Friday, October 30, 2009


CICELY Tyson School of the Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, N.J.
Brand New Arts Facility Rededicated in Honor of Cicely Tyson

A New Jersey arts school will continue to bear the name of famed actress Cicely Tyson following the Oct. 24 unveiling of its new facility.

Celebrities gathered on a red carpet for the official dedication of the $143 million new home of the Cicely Tyson School of the Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, N.J., according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
The school first opened with Tyson’s name attached, but at a different location, in 1995.
It welcomed 1,000 students to the new school in September before its official dedication, the newspaper said.

“Its like carrying a child and giving birth,” said Tyson, who has been an active participant in school decisions, graduations and other events since the school was named for her. “The birth date is Oct. 24.”

Guests included CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, who served as mistress of ceremonies, as well as N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine, Nick Ashford and his wife, Valerie Simpson, (pictured: Ashford and Simpson),actresses Angela Bassett and Tamara Tunie, gospel singer BeBe Winans, an active supporter of the school, Susan Taylor, the editor emeritus of Essence magazine who is also an author and philanthropist, and Faye Wattleton, the former president of Planned Parenthood of America who is currently the president of the Center For Advancement of Women.

“In this school, the young people can follow their dreams, but also receive an intense academic experience,” O’Brien told the Star-Ledger.

The school serves as the East Orange School District’s educational center for the development of performing and fine arts for students of all ages, according to
The school also opens its library, gym, cafeteria, music and art rooms to the community after school hours.

Tyson said the school benefits from working with children through all levels of their education.

“We get them when they’re children,” Tyson told the newspaper “We have them through middle school and high school.
That pleases me because we get the opportunity to reach them early. We want them to understand that without education, there is no life.”

Filmmaker George Lucas is famous for popularizing space operas. But for more than two decades, he's also been engaged in a more down-to-earth cause: improving public education.

'Star Wars' filmmaker aims to improve education

Filmmaker George Lucas is famous for popularizing space operas. But for more than two decades, he's also been engaged in a more down-to-earth cause: improving public education.

"I strongly believe that education is the single most important job that the human race has," Lucas said.

WRAL News has partnered with the George Lucas Educational Foundation to present "Edutopia," a series that highlights what is working in public education and how those successes can be adopted in local schools.

The series starts at High Tech High in San Diego, where nearly every student graduates and every graduate is accepted into college.

Students learn by working on projects that produce important projects, such as a DNA bar-coding process that will help convict poachers in Africa.
"I know everyone is serious about it because it's a serious issue, but this is really a lot more fun than you would be able to do in any other classroom," High Tech High student Mari said.
High Tech High students also perform a meaningful internship in the community.

Next, at an elementary school in Tucson, Ariz., the arts are used to teach every subject. Opera helps first-graders learn to write, dance teaches geometry, and fourth-graders learn science while playing the violin.

Independent research confirms that reading, writing and math scores have improved dramatically since the arts-based curriculum was introduced.

At a school in Brooklyn, N.Y., fourth- and fifth-graders are in a program to become "Peace Helpers."
They learn to understand their own anger and help younger children to resolve conflicts.
"I'm still because if I got to sixth grade next year, I need to learn how to control my anger.
Because I have a serious temper problem," fifth-grader Alexus said.
Lucas has spent 20 years documenting such success stories in public schools across the United States.

"I didn't enjoy school very much. Occasionally, I would come up with a teacher who would inspire me," Lucas recalled.
"But as I got older and I began to work with computer technology and telling stories through film, I began to wonder, 'Why couldn't we use these new technologies to help improve the educational process?'"

He shares the techniques he's learned about on the George Lucas Educational Foundation's Web site. The site serves as a comprehensive resource for teachers and parents.

Luft brings pedigree to role

By Bob Fischbach

Actress Lorna Luft was born to show business. By age 11, she was singing on TV with her legendary mom on “The Judy Garland Show.” Her father was producer Sid Luft, and her half-sister is Oscar and Tony winner Liza Minnelli. Luft made her Broadway debut at age 16, singing with Garland at the Palace Theater, and by age 19 was in a Broadway show on her own, “Promises, Promises.”
Since then she has done national tours, regional theater and world tours in a variety of musical-theater roles.
Her best-selling book became a 2001 television miniseries, “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows.” She intermittently performs a stage show titled “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” which is on CD as well.

