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Julissa Contreras, Pinocchio

Julissa Contreras

When the invitation arrived to attend the latest incarnation of Pinocchio, I must be honest, “I’ve Got No Strings” began to reverberate in my head. I make no apologies for being reared on those animated Disney classics. Imagine my surprise upon attending this inventive collaboration between Chicago Children’s Theatre and Neverbird Project, a youth-based artistic home who uses “American Sign Language, spectacle and wonderment” to tell their stories. This certainly was not the Disney marionette who wanted to become a real boy story I recalled from childhood. First, this tale was presented much darker, more to the tune of following Carlo Collodi’s 1881 newspaper serial titled “The Adventures of Pinocchio” and second, the cast included a troupe of both Deaf and hearing actors, in a wide range of ages, performing the story. The Deaf and hearing integration didn’t distract at all from this tale of love, loss and growth in any way. All involved were able to artistically coexist in the most magnificent of ways. Directed and written by Levi Holloway and Katy Boza with additional ASL direction by Matt Anderson, this ode to inclusivity was never accomplished at the expense of telling a compelling story. Staged in The Pritzker Family Studio Theatre at The Station, this creative marriage between the Chicago Children’s Theatre and Neverbird Project was a match that quickly proved heavenly.

Haley Bolithon

Haley Bolithon

The story began with a curious fairy named Blu (Haley Bolithon) who wanted to “share her light” back down on earth. It would appear Blu was now a star up in sky, a prematurely extinguished life now morphed into a heavenly guide. She herself longed to once again experience the pure gift of human connection. Upon returning to the land, Blu quickly happened upon a puppet, Pinocchio (Julissa Contreras) and a plucky talking cricket (Sarah Cartwright) who was not long for this world. Yes, this Pinocchio was quite mischievous and quickly and instinctively squashed the bug. Spending the rest of the performance as a “ghost cricket” permanently “tethered together” with Blu. As a reminder, I did state the children’s literature from which this play was based was a little darker in tone than that reimagined by the people at Disney. Also, in this incarnation, the overly protective Geppetto (Chris Chmelik) was nursing a broken heart of his own, after losing his beloved wife. Their backstory romance played out over songs “Fly Me To The Moon” and “God Only Knows (What I Would Be Without You)” with lyrical choreography and music direction by Nicole Lambert. Defying Geppetto’s instructions, Pinocchio swiftly found himself trapped by the nefarious Redd (Mary Williamson) and was put to work in her traveling modern dance puppet show. This villainous vixen intimidated without ever uttering an audible word. Making the most of her Charlotte Mae Ellison designed costume, this “Cruella” proved quite the devil.  With the help of her mouthy and defiant marionettes, Pinocchio escaped Redd’s clutches only to then discover Geppetto had been swallowed up by a whale. Being this is a children’s show on a strict budget after all, the whale was created utilizing various sound effects and lighting techniques designed by Jeffrey Levin and Claire Chrzan, respectively, as well as requiring a healthy dose of the audience’s collective imaginations.

Pinocchio

Poignant and appealing, this Pinocchio offered a pointedly original spin on a often told story. The integration of the Deaf and hearing actors was seamless is a presentation that didn’t scare away from its own darker subject matter. Instead of glossing over the reality of grief and sadness, this production welcomed it with open arms and journeyed through it, heart first, until it came out on the other side. By no means is this performance too dark for children. It is also not high gloss Barbie pink either. Existing on a plane of consciousness of grand imagination, this show was played inherently grounded. Well, as grounded as a walking puppet with no strings could be. Intentionally electing to make the central character, Pinocchio, hearing impaired may very well be the first exposure young children have to the Deaf. Much like Sesame Street recently deciding to include a new puppet with Autism, the arts is a wonderful place to reflect different and congruent realities back to the world. Successfully corroborating in a way we all “got no strings” when it comes to shared experiences and notable creativity.

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s Pinocchio is now playing through May 14, 2017 at The Station

Stephen S. Best is currently a freelance writer for the Times Square Chronicles, covering the performing arts scene in the greater Chicagoland area. He has been a theater aficionado for years, attending his first live production, Annie, at the tender age of six. After graduating from Purdue University, Stephen honed his skills attending live theater, concerts and art installations in New York and Chicago. Stephen's keen eye and thorough appreciation for both theater patrons' time and entertainment dollar makes him a valuable asset and his recommendations key. Stephen currently lives in downtown Chicago.

