WNRN Culture Connection for July 28 – August 3

The second show of Ash Lawn Opera’s season and the Dragon Boat Festival at Rockett’s Landing are hallmarks of summer rolling right along.  Plus a tribute to Patsy Cline rounds out this week’s WNRN Culture Connection.

For information on these events, click on the links below.  To hear a podcast of this week’s Culture Connection click here.

Always Patsy Cline in Lynchburg:


Fiddler on The Roof in Charlottesville:


Dragon Boat Races in Richmond:


FYI:  I saw Avenue Q (part of the Heritage Theatre Festival) over the weekend at it was very good.  If you like irreverent musicals you might want to check it out.

Have a great week and get out there and get cultured.


The Culture Maven



Walgreens Richmond International Dragon Boat Race

Shakespearian Summer

Here in Central Virginia summer paints the land an emerald green and soft nights to entice the human population out of doors.  One of my favorite activities is to see plays and concerts al fresco during the long summer evenings and recently I did just that- I went to Agecroft Hall in Richmond to see Henley Street/Richmond Shakespeare’s production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.  In past years I have grumbled about the quality of Richmond Shakespeare’s shows.  To wit, one particular production of ROMEO AND JULIET in which the actors were far too old for the parts of the star-crossed lovers and the sets were literally fashioned from 2 x 4’s and cardboard (the “structure” used for the balcony scene wobbled so terribly I feared for the actor’s safety – that was quite distracting).  At any rate, the merger with Henley Street Theatre Company has apparently been a good move because the show was wonderful!

Of particular note is the set, a jungle gym of crepe myrtle branches created by Agecroft’s multi-talented Executive Director, Richard Moxley sits center stage and is expertly put to use by director, Jan Powell.  The players weave in and out and onto this thing like threads on a loom.   And when the lights are dimmed, a rich indigo lights the structure to create a beautiful jewel quality.  It is simply brilliant!

The sound is also spectacular. Little bug hums and chirps speckle the evening, some human made and others recorded with whispery bits of music and dialog mixed in to add to the dream like quality of the show.

But best of all were the group of four fairies.  Three young woman and one young man whom I would be honored to name here if I could only find my program (or if their names were mentioned in a cast list on the website).  They moved so beautifully and affected such perfect natural mischief it is as if they just jumped out of an Art Nouveau painting to join in the romantic fun.

Also on the must mention list is the lovely VCU student who plays Puck.  Quite simply put she is  the best Puck I have yet to see. Playful and fun, confident and whimsical, she gambles and spins about the show like a kid (meaning an actual baby goat) amongst clover.

There is other good stuff too but time prohibits my expanding on them.  My advice is to click here and get your tickets now and experience this play as it ultimately should be experienced- outdoors on a midsummer night.





Activity Report for last weekend (5-16 & 17-14)

Yeah, I know I have been totally slacking on this blog but I have committed to getting my financial house in order with my new job at WNRN and so I have been working, working, working.  It is time consuming but fun.

So what about some arts and culture already?


I spent some time in Richmond this past weekend and saw a play and a photography exhibit.

The play:

DETROIT by Lisa D’Amour at the theatre formerly called the Empire (now Va Rep Center) in the Theatre Gym.

This play is about the deconstruction of the American Dream as viewed through the story of two couples living in a suburb of Detroit.  I love the message of how false attachment to image, escape and material things wrecks havoc on our lives.  Plus pyro’s will appreciate all the fire references and, well, I don’t want to give anything away.  Just go see it for some engaging, thought provoking theatre. Not one single fidget moment for me and my 14 year old was riveted.

Click here for details if you want to go see it.

