Displaying items by tag: dimopoulos
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The City Council announced on Friday, March 13 that the City of Saratoga Springs has declared a State of Emergency. City Hall offices were closed to the public beginning Monday, March 16 and remain so until rescinded by a further order.
The City Police Department, Fire/EMS Department, and vital Public Works staff will continue to operate as normal. For life-threatening emergencies, call 911. Call your health care provider FIRST if you have any concerns over your health and possible exposure to COVID-19.
The City Land Use Boards are cancelled for at least the next two weeks, including the March 27 meeting.
CITY DEPARTMENT CONTACTS:
Accounts Department: 518-210-3243 (Marilyn Rivers, Director of Risk and Safety).
Mayor’s Department: 518-414-2118 (Lisa Shields, Deputy Mayor).
Public Safety Department:
518-584-1800 (Police Department Non-Emergency)
518-587-3599 (Fire Department Non-Emergency)
518-265-6485 (Eileen Finneran, Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety)
Public Works Department: 518-584-3356 (Department Dispatch).
Finance Department: Finance will be communicating regarding City payments (taxes, utility bills, etc.). Please check the City website for updates.
The Saratoga Springs School District is closed effective immediately through Sunday April 19.
Residents are encouraged to visit the City’s website at www.Saratoga-Springs.org to receive updates on City operations.
On the third Tuesday of each month, Chuck Vosganian AKA Rochmon, leads a live multi-media presentation about a classic album from rock ‘n’ roll’s heyday. There are stories. There are songs. There are trivia contests, the exploration of lyrics, and a timeline of culture in an iconic time. After relocating the monthly sessions to Caffe Lena nearly three years ago, Rochman is slated to return to the place of his origins at the newly reopened and remodeled Universal Preservation Hall.
Where did you grow up and how did you get to Saratoga?
I grew up in East Moriches, Long Island, in the middle of nowhere. Potato-and-duck country. Later, I lived in Chicago for 15 years then in Queensbury for 27 years before moving to Saratoga. Being in Saratoga, I wanted to live in a community where I could go out my door and walk around downtown.
When was the first Rochmon show?
September 2016. The first album was actually a movie: I played the Joe Cocker “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.” We had like nine people come. It was so much fun. So, I asked Teddy (Foster, of UPH) if I could do it again. I returned the next month with David Bowie’s “Young Americans.”
What other artists’ albums had you done at UPH?
We did Queen and Led Zeppelin, we did Deep Purple; the music was a little bit of harder rock over at UPH. We got folk-i-fied when we went to Caffe Lena, haha. But Lena’s did such a great job building an audience for me. I was there since April 2017 - and our audience - we had lines around the corner. Sarah Craig at Caffe Lena was great.
I have always been surrounded by smart women. Between Teddy Foster and Mary Beth McGarrahan at UPH, Sarah at Caffe Lena, my wife Karen, and my daughter Alyssa, they’ve really helped bring the show forward. I couldn’t have done it without any of them.
You’re assisted during the shows by your daughter?
My daughter Alyssa, who’s 28. She’s my youngest and grew up listening to this stuff. Now, doing this with my daughter is also a reach-back to my mom, who taught me how to deeply listen to music; to see the picture that the music was trying to paint. My parents were classically trained opera singers and performers. So when we listen to an album and I do the deep dig-in, it is part of that connection.
How many Rochmon Record Club presentations have you done to date?
Forty-seven. Forty-seven different albums. And every show evolves in an unexpected direction. Like Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” which we’re doing next week. (Ed. note: this presentation, along with all other shows at UPH have been postponed until April 12). Sound and pictures of Paul Simon - throughout his career, and people who played on the album, interesting instruments, the lyrics. We’ll talk about each song individually, the album cover, sales, and I also play some deeper audio drops; for instance, there will be a demo version of “Homeless,” and it’s nothing like the (recorded) song goes.
The entire album is played?