Events

The Abbot of Athos and The Consulate Midtown A Tale of How Food Can Bring Peace

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Greece and Macedonia, have had decades of tension, but yesterday at The Consulate Midtown, 44 West 56th Street The Holy Father, Geron Nektarios, Abbot of the Kalyve of Holy Cross in Skete of Saint Anne in Mount Athos and Kiril Mihajlov, showed how great food and conversation can give way to peace.

The Holy Father, Geron Nektarios, Abbot of the Kalyve of Holy Cross in Skete of Saint Anne in Mount Athos, Kiril Mihajlov

I met the Abbott in Greece last summer and he graciously agreed to have lunch with me and some guests I invited, before he returned to Greece.

Margarita Parlionas, Captain John Woodall

Margarita Parlionas is a business owner, who brought with her Captain John Woodall who runs Camp4Heroes, a place where Vets can get some much needed help.

Suzanna Bowling, The Holy Father, Geron Nektarios, Abbot of the Kalyve of Holy Cross in Skete of Saint Anne in Mount Athos, Kiril Mihajlov and George Tower

George Tower, helps lead groups of tourists throughout New York and speaks fluent Greek.

The Abbot, Margarita and Captain Woodall all supped on the Hangover Burger ($28) 8oz grilled patty, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, topped with a fried egg on a brioche bun, which they all claimed was the best burger they had ever had.

George had the Salmon Eggs Benedict ($26) poached eggs, smoked salmon, toasted brioche, espelette hollandaise sauce and was completely happy.

T2C’s Suzanna Bowling had her favorite Avocado Toast with Bacon ($24) scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon and mixed greens. If you want sensational food with a elegant atmosphere, I highly recommend The Consulate Midtown.

The Abbot gifted a book about his life written in both Greek and English to the guests.

The Abbott has been in America since April visiting Boston, Washington, Chicago, Milwaukee, The Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Queens and NYC. His message is of gratitude, love and healing. He has been raising funds to expand and offer more to men who want a spiritual retreat, which is what Mount Athos does.

T2C’s Suzanna Bowling and The Holy Father, Geron Nektarios, Abbot of the Kalyve of Holy Cross in Skete of Saint Anne in Mount Athos

If you wish to know more you can go to Athonite Foundation.

 

 

 

 

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Family

Sleep Well With Parallel

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Finding the perfect pillow can be a pain in the neck (literally). It is said we get the deepest, healthiest sleep with a pillow that provides the perfect combination of softness and firmness, as well as the ideal loft to help support your neck and spine.

“One size fits all” doesn’t cut it for those who suffer from neck pain. If you didn’t have neck pain before using an inexpensive pillow, you probably will not getting the proper support.

Memory foam pillows have been the best pillow for neck pain, but adjustable memory foam pillows help the side, stomach, or back sleeper relieve neck pain. They however are not thermal regulating or hypoallergenic, which I have learned for me is key.

I have never had a pillow that I love as much as the Parallel pillow. I have the Parallel High Profile Adjustable Pillow($89) and since it has arrived I have slept like never before. I use awake with neck and shoulder pains….no longer. I also use to flip again….gone.

When the pillow arrives, you throw it into the dryer for 5 minutes and wow the pillow is fluffy and ready for use.

This pillow has an inner shell that contains ParaPur™ silver ions that naturally destroy 99.9% of microbes that cause odors, without nasty chemicals. Silver ions have a wide spectrum of biocidal activity against bacteria, fungi, and viruses, due to their high surface-to-volume ratio. Pure silver is also hypoallergenic. The sculptable, huggable Blutech Fiber Fill (BFF) inside the Parallel High Profile Pillow is a unique blend of downy hypoallergenic fibres and precision-cut gel visco foam that invites twice the airflow of conventional foam. You’ll feel the awesomeness immediately.

