Articles By Shen Shellenberger
1930s Dance Competitors Never Left the Stage
Long Beach Island's Surflight Theatre kicks off its 2023 season June 1 with Kander and Ebb's "Steel Pier: The Musical," on stage through June 17.
published on 06/01/2023
Pow Wow Both Cultural and Competitive
What IS a Pow Wow? Well, according to the website of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, a Pow Wow "is a Native American festival where nations from throughout the continent gather at a hosting nation's land and share in celebration through singing and dancing."
published on 05/25/2023
"Women's Work" Makes Bold Statements, Yields Nuanced Thoughts
A 2019 Public Library of Science survey of eighteen prominent American museums revealed that over 80% of represented artists are male. This is not new. Throughout history, work by women artists has been undervalued. But, as Susan Fisher Sterling, the Alice West Director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, told NEA Arts, there are things that people can do to help drive change. One of her suggestions is this: "Support women artists and the institutions exhibiting their work. Privilege those places that are working towards achieving gender equality."
published on 02/01/2023
Symphony in C Conducts Search for a New Music Director
An orchestra’s search for a music director is a challenging undertaking.
For Symphony in C, the Mid-Atlantic region’s nationally recognized Young Professionals Orchestra, the process was complicated by having to shift gears when the pandemic put on pause a series of performances showcasing five guest conductors, each a candidate for the position of Music Director, that was originally scheduled for the 2020-21 season.
published on 11/24/2022
"Bold Will Hold" — An Exhibit of Tattoo Life at Artworks Trenton
“Bold Will Hold,” the exhibition on view now at Artworks Trenton, is a look at tattoo art in a broad and accessible way. The exhibition will run through Nov. 19, with an artist reception Friday, Nov. 4, from 6 – 9 p.m.
published on 10/27/2022
Zara Phillips No-Holds Barred
British-born New Jersey-resident Zara Phillips – wearer of multiple hats like singer-songwriter, author, playwright, filmmaker, public speaker and adoptee rights advocate – will present the U.S. premiere of her current one-woman play, "Somebody's Daughter," based on the 2018 book of the same name Saturday, Oct. 21, at Hopewell Theater and again Saturday, Dec. 10, at Outpost in the Burbs.
published on 10/06/2022
The Wallpaper Speaks in "To Whom It May Concern"
“This is very different,” said Rowan Art Gallery Director/Curator Mary Salvante, referring to “Genevieve Gaignard: To Whom It May Concern,” the exhibition on view now through Oct. 29. A reception Thursday, Sept. 15, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. will include an artist talk at 5:30 p.m.
published on 09/08/2022
The Lost Princess of Oz World Premiere Combines Ballet, Song and Bluegrass
The creative passion that abounds in “The Lost Princess of Oz,” the upcoming extravaganza of movement and music presented by the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theatre Company (AXCBT) in partnership with the Center for the Arts at Monmouth University, will fill you with positivity and immerse the renovated Pollak Theater at the University where it runs Aug. 20 through Aug. 28.
published on 08/13/2022
Portraits of Victims of Gun Violence
Every day, we read an all-too-familiar report on our news feed — another life is lost to gun violence. It is a deadly epidemic.
published on 07/15/2022
Imparting the Living Art of Storytelling
Storytelling is one of those words that is not just a descriptive term. It is evocative. It is personal. It is inclusive. It is communal. And it is what Storytelling Arts, Inc. is all about.
published on 06/22/2022
SOPAC Is Back and Featuring a Singer-Songwriter Series
After what Executive Director Dee Billia calls “a really interesting time,” SOPAC (South Orange Performing Arts Center) is again welcoming audiences to its mainstage theater and presenting a roster of dynamic performances focusing on singer-songwriters.
published on 05/26/2022
An Interview with Joan Osborne and Bria Skonberg
Joan Osborne and the Bria Skonberg Quartet are among the artists coming to South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) in June. Shen Shellenberger spoke to both about their careers, the pandemic, and recent recordings.
published on 05/26/2022
Up, Down and in Another Town -- Perkins Center for the Arts Adds a Third Gallery
The last time I talked with Sharon Kiefer, Curator of Exhibitions at Perkins Center for the Arts, she was in the first few weeks of her position at Perkins. It was 2020, so Kiefer was not just navigating a new job, but she was learning a whole new way to curate exhibitions.
published on 04/14/2022
Legendary Musician John Lodge's Tour Came Through Jersey
If you want to witness timelessness, go to see John Lodge – the legendary bass player, vocalist, and songwriter for The Moody Blues – performed with his 10,000 Light Years Band at the Levoy Theatre in Millville on Wednesday, March 9.
