Hardly anyone has been known to rejoice at the end of summer around here. Even skiers still have at least several weeks to wait before they can hit the slopes again.
But rather than dwell on the annual end of warm days and the start of raking season, Buffalo News critics are looking forward to what will happen – or at least what they want to see happen – between now and next summer.
1) A BOLD, WELCOME RISK
There are a few rare events every year that seem positioned to achieve a loud and unlikely harmony. This coming theater season, a good candidate for that perfect storm of talent, subject matter, physical venue and cross-cultural appeal is Road Less Traveled Productions take on Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer-winning 2010 play “Clybourne Park,” opening Nov. 8 in the year-old 710 Main Theatre, actual address 639 Main St. The show’s themes – urban decline and renewal, the tyranny of residual racism and the contradictory threats and promises of gentrification – resonate perfectly with issues on the minds of Buffalonians.
The company’s use of the 625-seat former Studio Arena Theatre adds another dimension to the production. It’s a huge room, ideal for hosting a cross-section of Buffalo’s diverse population. As American culture and the culture of theater in Western New York become increasingly segmented and niche-oriented, Road Less Traveled and its temporary host are taking a bold and welcome risk aimed at bringing Buffalonians from both sides of Main Street together under one roof. It may work and it may not, but the authors of the project deserve credit for believing that a big play filled with big ideas and big laughs can transcend those imaginary demographic lines.
– Theater Critic Colin Dabkowski
2) SUPPORT LOCAL FARMERS
Of all the changes occurring in the way Western New Yorkers eat, the one I most want to see more of is continued growth in farmers’ market crowds.
I submit that it’s the best way to show respect for farmers. Not just the superficial “Hey that looks hard” tip of the hat. I mean valuing, and honoring, the contributions they make to our communities. Respect the men and women who grow food for a living, by paying them.
Find the time and the money to go a few minutes out of your way to a farm stand, or farmers’ market, to put money in their hands.
At the very least watch for the labels in your supermarket that indicate locally raised vegetables, dairy products and meat. Unless you are really scraping to make ends meet, don’t buy the Mexican lettuce just because it’s a few cents cheaper. You know practically all that garlic is from China, right? Unless you go to a farmers’ market.
You probably already know your dollar goes further at a farmers’ market. It goes further for farmers, too, since they usually get a much higher profit margin on those sales. That’s why they find time in their sunrise to sunset workdays to stand behind those market tables. Thank them for offering fresh, nutritious food to you and your family. Don’t send a card. Just cash.
– Food Editor Andrew Z. Galarneau
3) HAPPY BIRTHDAY mOZART
I’m the classical music nerd, so for me, there are only two seasons: Mozart’s birthday and the Fourth of July. Next year the festivities surrounding Mozart’s birthday, which is Jan. 27, are especially promising.
On Jan. 17 and 18, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has an event I can’t wait for. BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta is conducting a performance of the mini-opera “Mozart and Salieri,” written in 1897 by the Russian Romantic composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Rimsky-Korsakov’s drama has the same theme as Peter Shaffer’s play “Amadeus.” Based on a poem by the great Russian poet Pushkin, it is about Mozart and his contemporary Antonio Salieri, and how Salieri, while talented, did not have the genius Mozart had. It also explores the possibility of Salieri poisoning Mozart – rumors that, however unfounded, had been in the air since practically the moment that Mozart died, in 1791. Shaffer handled the story skillfully and it should be fascinating to see the same legend as seen through the eyes of a poet and composer from czarist Russia. In the BPO’s production, Mozart will be sung by tenor Jonathan Boyd, and Salieri by bass-baritone Darren Stokes.
As icing on this rococo cake, preceding the one-act drawing room drama is Mozart’s 24th Piano Concerto, featuring pianist Enrica Ciccarelli. This is a piano concerto I have loved since I was a teenager. And if you don’t trust my judgment, trust Beethoven’s. After hearing this music, he said to a friend, “None of us is ever going to be able to do anything like this.”
What a fantastic program. I have a feeling I will want to see it twice.
– Classical Music Critic Mary Kunz Goldman
4) CANALSIDE CONFLUENCE
I’m not looking forward to any one particular show between now and next summer – though Pearl Jam’s appearance at First Niagara Center on Oct. 12 is awfully tantalizing. No, there are so many shows in Buffalo even during the “offseason” that picking one single concert seems arbitrary and irrelevant.
What I’m looking forward to is rather a confluence of events. They involve the Canalside area, both the inner and outer harbors, and the Cobblestone District. And they require at least a bit of a suspension of disbelief.
By the time the summer of 2014 rolls around, I hope we have gotten this whole outdoor summer concert season thing down to a science. Between the Outer Harbor concert site and the Canalside concert grounds, we were treated to an awful lot of great music this past summer. The good far outweighs the bad, in terms of the concertgoing experience at these venues. Of course, there is always some room for improvement.
At the moment, the Skyway and Ohio Street provide the only means of reaching the Outer Harbor venue, and both pour out onto Fuhrmann Boulevard, making traffic bottlenecks inevitable. It would be a welcome occurrence if the water taxis we began to see being employed this summer became one of many shuttle-type opportunities available to concertgoers.
This past summer, Queen City Taxi worked with area restaurants to provide a shuttle that left Canalside bound for the Outer Harbor every half an hour between 5 and 8 p.m. on concert nights. This was a significant step in the right direction.
In early spring, I reported on the development of Buffalo Iron Works, a new concert club to be opened on Illinois Street.
Developers have made significant progress on the transformation of the abandoned building at 49 Illinois St. into a fully functioning concert club, bar and restaurant. Having this club open by next summer will further capitalize on the Canalside synergies we’ve seen developing over the past year. It would be nice to make “Hockey Heaven” and “Music Mecca” neighbors at Canalside.
– Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers
5) STIMULATING THE BRAIN
It isn’t true that the American brain falls asleep in June – and reawakens in September.
What spends a lot of time nodding off in the summer heat, though, is the inclination of America’s Entertainment Industrial Complex to treat audiences as if their brains were as important as their dancing feet, their guffawing diaphragms and their bedazzled eyeballs.
Well, we’ve survived. And so have our brains – most of us anyway. And now the movies and the better TV networks are going to reward us.
Would you believe the Showtime Network giving us a miniseries telling us the stories of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the pathfinding Lewis and Clark of the orgasm? It’s on the way before the month is over. Would you believe that any week now, we will indeed have a North Park Theater again to see movies in? Well, so its owners and employees say anyway – and we’ll have it sooner rather than later too. This will be a new movie Buffalo when it happens – a North Park Theater not under the guidance of Dipson Theaters.
The Toronto Film Festival begins today, telling the world most the movies it will need to pay attention to for the next 18 months. And book publishers are bringing out The Guns of September – all the major books they’ve been saving while people have supposedly been getting sand in their book bindings and reflections of the sun in their eyes.
The kids are back in school. Adults are supposedly welcome in places where they weren’t for a while. No one has to pretend anymore that intelligence is no fun at all, that recess is the only true pleasure in life and no book deserves to exist without a beach. It’s what I’ve spent months waiting for. It will more than do for a while.
– Arts & Books Editor Jeff Simon