Pet Therapy

Dogs help children to heal at A.I. duPont Hospital

As our group chatted in the bright atrium of the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, it was clear who in our circle drew the most attention. She sat stately in head-to-toe black and white, a stylish pink accent flower around her neck. Many visitors stopped to say hello, admire her, or give her a warm hug and a pat.

So, who is this commanding presence? She’s Trixie, a gorgeous, gentle giant of a Great Dane, who at 4 years old and 155 pounds, is the largest of the furry friends in the hospital’s Pet Therapy Program. And judging by her popularity in the atrium, she’s perfect for the job.

The Pet Therapy program has been part of duPont Hospital for Children’s Child Life, Creative Arts Therapy and School Programs since 2007, says Melissa Nicely, the hospital’s Child Life Program manager. Nicely describes her department as helping kids and parents “make sense” of their situation and the stressors that often accompany a child’s long-term hospital stay. And the Pet Therapy program is a tremendous asset in that effort.

Patients enjoy almost daily interaction with the pet therapy teams, as well as biweekly visits from the Brandywine Zoo and even the occasional special visit of miniature ponies in the outside courtyard.
Currently, there are 15 teams of certified dogs and their handlers, all hospital volunteers. The dogs that participate in the inpatient program range in diversity from Trixie’s majestic stature to a Wheaten Terrier, some Shelties, a pair of Tibetan Spaniels and many mixed breeds. Typically, there is at least one therapy dog in the building each weekday, and the dog teams are assigned to different units to work with patients and their families.

“It’s incredibly important that children have something to help make this a more healing place to be,” Nicely says. “It’s a special kind of healing that our dogs provide. They help patients to be less afraid of their circumstances and give them a positive association with a hospital visit. Kids can return home and say, ‘Look at the cool thing I got to do in the hospital!'”

Nicely says patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from the visits. Parents, siblings, and even staff love the dogs’ visits as well. “Taking a minute to pet a dog can help bring a smile to anyone’s face,” she says.

The dogs and their handlers come to the program through many organizations, such as Therapy Dogs International and, more locally, Faithful Friends Animal Society. The dogs must be at least one year old and have passed obedience training or the “Canine Good Citizen” * test. Once dogs are certified, their owners reach out to the hospital to begin the volunteer process for the Pet Therapy team. Initially, all will do a “meet & greet” at the hospital, testing them in different situations with wheelchairs and hospital equipment and seeing how they engage with children and groups.

Chris Colket, of Drexel Hill, Pa., is Trixie’s owner. Colket has been involved with pet therapy for 10 years, with past dogs like his boy Dudley (also a Great Dane), and he also has worked in Alzheimer’s care facilities. Colket was at a dog show some years ago with one of his pups, and someone mentioned to him that his dog, with its calm demeanor, would be well suited to therapy.

After being certified through Comfort Caring Canines, he and Trixie began their service at duPont Hospital for Children nearly a year ago. “It’s so nice to volunteer like this; it really makes me feel great,” Colket says. “And they [the dogs] seem to enjoy it themselves. When I pull out Trixie’s collar and leash (which she only wears for her hospital duties), she gets excited because she knows she’s going to ‘work.'”

He and Trixie come to the hospital about once a week, visiting different units each time. On this particular day, they saw 10 patients, which is a lot for her, Colket notes. Her average is about five to seven per visit – they like to focus on quality versus quantity.

Trixie’s very gentle, says Colket, and she doesn’t mind if kids tug on her tail or play with her ears. Nicely says that big dogs like Trixie are the perfect height for children in wheelchairs or those restricted to a bed because they can’t reach very far.

Colket recalls that the previous week, Trixie climbed onto a patient’s bed and hung out for 25 minutes. That was great for both dog and child. “You learn to pay attention to cues from the family,” Colket says. “You’ll know when it’s time to move on or check back in. It’s about what works for each individual child.” Colket also takes notes about each visit.

As we wrap up our chat, a small visitor shyly approaches to ask if he can pet Trixie. She calmly obliges, and his smile broadens as he gingerly pets her head and she relaxes into it.
It truly seems this dog has found her purpose.

*Started in 1989, the Canine Good Citizen Program is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. It’s a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs. All dogs who pass the 10-step test may receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club.


A Toast to Holiday Events

We’ve compiled a list of every manner of merriment to help get you into the bell-ringing, carol-singing, candle-lighting, reindeer-sighting, eggnog-guzzling, mistletoe-nuzzling mood. Happy Holidays to all!

Longtime Holiday Traditions

Yuletide at Winterthur
Now–Jan. 8, 2017 | Winterthur Museum & Gardens
Yuletide is one of the most beautiful times at Winterthur, with tree displays adorning the rooms and the Conservatory; sparkling trees and American Christmas vignettes—scenes inspired by Currier & Ives, holiday decorations from Mississippi in the Civil War era and the White House in the early 1900s. New this year in The Galleries stair hall: a 6×3-foot, slate-roofed, fully electrified dollhouse inspired by Queen Mary’s dollhouse, created by Nancy McDaniel and donated to Winterthur.

A Longwood Christmas
Now–Jan. 8, 2017 | Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pa.
The sounds of the season resonate through the gardens in this year’s musically inspired display. Highlights include an 18-foot Fraser fir adorned with a garland of musical instruments in the Music Room; holiday horticulture showcasing more than 6,000 seasonal plants; organ sing-alongs, strolling carolers and performances throughout the estate; and three fire pits—at the Hour Glass Lake Pavilion, Peirce-du Pont House Plaza and Dogwood Plaza—available (weather permitting) for guests’ enjoyment from 4:30–10 pm.

Family Holiday Fun

Breakfast with Santa
Saturday, Dec. 3, 11 am | Delaware Museum of Natural History
Enjoy a special pancake breakfast and a visit with Santa. Get your picture taken with him and let him know if you’ve been naughty or nice. Afterward, take an afternoon tour at the Museum. Tickets are $5 for members and $9 for non-members. Pre-registration is required at

Holiday Sing!
Sunday, Dec. 4, 3 pm | The Music School of Delaware, Wilmington Branch
This musical sing-a-long for the whole family is hosted by the Early Childhood Department of the Music School and marks their 26th annual seasonal celebration. Music School faculty and friends provide instruments, singing and fun. Free, and good for ages 1½ and up.

Chesapeake Brass Band
Holiday Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 pm
Grace Episcopal Church, Wilmington
This 35-piece award-winning brass band presents a high-spirited performance of classical, traditional and popular holiday favorites. This event is free.

Holiday Family Festivities at the Delaware Art Museum
Saturday, Dec. 10, 10:30 am
Delaware Art Museum
Enjoy a host of family-friendly activities at the Museum this holiday season. In Kids’ Corner, explore a geometric winter wonderland, add to the interactive igloo and build 3-D snowflakes. Families can also take a wintry walk through the Copeland Sculpture Garden to search for geometric shapes. Free with museum admission.

Legos & Latkes for Kids: A Pre-Chanukah Program
Sunday, Dec. 18, 12:15-2 pm
Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Wilmington
This popular, community-wide event helps parents and kids enter Chanukah with spirit—by making their own Lego Menorah and delicious latkes. Cost is $12-16 per Lego Menorah set, and online registration is required to guarantee a Menorah. Register at

Chanukah Family Fun Festival
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 5-7 pm
Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Wilmington
Bring the whole family to this party, which will feature a public menorah lighting, a professional entertainer, a delicious Chinese buffet dinner, a moonbounce, games, Chanukah crafts, festive Jewish Music, face painting, prizes and more. Early-bird tickets (purchase before Dec. 23) are $20 for adults and $12 for kids. Register at

Holiday Theatrics

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!)
Friday, Dec. 2–Saturday, Dec. 10 | Chapel Street Players, Newark
Instead of performing Charles Dickens’ holiday classic for the umpteenth time, three actors decide to perform every Christmas story ever told—plus Christmas traditions from around the world, seasonal icons from ancient times to topical pop culture, and carols too. A madcap romp through the holiday season! Tickets to $18.

Christmas by Candlelight
Now–Friday, Dec. 23 | The Candlelight Theater, Arden
Back by popular demand, this heartwarming yuletide celebration features some of your favorite holiday tunes performed by some of your favorite “Candlelighters.”

A Christmas Carol
Wednesday, Dec. 7–Friday, Dec. 30
Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
Ebenezer Scrooge returns to the DTC stage as he transforms from a stingy miser to a man who generously celebrates the spirit of the season all year long. Don’t be left out in the cold for this stunning adaptation of a timeless holiday classic. Tickets are $40-50 and available at

Sparkling Holiday Dance

Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance —
50th Annual Nutcracker
Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 4 | The Playhouse on Rodney Square
Kick off the season with one of Wilmington’s most enduring holiday traditions—the story of young Clara on Christmas night as she is tangled in a battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King in the Land of Sweets. Wilmington Ballet’s performance features New York City Ballet principal dancers Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Live music will be provided by the Wilmington Ballet Orchestra and Chorus, and the beloved Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble will perform. This year, Gov. Jack Markell and First Lady Carla Markell will make a cameo appearance in the Dec. 3 2 pm show to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Christina Cultural Arts Center — Eleone Dance Theater’s 25th Anniversary of “Carols in Color”
Sunday, Dec. 11, 4 pm | The Grand Opera House
For a unique holiday treat, check out this one-day-only performance in Wilmington. “Carols” is a stirring holiday musical that retells the story of Christ’s birth according to the gospel of St. Matthew using contemporary music, exuberant dance and powerful narration. Tickets are $25-35, available at or 800.37GRAND.

First State Ballet Theatre — The Nutcracker
Saturday, Dec. 17, 2 and 7 pm and Sunday, Dec.18, 2 pm
The Grand Opera House, Wilmington
Delaware’s only professional ballet company presents Wilmington’s favorite holiday tradition, The Nutcracker. Experience the magical journey through the land of sweets in FSBT’s lavish production. Tickets are $14.99-45 and are available at or 800.37GRAND.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Holiday Music!
Thursday Noontime Concert — Cartoon Christmas Trio
Thursday, Dec. 1, 12:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music welcomes back the Cartoon Christmas Trio for one of downtown’s favorite holiday traditions. Jazz music from the beloved cartoon “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will fill the sanctuary of First & Central. The concert is free to attend, but donations are gratefully accepted.

First State Symphonic Band Christmas Concert
Friday, Dec. 2, 7:30 pm | Emmanuel Presbyterian Church
First State Symphonic Band gets you into the season with some of the most popular holiday music—Tchaikovsky’s Suite from The Nutcracker, Symphonic Prelude on Adeste Fidelis and medleys of popular and traditional Christmas carols. The concert will conclude with the Leroy Anderson classics, “A Christmas Festival” and “Sleigh Ride.”