I ask people: When was the last time you listened to an entire album? Ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? Today, the way we consume music is different, so you might listen to a couple of songs, but not the whole record. And the whole record is the complete work of art. It’s the Mona Lisa. And that’s how we connect around the album. We’re listening to the whole thing. I like to say we’re listening to the album again for the first time. And it gives us an opportunity to go back.
Now that you’re coming back to UPH, what are some future listening parties you are planning?
Later this year we’ll have “Led Zeppelin IV,” Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Chicago II,” Elvis Costello’s “My Aim Is True.”
How do the stories work?
A lot of it is just relating the story of the band and talking about what I loved about the music. I explain what I hear and discuss the connections. What’s really interesting is how the listening has evolved. In the beginning it was what the album meant to me, but years later, the way you hear it today changes from how you heard it as a kid. And that’s an amazing journey.
- Interview by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Rochmon Record Club presentation of Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” at UPH, on Washington Street was slated to take place March 17. All shows at the venue have been postponed, through April 12.
Universal Preservation Hall, a new 700-seat theater-in-the-round performance space, just prior to the first-night opening of the doors, on Feb. 29, 2020. Photos by SuperSource Media, LLC.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — “How do you like us now!”
Teddy Foster beamed beneath the sparkle of stage lights Saturday night, unveiling the grand room to the eyes of several hundred theater goers.
“I’ve been waiting to say that a long time,” said the newly named director of Universal Preservation Hall, which stands on Washington Street, one block west of Broadway. “A really, really long time.”
Foster joined the board at UPH in 2006, became its president three years later and has stewarded the grand old church building from the brink of obliteration to its present-day promise as a thriving performance and community center in downtown Saratoga Springs.
It was built in 1871 and served as a Methodist church for its first 100 years, as well as playing a role in the city’s civic life by providing a venue for visiting statesmen including Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, William Jennings Bryan and Frederick Douglass. But by the 1960s, it had fallen on hard times. Downtown Saratoga was in decline and the Methodist congregation relocated to a new building outside of town. The church sat empty for several years. A local Baptist congregation bought it for $18,000 in 1976 but hadn’t the means to preserve and restore the aging structure.
In 2000, the city condemned the building. Local preservationists organized a nonprofit group and reached out to the Baptist congregation to help save the structure. Donations paid for an initial wave of renovation work beginning in 2003. The building was stabilized but the restoration effort ground to a halt with the economic collapse of 2008-09.
The venue had housed a smattering of events in recent years – from fashion shows to First Night celebrations, and concerts by Colin Hay and John Sebastian. Max Weinberg – drummer of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, brought his 15-piece big band to UPH in 2010, and Brooklyn-based band Cuddle Magic performed a memorable mixed-media show at the hall with pianist Phyllis Chen and novelist and short story writer Rick Moody in 2014. Because the renovations were only partly completed, however, the maximum occupancy of the hall was severely restricted.
“I was smart enough to realize I needed either a plan to move forward or an exit plan,” Foster said, speaking about the future of UPH in 2015. “You’re remembered not for how you start something but how you leave it. I didn’t want to be remembered as the woman who let down Universal Preservation Hall. So, we got busy.”
In the summer of 2015, following three years of discussions, an operating alliance was created with Proctors, the historic theater in downtown Schenectady that has served as a performing arts destination in that city since the 1970s.
A $13.5 million renovation project followed. The original stained glass windows and the building’s pews have been restored. New seating descends from the rear balcony and, on the other end of the 7,000 square-foot room, ascend into the apse. Movable platforms allow the space to open up, depending on the requirements of any given performance. There is a new glass atrium entryway and elevator, and a state-of-the-art sound system. The architecture maintains its Gothic accents and re-opened to the public on Feb. 29, Leap Day.
“When we saw it was possible to open on this day, we leapt,” quipped Proctors CEO Philip Morris on opening night. The Proctors Collaborative includes Proctors in Schenectady, Albany’s Capital Repertory Theatre and now UPH in Saratoga Springs.
