IN oRBit: RUSTED, AND NEVER SLEEPING

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Here at satellite site Red Bank oRBit, we can vouch that what used to be considered the iron curtain of Labor Day has become as threadbare a concept as the fall TV season — an idea that’s pretty close to meaningless when you consider how packed with stuff these post-Labor weekends have become down the Shore.

Weather permitting, we’re staring down a weekend of street fairs and open-air art fests; of grand opera festivals and skimboard competitions, triathlons and multimedia lectures, flea markets and charity walks and doggie fashion shows and even a late-night, large group nude photo shoot. All this plus the return of the Red Bank Town-Wide Yard Sale — and we’ve got the goods on all of these goings-on, broken down into the categories of “PLEIN AIR,” “PLAYIN’ OUR SONG” and “PLAIN WEIRD.”

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IN oRBit: BODACIOUS BIVALVES, RIVER READS

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Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit has the update on a couple of quirky local events — one of them on the move, and the other staying right where it’s been for the 15th straight year.

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There’s the newly rechristened River Read Series, a wordy-wise monthly event here in Red Bank that was launched by poet/ merchant marine John Petrolino (right) with the idea of mixing local literary talent with guest authors from around the region. It’s already outgrown its intimate berth at Frank Talk Art Bistro, and, as we report, it’ll be finding safe harbor a few blocks east at The Dublin House — where this weekend’s event will showcase an all-new vibe featuring plenty of room, access to one of the writer community’s favorite pubs, and no cover charge.

We’ll also take you over to Highlands, where the bayside borough is gearing up for the 2009 edition of Clamfest, the four-day festival that celebrates those most bodacious of bivalves in all its steamed, stripped, chowdered, chilled, frittered and fried glory. We’ll run down what’s new (a fancy Wine Bar), what’s back (the Olympic-level shucking competition) and what’s different — such as the All You Can Eat Clam Contest, which in what is perhaps a sign of the times, is now the Most You Can Eat Contest.

It’s all here, served up by the bucket with a little drawn butter and a towelette, in Red Bank oRBit!

COFFEE, ANYONE? LIBRARY 2ND FL. TO OPEN

RbplstairsFor decades, this is what library patrons curious about the upper floors have encountered.

In what were once the demurely separate bedrooms of Mr. & Mrs. Sigmund Eisner, the Red Bank Public Library last year created two new second-floor reading rooms as part of a $1.6 million renovation project.

The idea was to open up for regular use parts of the former Eisner mansion that hadn’t been seen by the public in decades, if ever.

Most notable was the first-floor Eisner Family New Jersey room, a shrine of sorts to

Teutonic taste. But the spacious upstairs East and West reading rooms have remained off-limits, except to the occasional library patron searching for one of the volumes shelved in them.

Those patron have had to be accompanied by a library staffer. Idle browsing was discouraged. Beautiful tables and enticing chairs went unused.

That’s about to change, thanks to pressure from some new members of the library board.

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IN oRBit: A HOMECOMING FOR ‘THE BOSS’

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The Boss of Bards, that is — poet, critic, translator, essayist,
educator and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, whose international
renown and Shore-guy cred surely make him the Springsteen of verse.

(None of which begins to address that time he guest-starred on The Simpsons.)

Pinsky will be making a Visiting Writers appearance this week at Monmouth
University, and Red Bank oRBit is there to get the scoop. The
Pulitzer-nominated author has a new book forthcoming, and from the preview
he gave us it should be of interest to anyone who’s ever lived (or loved to
spend time) in his hometown of Long Branch.

Read the exclusive interview and get the details on Thursday’s appearance only
— and we mean ONLY — in Red Bank oRBit!

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IN oRBit: ASK THE ANGELS, IN ASBURY

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PattiSmithToday’s Red Bank oRBit takes it down to the Asbury Park Boardwalk, where a special
screening of the documentary ‘Dream of Life‘ brings Patti Smith to the stage of the Paramount Theater.

There, the punk poet,
rock icon and subject of the film will be taking questions from the audience. 

Also expected is Steven Sebring, the famed fashion
photographer who directed the project.

Sebring spoke to oRBit on the topic
of Smith, and we’ve got that right here for the price of a single click.

All that, plus the weekend’s music, theater, comedy and more — only in Red Bank oRBit.

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IN oRBit: TRI-VERSIFICATION

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Where do you go to track the movements of your favorite superstar poets?
Why, Red Bank oRBit, natch.

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Today on our sib site for arts and entertainment info, you’ll find a
mention of Maya Angelou and her lecture appearance this Wednesday at
Brookdale Community College — an event that is, sorry to say, completely
sold out.

