Sunday, January 27, 2019

New Circus for a Fragile Planet show premieres Saturday!

ARTFARM's Circus for a Fragile Planet is back with a brand new show which delivers a powerful package of climate science in a circus format. Professor Offli Varminhere and the Fossil Fools use comedy, acrobatics, juggling, stilting and other circus artistry to engage the audience around pressing issues facing us all today, asking questions like "what can I do to lessen the inevitable impacts of climate change on my community and the planet?" 
The 70 minute performance appeals to all ages, and the show is available to tour to schools, theaters and festivals. While the show is designed to help upper elementary and middle school students understand the causes and impacts of climate change, and what we as individuals, families, schools, communities, corporations and government can do to adapt to and mitigate these impacts, it really speaks to all of us. It is a deeply relevant performance for anyone planning to live on our planet over the next 50 years.
Performances are at 2 pm & 7 pm on Saturday, February 2 at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids, or $25 per family and may be purchased at 
Educators or PTO members interested in bringing the new Circus for a Fragile Planet  to your school should contact -- we are happy to offer you a free ticket for one of the Saturday shows.

Teen Leader Stipend applications due Monday!

Creative young people ages 14 – 20
BE HEARD             
Become a part of This Is Important!, An Ensemble-Creation Experience
We are looking for young leaders, artists and visionaries to join us in the creation of a new play with music. This will be built from the ground up by members of the company, working with Oddfellows Playhouse Artistic Director Dic Wheeler and Connecticut State Troubadour Nekita Waller.
During five Creation Workshops this winter, the Company will start by identifying the current issues (personal, social, political, societal) that have the most urgency for members of the group.  We will use writing, interviewing, improvisation, role plays, movement, song-writing and composition to develop material around these issues. This raw material will be shaped into an original play which will be performed in May on the main stage by the Oddfellows Teen Repertory Company.
10 Teen Leader Awards of $125 are available to individuals ages 15 – 20 who actively participate in all 5 Creation Workshops.

Anyone participating in the workshops is encouraged (but not required) to audition for the Spring production. 14 year olds and those not able to commit to all 5 workshops are welcome to participate, but are not eligible for stipends. Anyone ages 14 – 20 is welcome to one or all Creation Workshops and is encouraged to audition for the show!

CREATION WORKHOPS: Thursdays, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, January 31, February 7, 14, 21, & 28

Auditions: March 25 or 28, 6:30 – 8:30
Rehearsals: Mondays & Thursdays, 6:30 – 9 pm, starting April 1.
Performance dates: May 16 – 18 & 23 – 25
All events take place at Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Street, Middletown

Applications for Teen Leaders are due January 28 & available at
For more info call (860) 347-6143 or email
Made possible by a generous grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts

Friday, January 25, 2019

Loggins and Messina's Violinist Performs at The Buttonwood Tree This Weekend

The Buttonwood Tree is proud to host the acclaimed violinist, Gary Oleyar in a smooth jazz concert, Friday, January 25 at 8 pm. Seats may be reserved online here.

GARY OLEYAR has been making music since he was a young child. Inspired to pick up a guitar by Duane Allman, OLEYAR can now play “anything with strings.”

A veteran of many musical adventures, OLEYAR has toured the world playing and making music. I had the pleasure of first meeting him this past December. He was performing with the great singer/songwriter LAURA CRISCI in Asbury Park, NJ and with Bob Seger and many others.

A multi-instrumentalist, OLEYAR had just come off of a tour with Loggins and Messina. When asked about how he got that gig, he replied with a chuckle, “because I play many instruments really badly.” He then went on to explain that he was living in Nashville when he answered an open audition for a fiddle player. “There were seventy-five native fiddle players from Nashville. I was a Jersey guy. I passed the audition and, much to my surprise, I’ve been playing with them ever since.”
OLEYAR has also played with many other well-known acts. He told us the story of how he was once a player in country music star Kenny Chesney’s band. After two albums, he decided to pursue other avenues. He jokingly stated that this was a regrettable decision. “Many times I’ve kicked myself for leaving.”

