First a Cruise Ship, Now ‘Oliver’

Consider yourself one of the family when you see Oliver! opening Friday, November 19, at Kelsey Theater on the campus of Mercer County Community College. The title role is played by Jordan Carroll, 10, a fifth grade student at Village School.

Carroll is a well-rounded West Windsor kid. This is his second year in the Westminster Children’s Choir and he has studied piano for three years with Michelle Bugee of West Windsor. He has been in West Windsor Little League since kindergarten and swims with the Whalers.

Oliver! is a musical tale of a young orphan’s struggle for survival on the streets of London circa 1850, based on the Charles Dickens classic. The book, lyrics, and music are by Lionel Bart. On Broadway, it has played at the Imperial, Schubert, Martin Beck, and Mark Hellinger theaters.

Frank Ferrara, a former Plainsboro resident, directs the show. His wife, Shannon Ferrara, a music teacher at Grover Middle School, is the music director. Pam Pisani, a Plainsboro resident, is the choreographer. Kyla Marie Mostella, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School graduate, plays the role of Nancy. Ensemble actors include Hannah Rapaport-Stein and Alexander DeSimine of West Windsor, and Drew Nelson of Plainsboro.

“We knew early on that Jordan wanted to be an actor,” says his mother, Beth, a labor consultant for 24 years, who now teaches communications for union leaders and union organizers at Rutgers University. “When he was very young he was in a play on a cruise ship and was the narrator in the kid’s talent show.” His father, Thomas Carroll III, is a partner at the Hill Wallach law firm in Carnegie Center. His brother, Tommy, 13, is an eighth grade student at Grover Middle School. Also an athlete, he helped build the sets for Grover’s “The Wizard of Oz” last spring.

Past roles for Jordan include Winthrop in “The Music Man” and Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls.” “I always wanted to be Oliver,” says Carroll. “I grew up watching it on video and DVD.” Although he may want to be an actor when he grows up, he is very interested in animals and is considering a career as a marine biologist. The family enjoys going to concerts ranging from Pavarotti to Springsteen and Carroll has seen his share of Broadway shows.

“It’s a lot of work but the school has been very encouraging and supportive,” says Jordan’s mother. “Mrs. Beam, Jordan’s teacher, arranged a class trip to see the show.”

Oliver!, Kelsey Theater, Mercer Community College, Old Trenton Road, West Windsor. After the performance on opening night, Friday, November 19, the audience is invited to join the cast and crew for a “Food, Glorious Food” reception. Performances run weekends through November 28. Tickets may be purchased at or by calling 609-584-9444. $15 adults; $12 seniors; and $10 for students. Parking is free and the theater is wheelchair accessible.

A Budding Romance, circa 1595

Who says high school students can’t perform Shakespeare? “I have had people ask me whether it is difficult to do Shakespeare with high school students,” says Dara Sheller, director of High School South’s production of “Romeo and Juliet.” “The answer is no. These students completely understand the play, and it has been one of the best theatrical experiences that I have ever had.”

South’s production of Romeo and Juliet will have its final performances on Saturday, November 20, at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the school’s auditorium.

The cast includes Allison Taaffe, who plays Juliet; Zack Zimbler, Romeo; Alex Sasson, Tybalt; Andy Meltzer, Prince; Clayton DeSouza, Friar John; Crawfold Miller, Benvolio; Jean-Paul Pretat, Capulet; Jeff Sutton, Paris; Jesse Madera, Montague; and Jonathan Amira, Mercutio.

Also, Julia Moorman, Lady Capulet; Katy White, Sampson; Meggie Schmidt, Lady Montague; Rachel Ignotosky, Gregory; Ryan Alonso, Balthasar; Tim Forrester, Abram; and Tom Stuart, Friar Lawrence.

Also, Alexandra Dicker, dancer; Angela Ramboyong, dancer; Brooke Hardy, dancer; Julia Levy, dancer; Stephanie Mischell, dancer; and Tara McGuinness, dancer.

Also, Alyssa Gentile, nurse; Ethan Fishbane, watchman; Gary Verma, watchman; Sarah Esmi, chorus; Esther Holland, stage manager; and Amita Maram, assistant stage manager.

Romeo and Juliet, Saturday, November 20, 1 and 8 p.m., High School South auditorium. Tickets $7; 609-716-5050.

