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LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION… Movie Director Beverly Shaffer, center, is filmed as she talks with star Nadia DeFranco, left. Ms. Shaffer will discuss filmmaking and preview her most recent motion picture on Thursday, November 18, at 7: 30 p. m. at The Presbyterian Church in Westfield Parish House. The event is part of the Westfield Lecture Series.
WESTFIELD – Beverly Shaffer, an Academy Awardwinning documentary filmmaker, will be the next speaker in the Westfield Lecture Series’ 19992000 season on Thursday, November 18, at 7: 30 p. m. in the Parish House of the Presbyterian Church in Westfield.
The lecture, entitled “A Filmmaker and Her Films,” will include portions of Ms. Shaffer’s movies as well as a discussion of her experiences as a director.
Refreshments will follow. Admission is $5 and $3 for senior citizens. This presentation is the second of this season’s series, which is sponsored by the Westfield Foundation and the Westfield Y. The series will also include a discussion in February about business ethics and a lecture in
April regarding architecture. Ms. Shaffer’s films have garnered awards over her 25year career, including an Oscar in 1978 for her portrayal in I’ll Find a Way. Portions of this film will be shown during the lecture.
The filmmaker has recently completed a followup to I’ll Find a Way
with a new film, Just a Wedding.
Ms. Shaffer, who has been a director with the National Film Board of Canada since the mid1970s, recently directed a series of films called Children of Jerusalem. Prior to that, she worked at the flagship Public Broadcasting Service station in Boston.
For more information, please call David Mueller at (908) 2332700, Extension No. 233.
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ELIZABETH – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders recently announced the organizations and individual artists who are receiving funding under the 1999 HEART (History, Education, Arts Reaching Thousands) Grant Program.
The Scotch PlainsFanwood Arts Association received $1,000 to present
five demonstrations and improved publicity.
Music for All Seasons, Inc. of Scotch Plains was awarded $5,000 for professional musical programs in the Gill Senior Apartments and Children’s Specialized Hospital.
Arbor Chamber Music Society of Westfield received $3,000 for a family concert performed by the clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and his son, Peter Stoltzman.
The HEART program was established to serve as a catalyst in strengthening the county’s community of nonprofit organizations, artists and scholars enhancing their capacity to provide innovative projects relating to history, the arts and humanities.
“The Freeholders recognize the importance of culture and the arts and how such activities improve the quality of life, enhance the vitality of communities and promote economic development throughout the county,” said Freeholder Chairman Nicholas P. Scutari. “The awards to 14 recipients in this group total $36,100.”
“Projects such as this are one of the rewards of being a freeholder,” stated Freeholder Mary P. Ruotolo, Liaison to the Union County Cultural and Heritage Programs Advisory Board. “It’s wonderful giving grants to groups and individuals that have a positive impact on county residents.”
The HEART Grant program is administered by the Union County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.
Organ and Chamber Orchestra Prepared At Holy Trinity Church
WESTFIELD – A program of music for organ and chamber orchestra will be presented on Saturday, November 13, at 8 p. m. at the Holy Trinity R o m a n C a t h o l i c Church in Westfield.
The concert, which is the first in the parish’s concert series celebrating the new millennium, will be presented by organist Rives Cassel, with the orchestra conducted by James Simms.
The program will consist of concertos by Handel, Arne, Albinoni, Dinkham and Poulenc.
Mr. Cassel is Director of Music and Organist for the Holy Trinity Church and Mr. Simms is Director of Music for The Presbyterian Church in Westfield.
The public is invited to attend this free concert.
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WESTFIELD – Artist Peter Schroth will lecture about his landscape oil paintings before the Westfield Art Association on Sunday, November 14, from 2 to 4 p. m. in the Westfield Community Room of the Westfield Municipal Building.
