Holiday Weekend

There’s plenty of local fun planned for this holiday weekend, especially if Black Friday shopping makes you cringe-

Warren ushers in the holiday season this weekend with its 23rd annual Holiday Festival, a celebration that begins at 5pm this evening and extends into Saturday with music, puppetry, special guests, and more.  Read this article in the Warren Times-Gazette for more details.

If shopping is more your thing remember to Shop Small at your favorite local stores this weekend, in support of Small Business Saturday.  Firmly planted between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this endeavor reminds us all that our favorite local stores, which add so much to the fabric of our community, can only survive with our support – and that means our dollars!  As Katrina Kenison writes in this moving post:

“These folks don’t live on air. They depend on cash register receipts.  Their stores can’t continue to exist just for my idle sight-seeing and window-shopping pleasure; they need me — they need all of us — to walk through the doors and open our wallets.”

It’s easy to forget the impact our choices have, especially with the razzle-dazzle of big-box deals and online specials being hyped all around us.  If you’re looking for a starting point, The Arts Room recommends buying children’s picture books at A Novel Idea Booksellers (check out our 2011 Favorites List here), puppets at The Toy Shop, and art classes at  Mudstone Studios (check out the upcoming class, “Winter Culture Clash”!).

Also this weekend the doors open for Christmas at Blithewold on Friday, November 25th.  A festival of events from now ’til the new year, including music, holiday workshops, family events, and of course that breathtaking Christmas tree awaits visitors to the mansion and arboretum in Bristol – for full details visit their website.

Take the Picture Book Pledge – again!

The Arts Room has reached a milestone – our 100th post!  To mark the occasion we’re announcing our 2nd annual Take the Picture Book Pledge, complete with an all new list of favorite arts-themed picture books, just in time for the holidays!  A little over a year ago, in response to a New York Times article about a perceived decrease in demand for children’s picture books, I wrote a post urging us all to choose picture books for holiday presents to give to our children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.  (You can read that post and view last year’s booklist by clicking here.)

A good picture book can become a family treasure.  With the holiday season fast approaching I hope you’ll take the picture book pledge with me again this year – and Friday night’s Downtown Merchants’ Holiday Preview in Bristol is the perfect time to start your holiday shopping!  So without further ado, The Arts Room presents this year’s list of favorite arts-themed picture books, old and new:

  1. Press Here by Hervé Tullet
  2. A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade by James Preller, illustrated by Greg Ruth
  3. Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by David Soman and Jacky Davis
  4. My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall
  5. Bear in the Air by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Amy Bates
  6. Blackout by John Rocco
  7. Zoozical by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown
  8. The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle
  9. If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen
  10. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
  11. Tugg and Teeny by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Christopher Denise

(Click the titles above to learn more about each book.  Yes, there are eleven.  I couldn’t resist including Tugg and Teeny, even though it’s not so much a picture book as an early reader.  Consider it a bonus pick, if you like.)

Follow the luminaries Friday night to A Novel Idea Booksellers on State Street in Bristol, where owner Sue Woodman and her staff can help you find these picture books on their shelves, or order them for you in time for the holidays!

A weekend for lovers

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It’s a weekend for theatre-lovers here in Bristol & Warren.  Thursday night, November 17th is opening night for the Mt. Hope Masqueraders’ production of “The Man Who Came to Dinner”, the 1939 comedy hit by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.  The play is about a man who slips on a doorstep and breaks his hip on his way into a dinner party, and the hilarity that ensues as the imperious and arrogant man proceeds to take over the house while he convalesces.  We can’t wait to see what our young thespians, under the direction of theatre educator Carol Schlink, will do with their production!

This Thursday also marks the official opening night of 2nd Story Theatre’s special holiday event, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, adapted by Bob Colonna.  I was fortunate to catch a preview show this past Sunday and can easily recommend the play.  The charming production is a welcome escape from the fast-approaching hectic holiday season, and I left the theatre reminded of the truly important things in life – family, friends, love, and hope.  The cast is wonderful, though I especially enjoyed Elise Arsenault’s delightfully acerbic portrayal of Aunt March, and Allison Crews’ quietly passionate turn as the adult Meg.  Sara D’Angelos, as Young Jo, was truly the star of the show in my eyes, and I thank her for her endearing portrayal of a beloved literary character!  Give yourself an early holiday gift and bring your mother, your sisters, your daughters and dear friends to this heartwarming production of a well-loved classic.  Performances run through December 11th; for more details, visit our Theatre page or go directly to 2nd Story’s website.

If heartwarming stories aren’t your cup of tea you’re in luck – 2nd Story is pulling double-duty and offering another play, “The Suitors” by Jean Racine, translated by Richard Wilbur.  The production is staged at the historic Bristol Courthouse on High Street and opens with a preview show this Friday, November 18th.  From the ticket brochure:

“… Jean Racine’s riotous rhyming verse romp provides ample opportunity for disorder in the court, ambling iambically from the sacred to the profane.  Few escape the writers’ comic wrath as translator Richard Wilbur aids in hazing both the legal profession and the lawsuit-happy litigants who keep the judges well bribed, the lawyers well heeled, and the audience, well, in stitches!”

Performances run through December 18th; for more details visit our Theatre page or go directly to 2nd Story’s websiteNote: this Saturday, November 19th, 2nd Story is partnering with Mosaico CDC for a 7pm reception followed by an 8pm performance; all proceeds benefit Mosaico’s programs (call 253-4627 for more information).

Rounding out this weekend’s opening nights is Roger Williams University Theatre’s debut of an original play, “Come You Back” written and directed by Peter Wright.  The play is about “the emotional struggle for independence in Northern Ireland, its fierce loyalties, costs and losses, as seen through the eyes of a Donegal family during the winter of 1972 and the events of Bloody Sunday.”  The production opens Friday, November 18th with performances running through December 3rd; for more details visit our Theatre page or go directly to the RWU Theatre Company’s website.

Break a leg, everyone!