UPSTAIRS AT BASIE, A LITTLE TOUGH ‘LOVE’

Dunbar Repertory Company presents Gail Wynn Huland El’s “dark comedy” GREEN HONEY LOVE in the Count Basie Theatre’s second-floor rehearsal space beginning tonight.

By TOM CHESEK

In a cubby of culture that’s long been home to some best kept secrets of local life, most interesting things have happened not so much under our collective noses, but just one flight of stairs over street level. We’re thinking here of McKay Imaging Gallery; the makeshift comedy club at the Dub; and Gerda Liebman’s Gallery 135 inside Monmouth Street’s Red Bank Community Church.

Beginning this Friday, August 17, and continuing for eleven more performances through September 2, the Monmouth County-based community stage troupe Dunbar Repertory Company returns with a new offering at the Count Basie Theatre — not the ornate auditorium of the venerable venue, but the second-story rehearsal space that’s often used for the educational programs of the Basie’s Performing Arts Academy.

Produced by Brookdale Community College faculty member (and participant on the Basie board) Darrell Lawrence Willis Sr., the play Green Honey Love comes to local audiences courtesy of the company that’s brought the annual Black Nativity stage show to the Count’s crib in the Christmas season. Here at the tail end of summertime’s dog days, the Dunbar team switches gears, from reverently joyful to raucously joke-filled.

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SONGWRITERS TAKE ROOT AT THE GARDENS

The alternative/ Americana musical marriage known as The Mastersons inaugurates a new summer slate of free Songwriters in the Park concerts, Friday night at Riverside Gardens.  

The dog-day nights of July and August are that time of year when the waterfront walkways and terraces of Riverside Gardens take center stage in local life — with this Thursday seeing the return of the long-running Jazz in the Park concerts, and the weeks to come offering a packed schedule of free family-friendly movies, free evening Zumba sessions, even a free Comedy in the Park event on August 1.

All welcome diversions for a midsummer’s night, to be sure. But tonight, Friday the 13th, marks the long-awaited return of a series that you’ll find nowhere else but Red Bank — Songwriters in the Park, a slate of top-shelf artist showcases presented for a seventh season by Brookdale Community College listener-supported radio station 90.5 The Night.

While there have always been such things as songwriters busking for beer money in city parks, this songwriters series is an altogether different animal than most beach-towel-and-lawnchair community events —  a format that pairs a genuinely buzzworthy, national-profile act with likeminded local/regional artists. Previous outings have spotlighted such well-known performers as Dramarama, Steve Forbert, Jeffrey Gaines, John Wesley Harding, Bongos frontman Richard Barone and the Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio.

In other words, this is a free concert series that music snobs can really sink their teeth into. And when all the stars in the Sirius sky align — superior sound, great sight lines from anywhere in the park, a gentle breeze off the river and those complimentary Navesink sunsets — it’s as listener-friendly an experience as any you’ll encounter up and down the Jersey Shore. Even the sounds of a busy downtown Friday night (including the occasional ambulance) add to the unique character of the concerts, making for a welcome alternative to the chirp of suburban crickets.

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LAURA CRISCI BEATS THE BLUES @BROOKDALE

Singer, songwriter and Brookdale Community College alumna Laura Crisci performs with her formidable “Whoever Shows Up Band” at a special Beat the Winter Blues event Saturday evening at BCC’s Lincroft campus. (Photo by Debra L. Rothenberg) 

On her latest self-released album All Is WellLaura Crisci joins a bevy of veteran Shore area musicians for a set of songs about desire, regret, redemption and trust, maintaining an Americana vibe that’s punctuated every so often by a twanging rocker or even the odd sea chantey.

Saturday night,  this “Prodigal Daughter” – who reconnected to her Monmouth County roots after a successful few years in Nashville – returns to the greater Red Bank green as the homecoming headliner of a special “Beat the Winter Blues: Meet, Mingle & Music” event on the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College.

