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Local author debuts book in Montclair

in Arts/Books

Montclair resident Charles Joseph’s “Chameleon,” a collection of poems and stories, came out on June 21. To celebrate the release, Joseph is holding a poetry reading and open mic titled “Verses on Church Street” on Sunday, June 25, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Java Love, 49 Church St.

The open mic will offer other local writers and poets an “opportunity to show their unique voices,” according to a release. Featured writers in addition to Joseph will be Rebecca Weber, B. Diehl, Damian Rucci, Cord Moreski, Attorious Renee Augustin, Jon Poppe, Kendall A. Bell, and Moly Tov.

Montclair’s “Frontline March for the Arts” postponed until August

in Arts/National Endowment for the Arts

The Frontline for the Arts march, originally scheduled for June 24, has been postponed until Aug. 12. Among the reasons the march has been postponed is that Congress increased the NEA’s budget for FY17, said Nancy Klein, public relations and communications specialist at Jazz House Kids, in an email.

While “this doesn’t change the gloomy picture for FY18,” it did make the march somewhat less urgent.

The new date brings the march closer to the autumn consideration of the proposed budget, which eliminates the NEA and the NEH altogether.
The call to action will be staged on the grounds of the Montclair Jazz Festival on Aug. 12.

There will be a dedicated tent, with materials about the NEA to distribute that show what it funds and why cutting it would be disastrous, Klein wrote. “The beautiful thing is that the Festival itself receives a pretty generous NEA grant, making it very easy to show exactly the kind of thing we all stand to lose.”

For interim actions, check the group’s Facebook page:

—Gwen Orel

‘Desert Friend’: short story winner in Montclair Literary Festival

in Arts/Books
Greta Poglinco. Courtesy Susan Skoog.


The following is the first place-winning short story in the first Montclair Literary Festival, held earlier this year.

When it’s so hot you could cook an egg on a sidewalk it decides to appear. It’s shaky air in the shape of a shaky person. When I can see them, they are friendly and wave, or sometimes they do a cartwheel or something. One time, last August, they had on what looked like a top hat and tipped it to me while I was walking by. They are polite.

I met them when I was 9. I was with my 5-year-old sister, Susie, in the deserts of Arizona. We were visiting our uncle. He lives next to the junkyard because he runs the place. I told Susie he races rats for money. Susie will believe anything. She likes tea parties, and animals and soft things, to go with her personality. I’m braver, but shy, and I like movies at the drive-in theater and being outside. We both have very long black hair and tan skin. I’m taller, but not by much, and she’s always saying she is going to outgrow me.

We were going to the junkyard to visit Uncle Sandy. He always smells funny and doesn’t like children. Dad likes to check up on him every so often to see what he’s up to. He normally wouldn’t take us with him, cause trash yards are not a place for children, but Mama had to work today, and our normal babysitter, Amy, was out of town.

When we arrived the smell hit me like a brick. “Come on, Aggie, please get out of the car it’s not that bad when you get used to it,” Dad said. I reluctantly got out of the car and jogged to catch up to Susie and Dad. We headed to a small house on the edge of the desert. It looked more like a shack, but Dad told me not to say that.

When we met Sandy, he looked tired and gruff. He wasn’t expecting visitors so his house was messy and he hadn’t shaved. After our awkward greeting, Dad told us to play outside while he and Sandy talked.

“Stay out of the junkyard or you will be sick from the smell.”

“Yes, Dad.”

We headed to his back yard which was just a little patch of land cut off from the junkyard,with a very high wire fence, like the ones at baseball games. There was an area of torn fence that looked like a stray dog’s work, and a single shrub of a tree for shade. We mostly sat in the shadow while we talked and played in the yard for an hour, overhearing Dad and Sandy argue. Susie played with the strap of her oversized blue overalls and sucked on her necklace made of cheap plastic beads. Susie was a bit of a tomboy, but always liked to wear her hair in neat little pigtails. I like to keep mine down and wild, like a horse. I was wearing a polka-dot pink shirt with dusty jeans and a old hoodie two sizes too big. We both wore used-to-be-white sneakers, but mine had real laces, and Susie wore Velcro ’cause she’s bad at tying shoes.

Susie looked at me “What are they fighting about?”

“I don’t know, siblings just like to fight.”

“I’m bored, when are we leaving?” she said several minutes later. She started squinting her eyes the way she does before a tantrum.

“Calm down. What would you want to do?”

“I don’t know,” she said, getting frustrated. She angrily threw a rock through the hole in the fence. “You wanna play in the desert?”

“No way, Dad would freak out if he came out here and didn’t see us,” I said.