On Saturday I went with daughter in tow to see POSING BEAUTY IN AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE an exhibit of African American portrait photography from the  1890’s to the present.  I know what you are thinking… If you are white you are thinking that this exhibit is for African Americans and if you are African American you may be thinking that this is a ploy to get you to go to the museum. Both viewpoints are both correct and incorrect. I suggest checking it out as the photography is beautiful and the exploration of what is “beauty in terms of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture. and politics”. I think after seeing the exhibit it will be apparent that this exhibit is for anyone who appreciates art, beauty and/or photography and what is wrong  with the museum wanting to attract people anyway?

As a special bonus the VMFA has a tandem exhibit of items from its own collection called IDENTITY SHIFTS.

For info click here.

Something to see in Charlottesville (which I have yet to attend myself but it looks so interesting I just had to mention it) is


This project involves two of my favorite talented people in Cville: Julie Hamberg and Peter DeMartino so it is sure to be fabulous.

Here is the description pirated from the website:

based on the novel by MIKHAIL BULGAKOV
original text adapted for the theater by JULIE HAMBERG & PETER DeMARTINO
directed by JULIE HAMBERG

The Devil has come to Moscow with a hitman and a talking cat, and will stop at nothing to ensure the perfection of his annual Ball. Mischief, magic, beheadings, and the surprisingly touching biography of Pontius Pilate permeate this unlikely love story that proves that stars can sometimes be un-crossed with enough determination.

Click here for info.


Sadly I will miss the Village People at the Paramount on Thursday night. :-( But that is the way of the world, sometimes.

Keep prodding me and I will keep writing.

And be sure to check out WNRN Culture Connection on Sunday June 1st at 11am on WNRN  (just stream it from wnrn.org or the App on you smart phone, it is so much easier than me typing out all seven signal numbers thank you very much) when Matthew Slaats and I and two local artists actually do the first “Art Assignment” from the online PBS show of that same name.

Enjoy the amazing weather and get out there and get cultured already.



The Culture Maven

Yoga Summer Camp for teenaged women

OMG!  I had no idea so much time had passed since I last blogged on Culture Nuts.  So much culture has happened since then but I am not even going to talk about that because my friend, Jen Waine, has this cool yoga camp for teenaged women this summer and I wanted to get the word out ASAP.


Here is the 411:

Create memories .. Play .. Friendly .. Calm, Comfortable, Confident .. Power .. No drama .. Freedom to go my own way .. Indestructible .. No judgement .. A clean slate.

YEW: a 2 week summer program for “Young Empowered Women” ages 14-18. YOGA for all levels and all bodies including beginners. Time to discuss life. Topics offered by participants.

June 16-27. 9am-noon. Divine Play. $225. Space is limited. Enroll now.

For more information go to www.jenwaine.com. To register contact Jen Waine at jwaine@comcast.net.


If you know any teenaged women please pass this along.



Waking up

February is over!  Thank goodness.

Though it is the month of my birth which brings me joy and the shortest month of the year, February in Virginia always seems long and generally miserable.  I did have some great adventures even though I failed to muster the energy to blog about them via this site.  I had a fabulous Birthday Celebration at Glass House Winery in Free Union, Va.  The greenhouse room is filled with tropical plants and is a great mini-escape from the cold, drabness of winter plus the fabulous wine and house made designer chocolates warm the tastebuds.  I also went cross-country skiing for the first time at Kripalu in Lenox, Ma.  To learn about that journey click here. Otherwise until last week, I laid pretty low.

So what happened last week?

category_21_2277One of the cool people I met skiing is Sarah Cohen, President of Route 11 Potato Chips which just happens to be located in Mt. Jackson, Va., about an hour and fifteen mins from my home in Charlottesville (what are the chances, right?).  Route 11 Potato Chips are organic, kettle -cooked potato chips that are distributed nationally, mostly in boutique markets and gourmet shops.  They are DELICIOUS! and Sarah is totally fabulous so I took a road trip up to see her and visit the factory.  It is really a cool place and I got a VIP tour of the potato chip making process.  Route 11’s process is innovative because it is set up linearly meaning each part of the process from washing potatoes to packing bags of freshly cooked chips happens in a line.  The linear process helps cut on energy used to make the chips which is good for keeping manufacturing costs low and saving the planet.  They also have a “no waste” facility which means they capture and repurpose waste materials like dirt and water from washing potatoes, potato peels and bits of chips and uncooked chips. The dirt gets composted and area gardeners and farmers can come and get it to fertilize plants.  All the leftover potato stuff goes to a local farmer who uses it to supplement his cow’s diets etc. It was a really fun visit. I am actually eating some Route 11 Sweet Potato chips right now- YUM!