Mr. Schroth’s landscapes convey a feeling of space with subtle changes of color to enhance the
unity of the landscape. The artist displayed 35 landscape paintings at the Morris Museum in 1998 in a one man show in the New Jersey Artists Series. Recently, he held solo exhibits at the Margaret Bodell Gallery and the Adam Baumgold Gallery in New York City, the Miller/ Block Gallery in Boston and the Allen Sheppard Gallery in Piermont, N. Y.
Mr. Schroth’s paintings are included in the permanent collections of Johnson & Johnson, Met Life, Arthur Andersen, Barnett Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Prudential Group, General Electric Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Amerada Hess, Deutsche Bank and the Jersey City Museum.
He presented his paintings in an exhibition entitled, “Surroundings,” at the New Jersey Center for Visual Arts in 1991, the 1990 and 1995 New Jersey Arts Annual and “Landscapes” at the Simon Gallery in Morristown in 1997.
The meeting is free, handicapped accessible and open to the public. For more information, please call (908) 6872945.
‘Crafts Galore’ On Tap At Methodist Church
SCOTCH PLAINS – First United Methodist Church in Scotch Plains will hold its 18th Annual “Crafts Galore” on Saturday, November 13, from 9 a. m. to 4 p. m.
Dolls, flowers, stained glass, jewelry, woodworking and other handcrafted items will be available for purchase.
Homemade lunch will be available. Approximately 50 vendors will sell their wares.
Crafters are still needed. For more information, please call Nancy at (908) 3229222 or (908) 8899220.
GUEST LECTURER... Artist Peter Schroth will lecture about his landscape oil paintings before the Westfield Art Association on Sunday, November 14, from 2 to 4 p. m. in the Westfield Community Room of the Westfield Municipal Building.
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WESTFIELD – The Oratorio Singers of Westfield, celebrating their 20th season, will perform their first autumn concert, in addition to their spring concert, on Sunday, November 21, at 3 p. m. at the First United Methodist Church in Westfield.
The singers will perform works by Gabrielli, Haydn, Pinkham and Rutter with the forces of chorus, brass and organ.
The Oratorio Singers is a chorus of 80100 singers, performing major
choral works by legendary composers. The group is led by Trent Johnson, who has conducted large masterworks from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic eras and the 20th Century.
Tickets are $15 for general admission, and $10 for senior citizens and students. Tickets may be purchased at the First United Methodist Church, Lancasters, Ltd. and the Music Staff, all of Westfield.
For more information, please call (908) 2334211.
RAHWAY – Hip hop music, bagpipe music, drama, poetry, opera, live orchestra music and a rock and roll band will be featured at the gala Union County Showcase of Talent on Monday, November 15, from 6: 30 to 9 p. m. at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway.
The event, “Reach for the Stars,” will be a tribute to the county’s talented youth which is being presented as an alternative to drugs and violence.
“We’re always reading and seeing things about teens that bother us such as violent crime, drug abuse and family dysfunction,” said Carol Berger, the Union County Assistant Prosecutor who helped establish the showcase as part of her role as a member of the Local Advisory Com mittee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse
(LACADA). “For a small donation of only $5, viewers will be treated to a true showcase of local talent that is already attracting interest from scouting and entertainment recruiters in the area,” said Union County Prosecutor Thomas V. Manahan. “There are already more than 200 performers signed up to be a part of this.”
For tickets, please call (908) 5274852 or (908) 5274564. Sponsors include the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Save a Life Today (SALT) Project, the County Alliance Steering Subcommittee (CASS), St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the Rahway Municipal Alliance and Union County College.
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BERKELEY HEIGHTS – You Can’t Take it With You will be performed by the Governor Livingston Hilltop Players on Friday and Saturday, November 19 and 20, at 8 p. m. at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights.
The unconventional 1936 comedy by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman revolves around the Sycamore family and the issues and antics that unfold.
Tickets are $5 for general admission and $3 for senior citizens. Tickets will be available at the box office on the night of the performance. Advanced tickets are available at Berkeley Print and Copy Center in Berkeley Heights or by calling (908) 4649038.
For more information, please call (908) 4643100.