The 700-seat theatre-in-the-round set-up is not alien to longtime regional theater goers, sharing the performer-audience intimacy of the former Starlite Music Theater - which began its life as the Colonie Musical Theater in 1958, before taking the more familiar Colonie Coliseum name in the early 1970s.
It seems fitting Rosanne Cash was selected as the debut performer in the re-christening of the grand hall. The eldest daughter of Johnny Cash was 9 years old when the Man In Black performed at the 5,000-seat Convention Hall on Broadway on a November night in 1964 in support of his then-new album “I Walk The Line.” One year later, Saratoga Springs’ largest indoor venue went up in flames. The emergence of UPH marks the return of a mid-sized, year-round venue to the downtown district. According to a statement issued in 2018, UPH will serve an estimated 65,000 visitors per year, with a $3.5 million annual economic impact as a year-round venue space.
As for parking, UPH is located within a few hundred feet from the four-level parking garage on Woodlawn Avenue. The structure, built in 2012, holds about 450 vehicles. The garage will provide easy access to a planned glassed-in entryway to the east of the hall’s current entrance.
Upcoming concerts at UPH include: An Evening with Chris Botti 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6. $79.50 - $179.50; Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Hall of Fame Ceremony 6 p.m. Monday, March 9, $50; Howard Jones Acoustic Trio 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14, $29.50 - $69.50; Irish Hooley with the Screaming Orphans 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15, $25.
Rochmon Record Club which began its monthly gathering under the guidance of music savant Chuck Vosganian, AKA “Rochmon,” will mark its return to UPH at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, when the offering will feature a presentation of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” Tickets are $25.
Tickets for all shows are available by phone at 518-881-4500, online at universalpreservationhall.org or at the Box Office at 25 Washington St.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A simple sign is fixed to the glass at the entryway door where Gail Purdy Brophy operated her business for a generation. “In remembrance of Gail,” reads the sign inside the Congress Street Plaza, “we honor her lifelong dedication to Purdy’s and the local community.”
Decorated golfer, accomplished speed skater, longtime Spa City business owner and community member Gail Purdy Brophy died Feb. 23. She was 77.
“I’m just honored to have known her and to have been her friend,” said Kent Tarkleson, owner of Tark’s Indoor Golf Club in Wilton. They’ve been friends the past 15 years. “Such a wonderfully generous person; she’s going to be immensely missed.”
For more than a half-century Brophy operated Purdy’s Discount Wine and Liquor store, sited at a number of locations throughout the city - including Caroline Street for seven years and Broadway for 26 years, before moving to Congress Street Plaza in 1997.
She was born in Glens Falls in 1942. Her career as a businesswoman launched in the fall of 1963, when she quit college and returned home to run her father’s liquor store after he became ill. A few years later, she married James “Bud” Brophy to whom she was wed for 28 years, until he passed away at age 79 in 1998.
Across the decades, Brophy has employed more than 200 employees, generated millions of dollars in sales tax revenue for the city and county and has supported more than 1,000 local charity events.
Brophy had been a member of Saratoga Winter Club speedskating since she was a teenager. She won more than 100 titles in the northeast, including winning several Eastern States Championships, New England Championships, Eastern Seaboard Championships, New York State Championships, and the Lake George International Silver Skates. She won seven National or North American divisional championships.
At age 16, she competed in the first U.S. Olympic Trials for speed skating women in 1959, and in 1964 competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials for the Olympic Games - in both cases narrowly missing the Olympic team by one spot. One year later, Brophy secured the top prize in 1965 North American Indoor Short Track Championships, as well as being crowned champion at the Diamond Trophy Indoor in Lake Placid.
Perhaps her greatest athletic achievements came as a golfer - participating in the U.S. Women’s Open in 1960 and 1961 and emerging as the New York State Women’s Amateur champion in 1961, the youngest at the time to ever win that championship.
When she left college to run the family business, she put her sports career on hold. In 2006, she returned to the golfing world and won the New York State Super Senior State Championship in 2007 and 2008.
