Arts Beat

by Mark G. Auerbach

Something’s Cooking In Amherst! 

Cuisine and Confessions. Photo by Alexandre Galliez.

Cuisine and Confessions. Photo by Alexandre Galliez.

The Canadian circus troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main brings its original show Cuisine & Confessions, a unique mix of high-flying acrobatics, dazzling choreography, and lively music, to the UMass Fine Arts Center on March 23. Cuisine & Confessions is an exuberant exploration of the idea that life happens in the kitchen, complete with performers dancing on the countertop, playing the accordion, backflipping through clouds of flour—and baking bread onstage.

Founded in Montreal in 2002, Les 7 Doigts de la Main (“7 Fingers of the Hand”) began as a creative collective of seven artists performing together onstage. They have expanded their repertoire to include directing, choreography, writing, and coaching, passing on their distinctive process to a new generation of circus artists. Among the troupe’s credits are original productions, Broadway shows, performances for Olympic ceremonies, televised creations, and more. They provided the acrobatics for the acclaimed revival of Pippin, which played pre-Broadway in Cambridge, MA and toured after its award-winning run to The Bushnell in Hartford.

For details: 413-545-2511 or 800-999-UMAS or www.fineartscenter.com

Playwright Lauren Gunderson.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson.

WAM Announces New Season

A much anticipated revival of WAM Theatre’s 2013 hit, Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight by Lauren Gunderson is building excitement for the innovative Berkshire County theatre troupe, which presents plays about women and donates a percentage of thebox-office receipts to non-profits that benefit women and children. Ktristen Van Ginhoven directs this play about Emilie du Chatelet, best known for her fifteen-year liaison with Voltaire. But, she was more than a great man’s mistress. She was one of the leading interpreters of modern physics during the Age of Enlightenment. In this play Emilie must defend her life by tallying her achievements in Love and Philosophy-and searching for a formula that will convince the world of her worth. Performances are scheduled March 30-April 9 at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox.

Incidentally, Kristen Van Ginhoven stages Lauren Gunderson’s new play I and You on the Chester Theatre season.

A fall production, Kate Hennig’s The Last Wife, also gets a staging, October 13-November 5, again at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox. In between, WAM presents aseries of play readings, called Fresh Takes, which showcase important new playwrights.

For details: www.wamtheatre.com..

Think Summer !

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra has announced its Talcott Mountain Music Festival program of outdoor concerts in the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center in CT. The season opens with Carolyn Kuan conducting the annual Celebrate America program on June 30, with a rain date the following night. Fireworks follow. Adam Boyles conducts a Sgt. Pepper’s 50th featuring Classical Mystery Tour on July 7. On July 14, the Hartford Symphony showcases the music od David Bowie. Carolyn Kuan conducts a program featuring Hollywood music of Williams and Warner Brothers on July 21. The season concludes on July 29 with showtunes, Broadway A to Z.  For tickets, rain date information, and other options: 860-987-5900 or www.hartfordsymphony.org

Terrence Mann, new Artistic Director at CRT’s Nutmeg Summer Series.

Terrence Mann, new Artistic Director at CRT’s Nutmeg Summer Series.

Connecticut Repertory Theatre has announced its Nutmeg Summer Series line-up, its first under the helm of new artistic director, the acclaimed actor Terrence Mann.  Mann directs the season opener, 1776, the Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone musical about John Adams and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Michael Frayn’s hilarious backstage farce Noises Off will be directed by former UConn director Vincent Cardinal.  The Disney hit musical Newsies completes the season. All performances take place on the UConn campus in Storrs, CT. For details: 860-486 2113 or .www.crt.uconn.edu

So Long, Farewell, and Thanks

Janet Sadler, artist and arts administrator, passed away on  February 4, 2017. She was an administrator at some of the region’s finest arts organizations including the former Musicorda Summer Music Festival at Mount Holyoke and Commonwealth Opera, and more recently Yellow Barn Music Festival in Putney, VT and the North Hall Arts Festival in Huntington, MA.

Jersey Boys (l to r) Cory Jeacoma, Matthew Dailey, Aaron De Jesus and Keith Hines. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Jersey Boys (l to r) Cory Jeacoma, Matthew Dailey, Aaron De Jesus and Keith Hines. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Frances Shames,  well-known and beloved teacher of young people, most of all pianists, in the Springfield area for over 50 years, and the wife of the late Morton Shames, cantor emeritus of Temple Beth El, died on February 26, 2017. Together with her husband, she was a founder and original faculty member of the Community Music School of Springfield, an institution to which she enthusiastically devoted much time and effort, and with which she has been associated to the present day. The couple raised three professional musicians of their own: pianist and conductor Jonathan Shames, violinist Jennie Soble Shames, and cellist and music administrator Miriam Shames.

Keep in Mind…

Jersey Boys, the Tony Award-winning story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, which recently ended a long Broadway run, returns to The Bushnell in  Hartford on March 22-26. With a book by Marshall Brickmanand Rick Elice, using the cavalcade of Four Seasons hits by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, Jersey Boys traces the hit group’s rise to dame from humble beginnings in New Jersey to global acclaim. Songs include “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Sherry”,  “My Eyes Adored You”, “Stay”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, “Working My Way Back to You” and “Rag Doll”, among others. \For details: 860-987-5900 or www.bushnell.org

Harriet Scott Chessman. Photo by Catherine Kiernan

Harriet Scott Chessman. Photo by Catherine Kiernan

Harriet Scott Chessman has received a lot of notice for her libretto for the new Jonathan Berger opera My Lai, which premiered on the West Coast last year, performed by Kronos Quartet. Meanwhile, she’s written a new novel The Lost Sketchbook of Edgar Degas, which she’s introducing on a national tour. There are three stops in WMass planned: March 28 at The Odyssey Book Shop in South Hadley; April 1 at Blue Umbrella Books in Westfield, , and April 4 at Water Street Books in Williamstown. My Lai opens on the East Coast this fall.  For details: http://harrietchessman.com.

Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio.

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