Last week we caught Luft, 56, on her cell phone in a Times Square rehearsal hall in New York City, where she and the cast of “Irving Berlin's White Christmas” were preparing for a 10-week tour.
Based on a 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, it opens Sunday at the Orpheum Theater.
Luft sounded pumped about the show and her role, which she originated in London's West End in 2006.
Q. How are rehearsals going so far?
'Irving Berlin's White Christmas'

What: Broadway touring musical

When: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 through 5; 8 p.m. Nov. 6 and 7; 2 p.m. Nov. 7

Tickets: $28 to $68

Information: 345-0606 or, toll-free, 866-434-8587

A. Well, they're fast and furious, and thank God we've all done this show before. Putting it up in such a short time, it's quite extraordinary. But people are picking it up fast, like, yeah, yeah, I know what I'm doing.

Q. I read on the Internet you've done “White Christmas” several times since 2006 in London. Have you always played the same character?

A. The same character, Martha Watson. For me, it's one of the great parts. Now to be joining the American cast is just wonderful. As much as the U.K. cast was fantastic, to hear the show with the right accent is stunning.

Q. How does your character differ from the one Mary Wickes played (Emma Allen) in the movie?

A. Mary was not as big a character. (Director) Walter Bobbie and the show's creators (David Ives, Paul Blake) took this character and made her Martha the Megaphone Watson. She's a combo of a lot of those loud, over-the-top showbiz caricatures. She looks a little like Lucille Ball, talks a bit like Martha Rae, sings a bit like Ethel Merman. This woman really runs the inn in Vermont (where the show takes place, owned by an Army general). The general barks out orders, but Martha is his equal when it comes to who wears the pants.

Q. Are there any big differences between the musical and the plot of the movie?
A. Not really. Two couples meet and get a crush on each other. There's no snow at the ski inn, so they put on a show in the barn to draw customers.
You can't mess around with that story. But what they've done is add more Irving Berlin songs.
And that really opens it up to amazing, theatrical stage numbers that will take your breath away.

Q. What's your favorite moment on stage in this show?
A. I do love doing “Let Me Sing and I'm Happy,” my number. And it's been changed since the U.K. Now I have boys (dancers) behind me and all that. It's really a showbiz number.
It's fantastic. I also love the end of the show when we're all standing there singing that (title) song. Puh-leeze, no one will have a dry eye in that house. It tugs on your heartstrings.
This is what musicals are about.

Q. You've done a lot of musical theater. How does “White Christmas” stack up?

A. For me it has a little bit of an edge over all of them. I'm a huge fan of (leading man) Stephen Bogardus, and (leading lady) Kerry O'Malley is extraordinary. For everybody who comes to see the show, it brings back the first time you heard these wonderful songs. You can't beat this score: “Count Your Blessings,” “I Love a Piano,” “Blue Skies,” “How Deep Is the Ocean.”
Q. Irving Berlin, of course, worked with Judy Garland — on “Easter Parade,” for example.

Does this show take you back to your mom's era of musicals in any way?

A. To my mom's era of musicals, and to the first time I saw shows like “42nd Street,” those big shows where every song is a classic.
You come out humming the songs.

Q. What advice did your mother pass along that helped you as a musical-theater actress?

A. Just give yourself. And you gotta be there 110 percent. That's what every person on this stage does.
It's sort of like, once the overture starts, the train pulls out, and it's going, and it's not gonna stop.
Q. What's next for you after this tour ends in January?

A. Are you kidding me? I have to get to Omaha first.

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Why teach the arts? Art inspires learning
Math and science may boost economic competitiveness, but art completes our education.
By David Arzouman

Tokyo - When American presidents talk about education, they inevitably stress the need to focus on math and science. In a technological world, they say, math and science ultimately equate with economic competitiveness. This line of thinking may be smart politics, but it makes education merely the means to an economic end.

President Obama is no exception to this tendency. But as a candidate, he also routinely noted the importance of the arts, as does Education Secretary Arne Duncan. It is fair then to ask what art actually offers.

Science emphasizes quantities. Art emphasizes qualities. Their mix, although paradoxical, moves us closer to completeness.

We express such paradox in ideals like the student-athlete, warrior-poet, compassionate-conservative, even "wise as serpents, and gentle as doves."

The arts offer both a key educational component and the unique experience of handling each stage of a project – coordinating hand, eye, and mind – from inspiration to finishing touches. In contrast, business realities necessitate specialization.

