Sunday, November 23, 2014

Celebrating 20 Years of The New Group With a Revival of 'Sticks and Bones'

Raviv Ullman, Bill Pullman, Holly Hunter, Ben Schnetzer and Morocco Omari in "Sticks and Bones." Photos by: Monique Carboni


family is one way to celebrate a milestone anniversary.

Happy 20th anniversary, then, to The New Group, which celebrates with a move to new digs at the Pershing Square Signature Center and a revival of a David Rabe play, “Sticks and Bones.”

The play, about the disruptive effects of a son's return from the Vietnam, transferred from The Public Theater to Broadway where it won the 1972 Tony Award. (See video below).

“Sticks and Bones” is directed by Scott Elliott and stars Richard Chamberlain, Holly Hunter, Bill Pullman, Nadia Gan, Morocco Omari, Raviv Ullman and Ben Schnetzer.

“Sticks and Bones” runs through 14 Dec.

Visit to learn more about “Sticks and Bones.”

Names Show for Theatre Communications Group

Ben Cameron, Lynn Nottage, Phylicia Rashad, Teresa Eyring, Joshua Dachs and Paul Oakley Stovall. Photo by Jonathan Zeigler/Patrick McMullan Company.

GEORGE C. Wolfe. Kate Whoriskey. When folk with such names as these show, you know you have come a long way, baby

Jessica Hecht. You have been doing something right.

Eric Bogosian. Along the way, some good has come from you.

Phylicia Rashad. Indeed, you have done something to make the world a better place – at least the theater part of it.

Consequently, it is no surprise that these are just a few of the folk who presented themselves recently for the annual gala of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) in New York City.

For 50-plus years, the organization has worked tirelessly to ensure that not-for-profit theater in this country is alive, well and thriving. All of the aforesaid will undoubtedly admit to having benefited in some way from TCG's efforts. All have given back in some way. too.

The same can be said of those TCG chose to honor this year: lighting designer and producer Jules Fisher; the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. The latter was emphatic in her praise of TCG in the development of her brilliant career. (See video above).

“We’re thrilled to celebrate three honorees that have made such an indelible impact on the theater field,” said TCG executive director Teresa Eyring.

The evening was also witness to several performances, including a snippet from “Immediate Family.” The play, directed by PR and written by Paul Oakley Stovall, is a comedy of manners concerning the fallout that occurs when a young, closeted black gay man brings home his white, Swedish lover. ((

It had its world premiere in a limited run at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago (See video at left).

As TE asserted, “It wouldn’t be a true theater party without sharing a scene or two …”

Visit to learn more about Theatre Communications Group.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

In Its U.S. Debut, the Mikhailovsky Ballet Leaps and Bounds Beyond Superlatives

Ekaterina Borchenko of the Mikhailovsky Ballet in the "Royal Court" scene of "The Flames of Paris." Photo by Costas.


came, as did Baryshnikov. They stayed, of course. The Mariinsky Ballet visited and returned home.

The Mikhailovsky Ballet is in the United States for its first ever tour through 30 Nov. It completes its run at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater tomorrow (23 Nov.), then goes west to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts to Costa Mesa in Orange County, Calif. starting 28 Nov.

The Mikhailovsky is an 80-year-old ballet troupe with a storied past (dating to before its actual founding). That includes a brief Balanchine stint (he was Giorgi Balanchivadze in 1923 when he choreographed the Rimsky-Korsykov opera, “The Golden Cockerel, and the Fyodor Lopukhov staging of Shostakovich's “The Bright Stream”).

In 1932, still a part of the Mikhailovsky Theatre and not yet an independent entity, the company commissioned Boris Asafyev to write a score based on a Felix Gras novel to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Bolshevik uprising. Vasily Vainonen choreographed the extravaganza.

The Mikhailovsky's current Ballet Master in Chief, Mikhail Messerer, has reimagined "The Flames of Paris" for the 2013 production which plays during all four performances in California. (See video above).

The Mikhailovsky takes leaps and bounds beyond without ignoring classic ballet.

