Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friends and Foes

Henrik Ibsen (pictured left) is not necessarily thought of as a "political" playwright but, in fact, his works created so much scandal in his homeland of Norway that he spend the majority of his productive years "in exile" living in Italy and Germany.

Why?  Because Ibsen (1828-1906) dared write about the foibles, the mores, the morality of everyday people as well as the divisiveness of the government and the church.  In the space of 25 years (1867-1892), he wrote 12 plays, 7 of which are considered to be among the finest of the 19th Century (including "Peer Gynt", "A Doll's House", and "Ghosts.")  In reaction to the savage reviews for "Ghost" in 1881, a year later he produced "An Enemy of the People", a play set in a small Norwegian town that has just begun to win fame and wealth as a result of its medicinal spring waters. Unfortunately, resident physician Dr. Thomas Stockmann discovers that the water is actually poisoned. When he tries to tell the townspeople, the Mayor, who happens to be his brother, does his best to discredit the good doctor.  The Mayor scares the people into believing he would have to tax them heavily to repair the damage caused by the original error in designing the mechanisms that bring the water to town. The play, adapted by Arthur Miller during the McCarthy era, criticizes short-sighted politicians, the media, and the mob mentality.

The Teen Repertory Company of Oddfellows Playhouse just began its 5-performance run of "An Enemy of the People" tonight (3/31).  Directed by Missy Burmeister, the cast started slowly but the energy soon picked up, buoyed by several of the lead characters. By the end of the first act, the play had become riveting.  An indictment of corporate greed and the half-truths that people believe as "gospel", the work makes one uneasy, especially in the light of nuclear mishaps, mortgage scandals, and governments run by special interests.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (4/1, 2, 8, and 9) at 7:30 p.m. on the OP Main Stage, 128 Washington Street.  Call 860-347-6143 for tickets.  For more information, go to

Ethics of Environment vs. Economy Tackled at Oddfellows

Oddfellows Playhouse's Teen Repertory presents An Enemy of the People written by Henrik Ibsen and adapted by Arthur Miller.

Renowned for its medicinal waters, a small Norwegian coastal town is enjoying the fruit of its economic boom. When Dr. Thomas Stockman discovers the waters are in fact poisoned by waste products from industry, his attempts to alert the unknowing public are met with tremendous force and resistance from those in power. Written in 1882, the drama is as relevant today as it was when first performed to a shocked Victorian the continual struggles between the environment and economy play out in our own backyard.

The production opened Thursday night to a warm house of family and friends. Here are a couple of shots from photographer Ofer Levy.

March 31, April 1-2, 8-9
All performances at 7:30pm
Ticket Reservations: 860-347-6143

worthy & delicious | dance & food

Spring Dinner Fundraiser at O'Rourke's Diner to support Dance Company

As Canton's Alison Bogatay and her company, AllongéDanceVariations (ADV), prepares for their 5th anniversary dance concert April 22nd & 23rd in Hartford, they have teamed up with Brian O'Rourke of O'Rourke's Diner, Middletown, for an amazing dinner that celebrates Spring & ADV's Anniversary!Photo credit: Ron Compton.

Thursday, April 7th, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Guests will enjoy a 4-course gourmet meal, tax, gratuity & a "welcome" glass of sparkling wine all for $45 per person. (BYOB) There will also be a Silent Auction on this benefit night.
Proceeds support production of "Once. Again. Now. A Reflection & Celebration", which will present 35 professional & emerging artists from the Greater Hartford area in 2 nights of eclectic dance & music that embraces Community & Collaboration, 4/22 & 4/23 at The Charter Oak Cultural Center.

Dinner Reservations are required.
Call: 860-693-3290.
To see full menu, go to: or

This show will have humor, heart & something for everyone.