Festival Concert — Mastersingers of Wilmington Nativity Carols
Saturday, Dec. 3, 7:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music’s holiday concert features its own Mastersingers with conductor David Schelat and organist Marvin Mills. Their program includes music by Marvin Mills, Neil Harmon, Paul Manz, Jonathan Dove and more. Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door) and are available at

A Jazz Christmas — featuring The Wilson Somers Trio
Sunday, Dec. 4, 7:30 pm | Laird Performing Arts Center at The Tatnall School
Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist Wilson Somers leads his jazz trio—Somers on piano; Pete Paulson, contrabass, and Glenn Ferricone, percussion—along with guest artists Ed Kirkpatrick, tenor saxophone; Wes Morton, vibes; The Tatnall Singers and singer Annie Fitch in traditional and contemporary treatments of holiday favorites, all to benefit Family Promise of Northern New Castle County. Tickets are $15-20 and are available through the event Facebook page,

An All-Star Christmas
Sunday, Dec. 4, 8 pm | World Cafe Live at The Queen, Wilmington
A star-studded seasonal celebration featuring regional music scene faves Jimmy McFadden, Kevin Walsh, Billy Penn Burger, Steve Prentice, Samantha Desper Poole, Chris Duncan, Ritchie Rubini and Tony Cappella. Tickets are $12 and are available at

The Wilmington Children’s Chorus Annual Candlelight Holiday Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 pm & Sunday, Dec. 11, 5 pm | First & Central Presbyterian, Rodney Square
Join the Wilmington Children’s Chorus as they celebrate the season, showcasing holiday music from around the world. The performance features all 150 members of the Youth Choirs, Select Choir, Young Men’s Ensemble and Chamber Choir at First and Central Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $10-$20; call 763-3637 to order.

Holiday Choral Concert
Sunday, Dec. 11, 4 pm | St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Wilmington
The Music School of Delaware’s Delaware Women’s Chorus and Adult Jazz Choir join the Choir from St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, singers from New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church and Brandywine Brass in performance. Music for chorus, chorus with brass quintet and brass quintet alone will round out the program. A community carol sing will follow the concert. Admission is a non-perishable food item.

Thursday Noontime Concert — Center City Chorale’s Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
Thursday, Dec. 15, 12:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music continues its musical holiday celebration with delightful carol arrangements sung by Wilmington’s Downtown Choir, including brilliant arrangements of well-known carols by Howard Helvey. Guest pianists Neil Harmon and Hiroko Yamazaki join the chorale. The concert is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Halls that Are Decked

Rockwood Holiday Open House
Friday, Dec. 2, 6 pm | Rockwood Museum
There’s something for the entire family at the 16th Annual Holiday Open House: live entertainment, children’s activities, refreshments, free photos with Santa, museum tours and a festive light display in the gardens of the Mansion and Carriage House; and New Castle County Youth Entrepreneur’s Secret Santa Shoppe, selling gifts for the whole family. Entertainment includes Delaware Arts Conservatory performing excerpts from The Snow Queen; Delaware Children’s Theatre performing a preview of Willy Wonka; the Imagination Players; Kathryn Ciminello Dance Troupe; Cab Calloway Middle School choirs; the UD Children’s Choir and more. The event is free to attend, but families are asked to bring a nonperishable food item or new mittens, hats or scarves for the Giving Tree.

Holiday House Tour
Saturday, Dec. 10, 9 am | Delaware Art Museum
The Museum’s holiday house tour enters its 30th year. Start at the museum with artisan shopping followed by a tour of historic Greenville houses decked out for the holidays. Homes open at 10 am. Proceeds benefit the Museum’s educational programs. Tickets range from $25-60 and are available at

Old Fashioned Christmas at Bellevue Mansion
Now – Dec. 18, 10 am-4 pm | Bellevue State Park
Step back in time into the beautifully decorated Bellevue Mansion at Bellevue State Park. Visit with Father Christmas, sit and listen to the storyteller, view the train display, custom-designed for the holiday by the First State Model Railroad Club. The Mansion provides not only an old-fashioned experience but also many holiday picture-taking and “selfie” opportunities. Tickets are $15 (children under 2 admitted free) and are available at

Hagley Twilight Tours
Tuesdays & Wednesdays, Dec.13-14 through Dec. 27-28, 4:30-7 pm
Hagley Museum
Enjoy a rare opportunity to see Eleutherian Mills—the first du Pont family home in America—dressed for the holidays with softly glowing lights, lace, fresh greenery, poinsettias, and dried flower arrangements. Admission is free for members and $10 for non-members. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 658-2400, ext. 261.

Holiday Greens Workshop
Saturday, Dec. 3, 9 am | Delaware Center for Horticulture, Wilmington
Add sparkle and beauty to your holiday decorations at the annual Holiday Greens Workshop. Create a beautiful wreath or table arrangement from an unusual collection of fresh greens, dried flowers, seeds, fruit and ribbon. Experts will be on hand to provide guidance. Bring hand pruners and gloves to work with prickly materials. Tickets are $45 for members and $55 for non-members. Space is limited, so reserve by calling 658-6262.

Arts Attack!

From ballet to jazz to opera, we’ve got you covered this season

Arden Concert Gild-San Fermin-Photo Joe del TufoARDEN CONCERT GILD
This fall, Arden’s concert series returns with the outstanding variety and quality, high-energy artists they’re known for, all within the confines of a 165-year-old barn with a hometown atmosphere. On Saturday, Oct. 15, comes the mesmerizing blues guitar and soul-testifying vocals of Joe Louis Walker. A different energy arrives on Sunday, Oct. 23, with the “raw and ragged pop-rock” of Islands, the latest band from Unicorns founder Nicholas Thornburn. On Saturday, Nov. 5, (finally) returning is Ben Sollee, an engaging world-class cellist, songwriter, storyteller and activist. A busy November continues with a gear shift to Buenos Aires Cumbia with La Yegros—marking Arden’s second year of a salsa/rock/dance-filled evening. And never in a rut, the Gild has its first spoken-word show with the renowned Andrew WK—a show that was trending on Facebook when it was announced and will certainly sell out. More to be announced, so stay tuned on Arden Concert Gild’s Facebook page and website.
2126 The Highway, Arden • 898.9308 •
Facebook: @ArdenConcertGild • Twitter: @ArdenConcerts

Christina Cultural Arts Center 2-Photo Faye BonneauCHRISTINA CULTURAL ARTS CENTER
Christina kicks off its year-long 70th Anniversary celebration on Friday, Oct. 21, with a performance by renowned jazz musician Jermaine Bryson. The center’s arts season rounds out with “Movies for Grown Ups” at Theatre N sponsored by AARP in September. In October, there will be the unveiling of its new Shipley Street mosaic wall and “Life RE-imagined”—a partnership with AARP, including a workshop with art-making. Bebe Ross Coker brings the musical work “Sistas Can Sang” to CCAC in November, and December revels in the return of Eleone Dance Theatre and the breathtaking performance of Carols in Color—a retelling of the Gospel according to St. Matthew through electrifying music, exuberant modern dance and powerful narration.
705 N. Market St., Wilmington • 652.0101 •
Facebook/Twitter/Instagram: @CCACDE

City Theater Company-HAIR-Photo Joe del TufoCITY THEATER COMPANY
Delaware’s Off-Broadway experience turns 23 and is partying throughout 2016-17 with new and classic offerings. Following (recent) CTC tradition, the kickoff begins at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Saturday, Oct. 22, with I Want My CTC: A Tribute to the ’80s—an old-school dance party with an all-star band and CTC powerhouses performing the biggest hits of the early ’80s, all led by Joe Trainor. CTC transforms The Black Box into a sizzling nightclub for La Cage aux Folles (December 2–17), in an over-the-top romp of the musical comedy by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman. February sees a World Premiere by acclaimed playwright David Robson—After Birth of a Nation—a farcical send-up of history, sexism, racism and politics centered on a comically disastrous evening at the White House in 1915. Fearless Improv also will host a series of workshops and performances in February at The Black Box. The season wraps in April with the Regional Premiere of Lizzie, a tour-de-force tale of rage, sex, betrayal and murder described as “…American mythology set to a blistering rock score”—with four women fronting the live six-piece rock band.
Performances: The Black Box, 4 S. Poplar St., Wilmington • 220.8285 •
Facebook: @CityTheaterCompany • Twitter/Instagram: @CityTheaterCo

Delaware Art Museum 2-GuayDELAWARE ART MUSEUM
Fall’s first offering celebrates Imaginative Realism—a genre often related to science fiction and fantasy. The IX Preview Weekend (Sept. 23–25) includes an exhibition of more than 16 artists recognized for contributions to Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Marvel & DC Comics and others. The kick-off commences at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, with fantasy-inspired live sketching with Dr. Sketchy; live music, food trucks, cocktails and more. On Saturday, Sept. 24, visit the Copeland Sculpture Garden for a screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Truth & Vision: 21st Century Realism (Oct. 22–Jan. 22) exhibit is inspired by Robert C. Jackson’s Behind the Easel: The Unique Voices of 20 Contemporary Representational Painters. Featuring 20 artists from the U.S. and Canada, the exhibit surveys realistic painting at the start of the 21st century. A wealth of diverse programming fills out the fall—New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake on Thursday, Sept. 15; the Korean Festival & Harvest Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 17; Thursday Labyrinth Walks on Sept. 22 and Oct. 27; and numerous film screenings, gallery chats and Kids’ Corner creativity hours. A powerful live performance arrives Sunday, Nov. 20, with Connected: Spoken Word. Presented by community activist group 302 Guns Down, this is an afternoon of poetry inspired by art and featuring Delaware Poet Laureate Nnamdi Chukwuocha and other artists.
2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington • 571.9590 •
Facebook: @DelawareArtMuseum • Twitter/Instagram: @DelArtMuseum

DelShakes Hamlet-Photo Alessandra NicoleDELAWARE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
In September, DelShakes celebrates First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, the national touring exhibit at the Old College Gallery at the University of Delaware. Producing Artistic Director David Stradley collaborates with Professor Steve Tague to examine acting techniques based on clues in the First Folio on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Stradley then presents his one-man collection of monologues and remembrances, How I Came To Love Shakespeare on Saturday, Sept. 24. In October, usher in fall with masters of the macabre and Delaware’s most literary Halloween tradition, Shakespeare/Poe. DelShakes actors read bone-chilling selections inside the gothic halls of Rockwood Mansion, the grandeur of the Read House & Gardens in Old New Castle and colonial-era Stone Stable in Historic Odessa. But choose quickly—there are only 30 souls per performance! The Company rounds out the fall with Pericles, a tale of loss and redemption, which will tour statewide with free performances at venues like the Sunday Breakfast Mission, Dover Air Force Base and Rose Hill Community Center. Ticketed performances of the production will be held at the Delaware History Museum on consecutive weekends, Nov. 12 and 13 and 19 and 20.
Performance venues: Vary • 415.3373 • • Facebook/Instagram: @DelShakes

Delaware Symphony Orchestra-Photo Joe del TufoDELAWARE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
The DSO and Maestro David Amado launch the 111th Anniversary Season at The Grand on Friday, Sept. 23, with a powerful Classics Series program of Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 5. Andre Previn also will be on hand to receive the A.I. du Pont Composer’s Award prior to the performance of his Double Concerto, featuring violin and cello soloists, Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson. The Classics Series continues Friday, Nov. 18, with guest violinist Jinjoo Cho and music that orbits around Hollywood: the Bo Derek career-launching Ravel’s Bolero; Eric Wolfgang Korngold’s virtuosic Violin Concerto; and Bernstein’s genre-bending West Side Story. DSO’s first Chamber Series travels to the Gold Ballroom on Tuesday, Oct. 18, with Schoenberg’s luminescent Verklärte Nacht and DSO concertmaster David Southorn as violin soloist in Vivaldi’s timeless The Four Seasons. Bring the entire family to Cab Callaway School for the Arts Auditorium for Family Concerts on Sunday, Nov. 20, and get ready for a fun, musical ride with violin soloist Jonjoo Cho and music from West Side Story and composer John Williams.
100 W. 10th St., Suite 1003, Wilmington • 656.7442 •
Facebook: @DelawareSymphony • Twitter: @DelawareSymph