published on 03/11/2022
Artist Syd Carpenter Identifies and Honors African American Farmers and Gardeners at Rowan U. Art Gallery
Syd Carpenter: Earth Offerings: Honoring the Gardeners, the exhibition on view at Rowan University Art Gallery through March 26, is a many-layered experience – visually striking, historically important, and a personal, yet universal, tribute to Carpenter’s grandmother and mother and to all of those who tend the land.
published on 02/18/2022
The Absolute Fantastical Adventures of Creating an Original Theatre Experience for the Holidays (A Feature Story about Ritz Theatre Company's Current Production)
What is “The Absolute, Fantastical Adventures of Cindy Ella and the Once and Future Golden Christmas Goose in the Joyous Years That Followed the Never-Ending Plague (A Short Panto)”?
Why, it’s the holiday production at the Ritz Theatre Company, running now through December 19.
published on 12/16/2021
"The First Water is the Body" and "After the Falls" — Exhibitions Present Visual Celebration of Indigenous People
The First Water Is the Body and Athena LaTocha: After the Falls, the exhibitions on view through January 23, 2022, at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, were organized by VACNJ curator Mary Birmingham and present a visual celebration of Indigenous people, the history, landscape, and culture of New Jersey, the power of words and images, and inspiration, in all of its limitless forms.
published on 11/05/2021
A "Field Companion" to a Microcosmic Forest at Rowan University Art Gallery
“Immersive” is the sort of word that conveys its meaning more as a sensation than a perception.
And using it as part of the subtitle for "Field Companion: An Immersive Video Installation" – the new, created-for-this place-and-this-moment-in-time work by Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib – is spot-on.
published on 10/01/2021
New Brunswick's Got HEART
Think of it as an open house with more than one location. Or maybe a block-after-block party.
Or an entertainment-packed afternoon and evening.
The 2nd annual New Brunswick HEART Festival, on Saturday, August 14, from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m., is all of that and more. And it is FREE and family-friendly.
published on 08/12/2021
Another Summer at Surflight -- How the Shore Theatre Keeps Shining
I am confident that the time will come when I no longer start an interview with a question about the pandemic or write a feature that doesn't reference getting through this extraordinary situation.
published on 07/31/2021
Sounds of Summer -- Hello, Concerts, Our Old Friends
Bit by bit, the world is opening up.
You can go in the Wawa without a mask. Instead of cardboard cut-outs, there are fans booing umpires in the stands at baseball games. Graduation celebrations now include grandparents and lots of hugging. And while few of us have completely put away the concerns and uneasiness that living in a COVID world produced, folks seem more than ready to get back to enjoying some version of pre-pandemic life.
published on 06/30/2021
Jumping Across the Chasm -- Perkins Center for the Arts
An arts center – especially one with two locations – has a lot of moving parts.
Perkins Center for the Arts is a perfect example. Just follow the link to the website, and the home page banner will provide a glimpse of what the art center offers. Education. Events. Exhibitions. Folklife Center. And those are just the bullet points.
published on 06/11/2021
Hard Questions about Class, Race, Education, and Duty Raised in SCTC's "Pipeline"
Like arts and cultural organizations everywhere, the South Camden Theatre Company faced countless challenges during these last 12+ months. Their 2020 season had been planned as a dual celebration – to mark the 15th anniversary of the SCTC’s beginnings at Sacred Heart Church and the 10th anniversary of their move to The Waterfront South Theatre at 400 Jasper Street. But after staging one show, Abigail/1702: A Twice Told Tale, in February of 2020, the decision was made to postpone the rest of the season.
published on 04/07/2021
A "Waking Nightmare" at Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts
A nightmare, according to Merriam-Webster, is an unpleasant dream that produces a feeling of anxiety or terror, and a waking nightmare, as the phrase suggests, is one that continues to evoke those feelings even when the dreamer is awake. Or, more colloquially, it means that real-life situations are akin to those in nightmares.
published on 03/04/2021
“The Question the Answer Hides" at Stockton University Art Gallery
When making plans, there is one almost-certainty: plans will change.