Have you ever watched The Weather Channel? Well, there’s a good chance that the background music you’re hearing was done by GARY OLEYAR. OLEYAR has done an entire CD of music for the channel that is still in use today.

The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts Center is located at 605 Main Street, Middletown. There is ample, free parking behind It's Only Natural market. Refreshments, viewing of Buttonwood's Art show, the bookstore and refreshments are all open and available. Call for info: (860) 347-4957.

SATURDAY, January 26th local musician, Carolyn Brodginski offers a workshop and concert featuring handmade dulcimers. Instruments are provided for this hour-long class. Register and find out more HERE. 

Carolyn discovered the dulcimer in 1980 when she saw Sally Rogers in concert at The Sounding Board in West Hartford. An accomplished folk guitarist at the time, she just couldn’t figure out what to do with this beautiful, sweet sounding instrument with so few strings.

More than 30 years later, she found The Ct. Mountain Dulcimer Gathering in Colchester, and was shocked at how easy the instrument is to play. She has been playing ever since, and loves the many voices of the dulcimer, playing roots, blues, classical, ethnic music, lullabies, as well as the music of contemporary musicians.

Two of her own songs have been featured in Dulcimer Players News, a magazine and CD for and about dulcimer enthusiasts with an international distribution. As a performer, songwriter, teacher, and therapeutic musician, she is passionate about “spreading the dulcimer gospel”, taking great joy in introducing this beautiful original American folk instrument to others.

Beginners are welcome!
The workshop and concert are each $15, together the fee is $25.
Please register here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Urban Farming Film Growing Cities Next in Environmental Series

The next film in The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series will be Growing Cities.  The screening will be held Monday, February 4, 2019 at 7pm at Wesleyan's Center for Film Studies, 301 Washington Terrace, Middletown, CT.  Parking information and directions can be found here.  As always, the film is open to the public and free of charge.  

Growing Cities is about urban farming in America and how much power it has to revitalize our cities and change the way we eat. 

"From rooftop farmers to backyard beekeepers, Americans are growing food like never before. GROWING CITIES tells the inspiring stories of these intrepid urban farmers, innovators, and everyday city-dwellers who are challenging the way this country grows and distributes its food. From those growing food in backyards to make ends meet to educators teaching kids to eat healthier, urban farmers are harvesting a whole lot more than simply good food."
More information and a Growing Cities trailer can be found at  

Following the film, we welcome you to stay for an informal discussion led by Gabe Russo of Forest City Farms in Middletown.  

The final film in the 2018-2019 series will be: 
Anthropocene, April 1, 2019 at Middlesex Community College, Chapman Hall, about the potential of a new geological epoch coined the Anthropocene, describing a planet shaped more by mankind than by nature (

We hope you can join us for one or both of our upcoming films!  Please phone the Conservation District office for more information at 860-346-3282. 

The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series, begun in 2015, is sponsored by the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College Environmental Science Program, The Rockfall Foundation, and Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts, College of the Environment, and College of Film and the Moving Image. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Le Petit Studio with Toto Kisaku

Oddfellows Playhouse announces “Le Petit Studio”, a series of three theater workshops for ages 8 – 14 and their family members. The first workshop is Saturday, January 26, 10am to noon at Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Street in Middletown.

Each week will be a new theater experience, a new story, a new creation. Work with Congolese theater artist Toto Kisaku to create instant theater on three Saturday mornings this winter -- January 26, February 9 & February 23, 10 am to noon. Attend one Saturday, or all three. Tuition is $30 per session, or $75 for all three sessions. Financial aid is available. A unique opportunity to work together as a family on a creative project, and to join other kids and families in the process.