Delaware Theatre Company-Photo Matt UrbanDELAWARE THEATRE COMPANY
DTC continues its vision as Delaware’s only theater developing new shows for Broadway with the American Premiere of Warren Adler’s The War of the Roses. Baring its evil grin Sept. 14–Oct. 2, this dark comedy follows Jonathan and Barbara Rose as their seemingly perfect marriage devolves into a search-and-destroy mission for each other’s most prized possessions. From Oct. 26–Nov. 13, Anthony Giardina’s impassioned political drama, The City of Conversation, pilots audiences through Washington, D.C.’s evolving atmosphere over 30 years and six presidencies. Returning this holiday season is Patrick Barlow’s new spin on the timeless classic, the tour-de-force adaptation of A Christmas Carol, running Dec. 7–30. Join DTC for yet another artistically ambitious season.
200 Water St., Wilmington • 594.1100 •
Facebook/Instagram: @DelawareTheatreCompany
Twitter/Snapchat: @DelawareTheatre

First State Ballet Theatre opens at The Grand on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22 and 23, with Swan Lake—the timeless story of good versus evil with music by Tchaikovsky. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12, FSBT presents Up Front. Performed in Studio 1 at the baby grand, Up Front brings audiences and dancers up close and personal, with classical repertoire and contemporary pieces choreographed for the company. The season continues with a Wilmington holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17 and 18, at The Grand Opera House. Experience the magical journey through the land of sweets in this lavish production, which will include new costumes and choreography for the battle scene.
818 N. Market St., Wilmington • 658.7897 x3851 •
Facebook/Instagram: @FirstStateBallet • Twitter: @FSBTheatre

Gable Music Ventures-Mary Lambert-Photo Joe del TufoGABLE MUSIC VENTURES
After the smashing success of the fifth Ladybug Music Festival, Gable continues to be the conduit for live music in and around Wilmington. Friday, Sept. 9, heralds the return of Save the Valley Music Festival to World Cafe Live at The Queen, with six acts, including Maryland-based blues singer/saxophonist Vanessa Collier; Splashing Pearls; and American indie/roots rock band Bronze Radio Return. The Ladybug Music Festival presents a collection of singers for its “County Bugs” showcase on Saturday, Oct. 1, and Saturday, Oct. 22, celebrates artist Shane Palko’s Seventh Story album release—all at World Cafe Live at The Queen. Gable also continues to provide live music to Cool Spring Farmers Market through September. For tickets and more details, visit
Performance venue: World Cafe Live at The Queen, 500 N. Market St., Wilmington • Facebook: @GableMusicVentures
Twitter: @GableMusic • Intsagram: @GableMusicVentures

The Grand and The Playhouse are off to an exciting start. The Grand offers options for the whole family, from children’s sensation The Wiggles to Grammy Award-winning blues artist Jonny Lang. A cappella phenomenon Straight No Chaser returns for two shows, and music legends Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen collaborate in a special acoustic performance of their hits. The Playhouse’s Broadway in Wilmington series starts in October with a limited engagement of the Tony Award-winning classic, Rent. Following is the Playhouse Premiere of 2014 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, and a limited engagement of another Premiere, Broadway Christmas Wonderland. Closing out the first half of the series is the wildly popular Broadway hit Kinky Boots.
The Grand: 818 N. Market St., Wilmington • 652.5577 •
The Playhouse: 1007 N. Market Street, Wilmington • 888.0200 •
Facebook: @TheGrandWilmington • Facebook: @ThePlayhouseDE
Twitter/Instagram: @TheGrandWilm

The Kennett Flash-Arden Kind-Photo Brianna & Ryan PhotographyTHE KENNETT FLASH
In downtown Kennett Square, The Flash is less than 15 minutes from Wilmington. A sampling of fall offerings includes singer/songwriter Tim Easton on Wednesday, Sept. 14; Blues guitarist and Yardbird Johnny A. on Friday, Sept. 23; Leigh Nash (lead singer of Sixpence None The Richer) on Sunday, Sept. 25; “Midnight at the Oasis” songstress Maria Muldaur on Saturday, Oct. 1; former Frank Zappa stunt guitarist Mike Keneally with his group Beer For Dolphins on Friday, Oct. 28; NPR’s Echoes welcomes guitarist Adrian Legg on Wednesday, Nov. 9, and folk favorite Steve Forbert on Friday, Dec. 2. This fall also sees tributes to Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, The Beatles, Steely Dan, The Who, Jethro Tull and more. Look for Open Mic Nights, up-and-coming national acts, former Billboard chart toppers and more at The Flash.
102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, PA • 484.732.8295 •
Facebook: @TheFlashMusicCafe • Instagram/Twitter @TheKennettFlash

Market Street Music-Pyxis-Photo Charles GroveMARKET STREET MUSIC
Wilmington’s most affordable and diverse music series presents full-length Festival Concerts featuring Pyxis Piano Quartet on Saturday, Oct. 1, and Sunday, March 19; organist David Schelat on Sunday, Oct. 23; Mastersingers of Wilmington on Saturday, Dec. 3, and April 1; and La Bernardinia Early Music Ensemble on Sunday, May 7. Popular Thursday Noontime Concerts begin at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 with members of Mélomanie and continue with such varied artists as Lyra Russian Choir—the Russian Vocal Ensemble of St. Petersburg—in their only area appearance; local jazz favorites Alfie Moss & Dexter Koonce; local pianist Daniel Carunchio; the holiday tradition of the Cartoon Christmas Trio, and more.
Performance venue: First & Central Presbyterian Church, 1101 N. Market St., Wilmington • 654.5371 •
Facebook: @MarketStreetMusicDE

Melomanie-Photo Tim BayardMÉLOMANIE
This ensemble’s “provocative pairings” return for a 23rd season, starting with an intimate performance on Sunday, Sept. 18, at Wilmington Friends School. Up Close & Personal: The Viola da Gamba, features Donna Fournier and Tracy Richardson in a program of Baroque and contemporary music. The regular Wilmington series returns Sundays at 2 p.m. to The Delaware Contemporary on Oct. 9, Feb. 5, April 2 and May 14. Featured in the series will be World Premiere works written for the ensemble by composers Daniel Dorff, Bonnie McAlvin and Michael Stambaugh. Mélomanie also launches a new concert series in Rehoboth Beach this fall.
Performance venue: The Delaware Contemporary, 200 S. Madison St., Wilmington 764.6338 •
Facebook: @MelomanieDE

Following last season’s nationally lauded performances of Hamlet and Falstaff, the country’s 11th oldest professional opera company begins this year with two performances of Bravo Bel Canto!—a program devoted to music from the bel canto period—on Friday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m. Next, a Sunday Artist Spotlight Recital on Sunday, Nov. 13, at 2 p.m. Additional details on the full season schedule will be available soon on the company’s website.
4 S. Poplar St., Wilmington • 442.7807 •
Facebook/Twitter/Instagram: @OperaDelaware

The REP begins the season with God of Carnage (Sept. 15–Oct. 9), a savage comedy of ill-manners that follows two sets of parents as they meet to discuss a squabble between their sons. Harmony devolves into hostility when everyone’s inner child comes out swinging, and the evening descends into hilarious chaos. The modern classic, Waiting for Godot (Sept. 22–Oct. 9), opens shortly thereafter, with two loveable, hapless vagrants grappling with the mysteries of the universe as they wait for a guy who’s lousy at keeping appointments. In November, the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning satire Clybourne Park (Nov. 10–Dec. 4) tells the tale of a 1959 white community that tries to halt the sale of a home to an African-American family. Fast-forward to 2009: the same house, in what is now a predominantly African-American neighborhood, where a white family wants to move in. It’s a feisty, funny and insightful look at race, real estate and role-reversal.
Performance venue: Roselle Center for the Arts, 110 Orchard Rd., Newark 4 • 831.2204 •
Facebook: • Twitter/Instagram: @Delaware REP

Celebrate the holiday season as this studio celebrates its 50th year of The Nutcracker performances at The Playhouse on Rodney Square. This year, the performance will feature New York City Ballet principal dancers Abi Stafford as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Adrian Danchig-Waring as her Cavalier; live music from the Wilmington Ballet Orchestra & Chorus and dancing from the Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble. Shows are 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, and 2 and 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4. Get a sneak peek of their Nutcracker Waltz of the Flowers during the New Castle County Faerie Fest at Rockwood Park on Sunday, Sept. 18. Wilmington Ballet will also celebrate its 60th Anniversary with a Gala Benefit in April 2017.
Performance space: The Playhouse on Rodney Square, 1007 N. Market St., Wilmington • 655-1004 •
Facebook/Instagram: @WilmingtonBallet • Twitter: @wilmballetAD

WDL opens with High School Musical (Sept. 9–25), the tween favorite adapted from the hit Disney Channel movie. Up next is Shakespeare’s epic tragedy, Macbeth (Oct. 14-23), brought to life with an all-female cast. Arriving just in time to entertain you in political season is An Ideal Husband (Nov. 4–13), a comedy by Oscar Wilde that explores themes of political corruption, blackmail, class-structure and honor. WDL’s holiday production is the inspiring A Little Princess (Dec. 9–30). Based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel woven with lively dance and Afro-infused music, it chronicles a young girl’s courage and resilience.
10 W. Lea Blvd., Wilmington • 764.1172 •
Facebook: @WilmingtonDramaLeague • Instagram: @WilmingtonDramaLeague

Wilmington Renaissance Corporation continues the momentum of progress and engaging community events in Wilmington’s Creative District. On Friday, Sept. 7, celebrate Park(ing) Day as the latest iNSPIRE LOT series event. The New Wilmington Art Association will debut the design of the 7th Street Art Bridge “Musical Bench,” and the Challenge Program will unveil its innovative parklet, while The Souldaires provide the music. Friday, Oct. 7, marks the final installment in this series, featuring the dedication of the 7th Street Arts Bridge Sculpture Garden by local artist Andre Hinton. The day is complemented by music from singer/songwriter/instrumentalist King Zimm, with food trucks and refreshments by CityFest.
The iNSPIRE LOT, 215-219 West 7th St., Wilmington • 425.5500
Facebook: @WilmingtonRenaissanceCorporation & @CreativeDistrictWilm
Twitter: @CreativeWilm • Instagram: @WilmRen & @CreativeDistrictWilm

A music-packed fall brings noted acts like Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell on Sunday, Oct. 9; alternative rockers Blue October on Thursday, Oct. 13; Sunday, Oct. 16, WXPN welcomes An Intimate Night with soulful singer-songwriter Allen Stone; Americana country band Reckless Kelly on Monday, Oct. 24; and Live Nation presents English folk artist Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls on Monday, Oct. 31. Family musical holiday fun ensues at 11am on Saturday, Oct. 29, with a special Halloween costume party with Jason Didner and The Jungle Gym.
500 N. Market St., Wilmington • 994.1400 •
Facebook/Twitter/Instagram: @WCLatTheQueen

Feeling Festive? This Summer, Wilmington Sure Is!