“We won’t be long, I swear.”

I finally agreed because I secretly wanted to explore the desert too. We crawled under the fence and into the open land. It was beautiful. The sand was white and orange and the sky was clear and light blue. It made me want to run through it. But then I got a feeling deep in my gut. I was a little nervous. I felt like something watching me. I turned and there wasn’t anything there but the shack and the junkyard. The desert was barren, but it was still fun to explore. We walked around, chased a lizard or two, and threw stones. We tried to race for a little while, but we were too tired and it was too hot. Actually, it was so hot I could see the heat waves rising off the ground.

I turned to Susie, about to say we should go back, when I saw a pair of indents on a faraway face of a person outlined by shaky air. I yelped. It was suddenly gone. I started to sweat. I was getting real scared.

“Susie, we should head back.” I didn’t tell her what I saw because it would only scare her. I wasn’t even sure what I saw was real. I just had a bad feeling growing in my stomach.

“Sure, it’s getting hot anyway.”

I looked around. We were very far from the junkyard. In fact there wasn’t a structure in sight. I started to panic.

“What’s wrong Aggie?”

“Nothing.” I looked around. We walked on. Very far away I saw a shadow.

”This way,” I pointed. We started running. The desert wasn’t fun anymore.

As we got closer I could see the beginning of a canyon. I took Susie’s hand and started to full on sprint towards it. “Stop, my arm hurts.” Susie yelled.“What’s going on? Why are you so freaked out?”

I gulped, “I just have a bad feeling. Let’s just keep moving.”

“Uhhhhhhh. I’m tired.”

“Too bad.”

We came to the entrance of a canyon. It was cold and the reflections of orange stone were scattered on the walls. I took a deep breath. As we walked, Susie chased the moving lights. I walked in silence, constantly looking over my shoulder, while Susie sang her kindergarten songs. At least she’s not scared, I thought. When Susie gets scared, she freezes up and doesn’t move until Mama comforts her with a stuffed animal or something warm to drink.

The time passed quickly. We had come to several cross-roads and Susie insisted on doing eeny-meeny-miny-moe to decide which way to walk. Judging by the sun it looked like around four o’clock. Had we stayed, we would probably be home by now. I wondered if Dad had noticed we were gone by now, or if he was out here too, looking for us.

Susie interrupted my thoughts, “I’m hungry.”

“Chew on your necklace, there’s no food out here.”

“I’m still hungry.”

“When we get back, you can eat all you want,” I said. My stomach growled. I suddenly realized how tired I was. My feet hurt from walking, my lips were dry and cracked from the severe heat. “ Let’s find a place to rest.”

We walked on until I found a small cave in the side of the canyon, just big enough for the two of us to lie down. It was a very odd cave, for it had a doorway and a window. It was very narrow. The orange rock was cool and smooth on my skin. I looked over and Susie was already asleep. I was still worried about what I saw earlier but the sleepiness overcame my will.

I woke to wind on my face. It was early morning, and the sky was pale pink from the first hint of sunrise. And Susie was standing over me trying to wake me up by blowing in my face.

“Cut it out.” I pushed her off, and she giggled. I immediately noticed that we weren’t in the cave. I turned to see that we were in front of Uncle Sandy’s house.

My eyes grew wide. “What’s going on? How did we get here? Susie, stop laughing!”

“It was him,”she pointed and it was the figure from before. The figure waved at us.

“What is that, did it hurt you? When did it get here?” I said frantically, snapping awake. It continued to wave.

“Don’t worry he’s a friend.” She smiled. “It’s our desert friend.”

Christina Baker Kline, right, is interviewed by Candy Cooper at Montclair High School.
Courtesy Candy Cooper.

The first-ever Succeed2gether/Montclair Literary Festival Short Story Contest drew nearly 80 submissions from Montclair High School students. A panel of four judges — Denise Lewis Patrick, author of the Y/A Short Story collection, “A Matter of Souls,” and the middle-grade novel, “Finding Someplace”; Nancy Star, author of “Sisters One, Two, Three”; Cindy Handler, editor of Montclair Magazine; and Robert Weisbuch, professor emeritus of English, University of Michigan — selected one winner and two finalists in each grade. The March 31 event was part of the first Montclair Literary Festival.

Authors Christina Baker Kline (“A Piece of the World,” “Orphan Train”) and Matthew Thomas (“We Are Not Ourselves”) came to the high school to talk about writing.

Winners were announced at the first-ever Succeed2gether/Montclair Literary Festival Poetry Slam, which produced its own roster of spoken-word winners in grades six through eight. The Local will be running the winning work of student poets and writers throughout the summer.