Thursday night I attended the Love Feast, a cabaret style celebration of love and fundraiser for the 8th grade class at Tandem Friends School. Why is this included in an arts and culture blog?  Because even though Tandem is a small school of about 220 students stretched over 5th through 12th grades and this was just middle schoolers performing, there is an astounding amount of talent. All the kids were great, including my own little darling playing with her band.

Friday night I saw Monuments Men. My take on it: Don’t bother. This seems to be a film geared towards old farts.  It is slow moving, the script is choppy and the audience is never really engaged with the characters making moments that are supposed to be poignant simply schmaltzy. John Goodman and Bill Murray seemed bored out of their minds. Their line delivery so rote and unrealistic it seemed they might have deigned to glance at the script before shooting the scenes – or maybe they were actually reading off prompt boards, who knows it was just terrible.

Saturday night was devoted to the Financial Aid Fundraiser for Tandem Friends School.

Sunday I took a road trip to Richmond with my pal, actor/singer, Doug Schneider, to see Cadence Theatre Company’s production of Clybourne Park.  It was an exceptional production! I love the play and these actors, deftly directed by Keri Wormald, were in the moment from beginning to end yielding some of the best performances I have yet to see in Richmond. I must particularly mention David Bridgewater because, as a theatre critic, I have railed on him many times for being more about his ego than actually acting but he was astounding as Russ in the first act and marvelous as Dan in the second act. His performances were genuine and convincing, truly good acting.  Big kudos to you David and to Keri for bringing it out in him- and all of the cast for that matter.  The pacing was perfect, blocking spot on.  Just a privilege to be in the audience witnessing a beautifully executed work of live art.

I will mention all of the cast in this post because they are not listed on the Cadance website and they deserve to be acknowledged: Katie McCall, Tyra D Robinson, Steve Perigard, Thomas E. Nowlin, McLean Jesse, Andrew Firda (first time I had seen him on stage and he was fabulous!) and Daniel Allen.

The show runs through March 15 so get your tickets now- it is a small house. For more info click here.

Post show, Doug and I went to Max’s, a new restaurant  on Broad Street near the November Theatre formerly known as the Empire. From the moment I stepped in the door I felt transformed to one of those comfy older French bistro’s in Manhattan with the octagon tile floors and iron, wood and brass elements in the decor. We sat upstairs and enjoyed a sumptuous meal of French Onion Soup and Cock au Vin with ricotta and fig crepes for dessert. Alex, our waiter was an impeccable server, friendly, efficient and informative without being intrusive. It was a wonderful experience and I WILL be back.

Home then the Oscars.

Now it is snowing so it looks like a Lasagna day at home.  March is truly coming in like a lion to Central Virginia. Stay safe and warm and pray for warm weather soon.