But there’s still time to catch Monmouth County’s own Robert Pinsky — the acclaimed former Poet Laureate of the nation — in an upcoming
appearance at Monmouth University.

You’ll also find an update on some new
projects and upcoming local appearances by Rock Wilk, the subway-haunting
street poet and multimedia musician we introduced you to last summer.

Only in oRBit, verse fans, only in oRBit

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IN oRBit: A TOWN LOUSY WITH SCROOGES

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To be sure, his annual arrival on the cultural scene is as reliable as the post-Thanksgiving markdown. But rarely have we seen old Ebenezer Scrooge quite so ubiquitous.

The next few days will see not one, not two, but three different theatrical takes on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol — each radically different from the others, and all of them in Asbury Park.

Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit drops in for a peek at each, including a one-man effort starring Greg Oliver Bodine, above, and the ReVision Theatre Company’s ‘Scooge in Rouge,’ which features co-authored by a seven-foot-tall drag performer who goes by the name Varla Jean Merman.

You can’t make this stuff up, and you’ll find it only at Red Bank oRBit.

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LITTLE SILVER COPS: GUN FOUND IN CAR

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Six days after police in Little Silver arrested a Red Bank man on drug possession charges, they arrested him again Wednesday after finding a loaded pistol and holl-point bullets in his impounded car, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

From the article:

Around 2:25 a.m. Oct. 30, Officer Michael Lahey stopped a BMW on Fox Hill Drive for a motor vehicle violation, Police Chief Shannon Giblin said.

The driver, Kareem J. Smith, 19, of Red Bank, was charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance, believed to be cocaine, the chief said. Smith also was issued motor vehicle summonses, police said.

He was released from the Monmouth County Jail, Freehold Township, after posting bail set at $15,000.

Police impounded the BMW, and after further investigation by Lahey and Sgt. Daniel Shaffery, they searched the car and found a loaded .357 Magnum revolver inside, Giblin said.

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IN oRBit: FRANK TALK AND COFFEE

Rogers_gilda2Gilda Rogers in her new coffeehouse/bookstore on Shrewsbury Avenue.

Gilda Rogers wants to get conversations started — real conversations, about politics, race, sexuality, whatever it is that divides people.

So she’s started a new bookstore called Frank Talk Art Bistro & Books on Red Bank’s West Side to provide the forum.

Read all about her venture in today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit.

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BARBEAU VAMPS HER NECK-NIBBLER NOVEL

Barbeaubillybooks_2Adrienne Barbeau, pictured with hubby Billy Van Zandt and her books. The famed “scream queen” turned horror author will appear at a local signing on Thursday.

By TOM CHESEK

As the archetypal fox of the drive-in and the video store, Adrienne Barbeau has shared the frame with some of the scariest co-stars of the past 30 years — from the briny boogeymen of 1978’s The Fog and the mutated menaces of Swamp Thing, to “Fluffy” in Creepshow — and even Bea Arthur, with whom she made her Broadway debut in the 1971 Fiddler on the Roof.

Just a few years after leaving a career as a go-go dancer in various Jersey badda-bings, the California native with the exotic gypsy-princess looks would go on to a long run as Arthur’s divorcee daughter in the 1970s sitcom Maude, but not before scoring a Tony nomination as the original (and, it’s said, definitive) Rizzo in Grease. She’s quick to point out that she won The Cannonball Run in 1981, and that she was one of the top players on The $20,000 Pyramid, but underlying all the cheese is a hard-earned sense of accomplishment at having navigated a “B-movie” career in the Age of Irony — something she’s done with grace, intelligence, humor and an appealingly brassy pin-up quality that somehow never goes out of style.

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ASTIN FAMILY VALUES IN HOLMDEL

Astin3_3John Astin, haunted by his famously macabre characterizations Gomez Addams and Edgar Allan Poe. The actor visits the area this week for a pair of special appearances. (Recent photo by David Colwell)

By TOM CHESEK

Who wouldn’t want to be Gomez Addams? Always looking your best, never bored, never having to work. Living a life centered around romance and hobbies in a houseful of strange creatures, explosives and drawers full of cash.

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As personified by John Astin in the classic 1960s sitcom The Addams Family, Gomez was a virile lover of both life and death — unflappable, full of savoir faire (Tish! You spoke French!), and a far different character than the sketchy, nameless little figure who appeared in the panel cartoons by Charles Addams. His performance was in fact the template for all Addams projects to follow — and it takes its rightful place in the canon of crazies from the never-duplicated universe of 1960s TV. It’s ight up there with Barney Fife, Granny Clampett, Batman, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.