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SIT ON IT, BID ON IT, AT MONMOUTH MUSEUM

Clockwise from top left: Rachael Ray, NY Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Queen Latifah and Ralph Nader have all decorated chairs in years past for the Monmouth Museum’s CHAIRISH THE MUSEUM promotion, the 2012 edition of which commences  Saturday in Lincroft.

Are you sitting down? If proximity to famous folk causes you to be a bit unsteady on your feet, be advised to exercise caution when parking your carcass at the Monmouth Museum this weekend — you might just be parking it on one of their objets d’art.

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A ‘NATIVITY’ REBORN AS A LOCAL TRADITION

The Dunbar Repertory production of BLACK NATIVITY returns to the Count Basie Theatre on Friday.

In an interview that appeared here a little over a year ago, Brookdale Community College faculty member Darrell Lawrence Willis Sr. told the redbankgreen Drama Desk that “no matter what I’ve been working on, whether it was the works of August Wilson or the Juneteenth festival, the number one thing that people ask me about is Black Nativity.”

“They’d tell me ‘the show has been such a blessing to us,’ and they all want to know when we’re doing it again.”

On December 30, 2010 — following a hiatus of some six years — the stage director and founder of Monmouth County based Dunbar Repertory Company revived his popular production of the theatrical presentation that combines the Gospel of St. Luke with the poetry of the late Langston Hughes and a custom-collected set of folk spirituals and hymns, bringing it to the boards of the Count Basie Theatre for the first time.

It’s a holiday offering that was designed to take its place among the scores of concerts, plays, ballets and benefits that have staked a traditional spot on the Count’s schedule each December — even if, for a moment there, it looked to be a Christmas miracle that was in danger of not coming to pass.

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IN RED BANK, AN INSTANT FAMILY ADDITION

clappsJeff and Donna Clapp with their adopted son, Cristopher, outside their home on Rector Place. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Jeff and Donna Clapp decided long ago they would never have children. The couple, who’ve been married 17 years, were busy with their careers, loved traveling and enjoyed life alone in their first-floor apartment in Red Bank.

But that all changed last year, when the Clapps fell hard for a long-haired boy who Donna Clapp says shares “spiritual DNA” with them.

Before they knew it, the couple were signing paperwork to officially adopt a son — a 17-year-old on the edge of legal independence, making for a story that summons a Hollywood script a la The Blind Side.

Today, there would a be a hole in this unexpected family if that boy weren’t around telling jokes or playing video games in his bedroom.

“I can’t imagine what things would be without him,” Jeff Clapp, 42, said.

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THE WEEK IN REARVIEW

sb-beach-plowPlowing the sand mounds in Sea Bright. Can summer be far behind? (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Welcome back to another week at redbankgreen. Here’s a glance back at the stories that filled our cyberpages last week.

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‘IMAGINE’ NATION, AT TEEN ARTS 2011

teenartsA sampling of featured works from recent presentations of the Monmouth County Arts Council’s annual Teen Arts Festival — the 2011 edition of which opens with a reception tonight at Brookdale Community College.

With bureaucrats and administrators taking a palette knife to public arts funding these days, a nonprofit entity like the Red Bank-based Monmouth County Arts Council must often rely on some very well known friends.

When it came time to plan the 2011 edition of the annual Teen Arts Festival, MCAC Education Director Sandy Taylor turned for inspiration to a public figure who was taken from this world nearly two decades before some of this year’s featured artists were even born — John Lennon, alpha Beatle and composer of the stately peace anthem “Imagine.”

The most famous song of Lennon’s post-Beatles career has in turn served as the inspiration for a collection of original artworks by some 65 students of area middle schools and high schools — the centerpiece of the festival that opens tonight, and continues through Friday at Brookdale Community College.
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UNDER FIRE, BURNHAM QUITS BROOKDALE

hot-topic rightPeter Burnham quit his job as Brookdale Community College president Tuesday, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Under fire for lavish pay and perks, and under investigation over questions about spending, Burnham said his resignation should not be taken as an admission of guilt, according to the Press.