Shining a light on new plays: Montclair Kimberley Academy in the city

in Arts/MKA/Theater
Kurtz (Patrick Napolitano) surprises Kiki (Casey Rae Borella) and Loony (Katie Kunka). Courtesy Robert Gelberg.

‘They Say We’ll Have Some Fun’
By Robert Gelberg

Actors and crew from Montclair Kimberley Academy

Show presented by MirrorMaker Productions and The Montclair Kimberley Academy Fine and Performing Arts Department as part of Planet Connections
Theatre Festivity

Saturday, June 24, 7:45 p.m., Thursday, June 29, 8:45 p.m.;
Saturday, July 1, noon

Flamboyan Theatre at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center
107 Suffolk St., New York, New York;


An eager crowd gathers around the door of the Flamboyan theater, in the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center in New York City, on Friday, June 16, at 5 p.m. Some people are holding flowers. Others hold cameras.

Parents and friends and some random theatergoers have gathered to see the premiere of Robert Gelberg’s play “They Say We’ll Have Some Fun,” in the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

The play, which clocks in at about an hour, is about a group of teenagers at a summer camp. As the teens navigate the transition from CIT (counselor in training) to counselor, and tensely wait out the news about a camper in the infirmary, they also face the awkwardness of the transition from child to grownup.

The cast and crew are all students at Montclair Kimberley Academy, or recent grads: Liam Gerard, Caitlin Ladda, Patrick Napolitano, Casey Rae Borella, and Katie Kunka perform. Sydney Abraham is assistant director, Alex Golub is stage manager and Paul Korfhage is technical director. The performers all took Gelberg’s playwriting class.

The playwright himself is an MKA alumnus. He first became interested in theater at MKA, he said. “Nicole Hoppe was the person who got me interested in theater. I owe my career to her in a lot of ways.”

Hoppe, the fine and performing arts department chair at MKA’s upper school, offered Gelberg a job as MKA’s first playwright-in-residence.
A colleague had retired, Hoppe explained, and though MKA filled the position, they did not have a playwriting course. She had kept in touch with Gelberg, and called him when she knew he was back in the area. “I wanted to see if by chance he would want to come help his old alma mater out.

“We thought maybe four or five students would sign up. It ended up being 28.”

The cast and crew compete a food drive to support Human Needs Food Pantry. From left, Sudney Abraham, Alex Golub, Paul Korfhage, Patrick Napolitano, Liam Gerard, Katie Kunka, Casey Rae Borella and Caitlin Ladda. Courtesy Robert Gelberg.

Some of the work the students wrote will be produced in MKA’s new amphitheater in September.

One responsibility of the playwright-in-residence position would be writing a play for teenage actors that would perform in a New York City festival.

And that’s just what Gelberg did.


“It was extremely exciting for me,” said Gelberg, talking fast and excitedly as he sat with the cast and crew at a Burger King after the premiere.

“I had never been under commission before. Getting the chance to write a play for teenage actors, and create a role I would have wanted to play, was an exciting opportunity for me.” At 25, Gelberg finds it easy to remember what he felt as a teen. His goal in writing this play — which he did before the semester began — was to set teens in an environment where he hadn’t seen them before.

Liam Gerard, 18, is going to study musical theater at the University of Hartford in the fall.

“To get a New York credit under my belt before college starts is a really excellent and amazing opportunity that we got from the school. I’m immensely grateful.”

There was a pause, then “I’m all verklempt,” Gelberg said, to a warm laugh. Patrick Napolitano, who plays 13-year-old Kurtz, said “I think this is what a lot of theater is in New York in general. This is a lot more like guerrilla style in a way.”

Gelberg said that when he was a junior at MKA, the drama teacher took students to the Planet Connections Festivity to do a play as well. Growing up in Montclair, exposure to theater can mean just Broadway, he said. “But there are so many other kinds of theater out there. ‘Hey, you can do this too. You don’t have to just be Equity [the actors and stage managers union] to do a show in front of a New York theater crowd.”

While the play is set at summer camp, the company discovered it is not really about camping.

For 16-year-old rising junior Caitlin Ladda, who plays Sarah, a full counselor and a long-time camper who’s keen to see the rules respected, the play “draws on the tension between people being CITs and becoming counselors. When you’re friends with someone it’s like a power struggle a little bit. The show captured that. I’ve seen a lot of kids go through the thing where you’re best friends with someone and the next year they’re your boss.”

Casey Rae Borella, who plays Kiki, also a long-time camper and a counselor, relates to “the way we as teenagers grow up and change. You see these things that you’ve been doing forever with all these different people and you start to grow out of it, and other people aren’t there yet.” The play, Borella said, is about the “way that we all develop and change and figure out what we want at different paces.”

