Mummers Crossing


Do you know the name of the town where this sign stands?

This sign isn’t in Philadelphia, where you’re more likely to see Mummers crossing, especially around Broad Street on New Year’s Day. No, this sign is in Bucks County, near the home of a certain string band that has participated in the Mummers Parade since 1938. When practicing, the string band members are known to cross the street to the fire station parking lot, hence the sign.

According to its website, the band was originally based in North West Philadelphia, and moved to Bucks County in 1990. It merged with another string band the next year.

This signage begs three questions: 1) In which small town does this sign stand? 2) Near which string band home is it located? 3) Which string band merged with it in 1991? Answers to all three questions will be posted soon.

— Jodi Thompson

Escape the Saturday Suburban Symphony



Can you solve the cryptogram above? If so, respond in comments with the solution, and where you might find respite from the Saturday suburban symphony of lawnmowers this weekend.

Consider Pennsbury Manor, Five Mile Woods, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve (although the Spring Garden Gala takes place in the evening), Peace Valley Park and Delaware Canal State Park.

— Jodi Thompson

Langhorne Players Present ‘God of Carnage’

It’s a question people ask when there is a tragedy such as the recent Boston Marathon bombings: How did a seemingly normal kid grow up to become a murderer? Yet seeing Langhorne Players’ first production of the 2013 season, God of Carnage, might give insight. The parents in Yasmina Reza’s play could very well raise monsters.

They, themselves, are savage beasts cloaked in successful and sensitive masks. They see their children as extensions of themselves. When the 11-year-old son of Veronica Novak, played by Tami Feist, has his teeth knocked out by a playmate, she takes it personally.

Feist is pitch perfect in trumpeting Veronica’s pride in her manners, civility and mothering. Veronica is an evolved parent, basking in the “soothing powers of culture.” As a writer, she examines the brutality of Darfur as if to glow in the contrast to herself. She has an ego the size of the continent of the Africa she loves.

As the ringleader of this conference – it’s doubtful the other three would bother to meet if not for her prompting – her main objective is not to gain compensation for the dental expenses or even to soothe her son with an apology. She just needs to be right. The other boy was wrong for attacking her son.

Her husband, Michael, played by James K. Perri, is an everyday man. He sells stuff. He puts a sweater vest and clip-on tie over his khakis in an effort to be cultured. Perri effuses the dichotomy that is Michael. He exhibits hospitality to the couple whose kid knocked his in the mouth. He worries about his mother taking a medicine that might kill her. He fusses over his wife’s ruined books with as much care as the other father’s ruined cell phone. Yet, he exploits his son’s dental pain to throw the family pet out on the street – something he’s longed to do.

When he assumes his wife will fetch the refreshment he proffers their guests, you just know he will pay for it later. Although Veronica insists “Michael always loved pushing a stroller,” it’s clear he had no choice.

The father of the kid wielding a teeth-shattering stick is as disconnected from fathering as he is connected to his job as a high-powered lawyer, shown by constant interruptions via cell phone. Tim Tolen plays Alan Raleigh with aloof ease, who comes to life when introduced to food, drink or a good cigar. So what if his son is a “savage” and his client’s medicine can kill, he’s on his way to the Hague tomorrow and his wife is lovely arm candy.

That trophy wife – her nickname is “Wolf Wolf,” as in “How Much is that Doggie in the Window? Wolf-wolf” for pitty’s sake – is quietly played by Stephanie Smith. Quietly, that is, until all that pain and anger Annette holds in spews across the room. Smith is as magnificent when tightly controlled as she is when her Annette is released.

Once unrestrained, Annette defends her son. She finds her backbone, which is carefully hidden behind a trendy exposed-zippered dress, and tells Veronica to back off dictating the punishment for her son. She disabuses Michael of his smugness by identifying him as a pet killer. No longer able to contain her anger at being left to handle all things “home, school and garden,” Annette cools her rage in alcohol.

As the “civilized” caucus leaves far more carnage in its wake than the fight that provoked it, you can’t help being reminded of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Bad enough that their marriages are toxic, but these folks are raising kids.

Under the direction of DeLarme Landes, Feist, Perri, Tolen and Smith channel Reza’s heavy hand well, never letting the symbolism overwhelm or distill the commotion, resulting in civilized chaos that’s amusing to watch unfold.

