Weather Overcast – Rain Drops – Did not stop people from coming out to celebrate the Summer Solstice.
Good music, plenty of food options, and crafts!
By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle
“Kiss My Aztec” Closes Hartford Stage Season. “Kiss My Aztec” continues at Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street in Hartford through June 26th.
A pity that Hartford Stage’s new pre-Broadway musical, “Kiss My Aztec”, opened too late in the season to be considered for this year’s Connecticut Critics Circle awards. In a weak season for musicals, this bawdy and wildly energetic new show with book by John Leguizamo and Tony Taccone, music by Benjamin Velez and lyrics by Leguizamo, K David Kamp and Benjamin Velez, would definitely have been a contender. While I’m not as over-the-moon with praise as most of my colleagues, I can still easily recommend that anyone going to Hartford Stage right now is promised a very entertaining evening. This is the final show of what has been a somewhat mixed season at Hartford Stage.
Based on a screenplay written by Leguizamo and Stephen Chbosky, “Kiss My Aztec” is an outrageous take on Hispanic and Latin culture with a twisted look at the Aztecs resistance against Spanish invaders. Into this battle goes fierce female warrior Colombino (Kristina Alabado) and her clownish sidekick, Pepe (a delightful Joel Perez), who are destined to hook-up. It is all supreme silliness as the plot thickens to include gay lovers, a promised bride-not-to-be and a Frenchmen with a stunning codpiece. Rude and raunchy are the primary adjectives here and the whole enterprise may remind you of Monty Python shenanigans with an obvious debt to Lin Manuel Miranda.
I found an almost overload of plot, however, especially noticeable in the second act which has several sluggish moments, and just a little of Pepe’s sock puppet action goes a long way with me. Nevertheless, the entire cast is superb with Z Infante and Matt Saldivar especially brilliant playing dual roles. All the voices are without equal covering a score that is a mix of Latinx, gospel, hip-hop, rap, ballads, salsa and more. I am still laughing at the show’s satirical opening number, “White Men on Boats”.
All this gleeful nonsense is breathlessly directed by Tony Taccone with Mayte Natalio’s lively choreography an invaluable asset. Give a medal also to Clint Ramos whose manic scenic design goes hand in sock puppet with his vibrant, go-for-broke costuming. Some trimming of the book is definitely in order for “Kiss My Aztec”, but fingers are crossed for this ambitious crowd-pleaser on its journey to Broadway.
“Kiss My Aztec” continues at Hartford Stage through June 26th. For further information, call the box office at: 860-527-5151 or visit: www.hartfordstage.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: email@example.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.
Sources: National Geographic, History.com, Juneteenth.com, Wikipedia
The United States has a new federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed a bill into law on June 17, 2021, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, that officially designates Juneteenth—observed each year on June 19th —as an American holiday.
Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday.
Juneteenth has gained awareness in recent years as activists have pushed for state and federal recognition. With the signing of this bill, those efforts will finally come to fruition as Juneteenth becomes the first new federal holiday since the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
What’s The Backstory? Freedom after the Confederacy
At the stroke of midnight on January 1st, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect and declared enslaved people in the Confederacy free—on the condition that the Union won the war. The proclamation turned the war into a fight for freedom and by The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, had established that all enslaved people in Confederate states in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
But in reality, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t instantly free any enslaved people. The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding Border States or rebel areas already under Union control. However, as Northern troops advanced into the Confederate South, many enslaved people fled behind Union lines.
In the context of the American Civil War (1861–65), the Border States that were slave states that did not secede from the Union were Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, and after 1863, the new state of West Virginia.
The economy of slavery wasn’t relegated to the South: it crossed state lines, and even states with low slaveholding populations were profiting from the labor of the enslaved. From tobacco cultivation in Virginia to shipbuilding in Rhode Island, industries throughout the states both supported, and were supported by, slavery. By 1850, 80% of American exports were the product of slave labor. The estimated value of enslaved people increased 500% between 1790 and 1860, from $200 million to around $3.059 billion. Slavery’s profitability far outweighed the moral outrage it engendered.