Middletown's Steampunk Laboratory Featured on BBC America

STEAMPUNKS 2011 from Andy Gallacher on Vimeo.

reminder: Film Tonight. Get Your Lawn Off Drugs

Don't miss the eye-opening and inspiring film on lawn chemicals!
Tonight at 7pm in Chapman Hall of Middlesex Community College.

more information here:

Janis Astor del Valle returns to Green Street

Becoming Joaquin
Theater Performance

by Janis Astor del Valle
April 1 | 8pm
Tickets: $20 Patron; $15 Regular; $10 Member
Call to reserve: 860-685-7871

Becoming Joaquin, written and performed by Astor del Valle, is a one-person play about the experience of being a transgendered Latino. Astor believes her play offers an excellent opportunity to bring together diverse groups to spark meaningful discourse about identity and foster understanding of the transgender experience; Becoming Joaquin is a don't-miss event. Read more about Janis’ experiences at our blog.

Call 860-685-7871 or email to reserve your ticket. Don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook.

Playwriting Workshop
Instructor: Janis Astor del Valle
April 2 | 1-3pm
Regular Price: $30; Member: $24

Delve in to writing your own show. A playwright, instructor, and performer, Astor focuses on the writing and performative processes involved in creating an experience-based piece.

Call 860-685-7871 or email to register.

Republican Town Committee Encourages Residents Interested In Elected Office

The Middletown Republican Town Committee is looking for potential candidates for the November, 2011 Municipal Election to fill possible vacancies for the Common Council, Board of Education, and the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Anyone who is a registered Republican in the City can run for office on the Republican ticket. Committee Chair Matthew Scarrozzo says interested individuals should contact him at 860-795-5055.

This Sunday at First Church

The Fourth Sunday In Lent

Reckless Mercy — A Sermon by Rachael Keefe

Sin is bad and mercy is good. Everyone knows this, right? But what if sin was used to glorify God and mercy disturbed the faithful. Where would that leave you?

Rachael's sermon is based on the Gospel of John, chapter 9, the story of Jesus healing a man who was born blind and the criticism Jesus receives from the Pharisees.

Celebration Singers Offertory Anthem: Climbin' Up The Mountain. Senior Choir Communion Anthem — Death Shall Not Destroy My Comfort Hymns: “My Hope Is Based On Nothing Less”; “Bread of the World, in Mercy Broken”; and a hymn with an Urdu (Pakistani) melody, “Jesus the Christ Says.”

Second Hour—Taking First Church On The Road As part of First Church outreach, we'll discuss ways to get ourselves and our spiritual life and message out into the community. Our Congo Bongo Committee (for attraction and growth) proposes a collaborative "Salon" with The Buttonwood Tree. Come hear more and add your input and support to develop this vision.

Rockfall Foundation Open House

We're in Bloom!

Please Join Us to Celebrate

The Rockfall Foundation

Members and Friends
Spring Open House
& Reception

blooms2April 7, 2011

5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

deKoven House Community Center, Middletown

We've rescheduled from this winter and hope you can, too.

Please come visit the deKoven HouseCommunity Center to meet Rockfall's new Executive Director,

Claire Rusowicz.

There will be light refreshments, time to mingle with the foundation's Board and members, and the opportunity to learn more about what the foundation plans for the months ahead. If you haven't visited the deKoven House before, this open house will be a great time for an informal tour.CER.2010

No reservations required but R.S.V.P.s (for those who know they will be dropping by) are appreciated.Please contact Lisa Brown, or call the office (860)347-0340.

(Any schedule changes will be posted on the front page of the foundation's website by 2:00 pm on the 7th. )

deKoven House Community Center

27 Washington Street
Middletown CT 06457


For directions to the Community Center: visit our website , and click on the deKoven House page.

There is some parking in the Center lot (very limited) and at the new City lot next door .

Questions? Please call The Rockfall Foundation office (860)347-0340 or

The Rockfall Foundation
deKoven House Community Center
27 Washington Street, Middletown CT 06457 (860)347-0340

Greening and Growing Middlesex County for 75 Years

Design Review and Preservation Board Views Lighted Sign Sample

The Board charged with providing advice to Planning and Zoning about the design of signs and other traits which define our city visited The Galleria on Middle Street yesterday. The fieldtrip was to view a small sample L.E.D. sign, as part of their deliberations on a proposal for a 300 square feet illuminated sign on this property, facing I91 near the Country Club Road exit.
Gerry Martorelli, owner of The Galleria, told the DRPB that financial hardship necessitated the sign to pull motorists into his business. Martorelli arranged for Bill Smiley to be on site with a 3' X 8' version of the L.E.D. sign. Sign salesman Smiley cited 70,000 single cars that drive by the site on I91 every day, touting the benefits that such signs bring to retail businesses.