— Jodi Thompson

Not Macbeth, But Bucks

A friend is seeing Alan Cumming’s one-man adaptation of Macbeth at Ethel Barrymore Theatre tomorrow evening. If you’re not visiting Broadway this weekend, there’s still no reason not to take to the theater. Bucks County has plenty of stage offerings.

Newtown Arts Company is continuing their production of Cheaper by the Dozen through April 24, while Actors Net and Langhorne Players both open shows.

Actors Net presents Enchanted April through May 12. The adaptation of Elizabeth von Arnim’s novel, set in 1920’s Italy, follows four Englishwomen seeking excitement while on holiday. This could be welcomed balm for Downton Abbey fever.

Langhorne Players opens God of Carnage tomorrow and runs through May 4. The play promises to study the reaction of two sets of Brooklyn parents to a playground altercation between their sons. As always, Langhorne Players presents sophisticated theater you’re unlikely to see produced elsewhere in Bucks County. I look forward to reviewing God of Carnage soon.

Bucks County Theater opens In the Mood on Tuesday, April 23. The musical revue – think Big Band sounds and swing dancing – runs through April 28.

There are a wide variety of offerings. I’m still a wee bit jealous that I’m not going to Macbeth –Alan Cumming! Performing all the parts! – but can certainly take in some great theater without leaving Bucks.

— Jodi Thompson

San Francisco That-a-way

bridge sign

Which bridge boasts this fabulous sign? Feel free to respond via comments.

This sign has always been one of my favorites. It sits on the Pennsylvania side of one of my favorite bridges. When the bridge was refurbished a few years ago, I was concerned the sign would disappear. It didn’t. The sign I adore, but don’t comprehend, still stands.

No Horses

Note: Horses Not Permitted on Bridge

I can appreciate pointing to New York, but why San Francisco? Indeed the cities are at nearly the same latitude (about a 3 degree difference). Is that the reasoning behind the sign, or is there another rationale? I like to think that’s the cover the sign maker used when, in truth, the City by the Bay is where he left his heart.

— Jodi Thompson

A Celebration of Gospel Music

I’m what Jack Miles would call a pious agnostic. I was raised, and I raised my sons in the Unitarian Universalist tradition. No harm in behaving as though someone were watching even if I’m unsure if someone is. I make an effort to follow the Golden Rule, if for no other reason than to sleep at night.

Sleep wasn’t too great this week. Not only did I have an ailing loved one, but so did the person I was trying to interview.

That’s why when singer Barbara Walker asked if she could pray with me right then and there over the phone, I didn’t quibble. Perhaps there was someone listening. During that prayer she said what we were each experiencing put “more love and compassion in our hearts.”

I’m always open to more love and compassion in my heart. And music in my ears.

Even the most agnostic amongst the pious feels uplifted upon hearing gospel music. It’s in our collective soul, our American DNA. It reminds us of where we’ve been and where we should be. All the more reason we should enjoy Sunday Afternoon Music at the Michener: A Celebration of Gospel Music tomorrow, April 14 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Walker (She’s toured with with the greats, including Patty LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Maynard Ferguson, in addition to teaching children about the letters “D”, “B” and “M” on Sesame Street.) will perform with Esther Dinkins and the Back Bench Boys, the male choir from the Second Baptist Church of Doylestown where Dinkins is choir director and Walker is a member.

Walker has performed at Michener twice before, singing jazz and R&B, but both times she was sick with the flu. “This is the first time I’ll be full voice, so I’m excited about that.”

The performance will feature, as Walker says, “good, up-lifting spiritual songs,” full of love and energy. She is on to something.

In Robert Gupta’s TED Talk, the LA Philharmonic violinist speaks about his music lesson with Nathaniel Ayers, the talented and tortured Julliard-trained musician, when Gupta discovered how music provided an escape for Ayers from his tormented state.

“Music is medicine,” Gupta says. “Music changes us.” It makes us feel good, and “we’re able to shape those emotions into reality.”

My loved one is home from the hospital, feeling better. That’s why I’m writing this post while listening to Alison Krauss sing “Down to the River to Pray,” which this skeptic will sing with her choir tomorrow morning at services.


Coming soon: some notes about a gospel performance this weekend, a play review and a profile of a Bucks County artist. For now, a puzzle, because they’re fun. Although there is a letter used only once, I’m confident a clue isn’t necessary, as there are several words in the quote that are easy puzzlers. If I’m wrong, I’m certain you’ll let me know.