The area’s festival season stretches from June into the fall

Summer’s coming, and that doesn’t just mean perfecting your bathing suit bod and planning your glamping trip to Firefly (See page 71 for that). It’s also time for Wilmington to party like it’s…Festival Season!

Here’s a rundown of all the “Best Fests” to indulge in this summer.

The “Traditions”

Greek Festival (June 7-11), 8th & Broom Streets, Wilmington
Known as the Delaware Valley’s largest Greek Festival, the 41st Annual Holy Trinity Greek Festival truly launches Wilmington’s festival season, opening the week prior to the Italian Festival. Not only does it serve up a mouthwatering menu, Greek Fest also offers everyone’s favorite lunch option—free shuttle pickup at 9th and Market every 10 minutes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, through Friday, June 10. Each night, DJs kick off live music at 5:30, followed by Greek music and performances by the Terpsichorean Dancers of Holy Trinity. Get full details at

Italian Festival (June 12-19), 9th & Dupont Streets, Wilmington
This year, the Festival turns its focus to the beauty and richness of Renaissance art and culture, taking inspiration from masters of the time, including Botticelli and Vespucci. And this year welcomes back an event I enthusiastically endorse—the Home Winemakers Competition on Sunday, June 12. Entries in categories of red, white and cordial (think limoncello) will be accepted, at just $5 per entry. Musical performances highlight each night of the Festival—including First State Ballet and Wilmington Ballet, Delaware Youth Symphony Orchestra, Italian Festival Orchestra & Chorus and more—starting with the Gala Concert on Sunday. Admission is $5 for ages 14-61. Those under age 14 (accompanied by parent/guardian) and over age 61 are free! Obtain passes and more details at

New Castle County Ice Cream Festival (June 25-26),
Rockwood Park, Washington Street Extension
We all scream for this annual County festival, billed as Delaware’s largest family picnic. For a nominal $5 admission (kids 12 and under are free), you can seek out wares from loads of craft vendors and artisans, dance the weekend away to live music, and enjoy delectable treats from local restaurants and creameries, including faves like Woodside Farm and UDairy Creamery. Find out more at

CityFest’s Fests

Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)
Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)

DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival (June 21-25),
Rodney Square, Wilmington
This is the 28th anniversary of the festival recognized as one of the largest free musical festivals in the region. This year, the lineup also includes nationally known artists Nicholas Payton, Myles Jaye and Robert Glasper, along with local favorites like Nadjah Nicole, Maya Belardo, the Clifford Brown Tribute Band and the Clifford Brown Super Group. “Sax in the City” returns as the official after-party for the over-21 crowd, held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. and featuring live music, food and premium beverage tastings. Friday, June 24, will see the annual Silver Trumpet Block Party take over the heart of Wilmington on Market between 8th and 10th Streets, immediately following the mainstage performances. The free, family-friendly block party will offer live music, refreshments and an energetic atmosphere. Get full artist lineups and more details at

July 4th Celebration, Rodney Square Summer Stage & Riverfront Blues & Bar-B-Que (July & August),
Various Wilmington Locations
Additional summertime events sponsored by Wilmington’s CityFest include the 4th of July Celebration on the Riverfront, presenting live music and fireworks; the new Rodney Square Summer Stage, which brings free music to downtown for three weekends in July—Fridays and Saturdays, July 15 and 16, 22 and 23 and 29 and 30; and the Riverfront Blues & Bar-B-Que Festival, running the weekend of Aug. 5, 6 and 7, featuring artists like Mr. Sipp, the Alexis P. Sutor Band and the Selwyn Birchwood Band. For full details on these festivals and more, visit

The Season’s Staples

2015 Ladybug Music Festival (Photo by Joe del Tufo)

Ladybug Music Festival (July 21), 2nd & LOMA, Wilmington
As Ladybug and Gable Music Ventures both celebrate their fifth anniversary, they continue to shepherd excellent live music into Wilmington. This year, the all-female artist Ladybug presents 50 acts and an expanded footprint—a main stage near Fourth and Market and a new venue at Bobbi Rhian’s Executive Lounge. “We challenge ourselves to add more each year,” says Jeremy Hebbel, co-owner of Gable Music Ventures. “Attendance has nearly doubled, with 3,000 people attending last summer. We encourage everyone—kids, parents, adults, from Boomers to Millennials—to enjoy free live music from all along the East Coast in the beautiful LoMa neighborhood.” Caroline Rose from Burlington, Vt., will headline the event, with Delaware’s own Nadjah Nicole as the additional headliner. Genres from jazz, hip-hop, rock and singer-songwriters will be represented by Andrea Nardello, Aziza Nailah Music, Cecilia Grace, Kitty Mayo and the Emperess Band, The means, Midnight Mob, Rachael Sage and Sharon Sable. Check out details at

The People’s Festival (July 30), Tubman-Garrett Park, Wilmington Riverfront
This festival is a music and arts tribute to reggae legend Bob Marley, who called Wilmington his home after coming to the U.S. from Jamaica. The 22nd annual family-friendly event boasts headliners such as Ky-Mani Marley (one of Marley’s children), Dumpstaphunk, Alika, Quino Sol and our own Richard Raw. General admission tickets are $25 and VIPs are $75. More artists will be announced soon, so stay tuned to the website:

Shady Grove Music Festival (July 16), Arden Shady Grove
One of my go-to summer “hangout” fests is held in the tranquil hamlet of Arden’s (literal) shady grove. Originated in 2002 as the Arden Music Fest, the event has evolved into Delaware’s sole music festival focused on promoting local original talent. Proceeds benefit the Arden Club’s Gild Hall Restoration Fund. Bring your family, kids and a comfy blanket or lawn chair (but no pups or outside food/drink, please), and settle in for an afternoon showcase of some of our diverse local music scene’s best. Food truck fare and beverages are available onsite. Look for full lineup and ticket details at

2015 Delaware Burger Battle (Photo by Les Kip)
2015 Delaware Burger Battle (Photo by Les Kip)

Delaware Burger Battle (Aug. 27), Cauffiel House, 1016 Philadelphia Pike
Also celebrating its fifth “birthday” this year is everyone’s favorite Homage to Hamburger. Last year, more than 30 restaurants competed for six trophies and statewide bragging rights, including Critic’s Choice (selected by “DELebrity” judges) and People’s Choice. The competition gets fiercer every year, so don’t miss your chance to taste Delaware food history in the making and support a worthy cause in the process. The Delaware Burger Battle supports the Ministry of Caring and has raised more than $28,000 for the Ministry’s Emmanuel Dining Room. Tickets will be on sale this month, so watch the Battle’s website for details:

New Fests on the Block

Richard Raw Week (June 4-11), Various Wilmington Locations
This weeklong celebration of arts, culture and community was created by local hip-hop artist/educator/activist Richard Raw to, he says, “…give our city a different experience.” Raw partners with an array of arts organizations and entrepreneurs—Christina Cultural Arts Center, The Delaware Art Museum, Levitea, Artist Ave Station and the City of Wilmington to name a few—to present programming for everyone to come together, be educated and entertained. Things kick off with the Park Jam in Rodney Square on Saturday, June 4, featuring live performances, vendors & food. The remainder of the week includes an entrepreneur mixer, documentary screening, family fun day and a panel discussion on the Black Arts Movement. The week will culminate in the release concert for Raw’s new album, Word Warrior. For details, visit

Delaware Taco Festival (June 25), Frawley Stadium, 801 Shipyard Dr.
This new festival has gotten major local buzz, and why not? But why tacos? “The simple response would be, who doesn’t love tacos?” says festival organizer Rob Brazas. “They’re one of the hottest food items right now, so our goal is to put together amazing samples from 40-plus of the area’s best restaurants and food trucks.” Brazas assured me there will be options for vegetarians and vegans too. Silver level tickets are $40, Gold level are $60, and each comes with a number of taco samples. Kids under age 6 are admitted free. Brazas recommends buying tickets in advance, so get over to the website:

Heading into Fall

Arden Fair (Sept. 3), Arden
The 109th annual Labor Day Weekend fair has something for everyone: the Antiques Market; live and local music in The Grove; Shakespeare Gild’s children’s games and rides; food vendors; the Library Gild Book Sale and Gardeners’ Gild Plant Sale.

Wilmington Hispanic Festival (Sept. 9-11), Wilmington
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Wilmington Hispanic Festival and Parade, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and the accomplishments of our Hispanic community, leaders, organizations and supporters.

Brandywine Festival of the Arts (Sept. 10 & 11), Brandywine Park, Wilmington
Fall’s arrival (to me, anyway) is marked by this festival, featuring hundreds of artists exhibiting one-of-a-kind works in nearly every medium, live music, children’s activities and local food vendors.

Analog-A-Go-Go (Sept. 17), Bellevue State Park, Wilmington
The celebration of all things indie craft will move to Bellevue State Park with six live bands, a cask beer festival and distillery garden, an artisan marketplace and food trucks from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

There’s a (Film) Mob Takeover in Wilmington

Working from Bellefonte Café, a cadre of cinephiles develops, supports and celebrates small-budget movies projects

Sitting at a small table upstairs in Bellefonte Café in North Wilmington with Nate Farrar, Kevin Francis, and J. Winfield “Win” Heckert, I feel as though something secretive and fun is brewing. That’s because I’ve been invited into the Wilmington Film Mob’s inner circle.

About 15 months ago, this trio, along with other local cinephiles, formalized a loose-knit community—actors, creatives, people interested in and passionate about film—to develop, support and celebrate small-budget movie projects. The Wilmington Film Mob was born—part production, part appreciation, all about the love of film.

Farrar, 32, Francis, 50, and Heckert, 36, are the Mob’s de-facto leaders, in that they (in Farrar’s words) “…maybe organize stuff.” In truth, the three have been the driving forces behind the Mob.

They assure me this isn’t a vanity project. Francis, clearly the group’s spokesman, says the goal was to attract people who were interested—whether in acting, makeup or crew—but who may not have the connections to get involved in filmmaking. “We’re all about appreciation of film: the creation and enjoyment of it,” he says. “The people here are really ‘throwing in,’ dedicated to helping each filmmaker realize his vision.”

And while they all have day jobs—Francis with The Bancorp; Heckert owns a video production company, HI Visuals; and Farrar manages Bellefonte Café—their common passion is filmmaking.

“Win had been doing films here long before Wilmington Film Mob existed,” Farrar says. His solo work included the high school spoof Rockabilly High School, which he wrote and produced. It was shown at both the 2015 Fringe Wilmington Festival and WilmFilm Festival. He and Farrar connected while he was filming Rockabilly and was in need of a musician to provide some songs. He turned to Farrar, who was playing with the band Big Skull. “Nate wrote three songs in like four hours,” Heckert recalls.

Most of the Mob’s film ideas evolve from this trio, and they definitely play off each other’s strengths. Both Heckert and Farrar have helped Francis with scripts, and he, in turn, has assisted with lighting and cinematography. They’re all working in some capacity on the Mob’s next feature, In the House of Madness. The plot finds art student Alice returning to her family’s country estate, where she learns her uncle may have unleashed a demonic curse on the home and family.

Written by Farrar, the project begins principal shooting this month. Additional features and shorts from each of the guys are in the works following Madness.

