Plain Jane’s Restaurant in Bethel will be anything but plain by the time Bethel artist Adele Moros finishes hanging the art work of six of the restaurant’s regular patrons on Saturday, August 3. Billed simply as “The Artists of Plain Jane’s Art Show,” more than 70 original cartoons, acrylics, oils, and watercolors by Orlando Busino, Frederick Carpenter, Joseph Farris, Dana Fradon, Jack Medoff, and John Smallwood-Garcia will be on exhibit to the public beginning Sunday, August 4, through the month of September. An opening reception will take place Sunday, August 18. The men are among a group of artists, authors, teachers, and scientists who have been meeting at Plain Jane’s for lunch and laughter every Wednesday for the past 15 years. They have all known each other for years, through career connections. If the artists’ names are not familiar, their distinctive works are. They have appeared in internationally known publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Playboy, Time, and The Saturday Evening Post for the past half century. They have worked for many of the same magazines; the lunch group developed out of their commonalities.
It was more than The Great Newtown Reunion on July 27 that drew former resident André Middlebrook back to the area. Born and raised in Newtown, Mr Middlebrook moved with his family to the San Jose, Calif., region in 1984, when he was just 16 years old. “I have wanted to move back here for the past five years,” said Mr Middlebrook, who works as a safety inspector/emergency responder for Pacific Scientific, an energetic materials provider. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that California seems more mundane, and one shopping center after another that are all the same,” he said.
Like the students who quickly went from sight reading the song “Green Eggs and Ham” to singing it within a matter of minutes on Tuesday, July 30, Seussical: The Musical is coming together for performances on the evenings of Friday and Saturday, August 9-10, and the afternons of Saturday and Sunday, August 10-11, at Newtown Middle School. The show was chosen as the inaugural production of the 12.14 Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Newtown. The three main forces behind “From Broadway With Love: A Benefit Concert for Sandy Hook,” which took place in January in Waterbury -- Director Michael Unger, Musical Director Jeffrey Saver and Tony Award-winner Van Dean -- have reprised their roles for this production.
It may be the middle of summer, but one Newtown High School student is already thinking about pumpkins. Rising Newtown High School sophomore Mackenzie Page is planning to issue her yearly challenge to Newtown again this fall, in the hopes that the Great Pumpkin Challenge will enhance the tradition of celebrating Halloween on Main Street. This will mark the third year Mackenzie has challenged residents to carve a pumpkin, drop it off for display at her home on Main Street, and offer a donation. All donations received this year will be forwarded to Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.
In 1996, the Gathering of the Vibes was originally conceived as a one-off tribute concert to memorialize fallen Grateful Dead co-founder Jerry Garcia. But much like the members of that seminal American rock and roll outfit, the Vibes has continued, growing into a destination festival that for the past few years, has taken up residence in Bridgeport’s beautiful Seaside Park. And while the songs and spirit of the Dead were never far off the radar for the musicians, vendors and attendees, this year was also a big year for Mick Jagger, who turned 70 last weekend and was the subject of numerous musical tributes by the many bands that graced the festival’s three stages at any point during the July 25-28 presentation. Another influential rocker, J.J. Cale, was also on the minds of many musicians as news of his passing on July 26 spread throughout the vibes community.
Audiences have a chance to enjoy a splendid production of the show at Goodspeed, as part of the Opera House’s 50th anniversary celebration. As usual, this small house with the huge vision has pulled out all the stops: Adrian W. Jones’ great visual scenic design, Wade Laboissoniere’s wonderful costuming, and Kelli Barclay’s choreography are all typical of the technical perfectionism Goodspeed is known for. Add to that some terrific acting in both the principal and ensemble roles and you have a clear winner.
For five days last week, 19 Newtown teenagers worked through 100-degree Oklahoma heat, dodged powerful thunderstorms, avoided rattlesnakes, scorpions and other creatures foreign to most New Englanders, and endured cold showers and ad hoc sleeping arrangements. They did this all in the attempt to provide help to people and towns ravaged by the tornadoes that swept through Oklahoma over 12 days in May. The July 21-26 trip, sponsored by Ben’s Lighthouse and funded by generous donations from people within and outside of Newtown, brought these teens and five chaperones together with about 80 others from youth groups from Michigan, Florida, Idaho, Arizona, Illinois and Colorado to engage in physically demanding and emotionally draining work. The participants were assigned to crews and tasked with jobs that included clearing fallen trees, debris removal, roof repair, demolition, construction framing, and drywall installation. In many cases, the residents being helped were living in tents or in damaged homes while waiting for repairs to be done.
Master teaching artist Bob Bloom, who leads interactive programs with an array of drums and world percussion instruments, was the musical guest for the July 24 Summer Jam Concert at Dickinson Park. Shows are suitable for all ages, and Mr Bloom continued the new program’s custom of audience participation. The next concert in the series will be Wednesday, July 31, featuring Robert The Guitar Guy. The season finalé will be August 7, with Zak Morgan. Concerts begin at 12:30 at Dickinson Park, 50 Elm Drive, and are free of charge. Picnics are welcome, and attendees should bring blankets or low chairs for seating.
My vegetable garden is struggling this year. Peas and lettuce were late and now are bolting in the heat. The beans leapt out of the soil and have continued and wrapping tendrils around the nearby tomatoes, instead of the poles provided. The tomatoes are unhappy with the cold and rainy start to the season, and the wet conditions that have followed. Zucchinis… well, there are blossoms. However, nature has provided me with a bountiful harvest of blackberries this year. Where grass segues into brush and then into woods, blackberry bushes trim our backyard. Randomly admiring the view one day last week, I was stunned to realize that the bushes were heavy with ripe fruit. In just minutes, a pint container was brimming over, my finger tips were purple, and only one bramble was embedded in my thumb.
A paint-spattered drop cloth clung to furniture and covered part of the floor in Southbury artist David Merrill’s living room. Stepping indoors from a sticky heat, he and Newtown resident Laurie McCollum looked at four-foot-high wooden panels, several of which will complete a 12- by 12-foot veterans mural for Newtown. He hopes to assemble and hang the finished work in October or November in the main hallway of Newtown Municipal Center. The work, which Mr Merrill began in April 2012, will contain the names of Newtown’s men and women who have served in the Armed Forces since 1971 when it is completed. Iconic military and patriotic images cover spaces between the intricate sea of names. Creating a theme for the mural, other wording includes “honor,” “courage,” “commitment.”