Friday, November 6, 2015

Onstage Community Theater Performance, Sunday, 3pm

A community theater group I'm in, called Onstage, will perform this Sunday, November 8, in the Princeton Public Library community room at 3pm. We are based at McCarter Theater, under the direction of McCarter's brilliant assistant artistic director, Adam Immerwahr, and perform at many venues in the area. This is one of our few public performances in Princeton during the year.

More info about our mission and the stories we collect and tell, with a different theme each year, can be found at That's John Abrams and Cecelia Hodges in the photo.

And that's me, at Passage Theatre, just as I first noticed the bald eagle swooping down from stage left in the middle of my monologue.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Piano Piece in Memory of Yitzhak Rabin

Twenty years ago on November 3rd, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. When he was shot, I wrote a tune in mourning of the news. It was mourning not only for him, but for the opportunity for peace that may have died with him. I had no particular connection to the Middle East or to any particular side in the perpetual stream of bad news emanating from the region. At the time, as a pragmatic Prime Minister of Israel, he seemed to me the last best chance for peace in the Middle East. There's been little or nothing to suggest otherwise since then.

Below are photos of the two page composition. At the time, I was teaching piano to beginners and intermediates, and composing with the aim of filling a gap in the piano literature for pieces that both sound good and are easy to play. Below the composition are some links and quotes from coverage of the 20th anniversary of this tragic loss.

A google search (not sure how long the link will continue to work) showed significant coverage of the anniversary, including an article in the New Yorker.

NPR's coverage describes the event:"Rabin was standing onstage and singing a Song for Peace with one of Israel's most famous singers," said Linda Gradstein, the NPR reporter that night. "As he walked to get into his car, a young, 27-year-old law student named Yigal Amir ran right up to the prime minister and shot him three times at point blank range, fatally injuring him and slightly injuring one of Rabin's bodyguards."

In the NPR article, Dan Ephron, author of Killing the King, describes Rabin as a pragmatist and former military man aware of the futility of war, interested above all in security, and unburdened by the ideology and religious "sentimental attachment to the land" that has made peace so hard to forge since then.

Ephron goes on: "This was a moment, maybe the last moment for the pragmatists in terms of their ability to garner a majority in Israel," he says. "And that moment ended with the assassination. The assassination triggers a chain of events that leads to this power shift. By about six months after the murder, a young politician on the right, Benjamin Netanyahu becomes prime minister. And he really is the dominant political figure in Israel for much of the last 20 years."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Some Climate Change Theater This Weekend

For some environmental theater, come by this month's Cafe Improv at the Arts Council of Princeton this Saturday, May 23, around 8:40-9pm, for some Climate Change Cabaret. We'll perform three original comic sketches: Complaint Training, Carbon Dating, and Breaking Up With Your Car. The full lineup for the 7-10pm show is at Actors will be Basha Parmet, Cheryl Jones, and myself.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The New, Improved Mr. Sustainable

"As long as we must choose between present comfort and future climate, there can be no joy!" So declares Mr. Sustainable, as he searches for a way to feel good while doing good. In this before and after, can new advances in ultra light winter wear and "fresh perspectives on intergenerational relationships" help Mr. Sustainable and his spouse end a long, tense period of thermostat wars? Actors are Steve Hiltner, Basha Parmet and Cheryl Jones. Performed in wintry march at the Princeton Public Library as part of the Princeton Environmental Film Festival.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Crying It Out: At the Bawl

A memorable rendition of a tune I wrote called "Crying It Out: At the Bawl", which reminds me of days spent touring with a bigband in the midwest. The tune (starts at 2:05) is prefaced by some remarks wherein you can learn what a territory band was in the '30s. The territory band I toured with briefly was the Eddie Howard Orchestra, which by the time I joined it in the late 1970s was in its "ghost band" phase, meaning the leader had long since died, but the band could still fill ballrooms in the midwest with dancers. After an endearing rendition of the tune itself, I take questions from the audience, which brings on a story of my quitting the band, but not before getting fired, and the band's dramatic demise soon thereafter, which I hadn't known about until I recently checked out the band's description on Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Around 8 Sings "99 Too Many Cars On the Road"