Sometimes the path is terminally altered by the changes, and other times, though there are twists and turns, the destination you envisioned is reached.
published on 01/24/2021
Blended Media, History, and More in "Federico Solmi: The Bacchanalian Ones"
I took a slew of pictures when I visited the Rowan University Art Gallery recently to see “The Bacchanalian Ones.” I took close-ups. I took panoramic shots. I took pictures from several angles and perspectives. And I thought I had done a reasonably good job of capturing the spirit of the exhibition.
published on 12/24/2020
Rutgers Jazz Ensembles Find Ways to Let the Music Play
I am not above dragging out a well-worn saying when searching for a simple, clear way to illustrate a thought or idea. For this occasion, I unearthed “necessity is the mother of invention,” which could very well be considered the unofficial rallying cry for arts and cultural institutions since March.
published on 11/05/2020
Art and Healing at West Windsor Arts Center
The press release for “Art and Healing” begins like this, “As we cautiously emerge from the quarantine of the past few months, the West Windsor Arts Center (WWAC) has created an exhibition that looks at art as a healing tool.”
published on 10/15/2020
Riverfront Renaissance Reopens
At the start of 2020, the world was pretty much the way we left it in 2019. But the months since the pandemic took hold have seen our world change dramatically.
published on 09/09/2020
Ponds, Books, Mountains, Stamps – Artist Sandra Eula Lee
Art is constant, universal, and powerful. And Sandra Eula Lee, one of 28 New Jersey artists honored with fellowships this year by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA), believes that the value of artistic experiences is especially relevant now.
published on 06/26/2020
"Tracing Origins" at Rowan University Art Gallery
Long before we were all instructed to stay home, art curators everywhere had in place their exhibition schedules for the foreseeable future. And while the shutdown prevented galleries and museums from publicly presenting, in many cases, it didn’t keep artists and curators from installing shows. But the complications were clear – opening receptions, where art lovers see the works and meet the creators, and the bricks-and-mortar exhibitions – were put on hold or canceled.
published on 04/17/2020
LIFE as We Knew It: "LIFE Magazine and the Power of Photographs" at Princeton University Art Museum
In a hard-to-fathom turn of events, the world we live in has become a virtual one. Just a few weeks back, I visited the Princeton University Art Museum and saw “LIFE Magazine and the Power of Photographs,” the exhibition that had opened on February 22. And, though I had no way of knowing it then, I got there just in the nick of time. That following week, things started to dramatically change. In addition to most museums closing, my day-job workplace shut its doors to all-but-essential staff (which apparently, I am not) and the adjustment to days filled with news-watching and fretting about food began in earnest.
published on 04/01/2020
"Seamless" Works of Art at Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts' Stedman Gallery
When crafting a story, the primary rule a writer must remember is “show, don’t tell.” This is true in other art forms, too. As an example, I offer “Seamless: Craft-Based Objects and Performance Practices,” the exhibition on view at Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts’ Stedman Gallery through April 16. The title provides an apt description; the show presents the work of three artists – Angela Ellsworth, Caleb Weintraub, and Stephanie J. Williams – who each create craft-based objects, in this case with sewing as a common thread, as well as feature a performance element in video form.
published on 01/30/2020
Merry, Madcap... Murder? Cape May Stage Presents "Murder for Two: Holiday Edition"
Maybe you don’t envision seasonal cheer when you hear “Murder for Two: Holiday Edition,” the title of the current production at Cape May Stage through Sunday, December 29. But, trust me on this, it’s plenty merry!
published on 12/12/2019
Slambovian Circus of Dreams’ Psychedelic Americana Comes to Lizzie Rose Music Room
The Slambovian Circus of Dreams come to the Lizzie Rose Music Room in Tuckerton.
published on 11/21/2019
Stockton University Art Gallery Explores Grief in "No Cure for Mourning"
In the words of curator Ryann Casey, “No Cure for Mourning,” the exhibition on view through November 12 at Stockton University Art Gallery, “ examines the relationship between art-making and the experience of loss.
published on 10/30/2019
Michael Menes Goes "Above and Beyond" at Hopewell Theater
Teenagers have a variety of interests, some of which prepare them for their future. But I would guess that few follow a path like Michael Menes chose.
published on 09/06/2019
Victorian Meets Vaudeville at Cape May MAC
A New Jersey summer getaway often includes a trip to the shore (that’s Jersey-speak for beach or coast; sometimes referred to as downtheshore). And the shore has a lot to offer: You can stroll in the sand and swim in the ocean, take a boat ride and go water skiing, hit the arcades and play a round of miniature golf. Or, for something altogether different, you can head over to Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC)’s Emlen Physick Estate to experience “Victorian Vaudeville,” an entertaining, family-friendly production performed by REV Theatre Company.
published on 08/09/2019
Next Stop on Your Jersey Arts To-See List This Summer: Hunterdon Art Museum
I may never stop being amazed and inspired by New Jersey’s wide and wonderful range of arts and cultural offerings.
Just this week, for example, I talked to Marjorie Frankel Nathanson, Executive Director of the Hunterdon Art Museum, commonly referred to as HAM, in Clinton, N.J. Now the museum and its charming town top my list of go-to New Jersey day trips.
published on 07/17/2019
The Folk Project: Folk Music and More for 30+ Years
There are as many ways to characterize folk music as there are people singing and playing the songs.