With the old black-and-white episodes forever in reruns, Astin has lived the blessed/cursed existence of the actor who’s eternally pegged to a single gig, prosecuting a career that’s swung wildly from serious theater to such camp/cult touchstones as the Killer Tomatoes movies and his recurring role as Harry Anderson’s dotty dad on Night Court. There was also a 12-year marriage to fellow ’60s sitcom icon Patty Duke (Sean Astin of Lord of the Rings is his adopted son) and, beginning in the ’90s, a new career as a respected member of academia.

As director for the program in theatre arts and studies at Johns Hopkins University, Astin is largely responsible for a resurgence in the school’s performing arts. He’s further distinguished himself as a lecturer on literature, with a particular specialty in the life and works of one Edgar Allan Poe. He’s written a highly regarded essay on Poe’s little-known (but positively mindblowing) piece Eureka, and he’s toured the continent as the master of the macabre himself, with the one-man show Once Upon a Midnight — a presentation he’s brought to Monmouth University and to Holmdel in recent years.

Astin returns to the Holmdel Theatre Company‘s charming, comfortable and criminally underutilized Duncan Smith Playhouse — just minutes from Red Bank on Crawfords Corner Road, adjacent to Holmdel High School — for two very special personal appearances this weekend. Entitled An Evening with John Astin, it’s a program of “readings, storytelling, anecdotes and reflections on acting” that’s been custom-designed specifically for this occasion: as a benefit for the Holmdel troupe and its education and community programs.

The oRBit desk at redbankgreen caught up with the dynamic 78-year-old a few nights back for a lengthy discussion that touched upon topics ranging from presidential politics and the Stanislavsky Method to the art of slapstick and the proper way to jump off a horse.

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RECHNITZ ON MEMORY AND ‘MENAGERIE’

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By TOM CHESEK

“I first saw this play when I was 16 years old. It’s what ruined my life!”

The speaker? Robert Rechnitz, retired educator, author and founder of Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company. The show in question? The Glass Menagerie, the classic “memory play” by Tennessee Williams that’s undergoing a major revival at the company’s eponymous playhouse on Bridge Avenue beginning next week.

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Memory, of course, can be a tricky thing, but for the 77-year-old Rechnitz, the vivid recollection of that 1946 touring production one-nighter in Denver was a “eureka” moment that’s stayed with him through his life.

It’s what set the young son of Pueblo, Colorado on a course toward a career in the theater — not as a matinee idol, but as a teacher, a writer, a director and, ultimately, a man who was able to stand before an opening night audience in 2005 and welcome them to an all new, custom-built performing arts auditorium named for his wife Joan and himself.

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TOP THAT: ‘MACBETH” BOOSTS TRTC PROFILE

BusesAmong the records broken at the Two River Theater in its smash ‘Macbeth’ run: most students attending one of its plays.

Not in the legions
Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn’d
In evils to top Macbeth.

Well, yeah, as characters go, he is a bit of a homicidal beast. But as a stage production, Shakespeare’s bloodsoaked ‘Macbeth‘ has proven quite the charmer for the Two River Theater Company.

First, there’ve been the fannies in the seats. Final figures aren’t in yet, but theater officials confirm the show, which closes Sunday after an extended run, topped all prior ones in the company’s 14-year history.

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Then there’s the unprecedented attention the show has drawn, mainly thanks to the integration of dazzling magic by Teller, of Penn & Teller fame. National Public Radio did a piece on the production. The Washington Post ran a feature hat was picked up by newspapers across the U.S. The Wall Street Journal called for the show to move on to New York, “which as you can imagine is a regional theater’s dream,” said company founder and executive producer Robert Rechnitz.

And finally, there’s the buzz among patrons and potential converts. Right up until the last, callers have been clamoring for tickets. We’ve even heard that some of the ‘Macbeth’ banners hung from streetlamps around the Red Bank theater got swiped as souvenirs.

It would seem, for this little regional company, that it can’t get much better. But ask managing director Guy Gsell how the TRTC will top itself, and he calmly draws a gradually rising line in the air.

“We’re just hitting our stride,” he says.

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TWO JAKES, A JACK, AND SHAKESPEARE

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By TOM CHESEK

It’s not uncommon for a stage troupe to throw some local kids in with a cast of more seasoned professionals whenever the script calls for a couple of young performers.

The more hometown kids in the show, the logic goes, the more family members buy up whole blocks of tickets. Witness all those revivals of “Annie” and “The Sound of Music” teeming with cherubic little faces.

But when the script is Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and the producers have promised a horror show in so many words, all that onstage make-believe can turn deadly serious.