“Nate’s a very prolific writer,” Francis says. “He has an unbelievable imagination and ability to connect things.”

Farrar grins. “I usually just think of something that makes me laugh, and I’ll write around that.” He notes that initially most acting was just improvisation. In fact, their first two shorts (i. e., films 7-20 minutes in length) and the majority of their feature-length Dead and Waiting involved a great deal of improv.

Farrar also notes that their productions don’t really have set budgets. “Mostly, it’s the cost of how much beer I have to buy to get actors to be in it,” he writes.

All told, as the Wilmington Film Mob, they’ve produced three shorts—Did you Hear How Kevin Died, The Staff Meeting and The Book of Eve—plus Dead and Waiting, which was filmed entirely at Bellefonte Café. It tells the story of a demon awakened below a café, which leads to the café staff having to save the world. It debuted at Theatre N last November.

Welcoming others

That said, they do welcome participation from other filmmakers and writers. “The thing about Wilmington Film Mob is that projects don’t necessary need to go through the channels [of the main participants],” Francis says. People can come with an idea and connect with someone outside the “regular” circle. “The Mob is really meant as a central contact point for people to tap into,” he says.

Adds Farrar: “Yeah, we’re like the local ‘matchmakers’ of no-budget movies.”
Francis finishes: “You know, we’re not in competition with anyone; we just want to collectively build up the film scene in Wilmington.”

Oya Alatur is a local musician who has appeared in several of the Mob’s projects, including Dead and Waiting. “Wilmington Film Mob is a much-needed film, acting and music outlet for the creative energy here,” says Alatur. “The films they produce are thought-provoking, funny and push the envelope—something you don’t get much of around here. It’s refreshing.”

Local actor Emma Orr agrees. She has appeared in a number of Mob productions and will star in In the House of Madness. “Their approach is very unique. Their humor is off-base, for sure,” she says.

Everyone involved—Orr included—seems to have a penchant for dark humor, abstract thought, silliness and irony. Orr describes the Mob’s style as drawing inspiration from cult classics, B-movies, art films, grindhouse, sci-fi and experimental indie films. “I cannot say what they’re trying to accomplish, but whatever it is, they’ll do it with a style all their own.”

Another offshoot of this collective is Tuesday Movie Nights at Bellefonte Café. Francis describes the informal events as an eclectic selection, nothing too over the top: no Michael Bay films, nothing too highbrow. Think 12 Angry Men, Harold & Maude, Wild at Heart.
Bellefonte Café has long been a “haven” for creative people of every stripe. It supports the local live music and poetry scenes, hosting a robust monthly performance calendar, and it’s a cozy, welcoming meet-up for artists and fans alike.

The Café also serves as a venue for many Mob location shoots, although they also shoot in and around Wilmington. “Bellefonte Café is so integral to what we do,” says Francis. “It really it is a hub of creativity—of like-minded people, creative types—all very supportive of each other, wanting to see each other succeed.”

Sometimes, their schedule involves a bit of “guerrilla filming” in other locations. “I shot a few scenes under the radar at a grocery store,” Farrar discloses. Do they obtain permits for shoots outside of the Café, I ask. “Welllll…” Farrar answers sheepishly.
“We have a good time,” Francis assures me. “But without [the support of] Bellefonte Café, we wouldn’t have any of this.”
“So this really is your ‘clubhouse,’ then?” I ask.
“It’s more like a house party every night; you never know who’s going to show up,” he says.

Recruiting for the Mob

So what’s the overall goal of Wilmington Film Mob? “I think if you asked each of us, you might get three different answers,” Francis says. “For me, I think we just want to keep on creating, keep doing new things, finding new horizons.”

Farrar chimes in. “I think it would be cool to have a relationship with a small distribution ‘system,’ just to be able to get stuff out there.” He notes that they had about 100 people at the premiere of Dead & Waiting.

“It’d be cool to do a yearly film premiere [at Theatre N]…maybe that’s a goal,” Farrar muses. He also envisions launching something like an open mic night—an “open screen night” if you will—where any film enthusiast can show his or her work.

Heckert joins in. “I’d like to have a feature to submit to festivals, since there’s more distribution options for a feature.”

So do they want this Mob to become a full-time gig? “That would be nice, but I think that’s not too terribly likely at this point,” says Heckert.

“I was thinking about this earlier,” says Farrar. “I think I’d like to find a niche audience for what we’re doing—even if it’s just 100 people who get excited every time we release something.”

“I feel like we’re just getting our legs,” Francis sums up. “We have a lot of talented people, and I think we just need to coalesce that. Personally, I just like being in movies and helping Nate, Win and everyone else get to their goal.”

To join the Wilmington Film Mob or to find out more about them, check out their Facebook Group. Or, you can head to Bellefonte Café…odds are good that you’ll find at least one of the guys there.

Generating Big Buzz – And Big Sales

Diner, the new musical based on the 1983 film, is selling out fast. Sheryl Crow discusses how the female point of view was strengthened for the stage show.

For months, area theater enthusiasts have been abuzz about the arrival of Diner, a stage musical based on the classic 1982 film of the same name. That buzz has turned into feverish action as the production prepares for its Delaware Theatre Company debut on Dec. 2 (running through Dec. 27). Advance sales have already broken DTC pre-sale records and look to exceed its all-time sales revenues. So far, more than 4,500 tickets have been purchased, and six performances have been sold out. To meet the demand, DTC released 75 additional seats by taking down the removable walls built into the theater.

Much of this ticket-buying frenzy is fueled by the popularity of the film, which quickly became a cult favorite. Heavy on dialogue, quotable quotes and “guy banter,” the plot follows close-knit twentysomething pals (Eddie, Shrevie, Boogie, Billy, Fenwick and Modell) in 1959 Baltimore. While wrestling with and resisting impending adulthood, they reunite on the eve of Eddie’s wedding. The movie is famous for its “popcorn box” scene and a classic Baltimore Colts quiz that Eddie insists the bride-to-be must pass. It helped launch the careers of several cast members, including Kevin Bacon, Paul Reiser, Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke and Ellen Barkin, and is still mentioned in many “best of” movie lists. It’s even been called the precursor to shows like Seinfeld and The Office.

The movie has been adapted for the stage by Academy Award-winning film and television director/producer Barry Levinson, who wrote the screenplay for and directed the film. Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam, Homicide: Life on the Street, and, most recently, Rock the Kasbah) recruited Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter/rock star Sheryl Crow to pen the music and lyrics.

The anticipated appearance of these two icons before and during the opening has ramped up fervor for the stage production.

Sheryl Crow and Barry Levinson watch a rehearsal of DTC's Diner. (Photo by Breck Willis, Delaware Theatre Company)
Sheryl Crow and Barry Levinson watch a rehearsal of DTC’s Diner. (Photo by Breck Willis, Delaware Theatre Company)

Headed for Broadway

Adding one more element to the buzz: this preview has its sights set on the Great White Way.

Nostalgia for the film, Broadway cachet and the Levinson/Crow connection make this the perfect storm of productions, says Company Executive Director Bud Martin. “Of course, I think Barry’s and Sheryl’s star power is a draw,” he says, “but I’ve talked with many people who’ve said, ‘I just bought tickets to see Diner…I love that movie!’”

Martin “found” the musical through New York City Producer Scott Landis, who was looking for a theater to try out the production after it was workshopped in 2012. Landis sent the recording and script to Martin, but at the time it was a more expensive show than DTC could mount. Instead, it went to Signature Theatre of Arlington (Va.) in December 2014, with rewrites and songs added afterward.

Around the same time, Landis had pitched another show to Martin: Because of Winn-Dixie. It was also seeking a preview home, Martin happily obliged, and the show became a smash for DTC in April. During rehearsals of Winn-Dixie, Martin recalls, Landis turned to him and asked, “So, you want to do Diner here next season?” The production budget had been enhanced and Landis’ wife—three-time Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall—was on board as the show’s director/choreographer. And the rest, as they say, is (Delaware theater) history.

The cast includes an array of Broadway “ veterans”: Ari Brand as Eddie (Off-Broadway’s My Name is Asher Lev); Aaron Finley as Billy (Broadway’s It Shoulda Been You and Rock of Ages); Derek Klena as Boogie (Broadway’s Wicked and The Bridges of Madison County); Ethan Slater as Modell (NYMF Award for Outstanding Performance in Claudio Quest); Matthew James Thomas as Fenwick (Pippin in the Tony Award-winning 2013 revival), and Noah Weisberg as Shrevie (Broadway’s South Pacific and Legally Blonde).

The women’s point of view

For Sheryl Crow, penning this musical—or any musical—wasn’t necessarily on her artistic bucket list. “It just wasn’t in my realm of possibility, really,” she said during a recent phone interview.

Crow, 53, who lives in Nashville with her two young sons, grew up loving song and dance movies like Oklahoma and My Fair Lady, and admits to a childhood crush on Gene Kelly. “There were so many amazing musicals I grew up with that had big songs, big stories and big emotion.” She laughs, “I think I was kinda hoping that life was like that…people just breaking into song.”

Crow and Levinson are both rookies in the world of stage musicals. But in a way, Crow says, adapting wasn’t difficult. “Maybe because I grew up a fan of stuff like West Side Story—I loved the way themes wound all the way through the story—it was really fun to write.”

Levinson called Crow about four or five years ago to gauge her interest in helping adapt his movie for stage. “I was really excited for the chance to work with Barry,” says Crow. “He is so gifted, has great taste in production and is the consummate storyteller.”

It’s a tricky story in that there are a lot of characters and a lot of dialogue, Crow says of the original movie. Her challenge was figuring out how to make the story more colorful. “It isn’t anything like writing a record,” says Crow, who released her latest album—the very personal Feels Like Home—in 2013. “It’s more like writing ‘on assignment’; writing what these characters feel, their emotions.”

Changing the Diner menu

One thing to note about the movie: It really is all about the guys. Its female characters have little screen time. That’s where the stage version departs. Crow (and Levinson) really wanted it to put more emphasis on the women in the story — their emotions, their obstacles, their desire to break out of the “traditional” roles of the time. Martin recalls that when Levinson asked Crow to write the music, she replied, “Not if it’s just for guys.”

Subsequently, female roles were expanded and the characters’ internal doubts and frustrations are as integral to the story as the men’s. Elyse, whose face you never see in the film, becomes a major character; Beth’s plight is realized in more depth; and Barb’s story, which is a reflection of modern feminism, is explored.

“Barry was great to let me write from a female point of view,” Crow says.
Martin believes the changes are an improvement. “When I heard Sheryl’s music and the voice it gave to the women, I felt like [the show] became even more relevant to a wider audience,” he says. “It really demonstrates the birth of ‘feminism’ before that term was ever used.”

Martin says the music definitely has a “Sheryl Crow flavor” to it. “You can tell she’s written like she would sing. She’s written a great song called ‘Tear Down These Walls,’ sung by a woman who is questioning her marriage, and it’s just riveting.”

Martin says he’d love to hear Crow sing that piece herself, adding, “She really can write a power ballad for a woman.”

Martin describes the set as automated—the diner itself moves —that’s something DTC has never done before.