The Culture Maven






January Quiet Settles In

It has been a quiet week at Lake Wobegon… uh, I mean in the world of The Culture Maven.  I have been focusing on work and preparing for my first cross country skiing experience coming up in mid-February so the outside activities have been leveled to a minimum.  What I have been doing is building up my cardio ability and strength in the gym via weight training and the elliptical machine.  Though it is super cliche to hit the gym in January, and indeed it is my least favorite time to go due to the crowds of New Years Resolutionists combined with all the cyclists and runners who are usually outside doing stuff in better weather- it is just a crowd and as a rule I dislike crowds.  Anyway, I use the cute little gym in my apartment complex which has a steady stream of patrons but is never crowded making it a much more pleasant experience.  Where was I going with all this?  Oh right, Why am I in the gym in January….so I have signed up to attend a four day weekend of yoga and cross country ski lessons at Kripalu in February in celebration of my birthday and to check off a bucket list item (learning to cross country ski).  Since I was sick or recovering from illness in December, and I have really slacked on the aerobic exercise thing for quite some time, I thought it would be a good idea to build up some cardio capability before attempting to basically run on skis up and down hills through the snow.  Is that a cultural thing worthy of mention in an Arts and Culture blog?  Well,  in our culture, yes.  So there.

Anyway,  I also went to Bachata night at club M&M which is great exercise in winter as Latin dancing will warm up a body pretty gosh darned quickly – and it it FUN!

On Saturday night, following a day of writing, I was a happy guest at the WNRN Winter Party held at The Blue Moon Diner on Main Street in Charlottesville.  It was the first time I met several of the volunteer “Jocks” and the food was fantastic.  I highly recommend the chicken curry which I wish I had demanded buckets of to take home to eat for the week it was sooooo good.

Have a great week and maybe I will have more interesting things to report next Monday.


The Culture Maven

Here is a picture of me eating an olive off of a wonderful creation by The Blue Moon Diner.

Photo by the talented  Rich Tarbell

Photo by the talented
Rich Tarbell

A New Year of Art and Culture

2014 is upon us!  And a happy new year for me already as a dream has already come true.  2013 was a year for planting seeds, for preparing.  I brought in the year with a silent retreat at Yogaville, all introspective and transformational and rung it out with a fine dinner at a friend’s then a play at Live Arts.  Yes, I went to see THE PHILADELPHIA STORY on New Year’s Eve and though the play turned out to be a confusing scriptural muddle, I enjoyed the company and the party afterwards where we brought in 2014 with a traditional champagne toast and a little dancing.

The following days had me putting the finishing touches on my first radio show, a 3o minute broadcast I am co-producing with Matthew Slaats from The Bridge here in Charlottesville, examining how Virginia artists are influenced and influence the world at large.  The show aired on WNRN on Sunday at 11:00am as part of an extended Culture Connection in conjunction with 30 Minute Throwdown, a radio show produced by students from the Tandem Friends School in collaboration with the Music Resource Center and WNRN. This is a dream come true for me and I am really proud of our premier effort which I listened to today.

Other than that, I road tripped up to DC to see THE ART OF TRANSFORMATION an exhibit of art related to yoga at the Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian on Friday.  If you are a yogi/yogini it is a must see but hurry because it leaves in two weeks.  Tip:  Use the magnifying glasses provided to get a better look at the minute details in the drawings and paintings.

On the television front, I finished BREAKING BAD this weekend and honestly was happy for it to end.  I had grown weary of Jessie’s whimpering, Todd’s effortless evil and if I had to see Schyler’s deer-in-the-headlights look one more time… Agggghhh!  But loose ends were wrapped up nicely and I enjoyed seeing Badger and Skinny Pete one last time.  At this writing, I await the season premier of DOWNTON ABBEY with tingles of excited anticipation.

ART NOTE:  If you like museums but dislike crowds January and February are THE best months to hit the galleries.  DC and New York are practically empty and you can get great deals on hotel rooms too.

Have a great week and get out there and get cultured.