Juneteenth and Slavery in Texas
In Texas, slavery had continued as the state experienced no large-scale fighting or significant presence of Union troops. Many enslavers from outside the Lone Star State had moved there, as they viewed it as a safe haven for slavery.
Since Texas was one of the last strongholds of the South, emancipation would be a long-time coming for enslaved people in the state. Even after the last battle of the Civil War was fought in 1865—a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed—it is believed that many enslaved people still did not know they were free. As the story goes, some 250,000 enslaved people only learned of their freedom after Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19th, 1865, and announced that the president had issued a proclamation freeing them.
On that day, Granger declared, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
A Celebratory Day
With Granger’s announcement, June 19th—which would eventually come to be known as Juneteenth—became a day to celebrate the end of slavery in Texas. As newly freed Texans began moving to neighboring states, Juneteenth celebrations spread across the South and beyond.
The year following 1865, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what became the annual celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19th. In the ensuing decades, Juneteenth commemorations featured music, barbecues, prayer services and other activities, and as Black people migrated from Texas to other parts of the country the Juneteenth tradition spread.
In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday; several others followed suit over the years. In June 2021, Congress passed a resolution establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday; President Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021.
For decades, many southern Black communities were forced to celebrate Juneteenth on the outskirts of town due to racism and Jim Crow laws. To ensure they had a safe place to gather for church services, public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, and social events like rodeos and dances, Juneteenth groups would often collectively purchase plots of land in the city on which to celebrate. These parks were commonly named Emancipation Parks, many of which still exist today.
As the Civil Rights movement gained momentum in the ‘60s, Juneteenth celebrations faded. In recent years, however, Juneteenth has regained popularity and is often celebrated with food and community. It also has helped raise awareness about ongoing issues facing the African-American community, including a political fight for reparations, or compensation, to the descendants of victims of slavery.
Other emancipation celebrations
Despite the holiday’s resurgence in popularity, Juneteenth is still not universally known and is often confused with Emancipation Day, which is annually celebrated on April 16.
Just as Juneteenth originally celebrated freedom in Texas, Emancipation Day specifically marks the day when President Lincoln freed some 3,000 enslaved people in Washington, D.C.—a full eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation and nearly three years before those in Texas would be freed.
State Representative Phil Young (D)
120th Connecticut House District
Juneteenth Independence Day marks the end of slavery in this country. It is an important holiday that went unrecognized for far too long, but through activism and education, many communities now celebrate Juneteenth and understand its importance in American history.
During the 2022 legislative session, several of my colleagues spoke passionately on the House floor on why Connecticut needed to make Juneteenth a legal state holiday. The bill received bipartisan support and was recently signed into law by Governor Lamont.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and his troops traveled around Galveston, Texas, and read General Order No. 3, which proclaimed that enslaved individuals were free following the Emancipation Proclamation – two years after President Lincoln issued it.
As we celebrate Juneteenth and acknowledge its significance in moving this country forward, we must not forget the darkness that accompanied that part of our history. Our country has come a long way, but there is more work to do as inequality and racism still exist.
I will continue to use my platform to fight injustice and make our communities more equitable and inclusive.
Check out these Juneteenth events happening around our state this weekend.
West Haven Celebrates Juneteenth
Juneteenth in Bushnell Park
Juneteenth Pop Up Shop (Waterbury)
Legacies of Freedom: A Juneteenth Celebration (New Haven)
JAZZ & POETRY EVENT: Juneteenth Celebration (Old Lyme)
Harts of Freedom – A Juneteenth Community Celebration (New Caanan)
Juneteenth Celebration with the Ubuntu Storytellers (Darien)
The Hudson Shakespeare Company (HSC) will return to the Stratford Library on Saturday, June 25th at 2 p.m. for its live, in-person production of the classic drama “Hamlet”. Performed outside in the library’s scenic courtyard, the fully-staged and costumed performance is free and open to the public.
The Hudson Shakespeare Company returns for its 30th season of traveling Shakespeare with one of the Bard’s most famous and revered masterpieces, “Hamlet”.
The show features Zach Hendrickson as the prince directed by the ghost of his father to avenge his murder at the hands of his uncle Claudius (Jon Ciccarelli), but at what cost? Can the supernatural vision be trusted in a court where conspiracy and intrigue operate around each corner?