Schools also practice specialization, both in the estrangement of various studies and by progressively narrowing the focus. Perhaps because expertise pays, it is not generally the case that the "higher" people go in education, the broader, more interconnected, integrated, and holistic becomes their vision.
If the arts provide an alternative metaphor applicable to education, it is that elements must balance and synergize.
The attractive color, "catchy" musical passage, or favorite rhyme that doesn't fit only weakens the work.

With synergy, grayed colors combine into brilliant paintings, just as in sports a coordinated team beats an unsupported superstar.
We arrive at a dilemma. In groups, individuals play roles and specialize; completeness arises from the coordinated activity spanning the group. But if education's defining goal is only preparing students for those roles, it suffers for balance.

So where is the education model that not only emphasizes balance, but also explores the parallels and connections across disciplines?

One example is the quadrivium – arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy – a model that reaches back to Pythagoras.
Consider its strengths. Arithmetic explains the relations between numbers. Geometry explains numbers in space; music, numbers in time; and astronomy, numbers in space and time. It was a vision of correspondences conducive to analogic thinking.
Our wiser cultural ancestors considered geometry more than an engineering tool and music more than mere entertainment. They were key, parallel studies, manifestations of numbers, which were therefore seen as embodying both quantity and quality, a clue to the complementary unity of science and art.
Segregating the two, and regarding only one as essential, is a costly disintegration, expressing a quantitative bias necessary for technological expediency.

Admittedly, art is peripheral to making microchips or jumbo jets. But it's important to distinguish what our technology gets us, and what it doesn't.

The technological gap between a smart bomb and a spear is vast. But the gap in intent can be imperceptible. Cable television, cellphones, and computers don't ensure a more meaningful quality of discourse, only faster and more far-reaching. While our means far outrun anything from the past, our purpose and moral intent struggle to keep pace.
So, yes, education is vital to everything. But it requires an element of inspiration, and inspiration rides on metaphor, correspondences, and relating, the surprising and far-reaching connections that put the world back together, that elicit the "aha" response. This is precluded by over-specialization, but it just happens to be the work of art, whose root meaning is "to fit or join together."

Thinking outside the box of each school department would be edifying. A math lesson might include rhythmic examples, or ratios also experienced as musical intervals. A geometry lesson could show how the master painters once ordered their compositions on geometric underpinnings.

Reopening these pathways would not bypass the traditional curriculum, but simply inspire the artist inside each student, longing to see the big picture.
Unforeseen social benefits would surely follow.
David Arzouman is an artist, composer, writer, and educator developing a new art school in Tokyo.

Liza Minnelli: We still love Liza

LIFE IS A CABARET: Liza Minnelli in concert.
LEGENDARY cabaret performer Liza Minnelli brought a touch of Broadway pizazz to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre last Friday (October 23).

The audience leapt to their feet as soon as Minnelli swept onto the stage (in a sparkling black top, sleek black pants and pink scarf).
She opened with Teach Me Tonight, which was followed by echoes of ``we love you Liza’’.
Apparently she loves us too replying: ``Adelaide is the most beautiful city.’’

At 63 years of age, Minnelli showed amazing stamina and a hearty sense of humour as she dazzled the fans with hit-after-hit including Cabaret, New York, New York, the fun Liza With a `Z’ and If You Hadn’t, But You Did.

That said she wasn’t too proud to sit down during the first act.
``Well now I sit down in the first act. I ain’t crazy, just old!’’

Minnelli’s first Australian tour in 20 years is based on her Tony Award-winning run at the New York Palace.
Her tight 12-piece orchestra features longtime pianist Billy Stitch.

For an encore she returned in a baggy T-shirt, sans make-up and false eyelashes to sing All The Lives of Me as a tribute to first husband Peter Allen.

Beleagured 'Christmas Carol' producer takes show on the road

Sometimes in showbiz -- OK, a lot of the time in showbiz -- what's going on backstage is far more interesting than what's happening in front of the audience.
Such is the case with producer-director Kevin Von Feldt's stage version of "A Christmas Carol."
The theatrical production played last year at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood amid numerous problems, including technical snafus, big-name cast dropouts and accusations that Von Feldt had not paid some of the workers on the show.

The play flopped and Von Feldt told Culture Monster at the time that he planned to remount the production in order to help recoup his costs.

This holiday season, the show is set to go on tour with stops in Chicago, Miami and a few other cities. Earlier this month, the producer announced an impressive cast that included F. Murray Abraham, Stockard Channing, Timothy Hutton, James Garner and George Wendt.