It encompasses a wide range of musical styles, with the songs being passed on from generation to generation and place to place. And, like in a game of whisper-down-the-lane, it expands and changes along the way.
At its most elemental, folk music is storytelling.
published on 06/19/2019
Rowan University Exhibit Showcases Past and Present of SOHO20 Art Collective
History is a powerful force, bringing the past forward and revealing clear connections between the world today and events and experiences that occurred before.
So, when history beckoned, Rowan University Art Gallery responded with its current exhibition “Women Defining Themselves: The Original Artists of the SOHO 20,” on view at the Gallery at 301 High Street in Glassboro through July 27.
published on 05/14/2019
"Exploring the Colors" of Jacob Landau at Monmouth University Center for the Arts
I have been covering the arts in New Jersey for a long time, and yet I continue to be surprised and delighted by the number of new things I learn about our small but mighty state’s abundance of art-related offerings.
My new favorite discovery is the artist Jacob Landau and the exhibition “Jacob Landau: Exploring the Colors,” presented by the Monmouth University Center for the Arts and on view at the Guggenheim Memorial Library in Long Branch through April 18.
published on 04/12/2019
Livingston Taylor and Vance Gilbert Get Up Close And Personal At Levoy Theatre
Few things bring me greater pleasure than a live music performance. If music is the universal language, live music is poetry in motion.
From a snippet of a concert memory, I can recreate a complete experience. This happens not because the artist was “on” that night or played the songs I wanted to hear, but because of the sense of connection on all levels – sight, sound and emotion.
published on 02/22/2019
It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared.
Those are often the most powerful.
published on 01/10/2019
Join The Greater South Jersey Chorus For "A Winter's Night" (Or Afternoon)
The holidays bring many special things and, for me, one of the best is the music. It sets a mood, invokes memories, soothes the soul and provides a seasonal soundtrack for my life.
published on 12/14/2018
Music At Bunker Hill Makes Acoustic Connections In South Jersey
In the baseball saga “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner’s character proclaims, “If you build it, they will come.”
And Carol Westfall, President of Music at Bunker Hill, believes this saying holds true as well for other things – such as a multi-concert-season chamber music series in Gloucester County.
published on 11/21/2018
The 27th Annual Blackwood Pumpkin Festival
Now that summer is officially in the rearview mirror – even with an occasional warm-weather day – the time has come for thoughts to turn to things autumnal. That could mean painting a pumpkin or constructing a scarecrow for Halloween decorating. It might be checking out a craft fair for an early start on holiday shopping. It could involve an outdoor spot with live entertainment to see and hear without slathering on high-number sunscreen. Or maybe it’s just taking in an activity that’s fun for the whole gang, even the four-legged ones.
published on 10/04/2018
Ritz Opens Season With "Incorruptible"
Fun seems to be the operative word for “Incorruptible,” the production that opens the fall season at the Ritz Theatre Company on Thursday, September 13.
published on 09/13/2018
"Tastefully South Jersey" at Perkins Center For The Arts
“You learn something new every day…”
Well, maybe not EVERY day but, while researching for JerseyArts.com features, I regularly learn something new.
For example, I have known about Perkins Center for the Arts for a very long time. I’ve been to many exhibitions, participated in classes, and enjoyed several of the DeCafe Concerts over the years.
But, prior to talking with Perkins’ Associate Director Diane Felcyn and Folklife Center Director, Karen Abdul-Malik (better known to many as Queen Nur), I had no idea that Perkins has a Folklife Center.
published on 08/02/2018
It's A Family Affair At West Windsor Arts Center With "Generation Next: The Family Show"
Sometimes the concept behind an art exhibition is every bit as creative as the work in the galleries. A good example of this is “Generation Next: The Family Show,” on view now through August 17 at the West Windsor Arts Center in Princeton Junction.
published on 07/05/2018
Breaking Through The Box Theater Company Premieres "Doctor Shepherd" at Open Arts PAC
If you’re looking for something out-of-the-ordinary to do this weekend, I suggest seeing the world premiere of “Dr. Shepherd,” staged by Breaking Through the Box Theater Company at Open Arts PAC in Bordentown.
published on 06/21/2018
New Jersey Artists Are "Navigating Elements" at Rowan University Art Gallery
No doubt you remember the state marketing slogan “New Jersey and You – Perfect Together.” In many ways, I think that is an apt description of the partnering of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Rowan University Art Gallery for the 2018 Arts Annual Exhibition “Navigating Elements,” on view at the Art Gallery through July 28.