Indeed, the whole production is “a big _______ deal,” as Vice President Biden might say. For one thing, the budget is $700,000. “Our normal season production budget is approximately $600,000,” says Martin. That, and the presence of Levinson and Crow serve to ratchet up the pressure on the DTC’s executive director.

“It’s a little daunting because of the scale,” he says, “but it’s exciting. We’re trying to make this as close to a Broadway experience as possible. I want [everyone] to say, ‘Wow, they do a great job at DTC.’ I want people to come here and feel like it’s a wonderful place to develop work. That’s the pressure for me.”

Gridiron Tragedy as Life Lesson

In Playing the Assassin—at the Delaware Theatre Company—Wilmington’s David Robson uses the Jack Tatum-Darryl Stingley incident to address moral quandaries

David Robson doesn’t remember everything about the first play his mother took him to see—it was Ted Tally’s Terra Nova, about an ill-fated British expedition to the South Pole—but he does remember how the experience made him feel. “There’s something so primal about the magic of theater,” he says. “You see the sweat from the actors’ brows, their expressions, you’re on the journey with them. It’s an event…and every night is different. I loved that.”

Born in Philadelphia, Robson, who is 49, gives equal credit to his mom, Joan, and his wife, Sonja, for exposing him to theater. He and Sonja met in 1990 while both were auditioning for The Foreigner, a play produced by Stagecrafters in Chestnut Hill, Pa. “Hi, I’m David Robson…sorry I spit in your face,” was his post-audition attempt at wooing her. They were married three years later, and now live in Wilmington with their 15-year-old daughter, Ingrid.

Robson had written and published poetry but had never written a play. “Although I love poetry, it’s a solitary medium,” he says. “I liked the conversation of plays, the idea of subjects talking to one another and working out their differences.” So he decided to give it a try.

He began to write for the upstart City Theater Company (CTC) in Wilmington. He wrote and acted in Death of America and other works for CTC in its O’Friel’s “Pub Plays” days during the mid-‘90s. He also participated in CTC’s 10-Minute Play Festivals and a 2012 Community Series called Cruel, Calm, and Neglected, which featured four nights of his one-act plays.

“I have a great respect for what they’ve created,” Robson says of CTC founders Jon Cooper, Tom Shade and current Artistic Director Michael Gray. “Experiences that are very visceral; I’ve always admired them for that.”

City Theater Company continues to collaborate with Robson today. Earlier this year, CTC held an open reading of his new work, Afterbirth of a Nation. It’s a historical-fiction farce set in 1915 during the White House screening of Birth of a Nation. “I love history and was fascinated with the movie [Birth of a Nation],” Robson says. “I’d never written a full-length farce, but thought, ‘It would be great if we could work on this together and build all the visual stuff that actors bring to the piece.’” The play will be workshopped by CTC early next year.

David Robson (R) goes over lines with Ezra Knight and Garrett Lee Hendricks during a rehearsal. (Photo by Breck Willis, Delaware Theatre Company)
David Robson (R) goes over lines with Ezra Knight and Garrett Lee Hendricks during a rehearsal. (Photo by Breck Willis, Delaware Theatre Company)

Now the Wilmington playwright is celebrating another transformative theatrical event: the Delaware premiere of his new work, Playing the Assassin, which opened at Delaware Theatre Company on Oct. 21. It’s a powerful, thought-provoking, two-man performance, and perhaps the first that melds the brutality of American professional sports with the raw emotion of the human condition. The play runs through Sunday, Nov. 8.

In 2010, Robson came across the obituary of Jack Tatum, the notoriously hard-nosed Oakland Raider whose tackle paralyzed New England receiver Darryl Stingley in 1978.

Stingley, who was on his way to becoming one of the highest-paid NFL players of his time, instead became a quadriplegic at 26 and died from complications of his injury in 2007 at the age of 55. The hit, which was legal and drew no penalties, became a touchstone for the topic of violence in the NFL.

Robson was a football fan as a child and remembers that fateful game. “It was horrifying to me then,” he says. “It was the first time I realized football could actually be dangerous, actually hurt someone.”

After reading the obituary, it occurred to Robson that Tatum and Stingley had never reconciled. “There was no redemptive moment for them,” he says. That became the seed of his play, although it’s not written as a biography or documentary. “I like writing about unfinished business. It allows me to ‘finish a story,’ in a way,” he says.

Robson also likes the two-character form because it’s like a classic steel-cage wrestling match – one has to come out victorious, but both are going to be damaged. How will both people change as their journey progresses?

The play, while a Delaware premiere, was performed by InterAct Theatre/Act II Playhouse in Philadelphia in 2012; Penguin Rep Theatre in Stony Brook, N. Y., in 2014; and Hartford Theatreworks in Hartford, Conn., in March-April of this year. Actors Garrett Lee Hendricks and Ezra Knight and Director Joe Brancato, who worked the Penguin and Hartford productions, will also do the DTC show.

“It’s kind of an artistic marriage,” Robson says of his relationship with Brancato. “He’s not only a great creative partner who really ‘gets’ me, but he also has amazing ways to get work into the right hands. I feel lucky in that regard.”

Robson is thrilled to bring his work to the First State spotlight. “The proudest – maybe weirdest – thing for me is that I’m a Delaware playwright being produced at Delaware Theatre Company,” he says. “It’s a badge of honor. It would be great if this opens the door to other writers and artists here.”

Robson is careful to note that while he appreciates football as a sport, he doesn’t consider Playing the Assassin a pro- or anti-football play. “It’s really about choices, about relationships, about moral quandaries.” His hope is that audiences leave interacting with one another, connecting the dots within their own experiences, maybe talking about how they make choices in their own lives.

“Isn’t the reason you go to theater is to feel connected to the art itself?” asks Robson. “Is there any other art form that gives you that kind of direct connection…and isn’t that what we’re all looking for?”

Let the Shows Begin!

Autumn offers an eclectic cornucopia of performances and exhibits. Here’s your clip-and-save list.


Autumn in Arden officially begins Friday, Sept. 18, as In The Light presents Pink Floyd’s Animals and Wish You Were Here—and tickets are selling faster than pumpkin spice lattes. This is the same band that rocked the Gild with their 2012 Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti show – and it was epic, so don’t miss this one. Arden next welcomes The Cumbia All Stars on Sunday, Sept. 20. This is a nine-piece band with legends of Peruvian dance music. On Friday, Oct. 2, critically acclaimed Baltimore synth-pop titans Lower Dens hit the stage, celebrating their breakthrough album, Escape From Evil. Sheer Mag, an Indie “band to watch,” appears Saturday, Oct. 17, followed by a Blues doubleheader from the Damon Fowler Band and Alvin Youngblood Hart on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Arden Gild Hall, 2126 The Highway, Arden
475-3126 •


Trinity is home to the only free music series in the city, and its new season brings renowned regional talents: Serafin String Quartet at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25, followed by a moving Festival Mass of All Souls, featuring Mozart’s Requiem, by the Trinity Choir with chamber orchestra, on Sunday, Nov. 1 at 10:30 a.m. An Evening of Gospel and Jazz with the Wilson Somers Trio fills the sanctuary on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. and a holiday-themed performance—Christmas with the Cathedral Choir School of Delaware—puts you in the spirit on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free for all performances; donations gratefully accepted.
1108 N. Adams St., Wilmington
887.9300 •


Celebrating the second season in its new digs, Bootless starts 15-16 with Star Wars: A New Musical Hope (Oct. 9 -17). This semi-original work is a parody of Episode IV: A New Hope, with a witty script by local playwright Jeremy Gable, music by Timothy Edward Smith and Hunter Nolen, a fully robotic R2D2, seven-foot Chewbacca and all the space rebels you love. Tickets are $15 online or $18 at the door. November shines with The Light in the Piazza (Nov. 6-21), the story of young love featuring Peabody Conservative alumna Kimberly Christie as Clara. Tickets are $22 online or $25 at the door. Finally, (responsibly) toast the holidays with Bye, Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play (Wilmington Edition), Dec. 4-5. This fast-paced romp is two parts sketch comedy, one part audience drinking game with a dash of improv and a slice of music, served up for your entertainment. All tickets are $20.
1301 N. Broom St., Wilmington • 887-9300 •


The Barn at Flintwoods—the serene and picturesque home of this early music ensemble—once again fills with beautiful music on Sunday, Sept. 27, with selections from The Fairy Queen, a lavish “semi-opera” by Henry Purcell. The concert season continues with a program of Vivaldi concertos on Friday, Dec. 11, and Sunday, Dec. 13. Details and tickets are available at
The Barn at Flintwoods, 205 Center Meeting Rd., Wilmington
877-594-4546 •


A Night of One Acts (Sept. 12-13) kicks off the season at Chapel Street Players, followed by Alone Together (Oct. 17, 18, 23, 24, 25), a witty commentary on grown children leaving the nest – only to return again. It’s a Wonderful Life—a Live Radio Play (Dec. 5, 6, 11, 12, 13) brings to life the beloved holiday-season drama, and Staged Reading: A Behanding in Spokane (Jan. 23-24) is a dark comedy about a man who has been searching for his missing hand for many years.
27 N. Chapel St., Newark
368-2248 •


CCAC is registering now for fall, offering several new courses, including Novel Writing for Beginners with Jayne Thompson, and Drum Line with Peter Antony. Call 652.0101 for details. CCAC’s signature event, the Christi Awards, returns Friday, Oct. 23, bringing an electric party vibe to Wilmington with the theme, Arts for Our City’s Sake. The evening begins with renowned jazz pianist Aaron Diehl, followed by the awards ceremony in historic Willingtown Square and an open-air, arts-infused party on Market Street. Tickets are $75 and are available at In December, CCAC dazzles your holidays with the magnificent “Carols in Color,” featuring Eleone Dance Theatre.
705 N. Market St., Wilmington
652-0101 •

City Theater Company American Idiot-1CITY THEATER COMPANY

Delaware’s Off-Broadway kicks off a season of Delaware Premieres, first reuniting CTC with the writers of their 2013 smash Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson—this time for a rollicking musical comedy based on Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (Dec. 4-19). CTC’s Fearless Improv team continues to deliver monthly belly laughs on second Saturdays through December at Penn’s Place in historic New Castle. Details and tickets for all are available at
Performance address: The Black Box, 4 S. Poplar St., Wilmington
220-8285 •


Poetry in Beauty, running Saturday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Jan. 31, is a retrospective of Marie Spartali Stillman, showcasing her importance as an artist within the Victorian avant-garde. The landmark exhibition features landscapes, portraits and subject paintings that reflect her British Pre-Raphaelite training and Renaissance art influence, with works from public and private collections. The exhibit is open Wednesdays through Sundays and is free on Thursday evenings and Sundays. Later in the season, warm up with the Museum’s Winter Arts Festival on Friday, Dec. 11, 5-8 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m…Browse handmade items by local artisans, tour festive works in the museum collection, enjoy holiday music and more. Admission is free for members and $5 for non-members.
2301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington • 571-9590 •


