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RED BANK: LOCAL STARS ON THE ‘WEST SIDE’

Christa Dalmazio of Middletown and Mason Kugelman of Rumson star as Maria and Tony in the Phoenix Productions staging of ‘West Side Story’ at the Count Basie Theatre.

It’s been a staple of the Phoenix Productions playbook for nearly 25 years, one of those crowd-pleasing Broadway perennials to which the Red Bank-based semipro stage company has made regular revisits.

Still, it’s been some 10 seasons since West Side Story has received a fully-fleshed Phoenix staging. And when the curtain goes up this Friday night at the Count Basie Theatre, it will reveal an old favorite that’s infused with new energy, courtesy of a youthful cast of newcomers highlighted by two residents of the Greater Red Bank green.

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RED BANK: BASIES GO TO RFH, RBC, RBR

Phoenix Productions exec director Tom Martini — pictured fifth from left, during the 2015 ribbon-cutting of the troupe’s new Chestnut Street headquarters — was honored with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award during the 12th annual Basie Awards on Wednesday night. (photo by Rich Kowalski) 

Students and faculty from five high schools in the greater Red Bank area were honored for excellence in high school theater productions — and the co-founder of a favorite borough-based performing arts company received a Lifetime Achievement recognition — when the 12th annual Basie Awards ceremony took place at the Count Basie Theatre on the evening of May 24.

The big winner among local schools was Red Bank Catholic High School, whose nine nominations for the spring production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella resulted in three Basie wins: for Shawn Mack (Outstanding Musical Direction), Samantha Siriani (Outstanding Supporting Actress), and Kelly Gemellaro (Outstanding Choreography, shared with Jacqui Fisher for the Middletown High School South staging of The Producers).

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RED BANK: ‘BASIES’ BUZZ IN THE AIR TONIGHT

The Red Bank Regional production of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ has garnered seven nominations in the Basie Awards for excellence in local high school theater, as the 12th annual ceremony rolls out the red carpet tonight.

In a pop-culture landscape that’s littered with the sharp metal edges of way too many awards and honors, you could make the case that this is the only trophyfest that matters — the kind that recognizes, nurtures and inspires the next generation of acting, singing, dancing and technical talent.

When the 12th annual Basie Awards ceremony takes the famous stage of the Count Basie Theatre tonight, May 24, students and faculty from nearly 20 public, private and parochial high schools in Monmouth County — seven of them located here within the Greater Red Bank Green — will be vying for a chance to deliver their acceptance speech, in a field that, in the words of Basie education director Yvonne Lamb Scudiery, continues “to set the bar higher and higher, resulting in outstanding professional quality work…and certainly making the job or our evaluation team a very difficult yet gratifying one.”

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RED BANK: ‘BEAUTY’ ON THE BASIE STAGE

The interlude between the end of April and beginning of May signals the traditional rising up of a real Red Bank institution — Phoenix Productions, the borough-based theatrical company that for more than two decades has presented its musical entertainments on the boards of one of the region’s most legendary stages: the Count Basie Theatre.

This Saturday sees the curtain go up on the first of the 2017 offerings from the Phoenix fun factory — and, it as they did with last year’s season-opening production of The Little Mermaid, the troupe will be delving into the Disney Broadway playbook for a fresh and family-friendly staging of the romantic fantasy perennial, Beauty and the Beast.

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ON THE GREEN: WHERE TO WELCOME 2017

SouthsideBasieNewYrsThe champagne corks are poppin’ as Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes continue a Count Basie New Year’s Eve tradition this Saturday night.

HOT-TOPIC_03Here at the tail end of a year that many people are all too anxious to put in the rear view mirror, there’s still sufficient cause to keep the party percolating right up to the last ball-drop. And in the bars, restaurants and performance spaces of the Greater Red Bank Green, revelers have a choice of options that range from an intimate table at a favorite bistro to a big event that’s become the toast of all New Year’s Eve Extravaganzas in the state of New Jersey.

Here’s a sampling from Red Bank, Fair Haven, Rumson and Sea Bright nightspots.

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RED BANK: YOU’LL LAUGH YOUR EYE OUT

christmas-story-phoenixIt’s all present and accounted for, from the Old Man’s leg lamp to Aunt Clara’s bunny suit; from the flagpole double-dog-dare to the Santa Slide at Higbee’s — to say nothing of that official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. Only this time it’s an all-singing, all-dancing, live action extravaganza that arrives like an early gift package this Friday, November 11.

