but if you are looking for convivial and loud, you’ll enjoy. My meal was enjoyed near the end of the lunch hour where noise subsided gradually to more peaceful surroundings.

Needing to take off the chill, I began with the smooth, delicate local potato and leek soup finished with crème fraiche and chives and crispy croutons. The soup arrived at a perfect temperature for immediate consumption so necessary on a chilled winter day. I had planned ahead to try a desert, so I followed up with the crave-worthy organic kale salad, dressed with radish and carrots, pumpkin seed vinaigrette—generous and delicious. Next time, I will doubtless be tempted by various items, including LoRé Beet Rigatoni, or possibly Hangar Steak, if they are still available. Prices peaked at $17 for the Margherita Flatbread appetizer, or $25 for the steak, with plenty of options. The wine list is international and the bar presents whimsically titled libations—“Wake Up and Smell Four Roses”—along with non-alcoholic hot and cold selections, including house-made flavored sodas.

Saving the best for last, I had to try the ricotta beignets and fruit, and I am so happy I did.  Don’t scold. The fluffy beignets arrived with sweet roasted seckel pears, currants, milk chocolate crema, almond crumble. These accompanying flavors were the perfect complement.

Beignet

What about the Kale?

The kale salad is one of Agricola’s specialty items, so I had to ask because it’s February, and the local farms are covered with snow and ice. The answer was gladly researched by the wait staff, and I learned about Zone-7 Farm—a New Jersey farm-fresh distribution service for 120 sustainable area farms.  They deliver produce, grains, meat, and dairy to restaurants, school services, and supermarkets from New York to Philly. The Great Road Farm itself cultivates 120 different vegetables during the growing season. In the summer, yes, there’s also some greenhouse farming to keep the kale flowing.

Treat Yourself Well

Agricola is a warm and welcoming restaurant, serving brunch on the weekends, lunch on weekdays, dinner, and an abbreviated afternoon bar menu. Ahem—it’s almost Valentine’s Day—take a look at the menu.

Open every day, Agricola is located at Eleven Witherspoon Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08542.

Reservations recommended, especially for large parties:
(609) 921 2798
info@agricolaeatery.com

 

 

Savoring the Pieces: The 19th Annual New York Ceramics and Glass Fair — January 17-21, 2018

 

Preview Night at the Fair

The description of the Fair sounded a little daunting—5 centuries of artifacts from “30 top-tier vetted Galleries, Private Dealers, and Artists”—but I can assure you there was no museum fatigue as I worked my way around the New York City Ceramics and Glass Fair, chatting with dealers, artists, and arts professionals during the engaging opening reception.  I was dazzled by the hundreds of examples of glass, pottery, and ceramics makers’ art–names as familiar as Minton, Delft and Baccarat alongside contemporary, practicing artists–which I previewed on January 17 throughout two floors under the beautiful roof of the classic Bohemian National Association building at 321 East 73rd Street in New York City, which is the home of the Czech Republic Consulate and a vibrant cultural center.

While the wide sweep of human history was represented in techniques, decoration, and value of these pieces, the ability to pause and converse with experts, collectors, and makers prevented any tedium and made touring the New York Ceramics and Glass Fair a great pleasure. Like a world tour plus time travel without the jet lag! While the Fair is broad in scope and offering, each exhibitor came with a reasonable number of artifacts, so moving to each next station was refreshing. As this was the preview, wine and hors d’oeuvres were served to celebrate and enhance an already excited and pleasant vibe.

Five Centuries of Creation

Artists and Art Business Professionals from United States, England, Ireland, Israel, Czech Republic, and Asia were happy to explain their exhibits, which included artifacts from nearly every continent, dating from the 17th century to today. Eclectic tastes welcome. So many exhibitors eschewed glass cases, and I appreciated the open viewing while understanding that the many fine antiques require special handling. A stylish antique Royal Flemish vase, for example, caught my eye through a glass door, and I also had the pleasure of seeing it unmediated. Pictured below, this vase features a “cut rim blackberry bead design,” manufactured by Mt. Washington Glass Company , (later the Pairpoint Corporation), New Bedford, around 1893-5.