In "The Flames of Paris" – a ballet in three acts – it takes the spectacular and the epic to exciting new heights. Comparisons to "Les Miz" are hard to resist – barricades are stormed, the Royal Court is toppled. Basque folkloric dances in the traditional clogs of the region (sabot from which we get the term saboteur, but I digress) express the people's strength and resilience.

Their happiness is expressed in other character dances like the farandole, performed in the streets of Paris. Their rebellious determination, in the dancing of carmagnoles.

Victor Lebedev with the Mikhailovsky corps in the "Royal Court" scene of "The Flames of Paris." Photo by Costas.

Strictly classic ballet is seen at the “Royal Court,” Scene II in Act I of “The Flames of Paris.” Of particular note are Victor Lebedev and Ekaterina Borchenko portraying actors at the performance seen by this reviewer.

Noteworthy, too, are the splendidly exuberant scenes in which Philippe, a Marsellais and his fiancee, Jeanne (Ivan Zaytsev and Angelina Vorontsova), take turns wowing with robust leaps and delicate pirouettes.

The scenery, costumes and staging – true to the original production, with costumes by Vladimir Dmitriev and a revival of the stage and costume design by Vyacheslav Okunev – are breathtaking.

Oksana Bondareva in "Don Quixote." Photo by Stas Levshin.

In the Mikhailovsky's too-short run, it is also performing “Don Quixote” (this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow afternoon) “Giselle,” and a program of Russian classics.

One hopes that the Mikhailovsky ventures this way again, making regular trips to these shores.

Visit to learn more about the Mikhailovsky Ballet U.S. tour.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Your Thinspiration Should Not Come From Fashion and Beauty Magazines

Joan Smalls for U.S. edition of ELLE.

IT is generally known that the model (starlet, singer) on the cover of Vogue is airbrushed. After all, nobody's skin, aside from that of a newborn or toddler, is that smooth and clear. The Mademoiselle cover model may have even had plastic surgery or breast augmentation.

More important, she may be naturally that thin. It's possible, too, that she had some procedure to look so thin. In other words, these are unrealistic images in ELLE. Yet, women consume these magazines in mass quantities. Why? Why bother?

One answer may reside in some of the latest research on the subject of idealized body images in media, particularly fashion and beauty magazines, and body dissatisfaction among the masses (of women).

It seems that women draw thinspiration from these unrealistic images. That is, they actually believe that they can look like that, too. This sort of thinking, however, is unhealthy, asserts the study's author.

Lily Donaldson for Harper's Bazaar Brazil.

“Women get the message that they can look just like the models they see in the magazines, which is not helpful,” Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick told the Ohio State University (OHS) news service. “It makes them feel better at first, but in the long run women are buying into these thinness fantasies that just won’t come true.”

SK-W is a communications professor at OHS. An article detailing the results of her study, Thinspiration: Self-Improvement Versus Self-Evaluation Social Comparisons with Thin-Ideal Media Portrayals, appears in a recent online edition of the journal, Health Communication ... More shortly.

Visit to read an abstract of Thinspiration: Self-Improvement Versus Self-Evaluation Social Comparisons with Thin-Ideal Media Portrayals or to purchase the article in its entirety.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sunshine Light Exercise Medication: S.L.E.M. Chance of Getting Rid of SAD State of Affairs

The Verilux HappyLight Compact Energy Lamp can help improve mood, energy and concentration. Photo from Verilux Web site.

YOU'RE tired, moody, irritable. Not getting enough sleep these days. Seemingly, in a permanent slump. Feeling … depressed.

You may have a case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) aka the wintertime blues.

“We are in the midst of the full-blown SAD season,” says Angelos Halaris, a psychiatrist at Loyola University Medical Center (Maywood, Ill.).

SAD, a depression brought on by a chemical imbalance in the brain, is triggered by lack of light owing to shorter days and overcast skies. Generally, it starts in October and lasts until April.

It is commonly believed that SAD affects 3 percent to 5 percent of the population depending on the hemisphere. Rosie O'Donnell, a high-profile person in this hemisphere, has been very open about her depression, including SAD, sometimes even famously joking about it. “ … so if it's sunny in Miami, I instantly feel happy, and when it's gray and cloudy, I feel like I'm being tortured by someone.”