For the past eight years, Brophy dealt with pulmonary fibrosis, but refused to let that hold her back.
“No matter what she was going through, she kept practicing, kept working on her game. She just loved it so much she didn’t want to give it up,” Tarkleson says. “She was more passionate than anyone I’ve ever known. Dedicated and determined to succeed. As she started to struggle, she would still practice and she would tell me: I may not be getting any better, but I’m not getting any worse. That says it all.
“She was tough, she was gritty and absolutely a wonderful person. She was world-class.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — More than three million residents aged 65 and older currently live in New York, reflecting a boom of older adults during the past decade in nearly every corner of the state.
Saratoga County – which has experienced a 55 percent spike over the past decade - depicts the largest county growth in the elder population statewide, dwarfing neighboring communities in Albany County (a 23 percent increase), Rensselaer County (a 32 percent increase), and Schenectady County, which experienced a 13 percent increase in its older adult population over the past decade, according to the Center for an Urban Future analysis of the U.S. Census from 2007-2017.
In specific numbers, the 65-plus age group in Saratoga County has increased by 14,300 from 2007 to 2017, from just over 26,000 to more than 40,000. The county’s under-65 population meanwhile has remained relatively flat during that same period.
To meet current trends, the Saratoga Senior Center, located in Saratoga Springs, is making plans to build a new senior center to accommodate the explosive growth in senior population.
“When I took over in 2010, we served 300 seniors a year, now we have more than 2,000 a year, and every day we have 125-150 seniors walk through our doors,” says Lois Celeste, the agency’s executive director.
Founded as the Golden Age Club in 1955, the Center started with just 35 members. The group purchased their own building at 162 Circular St. in 1960. A larger and more modern facility named The Robert Gass Senior Center was erected in May 1979 at 5 Williams St.
“We’re out of space and we need to build a larger facility to serve our existing population and for the influx of ‘boomers’ to come in the very near future,” Celeste says. “We looked at the current building to see if we could expand, but we can’t really go out, or up,” she says of the agency’s Williams Street location, which stands in a city-owned building.
The agency is currently involved in siting a new venue in Saratoga Springs. Celeste isn’t prepared to specifically identify the site at this point as project details have yet to be finalized, but explains that the agency has plans for a new, larger building that could be announced “in the next couple of months,” with a targeted completion of the new center expected in 2021.
The announcement of a new building comes as the non-profit, non-residential community center celebrates its 65th anniversary.
At the Center, adults age 50-and-over can join for $25 per year and participate in programs, trips and social activities tailored to adults and seniors.
Earlier this month, the Center started opening its doors on Saturdays to accommodate the growing demand and changing needs of its seniors. The expanded activities – grant funding was provided by the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust – feature varied activities such as yoga, dance, billiards, computer skills training and arts workshops, and take place 9 a.m. – noon on Saturdays.
The Saratoga Senior Center will also host a “Leap Of Kindness Day” from 10 a.m. – Noon on Saturday, Feb. 29. The event is free and open to the public.
The Saratoga Senior Center is located at 5 Williams St., Saratoga Springs. For more information, call 518-584-1621, or go to: saratogaseniorcenter.org.
GREENWICH – Bob Gustafson was 38 years old when Macaulay Culkin stared back at him from the video store shelves, a look of shock on the child’s face after being accidentally left “Home Alone” by his family on their Christmas vacation.
Gustafson, who today is 67, is old enough to remember when the Video Home System videocassette format – that is, VHS - was first introduced in North America and the subsequent VHS vs. Betamax format wars that followed. During his time in the industry, he’s seen the bricks-and-mortar retail delivery of movies accompanied by the advent of things like Netflix and YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Prime, Thumb Drives, DVDs, Blu-ray, Digital Download, Cable TV’s Video-on-Demand, and a myriad of other movie streaming services.