Toto Kisaku is a Congolese theater artist who is now a Middletown resident. His one-person show, "Requiem for an Electric Chair", was a highlight of last summer's International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven. Le Petit Studio is an exciting kid and family theater event that Toto has devised and implemented all over the country. Here is a description in his words:

What is it? Le Petit Studio is a workshop space for dramatic readings by and for children and adolescents, with optional participation by adults, including teachers, parents, and grandparents! The Petit Studio promotes a shared space where young people can experience and create around books, words, and sounds. A place to dramatize and recreate a universe that comes from writers from every part of the globe.

Why do this? Creativity is exciting, it’s exhilarating. And creating with other people brings them into our lives in a way that is empowering--the opposite of violence, which keeps others on the outside. Creating safe spaces for young people to be creators of their own lives and experiences is vital to developing the neighborhoods, the communities, the cities we dream of.

How will it happen? Imagine in 2 hours that a group of young people can recreate an entire world on stage. Imagine that they take responsibility for making artistic decisions to realize their vision and make their story come alive. First, the children choose a book or fable to dramatize. Next, they decide who will play each character, who will make sounds that will create the environment, and who will design the costumes and the set. Then the activity begins! For one hour, the young people cut, sew, paint, staple, and draw; they sing, whistle, blow, snap, stomp, and make unearthly sounds to recreate the world they’re creating; they practice voices for characters, look up how to pronounce unfamiliar words, try out various postures that fit their characters, and dig deeply into their characters—how they feel about themselves, how they feel about the other characters.

Each workshop culminates with a performance: the costume group dresses their characters, who now read their individual parts with the sound effects group adding the appropriate accompaniment. There is much laughter and enthusiastic participation as the young people experience the joy of creating together.

Toto has led more than 40 Le Petit Studio workshops for schools, nonprofit organizations and governments.
To register, or for more information, contact Oddfellows Playhouse at (860) 347-6143, email, or go to

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Dr. Bettina Love to Speak At Wesleyan Wednesday

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On Wednesday, January 23, 2019, community members will be gathering in Crowell Concert Hall for the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration ceremony. 

The event will take place from 12:15-1:15 p.m. in Crowell Concert Hall. This will be followed by a reception in Beckham Hall!

All members of the Middletown community are invited to attend! No RSVP is needed. Dr. Love is an amazing speaker and being; you can watch her TedxTalk on the relationship between hip-hop and academic success here. 

The official event page is here. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Buttonwood Tree Supports Furloughed Federal Workers

From the Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts Center.
The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts Center, in recognition of our current Government shut-down, is extending an open invitation to all Federal employees on furlough to attend the Center's events free of charge.

These are stressful times. Music, fellowship and laughter are important ways to balance our emotions and find inner peace. The Buttonwood Tree recognizes the importance of the Arts to maintain a healthy mental state, a positive outlook and to enable us to find creative solutions, especially important in these most-challenging days. We must come together in solidarity, as brothers and sisters, offering what we have to help each other, so we can all be our best selves and rise above the obstacles in our way.

Furloughed federal employees need only call us to reserve seats at (860) 347-4957.
Peace and creativity flourish at the vibrant Arts Center.
Here the granddaughter of the artist smiles proudly
to be part of Goodness created at The Buttonwood Tree.

Already board members of The Buttonwood Tree have stepped up to cover the fees for attending Federal workers. If you wish to contribute, simply contact us. We thank you in advance!

The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts Center is located at 605 Main Street, Middletown, CT. Find out more at, on Facebook @buttonwoodtree or email us.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Russell Library presents Nekita Waller in Concert

Nekita Waller will perform at Russell Library
on Thursday, January 24 at 7:00pm

On Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 7:00pm, our new state troubadour, Nekita Waller, and a five piece band will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Songs include inspirational pieces in a classic soul style. During the evening, actor Michael Scott will also present a reading of a piece by MLK.

A Middletown native, Nekita Waller won an award for singing at the Buttonwood Tree when she was just ten years old. Part of her mission as Connecticut State Troubadour is to connect with and inspire children to find their own voices. She is currently working with Oddfellows Playhouse to develop a show with their Teen Repertory Company for spring of 2019. She also is hosting their Teen Talent Search on January 19th for 12-19 year olds.