S.A.D. is no joke, though. In extreme case, it can keep a body abed all the day long or even cause one to attempt suicide. “Seasonal affective disorder should not be taken lightly,” AH says.

To that end, he offers four tips to ease its symptoms. Sunshine. Spend at least 30 minutes a day outside if possible. Leave off the sunglasses. Temperatures permitting, expose the skin to sunlight because it helps relieve symptoms of SAD.

Rosie O'Donnell suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Archive photo.

Lights. Home and work spaces should be well-lit. Open drapes and blinds. Also purchase a high-intensity light box designed for SAD therapy. Sit close to the box for 30 to 45 minutes in the morning and evening. Although you can do light therapy on your own, it’s best to consult a mental health professional, AH advises.

Exercise. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Physical activity releases endorphins and other brain chemicals that create a sense of well-being, having an energizing effect. (See video above of Isochronic tones from MindAmend []. The repetitive tones can help with sleep deprivation and increase energy levels.)

Medication. If the three aforesaid remedies don't help, consult a mental health professional about prescribing anti-depressant medication. Two classes are effective against SAD: monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and selective serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs and SNRIs).

Let the sun shine in and feel better. Archive photo.

"Like in `The Wizard of Oz' the color goes out," RO'D once said. "That is what happens in depression. Everything gets gray."

Visit and to learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

For the Holiday Table or Any Other Time of Year: Addie's Fine Foods Pies, Little Miracles Tea-Juices & Cliffton Dry Sparkling Cider

Addie's Fine Foods sweet potato pie has proved to be powerful medicine. Photo from Addie's Fine Foods Web site.

FOR all intents and purposes the holidays are upon us. It's November, after all. I'ts on! The feeding frenzy has begun.

Per tradition, the nation will be overfeeding and overwatering itself until about the time of Twelfth Night. At that time, said bloated and contrite nation will then seek repentance in the New Year's resolution diet.

Until then, though, a feeding frenzy. For your consideration are a few new and newish products – Addie's Fine Foods pies, Cliffton Dry Premium Cider and tea-juice blends from Little Miracles – to consider for the table.

Giving new meaning to Hippocrates' admonition to “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” the only thing that Mississippi-born Addie Simon could eat and not pay for it later when the now-disease free survivor was suffering from cancer and its treatment, was a dessert of her own making: Sweet Potato Pie.

Surprising notion at first. But think on it. Put on those thinking caps and recall that sweet potatoes are sweet medicine. They are a good source of dietary fiber, which lowers blood sugar and ailments such as diabetes that high blood sugar levels can trigger.

Cliffton Dry is made from fermented apples. Photo from Cliffton Dry Web site.

Just as important, sweet potatoes can help fight cancer, particularly orange Beauregard and the purple Okinawa, the two varieties used to make the Addie's Fine Foods sweet potato pie. It should be noted, too, that the sweet treat will make all kinds of love to the palate … More shortly

Visit the following Web sites to learn more about the products:
Addies Fine Foods,
Cliffton Dry Premium Cider,
Little Miracles,

Monday, November 10, 2014

Around the World in 10 Weeks: Staying in the Loop and Keeping Others in Your Loop

For night shooting, such as the Ganga Aarti Fire Festival on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, a lightweight tripod or other camera support is very helpful. Photos by Joel Simpson.

HEADS UP: Welcome to the fold new contributor Joel Simpson, a Renaissance man and generally worldly fellow. (Read his profile on the “About VP/[Contributors tab,”]) Indeed, he recently returned from a trip to a dozen countries. Not only does Joel have breathtaking images to share, which will be published shortly, he returns with some very useful pointers for traveling in the developing world detailed here last week, yesterday and concluding today. Take heed, Dear Travelers.


may be gone far, far away. But you need not be forgotten.

Having returned from a 10-week jaunt around the world, I was compelled to share with others how they could do it, too, with the least amount of hassle and hustle. Over the last two weeks I have offered suggestions about important arrangements such as packing, incidentals, transportation and lodging.