Based on the beyond-popular 1983 movie of the same name — itself adapted from the writings of humorist Jean Shepherd (who did a memorable turn as the film’s narrator), A Christmas Story: The Musical makes its first-ever appearance on the local stage as the annual holiday-season offering from Phoenix Productions, the resident non-profit stage company at the venerable Count Basie Theatre.

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RED BANK: LOCAL ARTS ORGS GET 2017 GRANTS

art-alliance-classThe Art Alliance on Monmouth Street is one of 15 Red Bank area nonprofit entities named as grantees in the Monmouth Arts 2017 ArtHelps program.

Press release from Monmouth County Arts Council

Some two dozen arts groups in Monmouth County — 15 of them based in Red Bank and surrounding communities — have been named by Monmouth Arts as the recipients of their ArtHelps Local Arts Program Grant Awards for Fiscal Year 2017.

Designed to help Monmouth Arts meet its mission to enrich the community by inspiring and fostering the arts, the grants will result in over 3,000 high quality, low cost art events (art exhibitions, concerts, dance, theater, film and festivals) estimated to reach over 800,000 people. The 24 awarded grants totaled $94,500, including $3,500 in mini-grants that will be awarded during the year for smaller arts projects by organizations including new and emerging groups.

The awards were presented at a networking meeting held at House of Independents in Asbury Park on September 21, an event during which Monmouth Arts premiered their new website, and special guest Michael Pilla of Pilla Creative Marketing spoke on building your audience with email marketing and Facebook ads.

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ON THE GREEN: BIG THEATER ON SMALL STAGES

gyp_35_retKate Pentek is the child vaudevillian who grows up to become burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee as the classic backstage musical ‘Gypsy’ comes to the Count Basie stage for two weekends. (Photo courtesy Phoenix Productions)

basie-gypsy-091416The waning weekends of summer are traditionally a prime time to dust off your first-night finery and head back to the “theatah.” And even as Red Bank’s resident professional stage company, the Two River Theater, opens its new season with “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the Greater Green’s three community troupes (that’s Phoenix Productions, Stone Church Players, and Monmouth Players) also are ready to raise the curtains on a variety of entertainments.

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RED BANK: WHO’S NEXT FOR PHOENIX? YES.

Jonathan Jacob Phoenix TommyJonathan Jacob (top right, above) heads the young cast, and Victoria Keiser (below) is the seductive “acid queen” Gypsy, in Phoenix Productions staging of  “Tommy” this weekend.

Victoria Leigh Phoenix TommyIf it’s July at the Count Basie Theatre, then it must be time for the now-traditional summer musical from Phoenix Productions, the borough-based theatrical company that continues its long and productive residency at the venerable Red Bank venue.

With scores of aspiring actors of high school and college age currently between semesters, the troupe’s midsummer offerings have represented a showcase for young performers, with especially energetic and ever so slightly edgier selections (“Rent,” “Hairspray”) than the family-friendly fare (“Mary Poppins,” “Little Mermaid,”) that’s proven so successful for the Phoenix brand.

When the Count’s curtain goes up this Friday night, it will usher in a two-weekend stand for a Broadway sensation with a psychedelic countercultural pedigree: “The Who’s Tommy.” Read More »

RED BANK: A WALK WITH LIFE AND ART

calpulli2The dancers and musicians of Mariachi y Calpulli Mexican Dance Company perform at the Count Basie on Cinco de Mayo, capping Thursday’s MoCo ArtWalk experience in Red Bank.

MoCo-Walking-TourIt’s being billed as the first in a new series of “MoCo Artwalks,” and hosted by the folks at the Monmouth County Arts Council and designed to give arts aficionados a strolling/rolling and altogether unique perspective on some fascinating goings- on in and around the MoCo (Monmouth County) Arts Corridor — a scintillating strip of station stops along the Matawan-to-Manasquan stretch of the North Jersey Coast Line.

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RED BANK: A SPLASHY DEBUT FOR PHOENIX

little mermaidsCat Tierney, seen at right with the other Daughters of Triton, stars as Ariel in the staging of “The Little Mermaid that begins a Red Bank run Friday night. (Click to enlarge)

littlemermaid2016After rising to the occasion last year with such gravity-defying entertainments as Mary Poppins and Peter Pan, the folks at Phoenix Productions in Red Bank dive deep for their inaugural production of the 2016 season: the Disney musical The Little Mermaid, which surfaces for a two-weekend run at the Count Basie Theatre.