Nekita performs throughout the region bringing a mix of pop, Motown, soul, Jazz and classic rock favorites with original music. She is the first non-folk musician to be appointed as the Connecticut State Troubadour.

This concert is sponsored by the Friends of the Russell Library. Like all programs at the library, it is free and open to all.

Wesleyan’s Sustainability Action Plan Progress Report Features Impact on Local Community

Wesleyan’s Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), developed in 2016, is a five-year plan that reflects Wesleyan’s commitment to a sustainable future. Written with input from more than 130 students, faculty, and staff, the plan establishes goals, objectives, strategies, timelines, metrics, and responsible parties in topic areas.
In November, Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office released its first Sustainability Action Plan Progress Report. This report highlights progress made toward SAP strategies between 2016 and 2018 in the areas of planning, engagement, health and well-being, academic operations, curriculum, buildings, dining, energy, grounds, purchasing, transportation, waste, and water. The report also outlines Wesleyan’s vision for 2021 and summarizes overall progress.
“The Wesleyan community should be extremely proud of what sustainability measures we’ve accomplished in only two years,” said Jen Kleindienst, sustainability director. “The Progress Report highlights our success and it’s meant to acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments that contribute to a more sustainable campus and community.”
Some of the report’s highlights that impact our greater Middletown community are below:

  • Photo from Long Lane Farm's annual Pumpkin Fest which is free and open to the public

    A student-run organic farm on Long Lane grows produce for local food pantries and soup kitchens as well as the North End Farmers Market, and helps families with children on free or reduced-price lunches through a summer program on farming and food.
  • The Waste Not program collects gently-used items during student move-out to donate to local social good organizations and to sell at a large tag sale. Since 2009, over $34,000 in proceeds has been donated to local organizations and Financial Aid.
  • Food Rescue and composting efforts helped divert 111 tons of food waste through donations to the Eddy Shelter and composting.
  • Four solar photovoltaic installations on campus add renewable energy to New England’s grid and prepare Wesleyan for long-term carbon neutrality.
  • Local, owner-operated vendors and farmers provide at least 20% of ingredients to Bon App├ętit, Wesleyan’s dining service, fulfilling Wesleyan’s 2012 commitment to purchase local and organic foods through the Real Food Challenge.
  • In 2018, Wesleyan joined with the City of Middletown, Middlesex Community College, and Middlesex Hospital to design and print citywide recycling signage.  Signs are now on all partner trash and recycling bins, as well as those at City schools, parks, and individual residential and commercial bins. 
  • Wesleyan student Ingrid Eck ’19 worked with the City of Middletown in summer and fall 2018 to assist in pursuit of Sustainable CT certification.  Sustainable CT is a statewide program recognizing municipalities that meet holistic sustainability criteria; Middletown received Bronze certification in October 2018.  A full-time summer fellow will continue this work in 2019. 
View the entire report online here. More information on sustainability at Wesleyan is online here.

Monday, January 14, 2019

City to Unveil New Tool For Achieving 100% Renewable Energy

From Michael Harris, City Energy Coordinator.
The Middletown Clean Energy Task Force (CETF) has brought forward a powerful planning tool for the City with regard to meeting our energy needs in the future through 100% renewable energy.

An introduction and overview of the program is planned by CETF for February 6 at our regularly scheduled monthly meeting. The meeting  will host Bernard Pelletier, the statewide coordinator for the program. Mr. Pelletier will provide an overview of the program to the task force and members of the public. All are welcome.

The 100% program is a long-term, strategic planning tool for understanding energy use within city boundaries (not just municipal, but all residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and transportation energy use) for the purpose of beginning the planning process for meeting this energy use with 100% renewable energy.

The CETF is actively seeking additional team members for this effort.

More information.