The DCCA is busting at its steel beams with all manner of ArtStuff. Case in point, every first Friday events. Sept. 4 features all 10 Rolling Revolution food trucks; Oct. 2 sees Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance collaborating with ensemble Mélomanie; and Dec. 4 pairs “Taste of the Holidays” with DCCA’s annual Holiday Craft Show. At the Fall Arts & Business and Members Cocktail Party on Thursday, Sept. 17, Andy McWilliams of Art-A-Hack and Hardware Hack Lab speaks about “Artists and Technology Disruptions.” October opens the signature Art Salad lunchtime discussions, followed by Free Family Sundays in November. The highlight of the fall season will surely be the Contemporary Gala—an elegant night of art, music, dancing and unconventional entertainment on Saturday, Nov. 14. And remember, admission to the DCCA is always free!
200 S. Madison St., Wilmington • 656-6466 •


When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won…
Spend a night with two masters of macabre—William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe. At this annual autumnal event, DelShakes actors gather to read bone-chilling selections from the plays of the Bard and the poems and short stories of Poe. Dare to choose among three spooky-cool venues—the gothic halls of Rockwood Mansion, the grandeur of the Read House & Gardens in historic New Castle or the colonial-era Stone Stable in historic Odessa. But choose quickly—only 30 seats are available for each performance. Tickets are $18.50. Performances run Oct.16-18 and Oct. 23-25.
Performance address: Rockwood Park, 4651 Washington St. Ext., Wilmington
415-3373 •


This month, Alan Jordan takes the helm as the new executive director of the DSO. Jordan’s tenure coincides with the launch of DSO’s season. Called The Season of the Bells, it begins with a Friday, Sept. 11, memorial concert featuring Mozart’s Requiem and a collaboration with The Mastersingers of Wilmington. The full season includes the Classics Concert Series of five programs and the Chamber Concert Series of four programs, as well as the Explorer Experience concerts for school children. Maestro David Amado continues in his 13th year as music director of the DSO.
818 N. Market St., Wilmington
656-7442 •


DTC proudly continues as the only area theater developing new and existing works for Broadway. Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life (Sept. 16-Oct. 4), starring and created by Hines himself, opens DTC’s 37th season. An infectious musical tribute to his and his brother Gregory’s life, this show joins Maurice with the Diva Orchestra, the Manzari Brothers and one lucky local child tapper. Next is Wilmington native David Robson’s Playing the Assassin (Oct. 21-Nov. 8), based on the true story of the career-ending hit delivered by Jack Tatum on Darryl Stingley in a 1978 NFL game. It’s an exploration into the inherent violence of football and the associated “hero worship.” Join DTC for its final production, Sheryl Crow’s new musical, Diner (Dec. 2-27), based on the 1982 movie by Barry Levinson. Single tickets for all shows and subscriptions are available now.
200 Water St., Wilmington • 594-1100 •

First State Ballet Theatre_Sleeping BeautyFIRST STATE BALLET THEATRE

First State Ballet Theatre opens with a lineup that will delight everyone from the first-time ballet-goer to the most sophisticated aficionado. The first of the company’s productions at the Grand is Tchaikovsky’s beloved Sleeping Beauty. The timeless tale is choreographed by Artistic Director Pasha Kambalov, with costumes from Russia’s finest ballet costumiers. The popular series Up Front with FSBT delivers highlights of classical and contemporary ballet to an intimate audience of just 75, followed by a reception with FSBT’s dancers. Celebrate the holidays with The Nutcracker—a Wilmington’s holiday tradition at the Grand—with gorgeous costumes from Russia, Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score and staging by Kambalov. All main stage tickets begin at $14 for students 18 and under. Call 1-800-37-GRAND or visit
Performance venue: 818 N. Market St., Wilmington • 658-7897 •


Gable continues to deliver lush, live lyrics to Wilmingtonians’ ears. Wilmo Wednesdays—a curated lineup from every musical corner—rolls on weekly at the Queen, along with Singer-Songwriter showcases on Saturday, Sept. 12, and Oct. 24. Gable fills the Queen with rooms—not only a wall—of sound on Saturday, Sept. 26, as Angela Sheik takes over upstairs and Save the Valley Music Fest headlines downstairs with Arden Kind, Area 302, SIRSY, New Sweden and more. Tickets are $15 in advance for each performance. And for a mere $20, Wilmo Rock Circus will sonically kick you out of your turkey/tryptophan coma on Saturday, Nov. 28.
Performance venues: World Cafe Live at the Queen, 500 N. Market St.;
Extreme Pizza, 201 N. Market St., Wilmington •


The “coming together” of the Grand and the Playhouse earlier this year created quite the arts buzz. They upped the ante with two exciting seasons, including the blockbuster musical Annie opening first at the Playhouse (Dec. 1-6), and a full slate of performances on both Grand and baby grand stages: Sinatra Centennial by Sean Reilly on Sunday, Oct. 18; Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox on Friday, Nov. 13, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra on Saturday, Nov. 28. Tickets for all shows are available now.
818 N. Market St., Wilmington • 800.37.GRAND for all Grand events
1007 N. Market St., Wilmington • 888-0200


Market Street Music goes big in its opening performance, pairing the Mastersingers of Wilmington with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra and guest soloists Mary Wilson, soprano; Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano; Brian Downen, tenor; and Grant Youngblood, baritone, on Mozart’s Requiem under the direction of David Amado. Its popular Thursday Noontime Concerts series begin at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1, with the Copeland String Quartet and continues weekly with diverse acts like the Caribbean jazz of Basodee; organist David Schelat; Celtic-meets-Broadway singer Charlie Zahm, and local jazz favorites Sharon Sable and E. Shawn Qaissaunee.
Performance address: First & Central Presbyterian Church,
1101 N. Market St., Wilmington • 654.5371 •


The “provocative pairings” of this 2015 Best of Delaware ensemble are juxtaposed with contemporary works of the DCCA’s featured gallery artists. Their concert on Sunday, Sept. 13, at 2 p.m. features its co-artistic directors—harpsichordist Tracy Richardson and DDOA Masters Fellow and flutist Kimberly Reighley. They will premier two new works, one from a local and another from an international composer. Friday, Oct. 2, aligns the ensemble with Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance for a performance during DCCA’s Art Loop. Their Sunday, Oct. 18, performance at 2 p.m. features another World Premiere piece, this time by composer, guitarist and guest artist Kevin J. Cope.
Performance address: Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts,
200 S. Madison St., Wilmington • 764.6338 •


The Music School serves up performances for every taste, beginning with A Musical Bounty on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. featuring its Faculty Chamber Orchestra performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Welcome renowned singer-songwriter Doug James (Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live without You”) for a songwriting workshop on Nov. 7 and a CD release/concert on Nov. 14, in memory of Larry Walker, who was James’ mentor and a Music School faculty member. On Nov. 8, alumna and Philadelphia Orchestra violinist Barbara Govatos returns for a performance.
4101 Washington St., Wilmington • 762.1132 •


Candlelight season starts with the tasty “shock and awe” of Sondheim and Wheeler’s most notorious coiffeur, Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Sept. 19- Nov. 1). Next, the madcap life of the eccentric Mame takes over (Nov. 14-Dec. 20). Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Tickets are $59 for adults and $33 children (ages 4-12) and all prices include a buffet dinner.
2208 Millers Rd., Wilmington • 475-2313


This fall, enjoy cries of Viva Italia! Join Jeffrey Miller piano; Jennifer Cherest, soprano; Lara Tillotson, mezzo soprano; Jeremy Blossey, tenor and Jose Sacin, baritone, in the casual setting of the Riverfront Studio for a journey through Italian opera in honor of OD’s Spring Festival—Verdi’s final masterpiece Falstaff and the recent resurrection of Faccio’s Amleto (Hamlet). Savor some vino and Italian nosh paired with outstanding music on two dates—Thursday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $25.
4 S. Poplar St., Wilmington
442.7807 •


The REP starts with The Patsy (Sept. 23 -Oct. 11)—a lightning-fast French farce of old lovers, new flames and a wildfire of compromising positions, translated and adapted from Georges Feydeau’s Le Dindon by Greg Leaming. The onstage antics continue with Heartbreak House (Nov. 11-Dec. 6) by George Bernard Shaw. A weekend in the country with eccentric family, screwball friends and a house full of preposterous opinions—what could possibly go wrong?
Roselle Center for the Arts, 110 Orchard Rd., Newark • 831.2204 •


Look for the Junior Company at the Rockwood Faerie Festival on Sunday, Sept. 20, where they’ll perform a whimsical woodland ballet. The Junior Company also collaborates on a contemporary piece with Mélomanie at the DCCA’s Art Loop exhibit on Friday, Oct. 2. The real treat comes with its 48th annual presentation of The Nutcracker at The Playhouse on Rodney Square on Saturday, Dec. 12, and Sunday, Dec. 13. Dancers team up with the Metropolitan Ballet Academy in Jenkintown, Pa., as well as world-class professional dancers, a live orchestra and chorus to perform this timeless holiday classic.
1709 Gilpin Ave., Wilmington
655.1004 •


WDL’s 83rd season opens with the Delaware Premiere of Memphis The Musical (Sept. 11-27). Directed and choreographed by Dominic Santos, this Tony Award-winning story is based on the life of Dewey Phillips, one of the first disc jockeys to bring rock ‘n’ roll to mainstream radio in the 1950s. Next, The Laramie Project (Oct. 16-25), sends the message that lack of acceptance (e.g., for the LGBT community) breeds hate and tragedy, leaving compassion as the only answer. In WDL’s Second Stage productions, Adam Montgomery takes the helm of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds for one weekend (Nov. 5-8). Finally, director Ann Bartley rings in the holidays with the evergreen story of ogres, a talking donkey and a lord with a serious Napoleon complex in Shrek the Musical (Dec. 11-30).
10 W. Lea Blvd., Wilmington • 764.1172 •


The Queen’s fall season brings The Jayhawks on Thursday, Sept. 10, and The Marshall Tucker Band on Friday, Sept. 25. The Delaware Irish Fest says “sláinte” on Thursday, Oct. 8, with well-knowns like Byrne and Kelly, The Young Dubliners, Mythica and Danny Burns. Later, singer-songwriter John Gorka plays Thursday, Oct. 22, and country singer Ashley Monroe on Friday, Oct. 30. AEG Live presents An Intimate Evening with Joshua Radin on Monday, Nov. 2. American Idol rocker David Cook stops by on Wednesday, Nov. 11. The legendary Leon Russell performs on Sunday, Nov. 15, and the jazzy Madeleine Peyroux Trio performs on Thursday, Nov. 19. Ring in the New Year with The David Bromberg Quintet. The Queen also hosts the uber-popular and yummy Grilled Cheese & Craft Beer Tastings, with appearances by Yards Brewing Company, Mispillion River Brewing and Stone Brewing Company.
500 N. Market St., Wilmington • 994-1400 •

The Arts Spice Up Your Summer Park Visits

Beginning June 15, daily programs will take place in venues across the City

Summer is upon us, which means it’s time to gather family and friends and head to one of Wilmington’s 20-plus city parks for picnicking, barbecuing, playground time—and experiencing the arts.

Yes, you read that correctly. Summertime in Wilmington heralds the return of Summer in the Parks—a city-wide presentation of live, interactive visual and performing arts. This year marks the third for the program, which is sponsored by the City of Wilmington and presented by The Grand Opera House with support from the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Summer in the Parks brings a variety of cultural programming – dance, music, theatre, visual arts and crafts – to communities that may not have access to these experiences on a regular basis.