Through a statement issued by his attorney, the 66-year-old Colts Neck resident said he had been planning to retire soon, “but I would be disingenuous if I did not say that recent events have moved my timetable forward.

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MALLET WANTS BIRDSALL OUT AT BROOKDALE

amy-malletA growing controversy over spending on and by the president of Brookdale Community College has prompted Monmouth County Freeholder Amy Mallet to call for the resignation of the chairman of the school’s board of trustees.

Mallet, of Fair Haven, asked board chairman Howard Birdsdall to step down amid questions about the board’s oversight of spending by college president Peter Burnham, who was put on leave Thursday after an audit found that “significant expenses” in his budget “may not have been directly connected to Brookdale,” according to the Asbury Park Press.

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FORECAST: ARTY, WITH CHANCE OF FLOWERS

lairds-in-winterMary Ann Goodwin’s “Laird’s in Winter” is but one of the applejack artworks of local scenery now on display at Middletown Main Library.

Babies, it’s cold outside as we suit up for a December edition of our monthly artwalk through the winter-greying ‘green. Cold enough to freeze your wine and cheese, for sure. Cold enough to geler your Giclée, and to turn a Plein Air painting session into just plein hell.

Fortunately, the galleries and public spaces of greater Red Bank offer up some warm and welcoming refuges from both the cold and the cacophony of the calendar-year caboose. So if squinting at your next-door neighbor’s hi-wattage holiday display isn’t doing it for you, join us for a change of scenery that begins just past that virtual velvet rope.

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JOSEPH: 1 LEGEND, 1 COAT, MANY COLORS

jodyjoJody Joseph — just being Jody in this case — brings her tribute to Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks to the Brookdale PAC stage for an ambitious encore, even as she readies her first concert of inspirational tunes this weekend in Shrewsbury.

By TOM CHESEK

In a 2009 interview that appeared on our satellite site Red Bank oRBit, Jody Joseph described her latest project as “the most insane thing I’ve ever tried to pull off” — an ambitious, three-part concert event involving multiple wardrobe changes, guest dancers and a very real apprehension “that I’ll spin right off the edge of the stage and land in the VIP seats.”

The event, which debuted last year at the Paramount in Asbury Park, was One Legend, One Diva, One Woman, a custom crafted showcase in which the locally legendary singer, songwriter and music teacher — a performer we promptly branded The Hardest Working Woman in Shore Business — augmented a set of her own songs by stepping into bluesy character as Janis Joplin, as well as stepping into the formidable boots of Stevie Nicks.

The diminutive dynamo — whose musical pedigree features direct bloodline links to arena football mogul Jon Bon Jovi AND to ultimate pop heartthrob Mario Lanza — has announced that she’ll be bringing her tour de force triptych back to the boards in September, this time to the Performing Arts Center on the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College. Before all that, of course, she’ll be maintaining her usual busy schedule of gigs — with a little something special offered up to fans old and new this Sunday, at one of the greater Red Bank area’s most historic locales.

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ART IN BLOOM, UP AT McKAY’s

danschroll

Brookdale Community College faculty member Dan Schroll (upper right) is the subject of the solo art show DOCUMENTS • FLOWERS, opening Friday at McKay Imaging Gallery.

By TOM CHESEK

It’s been several months since we’ve been able to bring you news of an exhibit at McKay Imaging Gallery, the Red Bank studio established by the husband/wife team of Robert and Elisabeth McKay as a venue for promoting local interest in photography as fine art.

On Friday, the McKays break their unusually long interlude with another in a series of public-invited opening receptions in their walk-up space at 12 Monmouth Street. It’s an event that’s positioned as “Breaking Away” from the gallery’s mission of focusing upon the captured image — even as it strikes a personal note that Bob McKay says “comes full circle” back to the origins of the successful family business.

Entitled Documents • Flowers, the solo installation assembles recent collages and drawings by Brookdale Community College faculty member Dan Schroll — a veteran of 30-plus years in the BCC Visual Arts department, and a respected educator whose graphic design class just happens to have been the place where Bob and Liz first met.

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