Friday, January 11, 2019

No More Motorcycle Mania

Chamber of Commerce President Larry McHugh, and Mayor Dan Drew announced today that the city will no longer host Motorcycle Mania.

The event, with thousands of motorcycles parked on Main and surrounding streets, was a popular event for pedestrians to enjoy a summer evening stroll. It was not as popular for residents throughout town who from late afternoon through dusk were slammed by the thunder of exhaust pipes.

Drew and McHugh wrote, "The event ... has grown so large that the cost of providing security has grown to an unsustainable level."

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Eco-Boardgame Night (Round Two!)--1/25 from 6-10pm

There are lots of great eco-themed boardgames out there. On Friday January 25th, The Rockfall Foundation will host its second Eco-Boardgame Night in the large meeting room at the deKoven House. Try to save the world, green your power supply, grow some trees, identify some wild edibles, or just make some risque green jokes.

Included will be Catan’s latest eco-expansion: Crop Trust. Can you settle Catan without threatening your food supply? And save seeds to preserve their diversity for their future?

Drinks and snacks will be served! Game Night starts at 6pm and runs until 10pm. 

The deKoven House is located at 27 Washington Street in Middletown.

Some of the games available are listed below. If you have other game ideas please let Erik know at!

Thanks to the Board Room for sharing some games to expand out our play list!

Last chance to register for winter youth theater programs

Oddfellows Playhouse winter programs for young people start up this week and next, and Friday, January 11 is the deadline to register for the Oddbridge After-School Program for Middletown Public School students ages 6 - 14. Arts classes begin January 14 and registration for these classes will remain open through January 18 or until an individual class has reached its maximum enrollment.

Highlights/Last Chance:
The Servant of Two Masters Junior Rep Mainstage production (ages 12 - 14) has auditions Thursday, January 10, 4:30- 6 pm. Rehearsals are Tues/Thurs, 4:30 - 6 starting Jan. 15.

Circus Botanicus is a mainstage circus-theater production for ages 12 -19. Rehearsals are Tues/Wed, 6 - 9 pm starting January 22.

After-School classes for ages 6 - 14 start January 14. Classes include Scene Study, Stories from the Middle East, Clowning & Slapstick, Musical Mentoring, Visual Arts, Circus, and a Mini-production for ages 9 - 11 called Fairytale Fantasy. Most classes meet one afternoon per week, 4:30 - 5:30 pm. There is also an Improv Jam for ages 11 - 14 on Saturdays from 10 - 11:15 am.

Oddbridge is an arts-based program which provides a snack, arts-based activities and homework help to Middletown kids from 3:30 - 4:30 pm, when classes start. Participants can take a bus right from their school to Oddfellows. Registration for this program closes January 11. Oddbridge participants must also be registered for a 4:30 - 5:30 class on the days that they do Oddbridge.

Middletown Teen Talent Search is January 19 and is open to kids ages 12 - 19 from Middletown & surrounding towns. $500 & $250 cash prizes for the top acts. Registration deadline is January 17.

This Is Important: An Ensemble-Creation Experience is an opportunity for kids ages 14 - 20 to work with Playhouse Artistic Director Dic Wheeler and State Troubadour Nekita Waller to create original theater and music around issues of importance to the participants. Creation sessions start January 31 and will be Thursdays, 6:30 - 8:30 pm, through February 28. Stipends available for participants who commit to the 5 weeks of creation, which will lead to an original mainstage play with music to be performed in May.

Le Petit Studio is a unique opportunity for kids ages 8 - 14 and family members to work with Congolese theater artist Toto Kisaku to create instant theater pieces. Saturdays, 10 am - noon, January 26, February 9 & February 23. Sign up for one or all three!

Phew! That's a lot of stuff. For more details, prices, and to register, call (860) 347-6143, email, or go to Financial Aid is available for all programs.