The Healing Power of Aromatherapy

If you are passionate, then you can’t fail. Just take the dive,” were the words West Windsor resident Christine Johansson needed to hear to encourage her to follow her dream of starting her own business. In fact Johansson’s husband, Stefan, spoke those words to her this past February. Johansson, a mother of two young children, then launched her business, selling products made by aromatherapists and herbalists from companies that offer the highest quality organic products. Other well-known franchises like Pampered Chef and Longaberger Baskets also use the private home parties format for promoting sales across the country. Johansson has positioned Puretherapi, which she calls an aromatherapy home spa company, with the same approach.

Aromatherapy, says Johansson, is the art of using natural ingredients from plants and flowers for mood elevation, medicinal purposes, positive scent, and enhancing the environment. “People who live in our area are extremely health-conscious and want to understand how to live a healthier lifestyle. They are aware of the advantages of organic foods and fresh, natural products, and they are very sophisticated in their tastes. They also understand what aromatherapy is and how it can make their lives better. This was the perfect place for me to start my business.”

Johansson was born in Vineland, New Jersey, and graduated from Vineland High School. Her father, Harry Mills, has been with Airwork in Millville for 33 years overhauling jet engines. Her mother, Tina, is a manager for the ShopRite supermarket chain. Johansson moved to Sweden in 1991 and ended up staying for the next six years, attending school in Stockholm, studying child development. She transferred to Pace University in Westchester County, earning her BS in elementary education, then became a substitute teacher in the New York suburbs of Rye and Mamaroneck. However, she kept finding herself going back to her first love, aromatherapy, which she first discovered while living in Sweden.

“I was spoiled there because I could go into what they called a natural pharmacy and ask for advice about pure, organic ingredients,” says Johansson. “And when I came home it was hard for me to find the natural products and essential oils I wanted.”

Johansson focused on teaching herself the basics of aromatherapy. She read every book she could find on the subject, discovering that aromatherapy made her and her family feel calmer, more focused, and they rarely got sick. She and her husband, who works for a Scandinavian bank in New York, have two children, Alexander, five, now a kindergartner at Dutch Neck School, and Linnea, who will turn two next month.

When Johansson was giving birth to her son, her husband massaged her shoulders with lavender oil and jojoba. She is convinced that the soothing scent is what helped her get through 10 hours of labor. She discovered that the lavender also had a calming effect on her baby from the time they put him on her chest right after his birth. She also discovered that lavender is good for a colicky baby and that eucalyptus in an evaporator has a very soothing effect for children who have colds.

Johansson’s company is designed to help bring a sense of serenity to women’s lives. “Women don’t realize that they have to take care of themselves first in order to take care of their family.”

Johansson also knew that she wanted a business where she could work from home and work around her children’s schedules. That’s how Puretherapi was born. At private home spa parties, “everyone gets to try out the products and ask questions,” she says. “They might say something like my back’s been hurting me. Do you have anything to help me with that? I can make suggestions. I help clear the confusion.”

At this time of year home parties are also “a great opportunity to buy holiday gifts in a non-chaotic environment and to have a fun-filled girls’ night out at the same time,” says Johannson, who has special products for baby and child care as well as men.

“I have facial and body care products, therapeutic oils, massage oils, candles, body scrubs and gels. I have hundreds of oils and synergies — combinations of essential oils mixed to provide a certain effect. For example, you can wear lavender in a glass necklace around your neck to calm down. If you are taking a test and you want to be focused I can make you a synergy out of rosemary, peppermint, basil, and lemon for concentration. Lavender and tangerine are good for relaxation. Winter is coming. I have natural and holistic ingredients to give your life a boost and help you get through.”

—Euna Kwon Brossman

Puretherapi Home Spa Events, Christine Johansson, 33 Ginnie Lane, West Windsor, Saturday, November 20, 2 p.m. No registration necessary. For more information about this event or about hosting your own home spa party call 609-275-0969. Also, Saturdays, December 11 and 18 at 2 pm.

Raising the Bar for Craft Fairs

There are craft fairs and then there is the YWCA Princeton Crafters’ Marketplace. This unique show is a juried event that features more than 140 exhibitors from Maine to Virginia. Skilled artisans exhibit original, high-caliber, handmade jewelry, pottery, clothing, quilts, glass, furniture, paintings, photography, metal work, and many other holiday gift items.