But since that announcement, Channing and Hutton have dropped out of the production. Von Feldt recently told the Chicago Tribune that their defections were a result of the actors' having read Culture Monster's reports on the failed Hollywood version of the show.

In a remarkably candid interview, the producer admits that the Hollywood production didn't sell well and that the technical rehearsals were disastrous. "“It was like ‘Noises Off’ gone bad,” he said.
And the problems seem to be mounting yet again. Yesterday, the show's Minneapolis engagement at the Orpheum Theatre was canceled after Von Feldt was unable to pay the second deposit to secure the venue, according to a report in the Star Tribune.

Surely this "Christmas Carol" is one haunted production.

-- David Ng

Gasteyer, Knight, Kudisch, Diamantopoulos and Newton Will Be Girl Crazy at Encores!

By Adam Hetrick
29 Oct 2009

Real-life couple Chris Diamantopoulos and Becki Newton will find love on stage in the Encores! presentation of the Gershwin musical Girl Crazy, under the direction of Tony-winner Jerry Zaks in November.

The 1930 classic, which served as the basis for the 1992 Tony-winning musical Crazy for You, will run Nov. 19-22 at City Center.
Finian's Rainbow director and choreographer Warren Carlyle will choreograph, with musical direction by Rob Fisher.
Ana Gasteyer, who currently appears in the Broadway revival of The Royal Family, will portray Frisco Kate Fothergill – the role originated by Ethel Merman. Wayne Knight (Chicago) is cast as Gieber Goldfarb, with Tony nominee Marc Kudisch as Slick Fothergill, Diamantopoulos (Les Miserables, The Full Monty) as Danny Churchill, Newton ("Ugly Betty") as Molly Gray, Mylinda Hull (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Patsy West, Richard Poe (Cry-Baby) as Jake Howell, Daniel Stewart Sherman (Desire Under the Elms) as Lank Sanders and Gregory Wooddell (Some Men) as Tom Mason.

The Encores! concert staging will have sets by John Lee Beatty, costumes by William Ivey Long, lighting by Peter Kaczorowski and sound by Scott Lehrer.

Girl Crazy has music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin and book by Guy Bolton and Jack McGowan.
According to Encores! notes, "The Gershwins' fanciful Depression-era musical of 1930 is the tale of a sophisticated New Yorker (Diamantopoulos) marooned in a dusty Western cow town with no one who understands him but the Yiddish-speaking cabbie (Knight) who brought him there and no one to love but the only woman (Newton) within 50 miles." (SOURCE: PLAYBILL.COM)

30,000-seat stadium to be ready in 2011

By Richard Durrett

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved a proposal for a new football stadium at the University of North Texas that is expected to be completed for the 2011 season.

A public groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 21, according to a news release.
The stadium will replace Fouts Field, which is 57 years old. HKS Inc. Architects, which designed Cowboys Stadium, is designing the new stadium.

"If you look at America's great universities, you'll see that they all have the three A's in common: great academics, great arts and great athletics," said UNT president Gretchen M. Bataille in a release.
"All are key to a vibrant alumni community and continued growth. And all require great facilities.
I am committed to ensuring that UNT, like many of the nation's best research universities, strives to be excellent in everything we do."
The stadium will hold about 30,000 fans and include luxury suites.
Richard Durrett covers colleges for E-mail
Michael Jackson Auction Leads to Rhubarb

(CN) - An auction house claims concert promoter David Gest is trying "to cash in on his former association with the late Michael Jackson" by demanding $200,000 from it for mentioning that Gest had given the late singer some of the items it auctioned off.
Julien's Auction House sued Gest in Los Angeles Federal Court, seeking declaratory judgment.
It claims it was forced to go to court to stave off Gest's demand for $200,000.
Julien's claims Gest threatened to sue if for violating his publicity rights by telling bidders that he once owned 21 of the auctioned items.
Julien's describes Gest's threat of litigation as an attempt "to cash in on his former association with the late Michael Jackson."
Julien's says Gest gave Jackson the items to satisfy a debt. It insists that its sale "did not violate Mr. Gest's alleged right of publicity and that such disclosure does not entitle Mr. Gest to an 'accounting' of Plaintiffs' books and records."
Julien's claims Gest told it that the "'wrong' could only be righted" if the auction house gave him $200,000.
But Julien's says Gest's threat came despite his knowledge that "collectors of Michael Jackson memorabilia are interested in the memorabilia because of the affiliation with Michael Jackson, not because of some past connection to David Gest."
Gest was briefly married to Liza Minnelli after Michael Jackson introduced them.
After their divorce, Gest sued Minnelli for $10 million, claiming she had abused him.
Julien's makes much of this in its complaint, stating, "(I)t is highly doubtful that Mr. Gest's affiliation with the auction items could have increased their value. If anyone really knew who Mr. Gest was, they would also likely know that Mr. Gest has reportedly been involved in domestic abuse, sued his wealthy ex-wife for $10 million (alleging that she abused him), and - according to an article posted on his own Web site - is 'in the process of dumping his homeland, the United States' and has pledged his allegiance to the Queen of England." (Parentheses and italics are as in complaint.)
Julien's seeks declaratory judgment. It is represented by Gerald Hawxhurst and Daryl Crone with Baker Marquart.