The pillow also boasts:

  • The perfect temperature, year-round. Never cold or hot
  • Easily adjustable pillow: add or remove fill for perfect support
  • Oodles of sculptable Blutech Fusion Fill (BFF) with 2X the airflow
  • Doesn’t go flat
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Broadway

TDF partnership sends 1400 service members to Broadway and Off Broadway during Fleet Week

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For the second year in a row, TDF, the not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts, has partnered with the Community Foundation of New Jersey to help obtain and distribute 1400 tickets to 11 Broadway and two Off-Broadway shows. These tickets will be given at no cost to members of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Blue Star Families, who will be in New York City during this year’s Fleet Week, May 22 to May 28, 2024.

The 13 shows that service members will see for free are Back to the Future: The Musical, The Book of Mormon, The Great Gatsby, Hamilton, Hell’s Kitchen, The Lion King, MJ, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, The Outsiders, The Play That Goes Wrong, SIX, Titanique, and Water for Elephants.

“This is the second year of our partnership with the Community Foundation of New Jersey, and we are honored once again to facilitate tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway for our service members during Fleet Week,” said TDF Executive Director Deeksha Gaur. “We know from our companion program for veterans that attending the theatre can support healing and help build community.  But most of all, we are thrilled that service members will get to experience the magic and joy of New York theatre at no cost to them.”

The Community Foundation of New Jersey serves approximately 1,160 fundholders—individuals, families, and businesses with philanthropic funds, which they use to recommend grants to worthy causes and communities.

“Funds at the Community Foundation of New Jersey may be used to directly improve people’s lives beyond the usual grantmaking, and this is a great example of that,” said Madeline Rivera, Program Officer at the Community Foundation. “Unique philanthropic ideas like these enable us to have broad impact in areas important to our fundholders.”

Those wishing to donate so that service members can attend future performances should contact Madeline Rivera at the Community Foundation of New Jersey atmrivera@cfnj.org or (973) 267-5533.

The Community Foundation of New Jersey creates and scales custom solutions for purpose-driven individuals, families, and businesses. From creative projects that tackle critical societal or policy issues, to scholarship funds, corporate philanthropy, legacy funds, and donor-advised funds, CFNJ manages nearly every kind of giving vehicle and tailors solutions to meet critical needs. CFNJ’s specialists understand the unique contours of communities and manage the scope of CFNJ investment and grantmaking capabilities with precision. With $790 million in assets, the CFNJ grants tens of millions of dollars each year through its more than 1,100 funds. In 2023, CFNJ granted more than $70 million to nonprofits in New Jersey and beyond.

Founded in 1968, TDF (formerly known as Theatre Development Fund) is a not-for-profit service organization dedicated to bringing the power of the performing arts to everyone. TDF’s mission is to sustain live theatre and dance by engaging a broad and diverse audience and eliminating barriers to attendance. We fulfill our mission with a variety of programs that expand access, cultivate communities, and support the makers of the performing arts.

We are known for our theatregoing programs, including the TKTS by TDF Discount Booths (which celebrated 50 years in Times Square in 2023) and the TDF Membership Program; TDF Accessibility Programs (including open captioning, audio description, Autism Friendly Performances and the Veterans Theatregoing Program); Education programs (serving more than 10,000 NYC public school students annually), and Community programs (serving 18,000 people in the tristate area); as well as the TDF Costume Collection Rental and Research Programs. TDF envisions a world where the transformative experience of attending live theatre and dance is essential, relevant, accessible, and inspirational. To learn more about TDF, go to tdf.org; Facebook/Instagram/Threads: @tdfnyc.

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Events

Voices for Victoria Launches Call-To-Action Campaign Ahead of June 6th: National Naloxone Awareness Day

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In today’s America, there is an urgent ongoing crisis which can no longer go on. Within the last year, it was reported that over 112,000 lives were lost to opioid- and fentanyl-related overdoses. This epidemic is affecting everyone from all walks of life, leaving all vulnerable to the horrific nature of what has become a sad mark on our country’s history.

The crucial time to turn this statistic around and to create a better tomorrow has arrived, and we’re all responsible for answering the call. Voices for Victoria is a movement that was initiated by philanthropist Nancy Ross in support of the Victoria’s Voice Foundation, a non-profit organization founded with a mission of educating individuals on substance abuse prevention and addiction resources.

Dedicated to spreading awareness about opioid overdose reversal medications like Naloxone, Victoria’s Voice is collectively working day and night to bring attention to a mass movement for change. In need of assistance from advocates, celebrities, and government officials alike, the organization is asking for individuals to join the mission to generate more education and accessibility for Naloxone. At the same time the trailblazers are educating communities about its life-saving potential. They firmly believe that everyone deserves to have access to this vital medication.