Finally, some words about communications and photography. After all, you'll want to share your amazing experiences.

So much of the joy of travel is in sharing it with friends and family – most of whom stayed home. We used to send postcards, but in the digital age we can practically carry our loved ones h us. Most people send photos they take with their smartphones right away.

If you maintain a trip blog, however, you can communicate with many more people and offer more information. When it’s all over you’ll have a field record that’s a lot better than your memory.

Most hotels have Wi-Fi. India was the only place where the service cost extra. The real question is what kind of device will you bring. Your smartphone may be enough if you don’t plan to do much writing. But we were both keeping blogs. (My companion's; Mine:

My companion brought a laptop computer. I left mine home in favor of a tablet. My choice was the 8-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, for which you can buy a Bluetooth keyboard for $50 (widely available). It fit into my photo vest, easily into my backpack and is about one-quarter the weight of my laptop.

This model has a micro-sd card slot, which I found very useful; iPads do not. Typing is not quite as smooth as on my laptop, but it was certainly doable. Of course, Tab 3 also has all of the versatility of a mobile device, not least of which is the onboard Kindle, which contained the guidebooks I downloaded for the countries we visited.

The one disadvantage of the Tab 3 was that it would not enlarge the maps in these guidebooks, but all the hotels had free printed city maps. It has a very good photo gallery function, good email; I used it to write and upload my blog posts.

A ringtail lemur in the Parc National de l'Isalo in the Ihorombe region of Madagascar. It is one of the countries where smartphone calls are costly.

Remember to bring enough power adapters. Incidentally, those heavy transformers are no longer necessary. All electronic devices these days accept both 220 and 120 current. It’s best to keep your adapters, battery chargers and cables together in a safe place.

My T-Mobile phone worked in most countries for 20¢ per minute with free texting and Internet access. In some of the more remote countries I was off network, and the price went up to $4.99 per minute (Madagascar, Mongolia), so I switched it off. I could have bought a SIM card but didn’t bother.

If you want good photographs bring a good camera. Do NOT rely on your smartphone. Your camera should have a good wide angle as well as telephoto capabilities – the 35mm equivalent of at least 18mm to 200mm or better. The maximum ISO should be at least 3200.

If possible, select a camera that has no digital delay that can fire off several shots per second. This will be very useful when shooting from a moving vehicle. When doing so, set you ISO to at least 3200 and your shutter speed to at least 1/2000th of a second, shorter if possible. Always shoot in your highest resolution if you intend to keep your photos, and always in color. You can change to monochrome later.

It’s best to use a memory card with no more than 8GB. If it is compromised or lost you won’t lose too data. Have some kind of storage device if you plan to do a lot of shooting. I used the Picture Porter Advanced by Digital Foci, which has a 500GB capacity. (

You may not need this much storage, but if you’re planning to be away more than two weeks, you can save on memory cards by having an easy-to-use portable hard drive like this one or a lower capacity one such as the Picture Porter 35. You can also see and sort your images on the Picture Porter models.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is a lightweight and useful travel companion.

Digital Foci also makes a portable power supply called a Battery Porter that comes in three models. Once you charge this device for several hours or overnight, you can charge your smartphone 4-7 times, or your tablet by 1-1.5 times. This is useful when you’re away from power sources or when someone else is using the car charger (if there is one).

It’s also good to have some kind of camera support, even just a tabletop tripod or GorillaPod ( I use a lightweight, full-size Silk Sprint Pro II GM tripod with a quick-release ballhead when I’m traveling (

It weighs a hair more than two pounds and extends to just under 64 inches – exactly the right formula. These are essential for night shooting. The 18.5-inch folded length fits conveniently into my suitcase. It also provided a rigid splint for my rolled-up Tibetan paintings (around a sturdy core).

I don’t use flash very much, but it’s good to have for convivial group portraits and dimly lit interiors. You might also consider bringing a hand-held video light. These are quite versatile for illuminating details in frescos, for example, and they double as a great flashlight.