 

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Cut rim blackberry bead design — Mt. Washington Glass ca. 1893-5

 

Special “Loaner Exhibits”

Bouke de Vries whimsical peacock, fashioned of 18th century ceramic fragments will greet you as you step of the elevator on one floor. This piece is a highlight from one of the highlighted “loaner” exhibitions from Ferrin Contemporary, part of “Revive, Remix, Respond: Contemporary Ceramic Artists,” an exhibit that opens at the Frick Pittsburgh    on February 16.

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Bouke De Vries’ Peacock

 

A chat with Alexandra Jelleberg, Associate Director of Ferrin Contemporary, led me to discover two new artists whose work I want to follow: Paul Scott, who creates new work from old fragments, crafting in the Kintsugi practice of repairing broken ceramics, healing scars with gold to make the piece more precious than before; and Mara Superior, who approaches the topic from a different perspective by making and assembling her own “old school” fragments. Her Artist’s Statement at the exhibit sponsor Ferrin Contemporary explains her work as “the reinterpretation of historical inspirations synthesized with my own visual vocabulary.” Photos of these pieces can be found at these links: Bouke de Vries and Paul Scott    and Mara Superior.

A second loan exhibit concerns a remarkable find: examples of an unusual 18th century Philadelphia slipware found during excavations on the site of the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. This recovered collection numbers some 85,000 artifacts. The loan exhibit is sponsored by Ceramics in America published by the Chipstone Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Savoring

With so many exhibits, you will see something you love. Here are some of my lingering moments:

Martyn Edgell  offered a generous selection of antique pieces— what caught my eye especially were the nineteenth century whimsical, homiletically decorated pearlware dishes: “God speeds the plow”;  “Industrey [sic] produces wealth.”  Who could resist a bowl inscribed “Your affectionate father,” or a plate that featured your name to be uncovered after finishing your meal? Easy to channel your inner grandparent here.

A fascinating contemporary exhibit from Pascoe Gallery featured South African decorative ceramic art. The gallery features the largest U.S. selection of Ardmore Studio art featuring lively museum quality ethnic art commissioned from the Studio in Kwazulu-Natal. The intricate decorative pieces are often fashioned by a group of artists—a sculptor or two and a painter, for example.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the shiny object category. As you round one corner, you will encounter the beautiful wearable and decorative art–so at home in this building–of the Czech Republic’s Precioza. Warning: you can keep going back for this lovely eye caviar, and it makes your eyes sparkle!

Meeting LaiSun Keane and Lucy Lacoste, Director of the Lacoste Gallery   in Concord, MA, led to a thoughtful discussion of the role business plays in the life of the artist. I also took away a great many details of interest about the 8 artists they represent, notably the nonagenarian Warren Mackenzie , a longtime client of the gallery, who was inspired as much by functionality as form, and Mark Shapiro, whose vibrantly colored, functional work is displayed at the Smithsonian and the Alfred University Museum of Ceramics, among other notable exhibiting  institutions. Mr. Shapiro will be speaking at the Fair this week. Below are some examples of small vessels, including the work of these two artists:

 

 

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Small vessels | Lacoste Gallery (Top, Center: Shapiro; Bottom two rows: MacKenzie

At the Fair, I also discovered the work of Martha Rieger —a ceramic artist who confessed in a whisper during our conversation that she was “a late bloomer.” You might not imagine this, considering the monumental exhibits the Brazilian-born Israeli has already achieved throughout her chosen home:  At this Fair, Rieger has brought some of her extraordinary pomegranates, pictured below—spheres made of rough black stoneware clay, decorated on the inside with gold.

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Martha Reiger: Pomegranates

Ms. Rieger has made up for lost time. Humbling, too, is the result of her study of Shibori painting that is featured on her blue and white ceramic bubbles, on exhibit at the Trumpeldor Gallery in Be’er Sheva. Other large-scale works have appeared throughout Israel, including the Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Culture in Beer Sheva.  I want to hear more about her fluid translations of her own multi-cultural life into these elemental metaphorical shapes that capture a meaning but remain open to interpretation. A good starting place is the book Rieger graciously offered me, her own bilingual Oasis, which tells the story of her passionate, evolving art. You can also read and see more about her work at her website.