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In the Bard’s blood-soaked tragedy of murderous ambition, the character of Young Macduff is part of a bloodline whose very existence threatens the regal destiny of the increasingly unbalanced Macbeth. So the monarch sends a pair of assassins to do away with the entire Macduff household.

In the violent, effects-laden version now onstage at Two River Theater Co., the boy is viciously dispatched in plain view by a hulking thug, who then drags the kid offstage as the last embers of a too-short life fade from the child’s limp form.

Not exactly an assignment for just any after-school amateur.

And so, as they’ve done whenever the situation called for a young man of pre-teen age and grown-up chops, the folks at the Two River called on The Two Jakes.

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NYT ON ‘MACBETH:’ GORY, ITCHY & QUICK

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A review in today’s Jersey section of the New York Times of the Two River Theater Co.’sMacbeth‘ takes note of the over-the-top spillage of blood.

It’s a production, writes reviewer Naomi Siegel, that “oozes, drips and squirts forth a river of crimson horror.”

From the review:
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This must be fun, one presumes, for the large and talented cast melodramatically sporting the ketchup-colored goop, but how about the backstage minions who have to make stage, costumes and actors pristine before the next blood bath?

Taking its cue from the Grand Guignol tradition and with magic tricks courtesy of Teller, the play, co-produced with the Folger Theater in Washington, revels in the ghoulish and the bizarre. When one of the Weird Sisters is run through with a sword, the body disappears into thin air. Lady Macbeth, in her sleepwalking scene, bloodies herself with a mere swipe of her hand.

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OPEN BOOK ON WEST FRONT

Img_2557Back in business.

The hours of operation are, for now, limited — 1 to 5p, Monday through Saturday.

There are still lots of loose ends for the staff to attend to as they relocate from temporary facility two doors away. The old Eisner family living room, a baronial space that will house the New Jersey collection, is still off-limits as it gets unpacked and shelved.

But months late, the Red Bank Public Library reopened this afternoon after a 16-month, $1.6 million renovation. And within minutes of the doors opening, the facility had drawn several dozen regulars and curious first-timers to its sweeping space overlooking the Navesink River.

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CHECK IT OUT: LIBRARY REOPENS NEXT WEEK

Img_1745A refurbished room on the second floor of the library. The room was once a bedroom in the Eisner family home.

Months overdue but not over budget, the renovated Red Bank Public Library will reopen at 1p next Tuesday, Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels said last night.

He confirmed that, as reported yesterday, the new elevator passed a state inspection Friday, and he’d signed a temporary certificate of occupancy for the facility yesterday. Only minor details need to be cleared up for the final CO to be issued, Sickels said.

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TELLER SPEAKETH, AND IT’S A BLOODY MESS

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By TOM CHESEK

It’s the local, live-theater equivalent of a blockbuster movie opening.

Illuminated by star power, ablaze with spectacular stage effects and drenched with enough hemoglobin to drown the lamps of Transylvania, “Macbeth” is coming to Red Bank. Shakespeare’s 400-year-old tragedy of murderous ambition, maddening guilt and most uncool karma begins a month-plus engagement at the thoroughly modern Two River Theater next week.


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The star power, of course, belongs to Teller — the “quieter, smaller” half of the iconically subversive Penn & Teller magic act. He co-directs the show with the Two River Theater Company’s boy-wonder artistic director Aaron Posner.

Famously a man of few public words (though he did deliver a brief monologue in the cult flick “Penn & Teller Get Killed“), Teller is passionately eloquent when it comes to the macabre “Macbeth.”

Calling this week from his digs in Las Vegas, where he’s continued his lucrative gig at the Rio in between labor-of-love redeye jaunts to Jersey, Teller tells redbankgreen that “Macbeth” is “Shakespeare’s weirdest-ass creation… a bold choice, but a risk worth taking.”

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LIBRARY: IT’S DOWN TO THE ELEVATOR NOW

Img_1733New computers stand ready for public use. The problematic elevator is in the center background.

[PLEASE SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF STORY]

The newly remodeled children’s room of Red Bank Public Library is bright and colorful, taking cues from the Navesink River panorama just outside its expansive windows.

But still you can’t get there from here — not if you need an elevator.

Borough officials say the last, daunting snafu to overcome in a $1.6 million remodeling project that’s had more than its fair share centers on the newly installed elevator.

The device works just fine, they say. But the state Department of Community Affairs, which has jurisdiction over such things, last month gave it a failing grade after an inspection. At issue was a safety component that the agency had earlier not required, according to Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels.

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LIBRARY CLOSES IN ON REOPENING. REALLY.

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The books are out of storage, free of dust and are being returned to their shelves.

Now, all that remains is a short punchlist of renovation items, plus the logistics of getting the phones re-installed and the return of books from the temporary lending library set up a couple of doors away.