Hamlet’s life-long friend Laertes (Alyssa Gray) now becomes an enemy. A budding romance with Ophelia (Emily Glaser), the daughter of the king’s right-hand man, Polonius (John C. Short) is upended. A once close relationship with his mother, Gertrude (Noelle Fair), now becomes strained as she marries his father’s murderer.
Shakespeare’s classic tale of revenge is shaped into both a light-hearted and tragically thoughtful meditation on duty to family and duty to oneself. HSC presents the play with six actors playing multiple roles in a briskly paced production running just under two hours.
“Hamlet” will be performed on June 25th in the Library’s scenic courtyard located in the rear of the library building off the Baldwin Center parking lot. Patrons are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to spread and to keep socially distant.
In the event of inclement weather, the play will be presented in the Library’s air-conditioned Lovell Room.
HSC will return for a lighthearted, 1970s-inspired production of “Much Ado About Nothing” on July 16th in conjunction with the Stratford Library’s 125th anniversary “Birthday Bash”.
For further information call the Library at 203.385.4162 or visit: www.stratfordlibrary.org.
Food Trucks Are Subject To Change
Italian Ice & Ice Cream
Wood Fire Pizzas
Kielbasa, Pierogies & More
Empanadas With A Twist
Meatball Sliders, Walking Street Tacos, Brownies, Chips & More.
Sterling House teams up with Health Care Advocates International to present Love Is Love: An Evening Of Pride at the Bijou Theatre, 275 Fairfield Ave, Bridgeport, from 7:00 – 9:00 P.M., Tuesday, June 21st.. Doors open at 6:30. Recommended for ages 14+
Pride is about being proud of who you are no matter who you love. Love Is Love: An Evening Of Pride focuses on just that! This cabaret oscillates between personal vignettes and love songs weaving a story of self-acceptance and self-love, demonstrating how that acceptance and love can spread to those around us.
Audiences will be whisked into the toe-tapping numbers of popular modern musicals and beyond to the new scores of up-and-coming musicals in development. All with a common theme, Love yourself. Songs from popular musicals and beyond.
June marks Pride Month. It is dedicated to the uplifting of LGBTQ+ voices, the celebration of culture, and support of LGBTQ+ Rights. Following the performance, Sterling House Community Center has teamed with Health Care Advocates International to host a Q&A to honor important advocacy issues affecting the gay community.
Light hors d’oeuvres served prior to performance and during intermission by farm to table caterer An EP Experience.
Space Is Limited, Pre-Registration Required
Free Event, Suggested Donation $10 to Support Local Gay Straight Alliances (payable online or at door)
Questions, please contact SHCC Special Events Manager Emily Shufrin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join Judson House Garden Club
June 25th, 2 p.m.
Here is your chance to get in on the ground floor of a garden club that is so needed here in Stratford. Let us work on getting Stratford designated as a Pollinator Pathway from Forest to Shore.
On Saturday, June 25th, we will be kicking off our inaugural meeting of the garden club at Judson House. We will kick off our garden club with its first special meeting declaring it “Pollinator Day” here in Stratford. We will have a keynote speaker, a representative from the Pollinator Pathway, sharing information on pollinators and the organization. In addition, representatives from our very own pollinator gardens including the Shakespeare garden, Animal control, the Stratford Sister Cities Friendship Garden at Boothe, the pollinator gardens in Lordship, Longbrook, and our Chairperson of the Stratford Beautification Committee.
To top it all off, we will be having a demonstration on making a Butterfly puddler. Ten lucky individuals will have a chance to make and take! Everything kicks off at 2:00 p.m.
We hope you will have a chance to drop by. We are attempting to unite all our special pollinator gardens here in Stratford together. If you “Google” Gardens Stratford Ct.
none of these gardens, except maybe if you scroll down, the rose garden at Boothe pops up. We are going to attempt to change that!
The Garden Club will be based in the Judson House gardens, and plans are to reach out to all our neighbors, visit local gardens, share information, have monthly speakers, possibly lend a helping hand, (like we will need on this day) and continue to connect our fragmented landscapes with a pathway of pollinators “From Forest To Shore”.