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RED BANK: YOGA WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS

Phoenix studioThe Chestnut Street rehearsal studio of Phoenix Productions is the setting for a free series of Trauma-sensitive Yoga sessions, beginning next Wednesday, April 13.

Press release from Mental Health Association of Monmouth County

Beginning April 13, Wednesday’s child is full of wellness, not woe — as the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County (MHAMC) will offer free Trauma-Sensitive Yoga sessions to county residents who may be experiencing anxiety, stress, depression or other mental health concerns.

The free program will present three sessions each Wednesday at 4, 5, and 6 p.m., with all classes hosted at the spacious new rehearsal studios of Red Bank-based stage company Phoenix Productions (59 Chestnut Street, across from the Armory Ice Complex). All sessions are offered free of charge, and free on-site parking is available at the Phoenix building.

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RED BANK: ‘PETER PAN’ GOING UP

Hook-Lily-PP_1Rumson’s Patricia McCarron is an imperiled Princess Tiger Lily at the center of a square-off between Mike Patierno (as Captain Hook) and Jennifer Townsend in the title role of PETER PAN. 

It’s been quite a year for Phoenix Productions, the long-running, Red Bank-based theatrical company that moved recently to a spacious new state-of-the-art headquarters on Chestnut Street. Apparently still floating somewhere east of Cloud Nine, the Phoenix phalanx mapped out a 2015 season that spotlighted such high-flying family favorites as Mary Poppins — and beginning this Friday, Phoenix rises once more to the occasion with another famously gravity-defying musical entertainment, Peter Pan.

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RED BANK: AREA PLAYWRIGHT ENTERS THE BOX

EvanKrachmanTopShrewbury playwright Evan Krachman debuts a new drama in  as The Count Basie Performing Arts Academy is the scene for a Halloween reading of PRESS TO TALK, presented by the Asbury Park-based Black Box collective.

Since taking over the Monmouth Street space formerly occupied by Phoenix Productions, the Count Basie Theatre’s Performing Arts Academy has put the onetime Red Bank WaWa store to multi-tasking use. That includes an arrangement with the Black Box Asbury Park collective that’s seen the “multi-cultural arts incubator” presenting such original theatrical works as the recent Toms River Anthology by Black Box board member (and Middletown High School South teacher) Alexis Kozak.

This Saturday afternoon, and for one Halloween matinee only, the academy hosts the collective in a staged reading of the new drama by a playwright from the Greater Red Bank Green: Press to Talk. by Evan Krachman.

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RED BANK: BASIE UNVEILS NEW ARTS SPACE


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Guests mingled in the new Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy Monday. Below, Yvonne Lamb Scudiery and Mayor Pasquale Menna spoke at the unveiling. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

cbpac 092115 1Old-timers will recall its days as a WaWa, but its future is as a laboratory for the arts.

So say officials at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy about the onetime convenience store that is now the academy’s home.

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RED BANK: TRAGIC DIVAS, COMIC THRILLERS

evitaRehearsals proceed at Phoenix Productions’ new Chestnut Street headquarters for EVITA, going up this weekend on the Count Basie stage with Kelliann De Carlo in the title role. (Click to enlarge)

kelliann de carlo evitaEven as Two River Theater Company inaugurates a new season with the first previews of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars (about which more to come here at redbankgreen), the longest-established community theatrical troupes on the greater Green continue their winning ways — Phoenix Productions in Red Bank with a revisit to a tragically glamorous Andrew Lloyd Webber heroine, and the Monmouth Players of Middletown with a farcical spin on a Hitchcockian maguffin.

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RED BANK: POPPINS FRESH AS A BASIE

MaryPoppinsKatherine Le Fevre sails into the title role as the stage adaptation of the Disney classic MARY POPPINS takes to the Basie stage over the next two weekends. (Click to enlarge)

When last we looked in on the folks at Phoenix Productions, the Red Bank-based theatrical company was celebrating what was arguably the most significant opening night in its quarter-century history: the dedication of its spacious new state-of-the-art headquarters on Chestnut Street.

Still apparently on cloud nine after that gala affair, Phoenix returns once more to the grand stage of the Count Basie Theatre this weekend, rising to the occasion with a high-flying family favorite musical, Mary Poppins.