Princeton High School's a cappella group Around Eight was a big hit at the March 13, 2015 premier of the Climate Change Cabaret at the Princeton Public Library. Here they offer ways both large and small to get from 99 down to zero too many cars on the road. At the beginning of the video, they refuse my offer of printed out lyrics, this being the digital generation. A paperless performance--very sustainable. Around Eight led by Landis Hackett. Lyrics and arrangement by Steve Hiltner.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Climate Theater Returns in This Year's One Minute Play Festival, May 3 and 4

A year ago, I got an email out of the blue asking me to write two one-minute plays for something called the One Minute Play Festival. The plays, along with 50 or so others by various NJ playwrights, were all performed with only seconds inbetween, in two shows at Passage Theater. You can see the whole intense show, or just the two plays (both having to do with climate change) at this link.

This year, they asked for two more, so I wrote "One Day Stand" (about planting a raingarden) and "The Economy Gets Hers", which explores the relationship between the economy, people, and the earth.  Six different directors, each with six actors, converge to bring the plays to life in the course of one zany hour. This year's performance is at the Luna Stage in West Orange, NJ.

Tickets may still be available.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Breaking Up With Your Car

A video for Earthday, as Sustainable Jazz takes on a theatrical dimension:

"It's guys like me driving cars like you that are messing things up forever," says Johnny, as he struggles to come to terms with his car's addiction problem. Will he run off with that "anorexic chick with the two skinny wheels", or will he and his car find a way to work things out? This performance was part of the March 13 premier of the Climate Change Cabaret at the Princeton Public Library, written by Steve Hiltner and sponsored by the Princeton Environmental Film Festival. Actors: Basha Parmet and Steve Hiltner.       

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Complaint Training

Friday the 13th was one wild and crazy night at the Princeton Public Library as the Climate Change Cabaret launched, if not into space, at least into the space better known as the Community Room. Seven actors, a Princeton High School acappella group, a jazz pianist, and three singers bearing an uncanny resemblance to Doris Day filled the full house with wonder, joy and laughter--perhaps not the sort of response you'd expect from material dealing with climate change, but there it was.

For those who missed it, the event was not lost in space, but recorded by The Little Camera That Could, tucked off to the side. I'll be posting some of the sketches so that they're accessible to Earthlings everywhere.

The evening began with a piece called Complaint Training, in which The Three Grouseketeers seek to fill any void there might be in instruction to the human race on how to rant higher, rant lower, rant longerrrrrr.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Accidental Background Music

Anyone heading to the exhibit and fundraiser featuring the paintings of Jeanne Calo at the Princeton Senior Resource Center today at 3pm may hear the music of the Sustainable Jazz Ensemble emanating from the adjoining room, where we'll be performing for Community Without Walls. The performance is for CWW members, but the art exhibit and reception is open to the public.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Waltz for Ruth

We had a video camera set up to document our Climate Change Cabaret last month at the Princeton Public Library. Phil Orr played music before and afterwards, and I joined him for a rendition of Waltz for Ruth just before the show began. Google "Waltz for Ruth" and you discover that bassist Charlie Haden wrote a Waltz for Ruth dedicated to his wife. My Waltz for Ruth is part of a trilogy I wrote prior to traveling to Cleveland to be at my mother's bedside during the last day of her life. I played the melody for her on the clarinet I had taken along, not knowing if she could actually hear it because she was unconscious the whole time. Something of her upbeat nature comes out in the melody.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


Mark your calendars! March 13, 7pm, at the Princeton Public Library:

It's time to forge comedy out of angst, to take carbon and make carbonation, to have some serious fun with a subject that people feel so strongly about yet talk about so little. Attend the premier of the 

*** Climate Change Cabaret ***

to gain fresh perspectives on Carbon (a seductive renaissance atom, but beware--not all carbons are the same!). Meet the new, improved, and highly lovable Mr. SustainableWitness a man's tragicomic breakup with his car. Take an Ironic Ride to the Dinky, and explore Earth Logic in Space. These theatrical sketches were born and raised in Princeton by writer/director Steve Hiltner, better known as me.