Sarah (Caitlin Ladda) scolds Kurtz (Patrick Napolitano) and Martin (Liam Gerard). Courtesy Robert Gelberg.

Ron Kaplan to talk Hank Greenberg at Watchung Booksellers Wednesday

in Arts/Books

Ron Kaplan will talk about his new book “Hank Greenberg in 1938” at Watchung Booksellers, 54 Fairfield St., on Wednesday, June 21, at 7 p.m.
The book chronicles the events of 1938, both on the baseball diamond and the streets of Europe. Kaplan writes: “Though normally hesitant to speak about the anti-Semitism he dealt with, the Jewish slugger still knew the role he was playing for so many of his people, saying ‘I came to feel that if I, as a Jew, hit a home run, I was hitting one against Hitler.’”

Studio Montclair presents ViewPoints 2017

in Arts/Visual art
Rachel Kanter’s ‘Marking Time,’ hand dyed cotton, found objects, wooden crates is in SMI’s ViewPoints. Courtesy Studio Montclair.

Studio Montclair’s 20th annual Open Juried Exhibition, “ViewPoints 2017,” runs through June 30 at Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, 591 Broad St., Newark.

This year’s show features 87 works selected from more than 1,000 submissions. Curator Karen Wilkin said in a release, “The submissions to ViewPoints 2017 reflected today’s multivalence of conception, approach, and medium, so the selection of work to be exhibited had to honor widely differing possibilities without compromising aesthetic values.”

For more information, contact or visit

Montclair Make Music Day is coming

in Arts/Music
Performers and residents mingle at Montclair Make Music Day. Courtesy Greg Pason.

The streets will be alive with the sounds of music on Wednesday, June 21, during Montclair Make Music Day. The event, which starts at 8 a.m. the Upper Montclair train station and ends around 10 p.m., will have more than 50 performers in over 25 venues.

Organizer Greg Pason said in an email, “There are many things happening in the US and world today that are tearing communities apart, but music bring people together. For the fourth year Montclair will host Make Music Day events, and the volunteers who are organizing this day of music event have committed ourselves to make this an inclusive event that serves as a way to bring the community together.”

For the fourth year in a row, the Township Council proclaimed June 21 “Montclair Make Music Day.” Montclair joins hundreds of cities across the U.S. in celebrating the day as party of the Make Music Alliance.

Venues include East Side Side Mags, 73 See Gallery, both Java Love locations, Heratij, Just Kidding Around, Watchung Booksellers, Local Coffee, Nouvelle, St. Luke’s Church, Smith Boring & Parts Co., Women Healing Zone, Bluff City, Montclair Bread Company, Outpost in the Burbs at First Congregational Church, The Creativity Caravan and others.

Pason, who has organized the last three Montclair Make Music Day events, is supported by a team of community activists, including Montclair High School students from Terry’s Serendipity Café.

Montclair BID has also helped promote the event, as has NJ Transit’s Music in Motion program.

There will be some pre-Make Music Day events, including Serendipity Café’s annual Festival Underground held at Edgemont Park, on Saturday, June 17, from noon to 5 p.m.

The schedule will be posted on June 15 at and via the Make Music Day phone app, downloadable from the website.

— Gwen Orel

Montclair Kimberley Academy students to appear in teacher’s play Off-Broadway

in Arts/Theater

Five students from Montclair Kimberley Academy — Liam Gerard, Caitlin Ladda, Patrick Napolitano, Casey Rae Borella, and Katie Kunka — with three MKA crew members, are performing in a production by Robert Gelberg, MKA playwright-in-residence, in a performance of Gelberg’s play “They Say We’ll Have Some Fun” as part of the eighth annual Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

The Festivity itself takes place at the Flamboyan Theatre at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, 107 Suffolk St., New York, New York.

The play, which is about a group of camp counselors at a summer camp in the Adirondacks, has its first performance on June 16, and performs on an irregular schedule through July 1. According to a release, the play is “an examination of what it means to be in transition.” For tickets, visit this site.

The brain makes beautiful music: Lois Svard will speak at the Taubman Piano Festival at MSU

in Arts/Classical Music/Music

Taubman Piano Festival
Friday-Sunday, June 23-25
Cali School of Music

“Neuroscience and Piano
Dr. Lois Svard
Friday, June 23, 1-2:15 p.m., G-55
Montclair State University
1 Normal Ave.

Information: Artistic Director
David Witten, or 973-652-4217


If you love music, you’re probably right-brained. Scientists, with their love of facts and figures, are left-brained.

Except not.