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RED BANK: PHOENIX LAUNCHES NEW HQ

PhoenixPhoenix Productions exec director Tom Martini (fifth from left) brandishes the scissors as the ribbon is cut for the theater company’s new home on Chestnut Street. Assisting during the May 8 gala party were (left to right) company president Lindsay Wood, plus board members Holly Hankins, Michael Dalberg, Bob Brown, Andrea Zawadzki, and James Marhold. (photos by Rich Kowalski)

It was a gala fundraiser and celebration unlike just about any other — one in which the “springtime casual” dress code abandoned the stodgy formalwear in favor of (in at least one case) full pirate regalia — an affair in which the microphone was commandeered for soaring Broadway-quality voices, rather than snoring speeches.

But then, this was no ordinary occasion for Phoenix Productions, the borough-based community stage company that recently fulfilled an ambitious relocation to (and renovation of) a spacious new rehearsal studio, craft shop, storage space and executive office complex at 59 Chestnut Street. More than a hundred guest well-wishers, community sponsors and alumni from past shows joined the Phoenix board of directors on the night of May 8, to cut the ribbon on the troupe’s new headquarters, to raise funds for ongoing projects, and to celebrate an entertainment legacy of more than a quarter century in song and in style.

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NAVESINK: MONMOUTH PLAYERS BESEECH THEE

AJ Melnick GodspellAJ Melnick heads a youthful cast as Jesus, as the Monmouth Players present their production of GODSPELL inside the Navesink Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of Monmouth Players)

The 2014-2015 season of shows from Monmouth Players continues apace at the Navesink Arts Center — the reborn and rebranded former Navesink Library at Monmouth and Sears Avenues in Middletown — with a busier-than-ever slate of entertainments that hasn’t let a little thing like a particularly rotten winter spoil its fun. When the figurative curtain went up this past weekend on the latest community production from the long-running troupe, veteran watchers of the Players were treated to something rare indeed: a musical.

Continuing through March 22, the Players production of Godspell matches the 1971 perennial from songsmith Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) with a cast of fresh faces — many of them brand new to the Navesink company that’s been in business since before its current executive producers (Lori and Paul Renick) made their own entrances on the world stage. Based on parables from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the show that birthed the hit “Day by Day” puts forth an age-of-Aquarius message of love and tolerance via an eclectic score that ranges from folk-infused pop to vintage vaudeville — and it’s a spotlight opportunity for one prominent member of the company who’s “happy to be joining a community comprised of such fanciful characters.”

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RED BANK: THE BRIGHT SIDE OF ARTHUR

Arthur_&_his_Laker_GirlsKing Arthur (Michael Chartier) is attended to by the Laker Girls in MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT, the very silly musical opening at the Count Basie Theatre this weekend, as the season-capping entertainment from Phoenix Productions.

Ah, Camelot — the wise and good King Arthur; the glory that was the Round Table. The Lady of the Lake and her Laker Girls; the “schlapping” fish, the nasty rabbits, the holy hand grenades and the Knights Who Say “Ni.”

Wait, what? Actually if it’s the classic Lerner-Loewe musical Camelot you’re looking for, take it to Two River Theater for the all-new production that goes up in previews November 15. But if, on the other hand, you’re in the market for as irreverent a Broadway tunefest as has ever made off with the holy-grail Tony, head down Monmouth Street to the Count Basie, where Monty Python’s Spamalot holds court for the next two weekends.

The season finale offering from the Basie’s resident nonprofessional stage troupe Phoenix Productions — one that represents the borough-based company’s first visit to the hit show “ripped off” by Python’s Eric Idle from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail — the 2005 crowdpleaser has become a fast favorite of school and community players across the land. Opening on Friday night, November 14, and continuing through Sunday, November 23, the production boasts a rather unique connection to local Arthurian lore and legend.

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RED BANK: SIX TEENS TAKE THE STAGE AGAIN

Sound_of_Music_3_RBR_2014Red Bank Regional VPA students now appearing in THE SOUND OF MUSIC at the Count Basie include (l-r) Dana Brown, Jillian Lamanno, Bobby Davis, Eliana Swartz, Jaclyn Gisondi, and Victoria Aumack.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

Six members of the Visual & Performing Arts Academy (VPA) at Red Bank Regional High School are currently performing in the Phoenix Productions staging of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.  The beloved show that gave the world such standards as “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Do Re Mi,” “My Favorite Things” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” opened this past weekend and continues with three more performances, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm.

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RED BANK: CURTAIN UP THIS WEEKEND

Sound SchoolLindsay Wood as Maria joins the Phoenix troupe in bringing ‘The Sound of Music’ to the Basie boards beginning this Friday — while Moliere’s ‘The School for Wives’ receives a bold new production design, as Two River Theater opens an all-new season with a Saturday night preview.