Ulrike Schafer, a Plainsboro resident and artist, works with polymer clay to create jewelry and and hair ornaments in a studio at her home, where she lives with her husband, Joachim, and their daughter, Katharina, a seventh grader at Community Middle School. Earlier this year, her two stepsons graduated — Matt, with honors and distinction in philosophy and psychology from Goucher College, Maryland, and Florian, from High School North. He is a freshman at Boston University’s School of Management.

“I embarked on my journey with polymer clay at the YWCA Princeton, during a class there with Liz Mitchell,” says Schafer. A member of the YWCA Princeton Artisans Guild, Schafer showed herwork to the public for the first time at the Crafters’ Marketplace. She has since participated in other juried fine craft shows.

Schafer says The people you meet at the Crafters Marketplace are very discerning and appreciative. They set out to purchase gifts for the Holidays, and they are looking for unique, handmade items that can not be found in department stores or the mall. These people take the time to look for something special rather than getting a gift certificate. It is always a pleasure to observe this effort and to be of assistance. And it is quite rewarding when people come back the following year to tell you how much their gift was appreciated and liked, or how many compliments they get wearing a piece that was made by you.

YWCA Princeton Crafters’ Marketplace Princeton Day School, 650 Great Road, Princeton, on November 20 and 21, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. each day. Admission is $6 per day, a two-day pass is $10, and those under 16 and seniors pay only $5 per day. Children under 6 are free; strollers are prohibited by order of the fire marshal. Parking is free. All proceeds benefit the Pearl Bates Scholarship Fund. For further information, please call Kathy Lane at 609-799-7089. For further information on the art of Ulrike Schafer visit

South’s Winter Concert Gets ‘Blue’

Outside of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful,” George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is probably the quintessential American musical composition. It has been a centerpiece of concert hall repertoire, TV commercials (for United Airlines), and movies (most notably, Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”) since its original performance in 1924.

A mixture of classical music with elements of American jazz and blues, “Rhapsody” is said to be an ingenious musical interpretation of an emerging 20th century American culture. Eric Kang, a senior at High School South, will be the featured piano soloist when the South student symphony orchestra performs Gershwin’s classic composition in its annual Winter Concert on Sunday, November 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the South auditorium. The concert is free.

To someone trained in music, Gershwin’s Rhapsody offers some unique challenges. “Although it is an amazing piece of piano literature, it is quite lumpy and rough around the edges,” says Kang. He attributes the roughness to the fact that Gershwin had to complete the score in a mere two weeks time for an already announced concert.

“The most difficult part about Gershwin is the unique technique needed to play it, since Gershwin mostly taught himself to play the piano,” says Kang. “Being classically trained, it was a fresh and different experience to work on music of a predominantly jazz composer.”

The Winter Concert traditionally features both choirs (chorale and concert choir) and both orchestras (string ensemble and symphony orchestra). Kang will accompany both choirs on piano as well as sing in the concert choir. In addition to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody,” the symphony orchestra will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s”Scottish Symphony” (as a foreshadowing of its upcoming tour of Scotland next March). The choirs and the symphony orchestra will also perform the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s “Messiah” as the concert’s finale.

Kang, a Plainsboro resident, serves as the orchestra’s president and is on the orchestra council. The president’s duty is to run meetings and act as a liaison between the orchestra and different groups. The council is elected by the preceding year’s orchestra students. “May Chiang (orchestra president in 2001) often said that being on the orchestra council means you get to arrive early, leave late, and clean up after everyone else,” says Kang.

Born in Texas, Kang and his family moved to Plainsboro in 1993, moved to California for two years, and returned to Plainsboro in time for Kang to start fifth grade. He has been studying piano for over a decade and is currently studying with Inessa Gleyzerova at the Westminster Conservatory of Music in Princeton.

Kang comes from a family that has made music a part of its life. His father, Sunk-Auk, works as a philosophy professor and his mother, Taesoon, is a stay-at-home mom. “My mother learned some piano as a child, and my dad is self-taught at guitar, but neither is a serious musician,” says Kang. His brother Eugene, a junior at High School South, plays electric and upright bass and has performed with several bands.

Although he is not yet sure where he will attend college next year, Kang says he hopes to major in music. “I haven’t decided whether I would like to be a performance, education, or composition major yet,” he says. He is also considering a double major, combining music with either medicine or psychology.

Although performing as a soloist in the Winter Concert is an honor Kang says he is proud of — students audition in June of each year for the opportunity to perform solo with the orchestra — he is also quick to point out that a soloist is just a part of the whole orchestra’s goal of making beautiful music. “Music is not about the soloist or the group,” he says. “It’s about making the music and touching people’s hearts. That has always been my philosophy, and I hope that it shows at the concert.”