For Ross—a mother, investigative journalist, philanthropist, and overdose awareness advocate—the fight to save the next generation is one that hits close to home.

“It’s so important that we are creating the kind of world that’s conducive for not only our children to inhabit, but generations upon generations of teenagers who are going to eventually learn about the impacts of substance addiction,” Ross asserts. “As a mom, I want to know that I’m helping to create a better world for my three children, and for the many students and community members whom this has already affected. We have to fight to save people from the clutches of this epidemic.”

By kickstarting an empowering #VoicesForVictoria social media campaign, this initiative sends a powerful message to communities across the nation that tangible reform is just around the corner, and that no one life should go overlooked. Using a platform has the influence to make a real difference in this fight against opioid overdose deaths.

“I learned about Naloxone after attending an event for Victoria’s Voice, and was blown away by the work they were doing in the community,” Ross says. “Imagine, Victoria could’ve been my own child. The thought that parents are losing their children due to a simple lack of awareness surrounding Naloxone is heartbreaking, but Voices for Victoria is working to remedy that. We are going to make a real difference through this movement.”

As both a parent and public figure, Ross feels responsible for helping to spread the word. As she joins with Victoria’s Voice, the philanthropist seeks to get others to respond to the call of advocacy, and to get the message about Naloxone out to every part of this country.

By reaching wider audiences, #VoicesForVictoria allows even more individuals to join the movement and encourage others to learn more about the life-saving capabilities of Naloxone. From neighbors to friends to loved ones, involvement with this campaign has the profound ability to save millions of people from succumbing to preventable deaths. Through Naloxone awareness, Victoria’s Voice.

Various initiatives leading up to National Naloxone Awareness Day on June 6 are in the works, with one such notable event featuring media personality and the “Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort, with a live TikTok and Q&A session on Saturday, May 18 at 3pm EST. Belfort is helping to lead the charge to help save the next generation before it is too late. The critical information will be on his feed in front of his 3.6 million followers on his TikTok account, @wolfofwallstreet.

Victoria’s Voice was founded after Victoria Siegel—the daughter of “The Real Queen of Versailles” icon Jackie Siegel—passed away from a drug overdose on June 6, 2015, at just 18 years old. Victoria was just one of 129 Americans who lost their lives to  a drug overdose on that day. Since then, a staggering number of families across the United States have lost a loved one to overdose. In fact, nearly 300 people die from a drug overdose every single day in this country.

Join the movement today, and save lives with Voices for Victoria on the Victoria’s Voice Foundation official website.

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Food and Drink

Del Maguey VIDA Puebla Delights with Dazzling Twist on Cocktails

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This week in New York City the tastemakers in town got to delight in a dazzling twist on cocktails.

Del Maguey launched an incredible Twist on a Classic campaign, encouraging drinkers to swap out the spirit in any classic cocktail and sub in Del Maguey VIDA Puebla, the newest addition to Del Maguey’s line of artisanal Mezcals that was crafted specifically to be the perfect cocktail base.

The surprising and bold sips were both refreshing and full of joyful expressions. For those who are new to Mezcal this is not only the best on the market – it is also deeply meaningful. With 25 unique expressions, there is a world of wonder that is yours to discover. You will fall in love.

To celebrate this launch, the brand perfectly partnered with Los Angeles based designer With Love, Lenny – whose brand is known to take classic denim and twist it with customizations. Together they are creating a line of Del Maguey VIDA Puebla cocktail designs.

Here are some amazing drinks you need to try to make your summer sizzle with delight. ENJOY!

VIDA Negroni

    • 1 part Del Maguey VIDA Puebla
    • 1 part Sweet Vermouth
    • 1 part Campari
    • Build in a mixing glass, add ice, stir. Pour over a large cube
    • Garnish with an orange peel, (and cherries for With Love, Lenny style).
    • Serve in a rocks glass.

VIDA-Rita

    • 2 parts Del Maguey VIDA Puebla
    • ¾ parts lime juice
    • ¾ parts agave syrup
    • Method: shale, pour, top with ice
    • Garnish with a lime wedge
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