Our first “official” meeting will be held on Saturday June 25th will be in conjunction with the Historical Society’s annual Membership and volunteer fair.
For any particular questions or ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact
Kevin Moore, Garden/Grounds Chair, at https://www.facebook.com/JHhistoricgardens.
You can sign up to attend the Garden Club meeting or join the Judson House Garden Club by scanning the QR code on the flyer. If you are unable to scan the QR code, you can sign up at: email@example.com
For further information and to view ongoing photos of Stratford pollinator gardens you can go to the Judson House Historic Gardens page on Facebook for further updates.
An exhibit of original photographs by Stratford’s Nicole Irene is the current art exhibit at the Stratford Library. The exhibit, entitled “Stuff I See” by Nicole Irene, includes both color and black and white photography with a focus on Stratford’s former Shakespeare Theatre. It is free and open to the public.
A resident of Stratford since 2002, Nicole lived in the Shakespeare Theatre neighborhood for many years, walking her dog on the grounds of the storied structure. While walking she captured the “stuff I see”, from the building and The Poet statue, to the vast nature surrounding the Theatre, the beauty in that area never ceased to amaze her.
The Library exhibits highlights the theatre and its surroundings and includes the devastating fire on January 13th, 2019, when the theatre was a victim of arson. Nicole Irene adds, “I have heard some say “it was just an old building and an eyesore”, but I believe it was much more than that. I believe it stood as a reminder of a time and people we should not forget. It is and always will be a part of Stratford’s history as well as a part of many heartfelt memories.”
Viewing hours for “Stuff I See” are: Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.- 8p.m. and Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.. The display is located in the Main Lobby of the Stratford Library and will continue through July 30th.
For further information, call the library’s Public Relations and Programming Office at: 203.385-4162 or visit: www.stratfordlibrary.org.
The Stratford Library and Square One Theatre Company have announced the schedule for Readers Theatre Summer Showcase 2022. The annual series of live, staged readings of new and established plays returns after a two-year absence to the Library. It will begin on Wednesday, June 15th and continue on six consecutive Wednesday evenings through July 27th. The theatre readings are free and open to the public.
“Library!”, a series of six original short plays by local playwrights, will kick-off the series on June 15th at 7 p.m. The playlets are presented in conjunction with the Stratford Library’s year-long 125th anniversary celebration.
The playwrights for the evening include Elizabeth (Zeb) Appel, Jennifer Ju, Mark Lambeck, Steve Otfinoski and Orna Rawls. Actors performing in the readings are Julia Allen, Lucy Babbitt, Joan Barere, Andrew Benjamin, Tess Brown, Roger Coleman, Katelyn Ferrari, Mark Frattaroli, Maureen Gordon, Jennifer Ju, Thomas Newman, Rob Pawlikowski, and Emily Yan.
Other play selections in the series are: “The Busy World is Hushed”, Keith Bunin’s moving drama selected for “Pride Month 2022” will be performed on June 22nd; Duncan Macmillan’s perceptive two-hander, “Lungs” (June 29th); “Chapatti”, a romance by Christian O’Reilly (July 6th); Steven Drukman’s college academia play, “Death of an Author” (July 13th); “Kings”, a political play by Sarah Burgess (July 20th) and Joanna Glass’s New Haven based comic drama, “Two Plain Daughters and One Handsome Son” (July 27th).
The Readers Theatre Summer Showcase 2022 series will be held in the Stratford Library’s air-conditioned Lovell Room at 7 p.m. each evening. The acting company for the theatre series also includes Pat Leo, Peggy Nelson, Frank Smith, Damian Long, Kiel Stango, Al Kulcsar, Jo Kulp, J. Kevin Smith, David Victor, Christopher Finch, Lillian Garcia, Danielle Sultini, and Janet Rathert.
Tom Holehan will direct the readings. All plays are recommended for adult audiences and titles are subject to change. The readings are free and reservations will not be accepted. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for general seating only, first-come, first-served. Masks are optional but recommended.
For further information call the library’s Public Relations and Programming Office at: 203-385-4162.
Brought to you by Stratford Forward, a 501(3)c nonprofit dedicated to building the Stratford community.