“In June it will be 30 years since I started this,” says Gustafson flanked by the 10,000 or so titles inside his shop, Video Korner II. He estimates those titles are pretty evenly split between DVD’s and VHS tapes, which he still rents as two movies for two days at a rental cost of two dollars. But, the clock is ticking; those days coming to an end.
After 30 years, he says, “I’m going to retire.” He was asked if he’s got any set plans following his retirement. “Not a ding-dang thing,” he says with a laugh. “I’m going to take it easy for a while.”
Gustafson anticipates soon putting the store and the land he owns which it sits upon up for sale. He says he’s already got a person who is interested in the property, and that the proposal does not include the continuation of a video store.
Gustafson first got in to the business in 1990 when he and a partner opened a 500-square-foot store at the far end of the village in Greenwich. The partners started their business with 500 movies and built our own shelves. A few years later, Gustafson bought his co-owner him out of the partnership and has been operating the business on his own ever since. In 2000, he relocated the business to Main Street, bought the land and constructed a free-standing building more than six times the size of the original store. He re-named it Video Korner II. Business was booming, and he says he paid off his 20-year mortgage in 4-1/2 years.
“How many video stores are even left in this country today?” Gustafson asks.
In July 2000, Billboard Magazine reported there were nearly 28,000 video rental storefronts in the U.S. By 2004, video rental lender Blockbuster was at its peak, boasting about 9,000 stores globally. Today, a Blockbuster store in the city of Bend, Oregon is the only one which remains. In December 2017, financial news and opinion company 24/7 Wall St. published an article on rapidly changing industries, and reported that about 86% of the 15,300 video rental stores that were operating in 2007 had, by a decade later, been shuttered.
“I have people tell me they watch them on their telephone. How do you compete against that?” asks Gustafson, who despite the changing video retail industry says the state of the industry has nothing to do with his moving on. Simply, the time has come for him to retire.
“It’s time. It’s been the best job I ever had; there’s nothing like being your own boss.”
As far as the movie titles and all those VHS tapes, Gustafson says he’s not sure what will happen with the inventory. For now, he’s letting his customers know of his future plans are and putting together a list of titles they’re interested in purchasing when a sale of the location is finalized.
Video Korner II is located at 40 Main St., Greenwich, and is open 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
City Mayor Meg Kelly Delivers State of The City Address
Parking Garage • City Hall Opens • Firehouse • Green Belt
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Accompanied by the members of the City Council and city supervisors, Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly on Jan. 28 led the annual State of The City address.
Kelly referenced challenges faced during last year’s SOTC address, the status of those challenges, and city goals in the new year.
“At that time, we were facing the results of the lightning strike of 2018 - an extraordinary event that tested us - took us out of the safety and comfort of our workplace and moved us into a gym,” Mayor Kelly said, recalling the results of a mid-August storm which caused extensive fire and water damage to City Hall. The building housed they city’s government and its court system. Workers were relocated to the Vanderbilt Avenue recreation center, and the city court to Lincoln Baths – quarters where each have remained since.
“This year, we are facing a more positive challenge: a smooth return to a repaired City Hall that has been renovated to meet the needs of city government in the year 2020.” City departments have notified the Department of Public Works that they would be prepared to move back into the building at the end of February.
“We plan to begin our transition back into City Hall at the end of next month,” reported Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, whose department spearheaded the renovation and restoration of the near 150-year-old building. A final price tag is not yet known, but previous estimates placed the renovation/restoration costs at just over $11 million, and an anticipation that the city would recover $4 to $5 million of those costs via insurance.
The “new” City Hall will feature upgraded plumbing and electrical, an HVAC system providing temperature controls throughout the building, the installation of lightning protection to ensure such a strike never happens again, and realized energy efficiencies with LED lighting and the removal of window air conditioning units, Scirocco said.
Additionally, the Music Hall will be preserved and enhanced and once again host events, and in its renovation project the city satisfied the state mandate for a second hearing room and adequate court space for a second full-time City Court judge.