By this time next month, barring unforeseen catastrophe (and there have been one or two), the long-awaited reopening of the Red Bank Public Library will have happened, director Debbie Griffin-Sadel tells redbankgreen.

Though she remains reluctant to give a specific date for the reopening, she says it will likely be sometime between Dec. 1 and 15. It all depends on when the place is ready, she says.

“The last thing I want is to say to someone, ‘You want what book? I have no idea where that is,'” she says.

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IN TOWN | IN AUGUST: WEEK TWO

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Even from the perspective of non-fans of the game, this weekend’s baseball show at the Two River Theater looks genuinely fascinating.

The program calls for a full and wide-ranging schedule of baseball-themed readings (‘Casey at the Bat,’ anyone?), movies, speeches and even a ‘stump the expert’ game.

Red Bank sports artifact shop Fameabilia, which is hosting the event, will hold an expo in the lobby.

Participants include former Brooklyn Dodger Johnny Podres, who will be signing autographs from 1 to 3p; award-winning Associated Press journalist Warren Levinson; actor Joe Russo; theater co-founder Robert Rechnitz; artistic director Aaron Posner; and David Kaplan, Director of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, who’ll speak on ‘Baseball and Social Justice.’

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DEWEY DECIMAL’S NEW DIGS

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From beneath layers of paint and grime, a century-and-a-half-old mansion is emerging, soon to be open to the public for the first time in a generation.

OK, the ‘soon’ part is relative, given that the project is a couple of months behind schedule. But Debbie Griffin-Sadel, director of the Red Bank Public Library, believes that the restoration and update of the facility will be completed by October at the latest, and will be worth the wait.

redbankgreen got an exclusive preview recently, and it certainly raised our expectations.

Among the highlights: the ornately trimmed former Eisner family living room that spans the first floor on the West Front Street side of the building. Lushly finished in Victorian paneling and trim, plaster ceiling cartouches and bold wood flooring, the room is a trip back in time, albeit in this case only to the 1920s, when it was added to the circa 1850s mansion.

Slated to become the ‘Eisner New Jersey Room,’ housing a collection of materials about the state and the borough, it’s a space that hasn’t been open to the general public since the late 1960s, said Griffin-Sadel.

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SECURITY BARD KEEPS EYES ON THE PRIZE

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By LISA M. McLAUGHLIN

…with voices shouting out how much times
have changed,
I hear echoes from the past
saying much is still the same.

From A.D. 19 of 41 by Trebor

In Robert Hardy’s Red Bank apartment, a framed poster of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the text of his “I Have a Dream” speech hang above a large fish tank that is eerily without fish. Neatly piled boxes containing copies of Hardy’s recent self-published book “Images” sit in one corner of his living room.

The book is Hardy’s third, following “A Voice in You” in 1987, and “A Soul Exposed” in 2000, all written under the the pseudonym “Trebor.”

Quite an output for someone who says that he doesn’t like to write. So why do it?

“It’s like someone is dictating to me,” Hardy says. “Whatever comes, I just put it down.”

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LIBRARY REOPENING? TWO DOORS DOWN

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Last time we checked, the overdue Red Bank Public Library renovations were expected to be completed this month or next, following weather-related delays over the winter.

Last night, the borough council approved the opening of a temporary storefront two doors away, at the corner of West Front Street and Maple Avenue, where library patrons will be able to pick up books they’ve arranged to borrow and ask research questions.

The space is being donated by Hovnanian Enterprises and is expected to be up and running “certainly by a week from tonight,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said.

No mention was made during the council’s session of when the library itself would reopen. It turns out the expectation is now that will occur in July.

And the reason for the delay? It’s what happens when you renovate old buildings, Menna and Council President Sharon Lee said after the meeting.

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IN THE END, IT’S GOOD TO BE KING

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In “The Underpants,” Steve Martin’s adaptation of a 97-year-old German comedy that began previews last night at the Two River Theater, the character of the king is a looming but largely unseen presence.

The story concerns a woman who, in an effort to get a glimpse of the king passing by in a parade, experiences a brief undergarment malfunction in public, an event that — ahem — gives rise to multiple attempts at seduction.

It also mortifies the woman’s husband, Theo, a bureaucrat who worries that the king himself saw what others so indelibly saw. But though his portrait hangs on the stage throughout the play, the king doesn’t appear in person until near the end.

Red Bank’s own Joe Russo, a 61-year-old teacher in the performing arts program at Red Bank Regional, plays the king. redbankgreen was fortunate to get an audience with His Highness earlier this week as the company prepared for its monthlong run.

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