Lois Svard, who will speak on “Neuroscience and Piano Performance” at the Dorothy Taubman Festival at Montclair State University on June 23, says that though popular culture books used to break down creativity that way, when she began looking into it, reading articles by neuroscientists, she learned that music is actually processed throughout the brain.

And the notion that the brain is really only plastic, or flexible, as a small child? Not true either.

“We continue to change through life in response to learning, experience or injury,” Svard says. “We can constantly rewire the brain.”

Svard explores neuroscience and music in a blog she writes titled “The Musician’s Brain.” She has received an NEA Award for Arts Commentary and Perspectives on the Arts.

The Taubman Festival, in which Svard is participating for the first time, honors the late Dorothy Taubman (1917-2013), a piano pedagogue who stressed playing without pain. The festival includes master classes, demonstrations and free evening recitals on Friday and Saturday.

Pianist Sondra Tammam will speak on “Level 2 Octaves with Speed and No Fatigue,” and Jacqueline Herbein will lead interactive sessions on relaxing and “Building Dynamic Alignment at the Piano.”

David Witten, head of the piano program at MSU, will give a lecture on “physical concepts at the keyboard and single rotation.”
Witten said in an email that the idea to bring in Svard came from Marilyn Somville, formerly dean of Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, who pointed out that neuroscience and neuroplasticity are becoming important components for musicians.

Svard has spent most of her life as a performing pianist, performing new American music. It was at Bucknell University, where she taught from 1984 to 2011, that she became interested in the creative process, and designed an interdisciplinary program for seniors about it.
She took some undergraduate neuroscience courses at the school. The jargon was challenging, she said, but “it’s like learning a different language.

“Neuroscientists say that making music is the most complex cognitive activity a human engages in, using sensory, auditory, motor, and all kinds of cognitive skills. Lots of areas of the brain are involved.”

Though scientists have been studying the subject for at least 30 years, the information hasn’t been reaching musicians, because scientists publish in scientific journals and go to scientific conferences, Svard said, adding that there are many applications of the study.

For example, the way we practice an instrument can be tweaked. “Simply repeating something over and over again does not encourage strong plasticity in the brain.

“Research has found repetition, whether with languages or motor skills like playing the piano, is the least efficient way to practice. You’re using short-term memory. You want to get something to move into long-term memory in the brain, and you have to use different strategies to do that.

“For example, if you’re learning a piece of music, practice a little bit of one section, then switch to another section. You constantly force the brain to work to try to remember. When doing that, you’re encouraging the formation of the neural circuits that have to do with that piece of music.”

Of course, you still have to repeat a lot, Svard said, but many students, particularly young ones, merely repeat a piece from beginning to end over and over.

“You have to be able to start in lots of different places in a piece of music. Musicians often refer to those as landmarks.”

Dorothy Taubman, with Rose Cali. Courtesy David Witten.

Connecting to the Taubman approach, Svard pointed out that musicians don’t just wire a piece of music into their brains, but their movement as well, and how they physically approach their instruments.

“We can wire in injuries. So if we routinely practice with a lot of stress, or not a very healthy approach to the instrument, then that gets wired in.” Neural pathways in the brain reinforce those unhealthy ways of playing, she said.

“You can change that wiring in your brain. If you’ve learned the wrong notes or rhythms you can change the wiring and correct that.”
Though Svard doesn’t have a degree in neuroscience, she pointed out that neuroscientists who study music usually don’t have a degree in music.

Combining neuroscience and music is a trend, she said, with more and more music students interested in neuroscience and more neuroscientists looking at the music connection.

Scientists have learned that human beings are hard-wired for music just as they are for language, Svard said. “It’s a very natural human instinct to be involved with music, to listen, sing, move to music.

“Musicians talk about anatomy, how we use our fingers, our arms, our muscles, to create a beautiful sound. We talk about relaxation and tension. We don’t talk about the brain. The brain controls our muscles. It sorts through all the information that enters the brain through all our senses.

“The brain is really where practicing happens.”

Playing piano on Father’s Day in Montclair, for a cause

in Arts/Classical Music/Music
The students of Thomas Parente will play for Toni’s Kitchen on Sunday. Courtesy Thomas Parente.

The young piano students of Thomas Parente will perform in a fundraiser for Toni’s Kitchen on Sunday, June 18, at 1:30 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, 67 Church St. Freewill donations will be accepted at the door.

The program will consist of selections by Chopin, Ravel, Mozart, Schubert, Debussy and others. Parente is an associate professor of piano at Westminster Choir College and author of “The Positive Pianist: How Flow can Bring Passion to Practice and Performance.”
A reception will immediately follow the concert.

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