The sign would replace a current sign adjacent to the Country Club Road exit sign on I91.

Lesser Hails Bill On Domestic Violence

The Judiciary Committee of the State Legislature held a public hearing yesterday on a bill which would protect teen violence victims, strengthen restraining orders, and tighten the requirements for bail bonding. Matt Lesser, representing Middlefield, Durham, and parts of Middletown in the Legislature, is one of three sponsors of the bill.

Lesser said, “This proposal is based on listening to victims of domestic violence, prosecutors, and judges and I believe this will have a real impact on reducing the incidence of domestic violence in our towns.”

The bill implements the recommendations of a bipartisan legislative task force to formulate Connecticut’s response to domestic violence. Lesser praised Durham Second Selectman John Szewczyk, who ran against Lesser in the 2010 election, for his testimony in the public hearing, “I was impressed with John’s testimony and appreciate his support for these reforms.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Voices United to Support Japan Disaster Relief

Celebration of the Arts

Come celebrate Arts Advocacy Day on Monday April 4 at 5:30 p.m. in The Shadow Room, 170 Main St.

This year, the MCA honors composer/performer/educator Neely Bruce (pictured left) and the Mayor's Ball Committee. Professor Bruce, a member of the Wesleyan faculty for over 3 decades, has a CV the length (and breadth) of Middletown's Main Street, producing operas, concerti, song cycles, chamber works and more.  I vividly remembering standing on the New Haven Green for the world premiere of his "Convergence", an event that took place in June 2000 as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.  The composition is described thusly: "a series of three composed parades with auxiliary musical events of a stationary nature, is scored for multiple marching bands, multiple choruses, three or more organs, fife and drum corps, bagpipes, two orchestras, jazz band, West African drumming ensemble, Native American ensemble, Javanese gamelan, West Indian steel drums, and two solo trumpets."Over the past decade, Bruce has presented the entire song cycle of Charles Ives in various venues, a musical presentation that opened the eyes, ears and minds of many who believed that Ives' work was largely unapproachable.

The Mayor's Ball Committee, chaired this year by Town Clerk Sandra Russo-Driska and City Treasurer Christine Bourne, is one of the few gatherings of Republicans and Democrats in Middletown that seems apolitical - you can read Jen Alexander's account of the 2011 event, held to support Oddfellows Playhouse, by clicking here. 2011 was the 6th year that the event has been held and previous recipients include ART FARM, Middletown High Goes to The Symphony and The Middletown Commission on the Arts.  

The event, sponsored by the City of Middletown Commission on the Arts, is free and open to the public. For more information, call 860-343-6620, extension 201.  

To fond out more about The Shadow Room, go to

First Church Auction Raises Dollars, Lifts Spirits

First Church Annual Auction Fun-for-All

Fun is one of those things that just can't be measured. But it certainly can be felt. And Fun was abundantly evident at the First Church Annual Award-Winning Auction last Sunday!

Highlights included a return of a winsome three-some, auctioneer Greg (Bluelocks) Brooks, and his crack team Curt Weybright, and Chuck Bates (holdng paddle--all shown in photo at left); the angelic Sara Crabtree (far left), whose Dad Steve was this year's Auction Chair; countless bidders and donors; and Super-Chefs MaryLou Brady and Debbie Purvis (see photo below).

Auction items included numerous trips and getaways; hand-crafted items and special-order knits; culinary delights of every description, including MaryLou's world-famous lasagne; and many other things.

Spring Music Celebration on Sunday

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jonah Center and Chamber of Commerce Take Opposing Views On Haddam Land Swap

The Jonah Center has called on its members and allies to oppose the transfer of 17 acres of open space in Haddam from the State Department of Environmental Protection to private commercial developers. This stand is in direct opposition to the position taken by Larry McHugh, of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, who has urged lawmakers to support the transfer.