And how was your week? Have a HAPPY SAFE Halloween! Don't forget to set your clocks back late tomorrow night! Here's to a great November! Hope to see you at The Iguana Wednesday night!Support THE ARTS! LIVE THEATRE! Go see a show this week! Send me your reviews and suggestions and I will put them in my next blog coming out on Friday! Here's to an ARTS-filled week! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS:

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper


What a fun evening! A well-rounded group of excellent performers with talent, charm and wit to burn! Lovely room, good food, easy location... just the whole package. Highly recommend this.

Wednesday evening found me at The Iguana on 54th Street for the appropriately named Wednesday Night At The Iguana. Hosted by Richard Skipper and Dana Lorge, this weekly showcase has really become a hot destination for performers in the city. Each week features five special guests, each of whom perform a short set, and "surprise" performers, who are mixed in among the special guests and each perform one song. The special guests this past week were Barbara Gurskey, Andrea Mezinsky-Kolb, Jonathan Long, Martin Vidnovic, and my sister, Kelly Esposito Broelmann! One of the special surprises for the night was Richard Skipper himself, who wasn't able to be at the first half of the evening, as he was performing elsewhere, but who opened up the second half of the show doing his renowned Carol Channing impersonation - in full Carol Channing dress, hair and makeup! The audience just adored it, and it was a very fun surprise! It was a great evening from top to bottom with some truly outstanding performances. I'm looking forward to going again soon!

RICHARD! ~ It was so great to see you perform at the Iguana last WEDs night (Oct 7) ... My date and I agreed it was the best night we had spent in NYC this trip and plan on making it our regular routine henceforth ~ Truly the BEST bargain in town!! The venue, the talent, AMAZING ~ we couldn't have seen that much talent had we spent two weeks hitting the shows ... please give my kudos to EVERYONE. As for you, you stole the show that night with your singing of "I Am What I Am" ... never have I heard it sung with more clarity; and by that I don't mean just gorgeous sound, but a clarity of understanding and COMMUNICATING that to your audience ... BRAVO!!


Now a night out in NY to see a show at a VERY AFFORDABLE price!
Dana Lorge and I have
now put their OWN spin on The variety show format and are now hosting every Wednesday night in
NYC at The Iguana VIP Lounge ( in the heart of
NYC (240 West 54th Street 8-11PM/with an intermission).
Each week
will showcase 5 entertainers.

Barry Levitt returns on keyboard and Saadi Zain on bass!
on bass. Time: 8 - 11:00 p.m.
Cover: $10 - no food or drink minimums – but remember – the food is great!

This is a nice night
out with the family!

"throw back" to the variety shows we grew up with.
For more info, please call 845-365-0720 or visit _www.RichardSkipper.com_
212-765-5454. No one admitted before

November 4th: Arianna, Moira Danis, Elaine St. George, Daryl Glenn, Lynn DiMenna

November 11th: Fred Martin

December 2nd: Cynthia Crane, The debut of The Marquee 5 (Mick Bleyer, Adam Hemming, Vanessa Parvin, Sierra Rein, Julie Reyburn) singing selections from their upcoming revue, "We Can Make It...The Songs of Kander & Ebb" and Hector Coris!

December 9th: Richard Holbrook, Josh Zuckerman, Helena Grenot, Jillian Laurain, Jerry Wichinsky

November 25th: OUR THANKSGIVING SHOW! PLEASE NOTE 7PM TONIGHT!James Alexander joins us!

December 30th: Linda Fields, Ritt Henn, Annie Hughes, Yvette Malavets-Blum, David Nathan Scott
Keep checking

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