published on 05/17/2018
Teenage Country Music Sensation EmiSunshine
EmiSunshine is a genuine country music wonder girl. Emi, whose full name is Emilie Sunshine Hamilton, began singing when she was four years old, or, as her mother Alisha Hamilton said in an online interview, “as soon as she was old enough to harmonize.”
published on 04/02/2018
The Four Bitchin' Babes Presents "Hormonal Imbalance V2.5: A Mood-Swinging Musical Revue"
What does it mean when you call something “timeless?” A Dictionary.com definition is “referring or restricted to no particular time.” A British dictionary site defines it as “unaffected or unchanged by time; ageless.” And to fine-tune it more, I offer you “enduring,” a synonym for timeless.
published on 02/28/2018
Deck The Halls With Monmouth Civic Chorus
Each year, an abundance of prompts appears to remind us that the winter holiday season is approaching. The stores start decorating before trick-or-treaters have finished consuming their bounty of candy. Sunday newspaper editions bulge with advertisements. And every online site you visit has a holiday-themed banner inviting you to find the perfect gift.
published on 12/13/2017
WheatonArts' "Emanation 2017"
I believe that a BIG human nature defect is how we often take for granted things that deserve more attention. And I want to suggest that, in southern New Jersey, one of those things is Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center in Millville.
published on 11/02/2017
"Ah, Wilderness!" Down The Shore
While on vacation at the Jersey shore last week, I decided to take my family to Cape May to see the East Lynne Theater Companyproduction of “Ah, Wilderness!”, the only comedy by the eminent American playwright Eugene O’Neill.
published on 08/23/2017
PCM Theatre's "Life Is Strange 2" At Open Arts PAC
From an entertainment options point of view, we live in an abundant world. Even for those of us outside of the city, there are more interesting things available than one can reasonably expect to see and do.
Yet, I never tire of discovering something new happening around me, even when it adds more selections to an already tough-to-choose-from list.
published on 07/13/2017
Liveliness; Spirit; Excitement: The Music That Moves South Jersey Jazz Society
When I think of my earliest exposure to jazz, I remember Saturday afternoons at the shore. It was me—probably 12 or 13 years old—with my parents, sitting on bar stools in a favorite bayside spot. I felt so grown-up. I sipped a soda, my folks enjoyed their adult beverages and together we listened to the musicians playing.
published on 06/28/2017
Appel Farm Returns to Its Roots with Second Annual Music and Wine Festival
Welcome to Jersey Arts Quizzo. The question is – “What IS Appel Farm?”
If you’re anything like me, a South Jersey native for whom few things are more enjoyable than listening to live music outdoors, your answer probably mimics mine – “Oh, you mean that wonderful festival in Elmer, New Jersey?”
published on 06/01/2017
Rowan's "How Food Moves" Exhibit Invites Viewers to Think Critically about Food Systems
I don’t know about you, but I often rely on quotes by famous people and great thinkers to help me distill down an immense concept into a few well-chosen words. And, when I searched for wise phrases about art, I found pages and pages to choose from.
published on 05/10/2017
Bay Atlantic Concludes Season with “Glinka, Prokofiev, and Mendelssohn"
Everyone knows the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but isn’t there another side to that? What about words that spark our imaginations in a way that make our minds see and feel?
published on 04/19/2017
New in Newark: Paul Robeson Galleries Offer New Exhibits, Art Spaces and Collaborations
Fun fact: There are more than 900 roads and highways across the United States named for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (I know this is for real–I read it on the interwebs).
published on 03/16/2017
The Boss on Display at the Morven
Two things went through my mind when I heard about the “Bruce Springsteen: A Photographic Journey” exhibition at Morven Museum & Garden in Princeton: (1) Don’t miss it, and (2) it’s at Morven?!?
published on 03/01/2017
East Lynne Theater Company Regales with “Yuletide Tales”
When it comes to the holidays, it is traditions – the people we spend time with, the places we go, and the special things we do – that create our most long-lasting and endearing memories.
published on 12/07/2016
Exit 0 Jazz Festival Offers Three Days of Music in Cape May
A three-day festival. More than half a dozen venues. A line-up of performers that’s guaranteed to strike a chord (like what I did there?) with all types of music lovers. Taking place in a town that boasts a distinctive style, charm and history, and a reputation for good old-fashioned fun.
published on 11/04/2016
Philharmonic of Southern New Jersey’s "Traveling" Musical Season Takes Off
Webster’s Dictionary defines passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” And passion is the word that came immediately to mind after I recently talked with Matthew Oberstein, Music Director and Conductor for the Philharmonic of Southern New Jersey.
published on 10/13/2016