The State acquired 17.4 acres of open space on the banks of the Connecticut River in Haddam for $1.4M. The deed for the land reads in part, “hereinafter described premises, being located on the Connecticut River, a prime natural feature of the Connecticut landscape, has high priority recreation, fishery, and conservation value, and is consistent with the state comprehensive plan for outdoor recreation and the state plan of conservation and development and should be retained in its natural scenic or open condition as park or public open space.”

The developers of the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station, a banquet facility, wish to trade 87 acres of land bordering the Cockaponset State Forest for this preserved open space. Their forest land was purchased for $428,000.

Mayor Proclaims March 30 Greg Sneed Day

Monday, March 28, 2011

Becoming Home

Playwright-actress-educator Janis Astor del Valle (pictured left) returns to Middletown this Friday night to perform her latest play, "Becoming Joaquin", at 8 p.m. in the Performance Space of the Green Street Arts Center.  It's a homecoming of sorts in that Ms. Astor del Valle served as the Executive Director of Green Street for several years before leaving to concentrate on her theatrical endeavors.  

You may remember "Trans-Plantations", her autobiographical one-woman show she performed here in 2008. Her new one-woman play tells the story of a transgendered Latino and coming to grips with his sexuality.  Ms. Astor del Valle plays the title role as well as the girlfriend and family members.  Through the characters, the playwright talks and teaches about confusion, realization, acceptance and rejection as well as the conditions people often place on love.  The play, directed by Middletown resident Carolyn Kirsch, is being presented as part of Green Street's "Queer Art Series."  To find out more, go to  To make a reservation, call 860-685-7871.  For more information about the playwright/performer, go to

Wildlife Photo Of The Week

Jason Neely took the above photo in his Middletown backyard. He says it is a Sharp-shinned hawk carrying off a Northern Flicker which it had recently killed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Around the Garden

Maybe because my daughter was born on March 28, this impatience for springtime always makes me think of the last weeks of pregnancy. Nature seems expectant, but it’s hard to know from day to day what might arrive in the cabbage patch.

Earlier in the week, light snow accumulated, and the crocuses closed up tightly; the snowdrops demurely drooped their heads. Garden experts claim that a snowdrop loves a cold winter, but this one doesn’t look exactly ecstatic.

Today, the sun is bright, but there is a stiff wind and no warmth in the air. It’s a good day to take a quick turn around the garden, and appreciate what there is to see. Trees and shrubs show off their architecture before the leaves distract our eye.

A lovely slanting light illuminates the rough red bark of the Dawn redwood (Metasequioa glyptostroboides). This tree was once thought extinct, but was found in China around 1946. It’s our only hardy relative of the giant sequoias that grow on the west coast, and has the distinction of being a non-evergreen conifer.

The shrubby Japanese summersweet (Clethra barbinervis) will justify its name come August, but right now it offers up its thin peeling bark, a chalky white that looks eerie as the afternoon sun fades.

Much too close together for good gardening standards (mine is the garden of a whimsical experimenter) is a pair of American elms that I grew from seed. Elms have distinctive rough leaves, like a three-day stubble. Rougher still, the dark gray bark conjures up snakeskin.

More arrested growth lies out there – fat magnolia buds, the daffodil shoots, a patch or two of hardy geraniums – all waiting for a week of warmer days. For now, I will just marvel at nature’s variety and perseverance.

Livestock Ordinance Information Session Draws Crowd

Over 20 people came to City Hall on Friday afternoon at 3PM, to ask questions about the new livestock ordinance submitted by the Board of Health and recently enacted by the Common Council. They included sheep and cattle farmers, backyard hen enthusiasts, and others who support agriculture in the City.
Health Director Dr. Joseph Havlicek opened the proceedings by reading from a statement that was prepared for him. Public Health Educator Louis Carta read questions which had been submitted by audience members on index cards. Most of the questions were about how the enforcement of the new ordinance would impact existing farms.