— Jodi Thompson

The Joint is Jumping

Photo by Bailey Fucanan

Julio Ermigiotti, 8, and Cassidy Ermigiotti, 10, jump rope in unison. Photo by Bailey Fucanan.

A young girl jumping rope isn’t an unusual sight, but this one, 10-year-old Cassidy Ermigiotti, is jumping in perfect unison with her 8-year-old brother, Julio. If you listen closely, you’ll hear Cassidy calling out cues.

“I jump 20 minutes each night,” says Cassidy. “It’s a lot of fun and it keeps you healthy.” The fourth-grader also plays softball and dances. “Dancing helps with jump rope,” she adds.

Second-grader Julio is on a baseball and travel baseball team. “Jump rope helps him with running fast and transitions,” Cassidy says, fulfilling that age-old task of speaking for younger siblings.

The Doylestown duo, members of Bucks County Bungee Jumpers, are attending a jump rope clinic sponsored by Just Jumpin’ Jump Rope Camp, begun five years ago by physical education teacher Justin Pillmore. Pillmore started teaching jump rope – long the realm of boxers, fitness buffs and pig-tailed girls on the playground – to make his students more active.

Photo by Bailey Fucanan

They may be pig-tailed and dressed in pink, but this is not the jump rope you’d find on your typical playground. Bucks County Bungee Jumpers do all sorts of crazy tricks, including jumping on pogo sticks. Photo by Bailey Fucanan.

Today the Bucks County Bungee Jumpers have two teams of 13, kids aged 5 to 12, who perform at school assemblies and half-time shows from New York to Maryland. Next year, the teams will start competing.

Just Jumpin’ Jump Rope Camp, the feeder group for Bungee Jumpers, has grown from one weeklong summer camp for 30 kids in 2008 to several weeklong camps last year serving more than 500 kids. They also have clinics throughout the school year.

Photo Bailey Fucanan

These kids barely take a break in an hour and a half of jumping rope. Photo by Bailey Fucanan.

Clinics are often held on school holidays, which is fine with jump ropers’ mom Brandyn Bissinger. “It’s great because they get the wiggles out and it gets them off the couch,” she says of son Tyler Taurino, 7, and daughter Tessa Taurino, nearly 6.

At a recent clinic held at First Baptist Church of Doylestown some 60 kids are learning from 10 members of Holy Trinity High Flyers, a Pittsburgh-area competitive team with members from age 11 to 18. This team is known for their displays of talent with jump rope. They even jump rope on their butts.

“It blows my mind,” Bissinger says of what the High Flyers can do while avoiding stepping on a rope in constant momentum. “These are mad skills. You can’t just do this, you need to be taught.”

While some little ones are off learning the basics, Cassidy works on mastering something I never tried during my brief tenure as one of those pig-tailed little girls entertaining herself during recess. I’m sure the trick has a name, but I’m wary of the snapping rope as Cassidy tries again and again.

“You’ve nearly got it,” one of the High Flyers says.

Photo by Bailey Fucanan

Learning jump rope tricks doesn’t stop even when your arm is in a cast. Photo by Bailey Fucanan.

Another High Flyer – clinics and camps are normally staffed by Central Bucks School District teachers – teaches a fancy trick to a youngster with an arm cast who can’t do the handstands her group is practicing. You wrap the rope around your legs, crossing it in front, then drop one handle. Kick the rope up and grab the handle. Yes, it seems as hard to accomplish as it is to explain.

Although clearly outnumbered by girls, boys participate too. There’s Julio and Tyler. And also 11-year-old friends from Yardley, Brandon Ferraro and Miles Borowsky. It’s the Pennwood Middle Schoolers’ second and first year as Bungee Jumpers, respectively. Brandon plays soccer on a travel team and also basketball at school. Miles is a competitive swimmer.

The boys like being different. “Jump rope is something nobody does,” says Brandon. “Everybody plays basketball. It’s unique and fun. And one of the best exercises around.”

— Jodi Thompson

Youth on Stage

There’s no shortage of community theater opportunities in Bucks County. One that has flown under my radar is Acting Naturally, a nonprofit that teaches acting, singing and dancing. Acting Naturally’s Youth Company presents Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Newtown Theatre April 5, 6 and 7.

I’d welcome some comments from members and their parents about the experience of joining the company. I’m also curious how many community members who are unrelated to the performers attend the show. Tickets are $12 and $15.

— Jodi Thompson