Wait! There’s more to see in NYC this weekend:

 It’s New York City Antiques Weekend , so be sure to include a visit to the New York Ceramic and Glass Fair along with other fine exhibits, and enjoy the presentations as well as the objets.IMG_8989

 

 

 

Intrepid Performance: Heather Massie’s “Hedy! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr”

Hedy Image - Landscape - Color

 

Here’s a novel way to spend an evening: On an aircraft carrier, the Intrepid, now docked in New York City as part of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, watching an engaging actor, Heather Massie, reveal the complex history of an inventor: Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler Mandl Markey Loder Stauffer Lee Boies. Wait. Stay with me! It’s a fascinating one-woman show, including World War II arms dealers, Bette Davis, and Howard Hughes, among other notables.

If you aren’t recognizing the inventor’s name, you might know her better as Hedy Lamarr, the beautiful star of stage and screen known for romantic and professional pairings on- and off-screen with the likes of musician George Antheil and billionaire eccentric Howard Hughes, the first nude scene in a film (Ecstasy 1933), or perhaps Ann Hathaway’s inspiration for Cat Woman.

As an inventor, Lamarr was actually the mother of key inventions that make our cell phones and numerous other devices possible—frequency hopping and spread spectrum technology. A patriotic immigrant, Lamarr and Antheil gave their invention of radio guidance system for torpedoes to the U.S. Navy during World War II. They didn’t use it then, but we sure do depend on it now.

It was only near the end of her life that Lamarr began to receive the recognition she deserved as the Electronic Frontier Foundation reached out to invite her to receive an award. While Hedy did not receive the credit or the financial rewards her inventions deserved, this one-woman show, written and performed by Massie opens with this tribute, enabling Hedy to review the highlights of her life. It is a demanding show, with Massie playing all of the characters, making seamless transitions among many accents and personalities, with gestures as powerfully simple as raising a hat in the air or adjusting a telephone.

As a former Astrophysics major in college, Heather Massie turned to theater to explore her creative side. Through her art, she wants to encourage young women in the pursuit of science and technology and to spur creative invention. Why the Intrepid? This museum houses a special program, GOALS for Girls, to encourage girls to engage in STEAM disciplines. As I looked around at the audience during the performance, I saw rapt engagement. I was touched by the girls’ responses, and I thought: This is the way we do it—make and tell the stories that will inspire young women to create and invent.

Heather Massie’s play is doing its part, having traveled already from New York City to six other states, and Zimbabwe and Ireland. Where will you catch it next? At least 6 performances are already scheduled in different states and Ireland for 2018. Go to Heather’s website to find out more.

Note: I’ve followed “Hedy!” since its beginning as a solo show, and Heather Massie has been generous in her participation in staged readings of my work. It’s great to see an artist receive the recognition she deserves.

About My Weekend: “Arches of Hysteria”

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Louise Bourgeois at MOMA: Arch of Hysteria

This weekend was all about poetry and art in New York City, so it brought up a number of reflections, particularly in the context of some woke thinking by others about sexual harassment throughout the week.
On Saturday, I went to the Museum of Modern Art to enjoy exhibits on Max Ernst and Louise Bourgeois. The Museum was mobbed, but I was able to enjoy some quiet time with a few pieces. Taking the photo above, of Bourgeois’ “Arch of Hysteria,” epitomized the day for me. “Hysteria” has been an unfortunate label pinned on many women—particularly creative artists–in the absence of knowledge about their biology and in ignorance of social limitations. Here is Bourgeois both fighting back against the limitation of the label while illustrating its naked truth. Me, too, as I’ve been saying all week.
In the evening, I had the honor of attending a retrospective of Poetic People Power, a project founded by Tara Bracco. Starting 15 years ago, the group, now comprising 35 diverse poets, takes a social or political issue and creates performance poems around the subject. Bracco had chosen a representative work from each year, and the poets returned to perform, sometimes with a video assist. The evening was agitating, as promised, and while reanimating concerns about big issues—such as, water, democracy, consumerism, inequality, violence, and social media, the ending was anything but  depressing. What makes this group so powerful is that this group puts its action where its words are, founding arts collectives and therapeutic workshops, nonprofit solutions for climate and water issues, some eschewing careers in corporations to educate children, others helping to found multicultural organizations such as Pilipino American Unity for Progress. Their optimism that action can bring about change ultimately creates an uplifting, often transcendent evening. You leave the event wanting to do something! P3, as it is known to fans, will be focusing on bringing its shows to schools and other groups who want to augment their educational efforts on social issues. Thanks to my friend, the artist Shetal Shah, (cite IMDB) for keeping me in the loop about this project all of these years. Kudos to Tara Bracco for doing the hard work of keeping this movement going.
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Program from P3 at 15–Poetic People Power/Agitate