Many travelers will want to post their travel photos onto Web sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Picasa. It’s not as straightforward as it may seem, because if you’re serious about your photography, you’ll want to capture the images in high-resolution (printable), but upload them in low or web resolution without destroying the hi-res version for later printing.

It’s easy to download anything onto a storage device such as the Picture Porter, but how can you downsize them to the resolution appropriate for the Web and still keep the high-res images? I’m still searching for an app for phones and tablets that downsizes images (there are several for computers). Perhaps we’ll see one come out soon.

My own solution was based on my amazing Canon 5D Mark III. It is not a camera most people are likely to travel with. It has two card slots, one for an CF card and one for an SD card. I used a micro SD card with the adapter to record in the lowest resolution possible, while recording my hi-res images on the CF card. Then, I removed the micro SD card from the adapter and slipped it into my Samsung Tab 3 (the iPad doesn’t have this feature).

The Angkor Wat temple complex, a prime tourist attraction in Cambodia and the world's largest religious monument, viewed with an image of it taken earlier on thePicture Porter Advanced.

I could then see all the photos I had taken that day and select the ones I wanted in the Tab 3’s memory. From there I could upload them onto my blog or any photo website. Overall, I am pleased with the results ...

Well, that should cover a lot of what you'll need to known for your own odyssey.

Even if you choose only to jot down notes of what you saw, where you stayed, what you ate and whom you met, you’ll find you’ll treasure these memory for years and refer to them the next time the wild goose calls.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Around the World in 10 Weeks: Going From Here to There in the Air and on the Ground

Morning bathers in the Ganges river in Varanasi, India. The Ganges is worshipped as the goddess, Ganga, in Hinduism. Photo by Joel Simpson.

HEADS UP: Welcome to the fold new contributor Joel Simpson, a Renaissance man and generally worldly fellow. (Read his profile on the “About VP/[Contributors tab,”]) Indeed, he recently returned from a trip to a dozen countries. Not only does Joel have breathtaking images to share, which will be published shortly, he returns with some very useful pointers for traveling in the developing world detailed here last week, today and concluding tomorrow. Take heed, Dear Travelers.


returned from a 10-week jaunt around the world, where I visited places I’d heard about all my life, as well as some new ones, I’ve been urging people to convert their envy into their own determination to see the wonders in far-flung parts of our world.

Last week, I addressed space- and weight-saving clothing, efficient baggage, incidentals and so on. This week, booking the best transportation and lodging. (

Of course, major flights should be booked well in advance. If you’re visiting many countries or going around the world, consider using a flight packager such as London-based Travel Nation ( Our contact person was Andrea Motta.

Travel Nation put our chosen destinations together in a coherent tour, coordinating many different airlines. You can make alterations in the proposal until you get as close as possible to what you want.

Take advantage of this option because there are restrictions. If you are traveling around the world, you must keep going in the same direction; there is no doubling back.

You'll have to book separately excursions that take you to a city with a small airport or return the way you came. As a rule, do this one to two months in advance of your departure. We found, however, that in certain countries this was not necessary and we booked our internal flights only one or two days in advance, incurring no penalty.

We took five excursion flights apart from our round-the-world package. The two I booked in advance I’m sure I saved money on. These were from Varanasi, India to Khajuraho and back. There was also an international flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, Cambodia (the Angkor Wat). These one-hour flights in prop planes were both more than $300.

Our internal flights, though, were all booked shortly before departure and were all pretty inexpensive. They were from Ulaan Baator, Mongolia to Dalanzadgad , Mongolia (the city at the doorstep of the Gobi Desert), from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Hué, and then from Đà Nẵng to Hanoi.

Banyan trees grow all over Cambodia and can be as tall as 100 feet. Photo by Joel Simpson.

The Mongolia internal flight was a mere $140 roundtrip. Enktuya Banzrachg, our Gobi Tours (; [See video above]) tour operator, a perky middle-aged woman who owns the company, practically took us by the hand to the airline office and helped us book our flight.

She also set up our tour through the Gobi Desert as well as a nearby overnight trip to Terelj that revealed some of the most beautiful mountain scenery on the whole 10-week trip ...More shortly
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