Chief Sanitarian Sal Nesci explained that the Health Department would only enforce the livestock ordinance when there was a complaint, "We don't proactively go out to look for these issues."
He reassured anxious farmers that existing farms are exempt from the new ordinance, which begins by citing the Federal Right to Farm Act, and stating that "existing and future registered farms ... are exempt from this section." Sydney Mintz of the Middlesex Farm Bureau stated that the farmers appreciated the effort to exempt farms from the regulation but she said there were problems with the language in the ordinance. She pointed out that while Connecticut has a Right to Farm Act, there is no Federal equivalent. Nesci also admitted that while there were many different tax and business designations for farms, "You could have a recognized farm and not be registered at all."

When asked about the definition of a farm, Nesci said that anybody who kept livestock would be considered a farm, as long as it was done in a manner "consistent with best management practices," and as long as there was no danger to public health.
Nesci and Havlicek both pledged to work with farmers to improve the language of the ordinance, and they invited residents to attend the monthly meetings of the Board of Health, on the second Tuesday of each month.

Community Comes Out for Mayor's Ball

More than 200 people danced the night away while raising money for Oddfellows Playhouse at the Mayor's Ball on Saturday night.

Stiltwalkers and jugglers mixed with the mostly black-tie crowd at St. Clement's Castle. All the focus was on helping Oddfellows continue their good works with young people, while they recover from the loss of their costume collection in the building collapse of 505 Main on February 2nd.

Fortunately, it was a generous crowd. During a brief but hard-fought auction, bidding rose to $375 for a fanciful chocolate centerpiece, created by Tschudin Chocolates of Main Street. (The winner, Mrs. J.R. Marino, proved doubly generous when she broke up the centerpiece and passed it around to the neighboring tables.)

Caricature artist Bill Dougal had a steady stream of customers as party-goers sat for their portrait - I thought he did a nice job capturing one Middletown Eye reader in particular - that's Greg Harris on paper.

The biggest donors of the evening were undoubtedly the folks from Pratt & Whitney, who were one of the lead sponsors of the Mayor's Ball. Moved by the predicament of the youth theater, they offered a challenge of $15,000, pledging to match donations that come to the theater over the next year, up to that amount. By my unofficial count, it looked like Oddfellows was well on their way with at least $2,000 in gifts raised on the spot.

By the way, the local blosphere was well-represented at the Ball - that's Cathy Branch-Stebbins, on the right, getting a photo of the P&W sponsors and Oddfellows leadership for

Aside from doing good, the Mayor's Ball was a great party and the dance floor was packed. I personally witnessed a city director dancing (briefly) on his chair. As long as you didn't mind shouting in your neighbor's ear, it was also a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Sometimes it was both old and new - Tina (seated below) looked familiar to me, and we quickly figured out that we had been in Lamaze classes together just about 19 years ago. Small world.

More than a few in the crowd mixed their philanthropy with other hobbies, using their hand-held technology to keep tabs on the UCONN game. The victory of the home team was announced by the singer from the band "Prelude" over the intro of a song.

The co-chairs of the event, Town Clerk Sandra Russo-Driska and City Treasurer Christine Bourne, have been working on the event since last October. Sandra noted that she figured the Mayor had asked them to do the job just to prove that a Republican and a Democrat CAN work together, which got a big laugh. The Mayor's Ball had a record attendance this year, and they were able to give a $13,000 giant check to Oddfellows (that doesn't include any of the Pratt & Whitney matching gift!).

And now, a few photos for the Society Page of the Middletown Eye (with captions!):

Bobbye Knoll of the North End Action Team (and mother of expert juggler Evan Knoll) with Oddfellows Artistic Director Jeffrey Allen

Frank Kuan from Wesleyan, Lisa and Bob Santangelo (the sole attending Democratic councilman), and Mike DiPiro from Guilmartin, DiPiro, Sokolowski CPA. (That's my prankster spouse, who should know better, making bunny ears in the background.)

Middletown Mayor Seb Giuliano with Meriden Mayor Mike Rohde, who attended with his wife Nancy.

Melissa (right) and I tried to recruit Allison to write for the Eye....although readers are nice too.

Oddfellows Board President Mike Sciola and partner Frank Kuan.

A close-up of the Oddfellows-inspired centerpiece created by Tschudin Chocolates of Main Street, Middletown.