One is that family favorite that you grew up on, the one where “the hills are alive,”while the other is a new take on a theatrical classic that’s nearly old as them thar hills.

While Red Bank’s world-class professional Two River Theater Company and Red Bank’s community players Phoenix Productions would seem to approach their art from totally different places, there’s a common mission to give the audience a production that’s awesome to behold: a show that makes for the centerpiece of a memorable night out.

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RED BANK: GREASE IS THE VERB

greaseMaggie Bera and Phil Mazzara co-star in the Phoenix Productions staging of GREASE, going up this weekend at the Count Basie Theatre.

Born in the nostalgia craze of the post-hippie era; brought to the screen during the waning days of disco, Grease the musical gives the people what they want: the 1972 smash that became one of the longest-running hits in Broadway history, fuel-injected with some of the best-remembered songs from the 1978 film. When borough-based Phoenix Productions greases the boards of the Count Basie Theatre for the next two weekends, they’ll be showcasing an energetic young cast in a slick vehicle that’s made to order as a summertime offering from the borough-based troupe. A lot more family-friendly (and a lot less Chicago-specific) than its original stage incarnation, the timeless tale of new-girl-in-town Sandy Dumbrowski (Maggie Bera) and greaser kingpin Danny Zuko (Phil Mazzara) promises to get the customary Phoenix treatment, as the company takes full advantage of the Basie’s scale and star-power for a tunefest that includes “You’re the One That I Want,” “Greased Lightning,” “Summer Nights,” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” Ian Laudano (Kenickie) and Jennifer Townsend (Rizzo) head up a supporting cast of Pink Ladies and Greasers in the production that opens Friday, July 11 and continues through July 20.

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RED BANK: OGRE ACHIEVERS AND MORE

JustinManciniMichaelRandazzaBobMiraJohnMaschioAbove: The cast of LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR brings the Monmouth Players’ “Season of Simon” to a rollicking close in Navesink…while below, SHREK: THE MUSICAL kicks off the 2014 slate of shows from Red Bank’s Phoenix Productions at the Count Basie.

Fiona-ShrekWhen the borough-based Phoenix Productions returns to the Count Basie Theatre this weekend, it’ll be kicking off its 2014 season of musical entertainments at the venerable venue — a local tradition that has seen the 25-year old Phoenix company up the ante considerably in terms of production values. Beginning Friday, April 25, the community stage troupe will be commandeering the Basie boards for six performances of a family favorite that’s as recently minted as it is minty green: Shrek the Musical, the stage adaptation of William Steig’s children’s book characters (and more to the point, the even more popular Dreamworks animated films). Jay Giberson stars as the unseemly ogre (and unlikely hero), with Carly Nelson as feisty Fiona, Aaron Lee Battle as wisecracking sidekick Donkey, and Anthony Preuster as Lord Farquaad, the bad guy with a ‘short’ temper. The show under the direction of Rick Joyce continues for two weekends, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm, through May 4. Tickets are priced between $20 – $32, and can be reserved right here, with tix also on sale for the upcoming Phoenix stagings of Grease and The Sound of Music.

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WEEKEND: FIRST NIGHTERS, FARE-THEE-WELLS

SherMackHeatherMorganLisa Sherman and Sandy Mack bring their all-new Sherman Mack project to the Walt Street Pub Friday night. Below: painter Martin Kammler has the floor at BCC, for a close-up look at his creative process. (Top photo by Heather Morgan; click to enlarge)

Friday, November 22:

martinLINCROFT: He’s spoken of the physicality of his artistic process, which makes sense: when he’s not creating vividly visceral canvases, Martin Kammler approaches his other career as an in-demand personal trainer with equal intensity. The native of Essen, Germany visits the Center for the Visual Arts Gallery at Brookdale Community College to talk about his work and demonstrate his unorthodox, “paint on the floor” method in a presentation that begins at 7 pm. Take it here for details.

Before arriving at CVA, stop in at the Monmouth Museum (adjacent to the Brookdale Performing Arts Center) for the opening reception of Artists Celebrate the Holidays, a group show featuring “a vast representation of holiday celebrations from the traditional to contemporary works and installations.” Reception’s on from 6 to 8 pm, and the show remains on display during regular museum hours through January 5, 2014. It’s a first-nighter as well for the Holiday Gift Gallery, an annual array of handcrafted and other one-of-a-kind gifts (including jewelry, scarves, ceramics, home items and more) from local artists. There’s live music and refreshments also featured at the reception from 6 to 8pm, and the Gift Gallery stays open for business during regular museum hours through January 12.

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