The Culture Maven

Illness and a few holiday events

In the last post, I mentioned had been/was sick.  Well, I felt better, ran around doing holiday business and work and landed right back in bed for four more days missing a few holiday parties and emerging on Saturday the 21st for a visit to Jefferson Vineyards with my dear friend Jacquie O’Connor and road tripping to Staunton with Jacquie and 7 other good pals to see THE SANTALAND DIARIES at American Shakespeare Center. It was, as usual, great fun.  I adore David Sedaris and have laughed at this monolog countless times.  After the show we all went to dinner at Emilio’s in Staunton and other than the arrangement of a private room (which, as wine was consumed and the group became quite loud, was a godsend), I cannot recommend it.  In fact at least two people in our party felt quite ill later in the evening but we had a great time anyway and next time I will make sure to get a reservation at Zynodoa, Aoli or the Mill well in advance (they were booked that night and it was inconvenient trying to find a better place to eat with a group of nine to herd).

Christmas Eve found me at Pearl’s bake shoppe picking up a gorgeous chocolate/mocha bouche de Noel for an afternoon tea party at some good friend’s in Richmond then off I went with my daughter in tow to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art to see the Hollywood Costume Exhibit.  I bought her a membership to the VMFA for part of her Christmas present (the student membership cost the same as her admission to the exhibit) which turned out to be a brilliant idea.  She felt very grown up having her own membership and she actually squealed with glee at some of the costumes she saw worn by a few of her idols like Edward Norton and Robert De Niro (she has strange taste for a 13 year old) plus she discovered some new films and actors.  She thanked me profusely for taking her to the exhibit as we enjoyed a coffee and a ginger ale in the Best Cafe. My favorite costume was one worn by Ginger Rogers, a sequined number with mink on the back of the skirt.  The exhibit leaves in early February (I think) so get there soon- this is the only east coast stop. After tea and carol singing at my friend’s, Sam (my daughter) and I went to my favorite Indian restaurant, Lehja for Christmas Eve dinner.  As usual, Sunny and his staff offered up good service and good food warming us on a chilly night and fortifying us for the drive back to Cville to feed our cat, Norton (yes, named ofter Edward Norton- told you my daughter is a fan) and wait for Santa. I had the corn soup for a starter and we split the Saag Paneer for our entree.  Lehja simply has the best Saag Paneer I have ever tasted, a spinach and cheese dish that means Indian comfort food to me.

We spent Christmas at Keswick Hall where we dined with several members of my extended family.  Talk about decking the Halls, Keswick is especially festive at Christmas with loads of garland, several decorated trees and a buffet lunch with items to satisfy everyone in your party.  I particularly enjoyed the prime rib and the duck salad. I just adore Keswick Hall as a place to take visitors and simple to feel like I am in that certain part of Charlottesville that is gracious, beautiful and embodies the mood that Ralph Lauren strives for in his preppy collection.  I just always feel so at home in the lounge seated next to the blazing fire and just enjoying the sumptuous country life to which Jefferson prescribed.

Friday night found me at The Livery Stable, a new restaurant/pub on the west end of Charlottesville’s downtown mall. There is a drink featured there named something like A Russian Mule, vodka, ginger beer and something else served in a special copper mug. It is my new favorite cocktail.  I also indulged in a pot roast slider (without the bread, of course) which was so delicious I was sorry to have only one order.  Chef Felix has plans to bump up the menu in 2014 possibly including adding Korean bbq. YUM!

Saturday was a day of shopping the sales with my Mum at Short Pump- part of my Christmas present.  We shopped for hours and enjoyed a nice lunch at the Cafe in Nordtrom.  My Tuscan Salmon was pretty good and would have been better had it been served a bit warmer but overall a lovely lunch.

Sam is gone and I am basically basking in the stillness and quiet but if I do go somewhere you will learn about it next week.

Happy New Year!


The Culture Maven

PS: WNRN Culture Connect, the extended version with me and Matt Slaats, premiers on Sunday January 5th at 11:00am on WNRN. Go to worn.org to stream it.