With the recreation center used to house city business throughout 2019, the Recreation Department responded to the loss of its space by fostering relationships with the YMCA, Saratoga Springs Schools, St. Clements School, Spa Catholic High School and Gavin Park in Wilton to regroup and reestablish programs for children and adults, Mayor Kelly said. “Hats off and endless thanks to the employees of the City of Saratoga Springs.”
Highlighted achievements during 2019 and plans for 2020:
• The East Side Fire Station, currently slated to be sited on Henning Rd., is closer to realization than any time in recent history.
• The Geyser Road Trail project, idling since 2008, is ready for groundbreaking. The resolution of Lawsuits that had stalled have been resolved, allowing the project to move forward. The planning department led the work to secure the funding, complete the bidding process, and prepare the contract for its construction.
• The Code Blue emergency homeless shelter has found a new temporary home on Adelphi Street, where it will be sited for two years. Through strong working relationships among city, county and Shelters of Saratoga (S.O.S.) leaders, Mayor Kelly said: “We expect long-term solutions to homelessness to be built upon these relationships.”
• The development of the City Center Parking Structure and Flat Rock Centre is underway.
• As part of the Uniform Development Ordinance (UDO), the city is updating the zoning ordinance to be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2015. The draft UDO was recently presented to the City Council and was the focus of three public workshops. “This is another very important project that will continue into 2020,” Kelly said.
• Workforce Housing: The city facilitated the purchase of two workforce housing units through the city’s Workforce Housing Program. Regarding affordable housing, the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority broke ground on The Promenade affordable housing project at Stonequist. The project includes 63 affordable housing units – 18 townhouses, and 45 apartments; Pre-construction efforts on two new buildings with 24 units of affordable housing at the Jefferson Street Terraces are underway; A project on the west side - called Intrada - includes 158 affordable housing units, as well as over 10 acres for public recreation. Two of the four Intrada buildings were completed.
• Saratoga Collaborative to End Homelessness: Staff and public officials will participate in both the design and leadership teams during the first 100-day “sprint cycle” of the Saratoga Collaborative to End Homelessness. The project is spearheaded by Shelters of Saratoga and Presbyterian New England Congregational Church. During this sprint cycle, specific solutions will be designed, tested, and implemented.
• In 2019, the Building Department reports there was a 12% increase in permit applications compared to the previous year, with 16% more permits issued. Inspectors performed 2,410 inspections in 2019, an annual increase of 9% over 2018.
• On Jan. 21, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his 2020-2021 Executive Budget. Among the items listed, Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) aid for the city of Saratoga Springs has been eliminated. In 2020, the city anticipated receiving $2.3 in VLT aid revenue, which equates to 5% of the city’s general operating budget. As a goal, the city aims to have that aid restored.
• This year, the Canfield Casino in Congress Park will celebrate its 150th anniversary. DPW is planning a celebration of the milestone. The City Historian announced it will present a program on April 29 titled: Convention Hall 1893 – 1965. The program, part of a new series called “Rec Talks,” is designed to encourage members of the community to share their Convention Hall stories
• Newly elected Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton reported the police department is currently staffed with 74 sworn police officers, including three recent academy graduates and four recruits in the current academy, and five sergeants currently deployed on military duty. The police department employs 17 civilian employees, including 11 dispatchers, three Parking Enforcement Officers - two of whom are also Animal Control Officers, and 2 employees for records management. The police department responded to 29,394 calls for service in 2019; The Saratoga Springs Fire Department is staffed with 64 firefighters who provide both fire and EMS response services for the city. Last year the fire department received 3,670 emergency medical calls and responded to 67 fires.
• 2020 marks the start of a four-year, $4.2 million water infrastructure improvement plan to upgrade undersized water mains; the replacement of four and six-inch mains with eight-inch water mains will improve water delivery to the public. DPW will also undertake significant upgrades to the Water Treatment Plant this year. A planned water treatment intake valve replacement project will replace 3, circa 1800’s intake valves, bringing water from Loughberry Lake into the plant. A section of the intake lines and an overflow structure from approximately the 1870s will also be replaced. This replacement project represents a $2.3 million investment.