St. Vincent de Paul To Be Awarded Green Street School

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Mayor Dan Drew released on Facebook a letter announcing that he has selected St. Vincent DePaul as the new owner of the Green Street building that most recently housed the Green Street Arts Center. St. Vincent DePaul won out over a proposal from the Community Health Center and from a coalition of volunteers looking to develop the Middletown Community Green Center.

St. Vincent DePaul will use it to expand the services that it provides to less fortunate members of our community, these services include not only food but also a variety of housing, counseling, and training.  Its acquisition of the building is contingent on the sale of its Main Street property for use by a business consistent with the city's plan for Main Street.

The three proposals were vetted by the Economic Development Commission, but the decision was ultimately the mayor's to make.

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Drew praised the work of the CHC, he noted that this building was not necessary for its growth, the city would be happy to work with it to ensure its continued success.

Drew criticized the application of the Middletown Community Green Center on procedural and substantive grounds. He said that the organization was not legally incorporated and it presumed to have access to federal grants which are committed to other uses by another organization. He also damned the applicant for not showing it is a "collaborative member of the community".

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wesleyan's MLK Commemoration, What Came Before & After King: Abolitionist Teaching & Life

Please join us on Wesleyan's campus to honor the civil rights legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at this year’s MLK Commemoration, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Bettina Love, award-winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. Dr. Love is one of the field’s most esteemed educational researchers in the area of Hip Hop education and is the author of the book We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom (Beacon Press). 
Her research focuses on the ways in which urban youth negotiate Hip Hop music and culture to form social, cultural, and political identities to create new and sustaining ways of thinking about urban education and intersectional social justice. Her work is also concerned with how teachers and schools working with parents and communities can build communal, civically engaged schools rooted in intersectional social justice for the goal of equitable classrooms.  For her work in the field, in 2016, Dr. Love was named the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. She is also the creator of the Hip Hop civics curriculum GET FREE and in 2018, Georgia’s House of Representatives presented Dr. Love with a resolution for her impact on the field of education.
Dr. Love's talk is entitled “What Came Before & After King:  Abolitionist Teaching & Life," and will focus on the struggles and the possibilities of committing ourselves to an abolitionist goal of educational freedom, as opposed to reform, and moving beyond what she calls the educational survival complex. Abolitionist Teaching is built on the creativity, imagination, boldness, ingenuity, and rebellious spirit and methods of abolitionists to demand and fight for an educational system where all students are thriving, not simply surviving.

This event is free and open to the public.  

Event details

Wednesday, January 23
12:15-1:15 p.m. ~ Keynote in Crowell Concert Hall
Reception to follow in Beckham Hall

Wesleyan University (directions)
50 Wyllys Avenue
Middletown, CT 06459

Learn more here: 


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Scholarship Opportunity for Student Environmental Leaders

The Rockfall Foundation Now Accepting Applications

Applications are now being accepted for the Virginia R. Rollefson Environmental Leadership Scholarship, a $1,000 award to recognize leadership and initiative by a high school junior or senior residing in Middlesex County, Lyme, or Old Lyme for participation in a program, project, or activity that benefits preservation, conservation, restoration or environmental education. The scholarship is presented by The Rockfall Foundation and applications must be submitted by March 1st. The scholarship is named in honor of former Executive Director of The Rockfall Foundation, Virginia R. “Ginny” Rollefson, who retired in 2010 after 24 years with the Foundation. The award honors her long service to the Foundation, her enthusiasm, and her belief that we all benefit when young people are actively engaged in making their communities a better place to live. For a copy of the application and more information, visit or call 860-347-0340.

Founded in 1935 by Middletown philanthropist Clarence S. Wadsworth, The Rockfall Foundation is one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations. The Foundation supports environmental education, conservation and planning initiatives in the Lower Connecticut River Valley through public programs and grants.  In addition, the Rockfall Foundation operates the historic deKoven House Community Center that offers meeting and event room rentals and office space for non-profit organizations. For additional information about the Virginia R. Rollefson Environmental Leadership Scholarship or The Rockfall Foundation, please visit or call 860-347-0340.