The quiet before the storm

My annual cold/flu/allergy/forced winter hibernation period happened at it’s usual time this year hitting the week before HAMAMGANZA, the charity variety show I have participated in for the last 6 or 7  years. I have performed in this show with a temperature of 104 degrees.  I have performed this show when I could not make a sound come out of my mouth (Organizer, Chris Dovi, thought it was absolutely hilarious to have a silent cheerleader in the show and I mouthed the words to cheers and songs all night).  But this year I was floored and missed the show entirely, staying home in bed to recover.  I was very sad about missing it, particularly since it is the final year of the show and I wanted to be a part of it ONE LAST TIME. C’est la vie.

I was bedridden for the entire weekend, not only missing Hamaganza,but also missing THE WILD PARTY at Firehouse in Richmond, The Virginia Consort concert, Ash Lawn Opera’s, AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS and  the performance of the programI facilitated for the Young Friends for the Christmas celebration at the Charlottesville Friends Meeting.

Therefore, outside of recording the first interview for WNRN’s new Arts and Culture radio show (Chase and Susan from Virginia Repertory Theatre airing January 5th) and that THE  RISE OF THE GUARDIANS makes a charming family holiday movie (LOVE ACTUALLY is still my fav for a more adult group holiday grope, with IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE being my number one all time Christmas favorite with MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, the original, as a close second- yes, I watched a bunch of Christmas movies while resting can you tell? But only after watching up through part 1 of season 5 of BREAKING BAD on Netflix on demand which, in a most evil manner, makes one order the 2nd part of season 5 via snail mail DVD delivery. AGGGGGHHHH!!!), I have nothing to report.

The Good News: All of this bed rest, turmeric tea and chicken soup has worked. I am feeling much better- ready for the whirl of holiday activities before me.

Will keep you posted.

Until next week…


The Culture Maven


Short but Sweet Culture Week

images-1Cold weather just makes me want to sleep or move to the South Pacific so my Cultural life was slow but good this week.

One of the best parts of the week was Tuesday night’s San Fermin concert at The Southern in Charlottesville.  The eight piece band, headed by Yaley, Ellis Ludwig-Leone, a genius composer who writes all the music for the band, is totally something new.  They are smart.  They are trained really good musicians.  They are nice.  They are my new fav up-and -coming band.  Check  them out http://sanferminband.com. I drank Va Cider and stayed out too late for a Tuesday and suffered for the next couple of days just being plain tired but it was worth it.

I was lucky enough to have 2 lunches out this week.  One at Tara Thai and the other at Taste of India on the downtown mall in Cville.  Tara Thai is a chain but good.  Taste of India was lacking in spice thus disappointing to me but my lunch company, Hawes Spencer, was delightful as always and had me laughing from Masala to my scoop of fennel and candy bits.

Saturday afternoon it was back to The Southern for a WNRN Member event featuring Ha Ha Tonka, five scruffy bluegrass based rock musicians who played a nice set of tunes to perk up a cold late autumn day. Then home to cook dinner for my daughter and prepare for a Richmond road trip to see the very gay holiday play, IT’S A FABULOUS LIFE at Richmond Triangle Players.  Yes, it is a take on the Capra Classic, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but this version is complete with drag queens, hot men in thongs and two of my favorite people/actors, that ADORABLE Chris Hester and Charlottesville powerhouse, Doug Schneider. I went with my friend, Deb, and ate beforehand at Con Su Bucco(is that correct?).  I feel totally stupid that I can’t remember the name exactly but it is in that goofy triangle in the middle of the Boulevard in the building that used to be a porno shop near the old Bill’s Barbecue.  Anyway… It is fabulous and I ate three tacos, chorizo, fish and pulled pork plus quac and loads of chips.  I ate way too much and the chips are from flour tortillas so I felt horrible at the show but it was so fun I forgot about it most of the time.

Ice squelched any desire I had to do anything on Sunday so I cooked, baked and ate a lot of really good food including an almond cake that lasted about an hour between my teenager and myself.

Stay safe and warm until next week!

And remember, Hamaganza – the final show ever- is next weekend in Richmond.  come Saturday night to Lulu’s for the best version.


The Culture Maven

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