— Jack Florek

Winter Concert, High School South orchestras and choirs, Sunday, November 21, 7:30 p.m., South auditorium. Free. 609-716-5050.

Warning Signs: Stress and Kids

Stress is a fact of life for students in a high-achieving and highly competitive school district like West Windsor-Plainsboro. But while some stress can be a good thing, serving as a motivator to achieve, too much of it can threaten children’s emotional health and well-being.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are more serious than just having the blues. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 2.5 percent of all children suffer from depression, including 8.3 percent of all adolescents. “We are seeing it more and more with younger kids,” says Denise Nadaou, spokesperson for PEI (Prevention Education Inc.) of Lawrenceville. “Studies show that children as young as four years old are now expressing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.”

PEI will hold a free workshop for parents, teachers, and others who work with young people entitled “Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Kids at Risk,” on Tuesday, November 30, at 7 p.m. at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Center for Health and Wellness, 3100 Quakerbridge Road, in Hamilton. Call 609-584-5934 for more information or to register.

The workshop will offer tips for helping children manage these feelings and ways to improve communication with kids. It also presents community resources that are available.

The framework for the workshop began as a partnership between PEI and the Traumatic Loss Coalition of Mercer County. This pilot effort was designed to support young adults and children who are growing up in an increasingly complex and challenging world. PEI staff created the curriculum and presented workshops to parents and adults at schools and community venues throughout the area. The goal of the workshop is to increase awareness of indicators of stress, anxiety and depression.

Gabriela Gill, one of the PEI workshop facilitators, says that recognizing the harmful effects of stress can sometimes be tricky for parents. “Certain stresses are healthy,” she says. “Children can use stress as a means to spur them on to do their best in school. But you don’t want that stress to be used in a way in which they are trying to measure up to the standards of others.”

Gill earned her bachelors degree at Rutgers and attended graduate school at Rider University. She has been a teacher in the Princeton and Hamilton school districts and currently teaches English as a Second Language to adults in Lawrence. She has two small children and has been facilitating the workshops for two years.

The workshop is presented in two parts. The first part focuses on a variety of statistics concerning the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression on teens and younger children. There are a lot of factors that add stress to children’s lives, according to Gill, including the need to measure up to parents’ ideals as well as images presented in movies and on televison.

The second part of the workshop looks at the importance of parenting communication and offers some warning signs of depression and anxiety, information on the brain and neurochemicals and people who are predisposed to react to stress in certain ways, as well as prevention tips.

The workshop was originally part of a state-funded community awareness program, but was the victim of budget cuts by the McGreevey administration. It then was placed on hiatus for a year until PEI received a $10,"000 grant from Yardville National Bank to revive the program.

For parents concerned about whether the stresses of everyday life are having a negative impact on their children, Gill says it is important to keep a watchful eye. “Know your child and what is normal for them,” she suggests. “Know your child’s friends. It is important to keep the communication open between you and your child.”

She also offers the following tips:

Look for changes in your child’s behavior. Warning signs include an outgoing child who suddenly withdraws socially, differences in eating and sleeping habits, and the use of alcohol or drugs.

Ask open-ended questions. If your child tells you she hates her brother or sister, don’t say things like, “Oh you don’t mean that.” Say things that spur on the conversation. Ask them why.

Don’t try to solve their problems for them. Many parents tend to superimpose their children’s problems onto themselves. Don’t say what you would do in a situation. Keep it about them.

Know what behavior warrants additional attention. If your child is showing signs of depression for two weeks or more, it is time to seek help. If someone talks about suicide, don’t dismiss it as a means to seek attention. It is serious.

Listen and set priorities. Parents have stresses too, but it is important to take time out of your busy day — every day — to listen and hear what your children have to say.

— Jack Florek

“Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Kids at Risk,” Tuesday, November 30, 7 p.m., Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Center for Health and Wellness, 3100 Quakerbridge Road, Hamilton. Call 609-584-5934 for more information or to register. Free.

The workshop is also scheduled to be presented in West Windsor-Plainsboro on Thursday, March 10, at a time and place yet to be determined. Those who would like more information or to register can call Diane Taylor, West Windsor-Plainsboro Community Education, at 609-716-5000, extension 5034.

For adult groups interested in having PEI present a free workshop to their organization, call 609-695-3739, extention 15.