The music portion of the evening will be provided by members of the Sustainable Jazz Ensemble, with a special appearance by Princeton High School's fabulous a cappella group Around 8. There may even be a Special Delivery at the end--a surprise solution to all our earthly problems--followed by light refreshments. The event is free! (We're all working on the carbon-free part.)

This trail-blazing, consciousness-raising event is being hosted by the 2015 Princeton Environmental Film Festival, Friday, March 13, 7-9pm, in the Princeton Public Library Community Room.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Photos From Malawi Benefit

The GAIA-Trinity Reception to benefit AIDS victims in Malawi proved to be a classy event. We played our originals, along with filling a request for "something by Stan Getz".

Along with delicious food and a screening of “The Far End Of The Road”, there were a lot of heroes on hand:
Todd Schafer, President and CEO of GAIA, described GAIA's singular focus on eventually eliminating AIDS in a small country in Africa.
Attendees came through with over $5,000 in support for specific on-the-ground needs, including a motorcycle used to get health care to remote villages.

With the greatest heroism being shown by those whose presence was felt through photographs, nurses recruited and trained by GAIA to provide the care. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SJE to Perform at a Benefit for Children in Malawi

The Sustainable Jazz Ensemble will be performing in a duo format for a benefit this Saturday, Feb. 28, for the children of Malawi. The reception, called "The Far End of the Road" will take place in Bishop-Pierce Hall of Trinity Church on Mercer Street, from 6-8pm. We are scheduled to play from 6:15 to 6:45. There will be a short film appetizers, and a creative auction. If you'd like to attend, there may still be time to rsvp at The webpage links to details of the event, including phone numbers for more info.

A special guest, Todd Schafer, President & CEO, GAIA will be at the reception. GAIA stands for Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance. Visiting Princeton from San Francisco, where GAIA is headquartered, he has just returned from Malawi where he was assessing the flood damage and best ways to help.

There will be a screening of the short film "The Far End of The Road", which showcases GAIA's lifesaving work at the frontlines of the fight against HIV/AIDS in rural Malawi, where 1 in 5 lives with HIV. Produced by an award-winning team at MediaStorm, the film features the lives of remarkable women who make up the face of GAIA.

My understanding from organizer Joy Bechtler, is that Malawi has recently suffered a change in climate that has caused the monsoon season to arrive at the wrong time, destroying crops and exacerbating the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

If you're interested in learning more but can't attend, the 17 minute film can be viewed online.
"The Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance takes the medical breakthroughs of the developed world and brings them to The Far End of the Road. Their focus is singular: one district in Malawi where 1 out of 6 adults are HIV-positive and healthcare can be many hours away. GAIA is successful, in part, because they bring care to those who might otherwise go without. Using mobile clinics, follow-up coordinators who travel to remote villages, as well as nursing scholars, GAIA helps those most in need. The Far End of the Road is the story of two nurses who serve the sick of Malawi."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cajun-Creole Potluck Dinner, 6:00pm

In a Princeton celebration of Mardi Gras, members of the Sustainable Jazz Ensemble will be performing New Orleans-style jazz tonight at Trinity Church, 33 Mercer St in Princeton. Phil Orr on piano, a fine trombonist, Lars Wendt, myself on sax/clarinet, and possibly a few musicians sitting in. Music and dinner start right at 6:30.

The public is invited, but everyone needs to bring food tailored to the occasion. Here's info from Karla Cook, and an email address to RSVP:

We'll supply the rice, the bread and Bananas Foster.
You bring a dish to serve 10.

We need big green salads, cabbage slaw and fruit salads and vegetables, in addition to main dishes and favorite libations. Think Red Beans with Sausage, Étouffée, Jambalaya, Gumbo, and Grilled Sausages with Peppers and Onions, as a start... 
RSVP to karlacook (at) with the category of your dish to serve 10 (remember, we’re supplying the rice & bread)