We have so much work to do. Sigh. In a week of so many sad revelations, how refreshing to hear Bill Murray, Jan Vogler, and friends perform highlights of West Side Story on The Late Show, ending with the emphatic reminder, “Puerto Rico’s in America!”

A Day of Chandeliers and Awesome Food

 

IMG_0001 Chihuly at NYBG

This week’s excursion brought me to the New York Botanical Gardens for the Chihuly Exhibit, which will be on display until October 29. 2017. This site-attuned exhibit will bring the ooh’s and ahh’s to your lips. Colors and shapes, each more dramatic than the one before–Seuss-like Chandeliers, Spikes, Flora, Geological formations that tease the fountain sculptures–this is a rich experience for all ages. I spent the most time at the Fountain, where I found the beautiful icy rock-like sculptures were so organically integrated with the metal sculptures, as if they had always been there. Alas, they won’t, so go soon! If you are without a car, there are two convenient transit ways to go on the Gardens’ Directions Page here. There is plenty of nature to enjoy at the Gardens–the water lilies are in beautiful bloom right now–plan for a long visit so you can see it all!

IMG_0004 Chihuly chandelier

Not far away, I made the pilgrimage to New York’s northern “Little Italy,” Arthur Avenue, rewards the pilgrim with tasty fresh foods, made the old-fashioned way–fresh mozzarella, pasta, vegetables–markets and specialized shops to take home some. I went in quest of that creamier mozzarella, Burratta,  but, alas Calabria’s (home of the famous “meat chandelier”) only begins to make it on Tuesday so it wasn’t going to be ready on Thursday…a weekend trip back sometime will be necessary if the fresh mozzarella I had to buy is any indication of what to expect.

I dined in high deli style at Mike’s Deli in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, surrounded by all manner of Italian delicacies. Huge portions. They wrap to go!

Afterwards, I took a stroll to find bread and at least look at beautiful pastries. Purchases done, I relaxed with an iced latte at the pleasant café, The Prince Coffee House (air-conditioned or sidewalk seating). The ceiling is covered with latte pitchers–great atmosphere for this coffee lover! Sorry, I cannot tell you about the pastries.

IMG_0003 Ceiling Prince Coffee House

The Arthur Avenue neighborhood is a brief sliver of New York, so you could pass through quickly or have a leisurely lunch and an excellent stroll in and out of the stores. A New York gem to visit.

 

Shades of Warhol at Andrew Wyeth’s Centennial

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July 12–Chadds Ford, PA–The day began with huge crowds for the opening of the Brandywine River Museum for the occasion of Andrew Wyeth’s 100th birthday. The museum and tours of Wyeth country, mobbed and sold out, respectively, but I did manage to get my first-day Wyeth stamp. Three generations of family painting, men, women, children, and grandchildren are amply represented in the collection. You can see an ample representation of the other people in their lives–the mysterious Christina demystified in her elder world, and more of the Helga series. In the alternate galleries, you’ll find a great selection from the works of the other family members. I was particularly struck by a portrait of Andy Warhol by Jamie Wyeth, who continues to live and paint in this beautiful countryside that inspired his family. The beautifully curated Centennial exhibit runs until September 17, 2017.

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