COMING IN FOR A CLOSEUP... You Can’t Take it With You will be performed by the Governor Livingston Hilltop Players on Friday and Saturday, November 19 and 20, at 8 p. m. at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights. Pictured above are Jen Pagano and Brett McMillan.
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WESTFIELD — The Town Book Store of Westfield will host two appearances by authors on Saturday, November 13.
First, Westfield author Diana Edkins, coauthor of “The Power of Pride: Stylemakers and Rulebreakers of the Harlem Renaissance,” will be available to sign copies of her newest book from 11 a. m. to 1 p. m.
The Harlem Renaissance was an AfricanAmerican literary and artistic movement that flourished in Harlem, Paris and Chicago from 1917 to 1932.
According to Grace Roth of The Town Book Store, this book takes a unique look at the men and women who rose to the top of that culture during this period.
Among the stylemakers and risk takers highlighted are Langston
Hughes, Josephine Baker and Louis Armstrong.
The Town Book Store will also host mother and son, Elizabeth Carpenter and Sam Freund from 1 to 2
p. m. Ms. Carpenter and Sam, the authors of “Kids Eat Broadway
and Kids Eat New York,” will be available to meet customers and sign copies of their books. Sam, who is a seventh grader from New York City and his mother present a child’s and parent’s perspective of the city’s Theater District.
In addition to reviewing 50 kidfriendly restaurants, this pocketsized guide offers theatre facts, useful tips and real stories from actors and actresses on how Broadway works.
Signed copies of these books may be reserved at the store. For more information, please call The Town Book Store at (908) 2333535.
ods that brought her to where she is as a musician today. “This is the happiest I’ve been in my entire life.
“And yes, you can write when you’re happy,” she said, contradicting the common belief that only good writing can come from pain.
Ms. Woodford remembered English teachers who gave her the boost she needed to not only to become a solid writer, but to believe in herself. These teachers and the experiences that ensued taught the musician a process that she uses to this day – “infusing thoughts into words.”
However, one of the most vital processes for a lyricist and musician, according to Ms. Woodford, is the ability to take a hard look at one’s writing and be willing to scrap it all for the sake of improvement.
“If you’re not willing to rewrite your music, you’re not being objective enough,” she explained. “You have to go back and rewrite. If you have to sit and explain what you are trying to say in a song to someone, then the song isn’t good.”
Ms. Woodford is currently gearing up for her performance at The Crossroads in Garwood tomorrow, Friday, November 12.
She will take to the road on Wednesday, December 1, to participate in the Aimlessly Wandering U. S. Tour in which she will perform at the Folk Alliance Festival in Chicago and jam with musicians across the country.
“I want to get to the roots of each town, not just blow through life,” she said of her upcoming touring experience. “I want to meet as many people and touch as many lives as possible.”
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Music of the Heart
Plays Us Like A Violin
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Once upon a time, whilst a student at Ye Olde Film Criticism College, I pondered what I envisioned could become the biggest challenge of my chosen profession to be.
The concern involved a test I might face one day, the results of which would depend not so much on whatever motion picture assaying abilities I possessed, but rather on my prognostication skills.
More a gnawing dare than a legitimate occupational worry, this cinematic anxiety loomed in the form of one big question: If ever the next Citizen Kane were to come along, would I know it?
Well, so far, so good. Bad news for viewers, but good news for me. With the arrival of the obviously mediocre Music Of The Heart,
your humble auditor once again escapes that inevitable day of judgment.
While Meryl Streep is nothing less than splendid in this melodrama based on the truelife exploits of Roberta Guaspari, the humanitarian violin teacher who emerged from a failed marriage to buck the educational system in East Harlem, the genreimitative effort is hardly the Stradivarius of storytelling.
Take Blackboard Jungle, add some To Sir With Love and throw in a little of Up The Down Staircase
(if only to see Sandy Dennis give that bulgyeyed, gulping stare of hers), and voila, daddyo: You have all the recycled stereotypes and hackneyed plot mechanisms you’ll need for your very own innercity school drama.