• At the county level, construction will continue on a new public safety facility in the town of Milton near the jail, to expand administrative space for the Sheriff’s Office, as well as to move the probation and Public Health departments to that space. Regarding VLT aid, the county stands to lose about $775,000 in revenue, and plans to bring a full board resolution to its February meeting to advocate for the funds.
CRICKETS TAKE FLIGHT ATOP TRAMPOLINES. Spiders spin silky threads. Red ants juggle kiwis and corn and a dragonfly balances along the slender stalks of a plant.
Together, the graceful actions of all this energy in motion depicts an ecosystem bursting with life and the basis of the Cirque du Soleil show “OVO,” which takes the stage for six performances at the Times Union Center Jan. 29 - Feb. 2.
“I find the show very colorful and great for all kinds of audiences, especially for kids,” says Alexander Grol, who in his guise as a beetle in OVO’s Russian Cradle act has a unique point-of-view of the awestruck “insects” whose intense curiosity is heightened when a mysterious egg appears, representing the enigma and cycles of their lives.
“The show is quite good in its balance of the different things and I’ve heard people saying some very nice things about many of the different acts,” Grol says. “There are very strong acrobatics and when I have overheard people talking about their favorite acts, it’s usually about the slackwire performance, which is absolutely insane. There are very few people I’ve ever seen who can do that kind of act. Top-of-the-notch acrobatics,” he says. “Personally, I like what I do! I would say it’s my favorite, haha.”
Grol’s job description of his role in the flying act segment? “I throw and catch people for a living,” he says, with a laugh. “I’m the one throwing and catching the acrobats.”
Originally from Kiev, Ukraine, Grol was born into a traditional circus family. “Much of my life has been on the road, from the time with my parents when I was a boy. I grew up quite fast and they kind of integrated me into the show, which was the Moscow State Circus, traveling the U.K. for a while. That was the first circus I started in.”
He joined Cirque du Soleil in 2008 with the stage production of “Zaia,” which was based in Macau and represented the company’s first resident show in Asia. In 2011 he joined “OVO.” He says he’s on the road with the show a few months at a time, interrupted by occasional two-week breaks, and when not performing he enjoys reading, keeping in shape and exploring cities where the tour takes him.
“Every time we move to a different city, we have a day or two to go out and explore,” Grol says. The loudest crowds? Latin America. “We had full houses every day and they were screaming their heads off! That was fun.” He is partial to the west coast - California and Oregon specifically, the rich landscapes of Colorado, and the cultural sophistication of Japan.
OVO, which first premiered in Montréal in April 2009, celebrated its 2,000th show in February 2015 in Fukuoka. “Japan I like very much. The politeness is one reason. And it’s super-clean there; neat and tidy. I found it very different from the rest of the world.”
The name OVO, which means “egg” in Portuguese, represents a timeless symbol of the life cycle and birth of numerous insects and depicts the underlying thread of “OVO” the show – which marks the 25th live production from Cirque du Soleil. With an international crew representing 17 nationalities, “OVO” has visited more than 30 cities in six different countries as a Big Top show before transforming in an arena show in 2016.
The seeds of Cirque du Soleil were first planted in the early 1980’s, when a troupe of performers took their talent to the village streets on the shores of the St. Laurent River near Quebec City with a crew jugglers, dancers, fire breathers, and musicians. In 1984, the show traveled on a province-wide tour and three years later crossed the Canadian borders for the first time, with a tour of the U.S.
Today, it sites its headquarters - “a laboratory of imagination”- in Montreal where 1,300 artists hailing from 55 different countries form the current Cirque du Soleil team. Since 1997, all shows have been created at Cirque du Soleil’s International Headquarters.
One wing of the headquarters includes three acrobatic training rooms, a dance studio, a studio-theater, and a gym where preparatory training – which can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months – is conducted before joining a shows cast.