According to a summary report from The Grand, last year’s participation numbers were quite impressive: 35 individual artists and organizations presented 96 events over the nine-week program, reaching nearly 5,000 area residents. The community response was positive. Wilmington City Councilwoman Loretta Walsh wrote in a note to The Grand, “I cannot begin to thank you…for promoting the arts in so many of our neighborhoods. So many of our children have little exposure to any type of arts, and you all are just helping so much to fill that hole. Well done!”

Children enjoy playing the vibraphone with Philly Vibe Duo and Harvey Price at Holloway Park. (Photo courtesy of The Grand Opera House)
Children enjoy playing the vibraphone with Philly Vibe Duo and Harvey Price at
Holloway Park. (Photo courtesy of The Grand Opera House)

“We’re accomplishing what we set out to do, which was to bring positive creative experiences and activities into the parks,” says Pam Manocchio, director of Community Engagement at The Grand. “The communities have been extremely responsive, and many people are asking about [the return of program]. They can’t wait for us to come back. And now we’re developing friendships with parents and their kids—we know their names; we get to see them every week.”

For example, One Love Park was a new venue in the program last year. “Residents there were very appreciative of our presence,” recalls Manocchio. “Kids [who attended programs] from Love Park made us a giant thank-you card, which was lovely.”

Manocchio also appreciated the assistance of community volunteers who helped distribute information to neighbors and encourage attendance. “Getting community buy-in and involvement is key. We cannot do it without them,” she says.

This year, Summer in the Parks runs from June 15 through Aug. 13 and will offer morning and afternoon programs every day of the week in 10 of the park venues, including spots like Tilton Park, Barbara Hicks Park, Kosciuszko Park and Haynes Park. What’s more, the Department of Parks and Recreation plans camp activities in several areas that will feed into Summer in the Parks offerings. The department also will continue to offer its Food Service Program, which provides free, nutritional breakfast and lunch to community children throughout the summer.

Last year, some artists’ programs reinforced the City’s programs as well. Rob Young’s Nature Jams performances perfectly complemented Parks and Recreation’s offerings. “For our music, which focuses on teaching kids healthy eating [habits] and positive character, we couldn’t ask for a better audience,” he says. “The kids are enthusiastic, ready to get involved, and are grateful to have music in their backyard.” Young says he was overwhelmed by last year’s receptive audience and a program that truly supports local artists.

Manocchio says the 2015 schedule will again represent diverse arts disciplines, including theatre, music, dance, storytelling and visual arts. Daytime programs are more geared toward children, she says, “but evenings are truly family friendly. We see more and more adults coming to the evening concerts.”

A group of children learn basic stage combat with Delaware Shakespeare Festival at Haynes Park. (Photo courtesy of The Grand Opera House)

Summer in the Parks is an ideal vehicle for Wilmingtonians to discover new arts experiences and for arts organizations to expand their potential reach. David Stradley, artistic director of the Delaware Shakespeare Festival, delights in the audience interaction and awareness that the program provides. “It’s a wonderful way for us to celebrate that Shakespeare is for everyone,” he says. “Most of our audiences tend to be younger, and people will tell you that young kids can’t get into Shakespeare. But we’ve found the kids are more than ready to jump in, play with the actors and be entertained by the scenes.”
More than 40 artists and organizations have applied to participate in the program this time around, including 16 first-time applicants. They hail from Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Manocchio notes that nearly half the artists on this year’s roster have participated in the program since the start.

Some artists confirmed for this season (as of press time): Alfie Moss & the Dexter Koonce Project; the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts; the Delaware Art Museum; the Delaware Shakespeare Festival; Diamond State Concert Band; E. Shawn Qaissaunee & The Q Factor; First State Ballet Theatre; Matson Run Pickers of The Music School of Delaware; Illstyle & Peace; IVA; Philly Vibe Trio; TAHIRA; Pieces of a Dream; Nature Jams, and Jill Carpenter & Walt the Street Dog.

Ashley SK Davis is executive and artistic director of Pieces of a Dream, a Delaware-based modern dance company that has been a Summer in the Parks participant since its inception. “As an artist, I feel it’s a great opportunity to share our work with children and hopefully light a spark and a passion for dance—or any art form—in the future,” she says.
“It’s always an honor and a pleasure to perform for Summer in the Parks,” says TAHIRA, nationally recognized storyteller who lives in Claymont. “This program not only helps me fulfill my mission to use storytelling to empower communities but also allows underserved audiences to benefit from the transformative power of the arts and provides a safe, fun alternative for youth and their families during the summer.”

Manocchio says overseeing Summer in the Parks has opened her eyes to parts of the city she had never before visited. “I’m absolutely more aware of what goes on in our city as a whole,” she says. “I understand how difficult it is to create change in some neighborhoods. Even if we affect a few lives for a few hours, that’s a great feeling.”

“We’ve got a good thing going here,” she smiles. “I just want to keep building it and make it stronger.”

Building Community Through the Arts

Meet John Shipman, who became executive director of the 35-year-old DCCA in January

John Shipman (Photo courtesy of the DCCA)
John Shipman (Photo courtesy of the DCCA)

Back in 2000, John Shipman accepted the position of exhibition designer at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA), which had just moved into its new home at 200 S. Madison St. in Wilmington. To introduce Shipman to his new post, then-executive director Stephen Lanier took him on a tour of the facility.

During the tour, Lanier pointed out a pair of steel beams in the ceiling that met at an awkward angle. “He told me he thought those beams represented the crossroads of the community—for everyone throughout New Castle County and Delaware,” says Shipman. “They all meet here at the DCCA. That was one of the most impactful things anyone has ever said to me.”

Shipman left his post as exhibition designer in 2006 for a similar job at The Art Gallery of the University of Maryland. In 2009, he was promoted to director of The Art Gallery. Shipman held that position until January of this year, when he returned to Wilmington—almost nine years to the day he left—to take the helm as executive director of the DCCA.

“This is where I started my career, and I always envisioned ending it here as well,” he says. “The aim was always to return as director someday. I’m just thrilled beyond measure that someday is now.”

Michael Kalmbach, director of The Creative Vision Factory, is also thrilled at Shipman’s return. “John’s appointment [to executive director] confirms my belief that the best ideas and talent often lies within an organization’s ranks,” he says. “As former preparator at the DCCA and a practicing artist, John is situated to lead in a way that connects with practitioners and contemporary art enthusiasts alike, and I can’t wait to work with him.”

The 45-year-old Shipman, his wife, Valerie, and his 3-year-old daughter are happy to be “rediscovering” the city and state they’ve been away from for nearly a decade. “I‘m still getting re-acclimated, but from what I can see, the arts remain a force,” he says. “Across the state, too, there are these wonderful pockets—Dover, Smyrna, Rehoboth Beach—of very solid arts scenes.”

The DCCA's strengths "lie in the fantastic exhibition, education and special event programming we offer,” Shipman says. (Photo courtesy of DCCA)
The DCCA’s strengths “lie in the fantastic exhibition, education and special event programming we offer,” Shipman says. (Photo courtesy of DCCA)

The climate is not without its challenges, however. “We’re in a time of transition, in the way culture is consumed in our country,” he says. “Compounding that is a shift in funding streams and giving models.” But the problem is not unique to contemporary arts. “We’re all struggling in this new world, but organizations here are being truly smart in their approaches to solidifying their foundations, and programs across Wilmington are strong.”

Shipman says the good news for him is the experienced, connected professionals who make up his staff. They’ve put together stellar programs that are making a great impact in the city. They know how to create innovative works for and with diverse audiences.

Visual artist and DCCA Board Member Carson Zullinger feels Shipman is the perfect match for the organization’s needs. “We’re excited for John to come back to us,” Zullinger says. “He brings a wealth of arts management experience and fully understands our organization. And his calm, collegial leadership style bodes well for our continuing success and growth.”

“Our strengths lie in the fantastic exhibition, education and special event programming we offer,” Shipman says. “I’ve returned to an organization that is primed and ready to be a meaningful part of the community. This readiness comes from our board, staff and previous leadership. I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel here, and that’s a huge benefit.”

He cites several examples of the creative programming developed by the DCCA staff. Exhibitions like the “xPop Show” by artists Smashed Label (which opened May 31) and “New Eyes: Experimental Photography Today” annual members’ juried exhibition (opened May 28); the monthly Art Lounge gatherings; an active Art Loop presence; the center’s collaborations with music ensemble Mélomanie and the Wilmington Film Festival.

“Our charge,” Shipman says, “is to be vigilant in the exploration of how these elements of creative expression can play a role in people’s lives.” Contemporary art has always had that challenge, and no one recognizes this more than Shipman himself.

“When I first began at the DCCA, my father came to visit and tour the center,” he remembers. “After touring through the galleries, he turned to me, patted me on the back and said, ‘I’m proud of you for the job you’re doing, but I would most likely never feel the need to return here.’”

A well-educated lover of the arts, his father explained that the art here meant little to his own life; it seemed irrelevant to him.

“It was honestly a bit crushing,” admits Shipman, “but it mostly made me think a lot about contemporary arts and its role in our lives. From that point, I knew I wanted to be in a position to impact the way contemporary arts was presented and integrated into the lives of my community.”

This is a big part of Shipman’s vision for the DCCA—similar to the “Crossroads” vision spoken of by Lanier nearly 10 years before. “The whole heart of the DCCA begins with reaching into our community. If those threads take you to New York City or Los Angeles or wherever, great, but it all starts local and grows from there. It starts with showing your community that you love them first.”

"A Man Is A Man," another work by Shipman. (Photo courtesy of John Shipman)
“A Man Is A Man,” another work by Shipman. (Photo courtesy of John Shipman)

Shipman’s approach includes restructuring a more traditional model of some contemporary art venues (where promoting “high level” art is central to the mission) and instead creating a spectrum of experiences for all. “Today, we may exhibit work by [contemporary American artist] Judy Pfaff; tomorrow we could feature a local artist or craftsperson; the next day, highlight education and family programming,” he says. “That’s how you create a real sense of community—when the community is truly integrated into not only into your mission but also your everyday operations.”

Moreover, Shipman wants everyone to know that the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts is “not just a visual arts organization.” “At the center of all this is creative expression,” he says, “and I feel we excel in the exploration of that.”
He is passionate about creative expression in all its forms. “We’re all innately creative, but don’t always know how that expression will manifest itself. Not everyone is an ‘artist’ as modern society defines it, but we all have the ability and desire to express ourselves creatively. It’s not always easy to tap into that creativity, but if people can see that artists/creators they respect also have those challenges, that’s empowering.”

Shipman himself is a visual artist, and his work—which includes painting, drawing and ceramic sculpture—has been exhibited at West Chester University, Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill, Pa., the Biggs Museum in Dover and Blue Streak Gallery in Wilmington.

He sees the DCCA as a partner with all arts and education entities within the city, building programs and opportunities that will engage a diverse community. His wish list includes developing long-term artist-in-residence programs to connect with area students, educational institutions, elder care and senior living residences, and other potential partners.

What about the longer term? “Our limits come not from our imagination but from our resources,” he says. He looks forward to celebrating what organizations like New Wilmington Arts Association (NWAA) are creating, noting that it’s an organization that can be immediately flexible and responsive to contemporary visual culture.

“We’re the veterans now, 35 years in,” he smiles. “But we’re definitely thinking about what comes next. We’re excited about what it may mean to be the DCCA at 50.”