Oddly enough, that’s the route director Wes Craven (Nightmare
On Elm Street), whose name rhymes with horror mayvin, chooses to take. And it’s a curious choice indeed for the frightmeister’s first segue from the sliceanddice domain.
In fact, the 1950s soap opera style he employs is so blandly linear that one wonders if Mr. Craven is actually attempting a parody of madeforTV movies. Yet of course he isn’t, and it’s a shame the talented filmmaker couldn’t put his tale across with the sort of creative risk that might better symbolize his heroic protagonist.
But while the delivery system for this nonetheless inspirational tale leaves much to be desired, there’s no discounting the often rewarding aura that is created.
For instance, a large cast of always endearing moppets manages to be adorable without seeming too precocious; Pamela Gray’s feel good script ennobles the spirit even if every other sentence seems like something out of Bartlett’s most platitudinous quotations; and Meryl Streep gives yet another one of her textbook acting lessons, in this case titled: “How to Save a Middling Movie in Spite of Itself, Without Making it Look Like You’re Stealing the Show Because Actually You’re Just That Good.”
Doing her winning variation on the abandonedlikeanolddishrag wife that Jill Clayburgh etched so honestly in An Unmarried Woman,
Miss Streep’s Roberta learns that her thankless spouse has traded her in for a newer model. What to do? What to do?
Especially when you have a nagging, ragging worrywart mom like
Assunta Guaspari (Cloris Leachman), certain that you and your two young boys will starve to death if you don’t soon find a job – “any job.” But we’ve an inkling that just any job simply won’t do for Roberta.
Happily, during a lacklustre stint at customer service, she reconnects with Aidan Quinn’s Brian Sinclair, an old secret admirer from her high school days. A writer, the soontobe suitor knows of an experimental school where the gifted violin teacher may be able to peddle a portfolio understandably abridged by her Navy wifeandmom background.
Maybe it’s the prospect of teaching underprivileged Harlem school kids the ultrachallenging joys of the violin that does it. Magically, what heretofore was a cowering and downtrodden wretch is suddenly invigorated.
Angela Bassett, wasted here as a hip but schoolboardhampered principal, is soon won over by Roberta’s endjustifiesthemeans brand of attitude.
Streep’s musical maverick is hired as a sub. And adding to the saga’s sociological shadings, she soon buys a dilapidated fixerupper close to school and moves in with her boys.
The usual array of indigenously trite situations ensue. A promising little girl abruptly discontinues lessons when her abused mom must secretly be relocated by the authorities; one Hispanic boy is desperate to participate, but peer pressure reminds him it just isn’t macho to play the violin; and one black young man’s mother simply won’t let him imbibe the “dead white man’s music.” Expectedly, Roberta makes quick social work of these objections.
Inevitable in a plot this severely conventional, one favored child is killed in a driveby shooting. But viewers should note that the ghettoization of this story, previously told in a prizewinning documentary, lands it far afield of its original source.
Truth be told, few of the dastardly events depicted have any basis in fact. However, after the film flashes forward 10 years, reality finally does catch up with Music Of The Heart. And it arrives in the form of that old ugaboo — money.
A villainously myopic school board, focused only on the financial bottom line, has the unmitigated chutzpah to cancel Roberta’s program despite its obvious popularity and success. But don’t quite give up the ship yet.
Aided by the press and a retinue of dilettante types that include a neither here nor there Jane Leeves (the livein housekeeper in “Frasier”) as Dorothea Van Hauften, they hatch plans for a benefit concert featuring the kids and some very big name sympathizers.
Like a zombie who has been given his marching orders, the movie then unashamedly treads its predictable way to the Big Night finale.
By that definition, Music Of The Heart is strictly classical.
* * * * *
Music Of The Heart, rated PG, is a Miramax Films release directed by Wes Craven and stars Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn and Angela Bassett. Running time: 124 minutes.
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Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)