Each individual show features anywhere from 50 to 100 artists. The cast is nearly evenly divided between those who come from sports disciplines such as rhythmic and acrobatic gymnastics, those from circus arts disciplines, and those who come from various artistic backgrounds such as dance, music, physical theatre and street arts.
Every year the costume workshop uses more than 6.5 kilometers of fabric from around the world to create intricate stage outfits and sets, and the musical score is written by company composers, creating shows that feature original music
Cirque du Soleil “OVO” will perform the following dates at Times Union Center, 51 S. Pearl St., Albany: Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 pm; Friday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Feb. 1 at 4 pm and at 7:30 pm; Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1:30 pm. Ticket prices range from $38 adult/ $29 child to $129 and are available at the arena box office, or online at ticketmaster.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Singer-songwriter, actress, and activist Holly Near performs at Caffe Lena Sunday, Jan. 19.
Near’s discography spans five decades and includes arguably the greatest cover version committed to vinyl of Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty,” which Near performed as a duet with the Weavers’ Ronnie Gilbert.
Tidbit to impress your friends: Near (playing the role of student body president Phyllis Goldberg) debated David Cassidy (playing the role of Keith Partridge) when the two opposed one another in a campaign for student body president, during an episode of “The Partridge Family,” which aired in 1973.
Near’s show at Caffe Lena begins 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $35 general admission, $32 cafe members, $17.50 students and kids. A pre-show talk takes place 6 p.m. with a $5 admission.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – It’s been a long and winding road to Adelphi Street since a community of residents, clergy, business leaders, politicians and everyday folks first came together to create a space where people without a home can find shelter during frigid nights, get fed a warm meal, recharge their bodies and head back out into the light of the next day to try and secure a more stable standing.
Motivated to action in the wake of the death of a city woman exposed to a winter’s elements on a December night in 2013, a temporary homeless emergency shelter was launched that Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s Parish Center.
A series of temporary winter shelters, sited at a variety of venues across town, have followed: the Salvation Army building west of Broadway and Soul Saving Station Church east of Broadway, among them. The latter, having a 41-bed capacity, required the addition of the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church also open for extended periods to care for the “overflow” of guests.
Last month, Shelters of Saratoga - which oversees the Code Blue shelter program – opened the latest temporary venue at 4 Adelphi St., just west of South Broadway. In 2016, an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo directs emergency shelters to operate when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.
Many hands were needed to transform a previously vacant Adelphi Street warehouse into a suitable shelter space in time for the winter season.
“On behalf of Shelters of Saratoga, I extend my heartfelt appreciation to the incredible generosity of all the businesses that helped bring Code Blue to Adelphi Street a reality,” said S.O.S. Executive Director Karen Gregory.
The locally based Bonacio Construction firm led the way, transforming the 4,000 square-foot of industrial space into accommodations for people during cold temperatures, at cost. The work included fitting up the existing building with new electrical, HVAC, and plumbing, painting floors, adding bathrooms with showers, and donating shelving.
“We worked hard to get this project on schedule after running into asbestos in the building in November,” Bonacio says. “After working through the weekends, we were able to make up valuable time and got them up and running for opening on December 9.”
“We’re very grateful to them for completing the project at cost, foregoing profit and being very generous with their expertise,” Gregory said.
During the 2017-18 winter season – the latest figures available - Code Blue was open 162 nights, served more than 8,000 meals, and provided sleeping quarters for a total of 6,480 overnight stays – or on average, 40 nightly guests.
The new location houses a 61-bed facility – many more than in previous locations - and as such, Gregory said an “overflow” shelter is not anticipated at this time. “I think the new location is working well. We’re working with people to get them to and from different appointments they need to be at. We’re in Saratoga Springs, so realistically anywhere in the city would have worked well,” she added.
The lease on the new location runs until November 2021. An entirely new staff and leadership has been hired providing more people than in years past working each shift, and just over 107 new volunteers have also been added this year, pointed out Gregory, who said the search for a location to host a permanent site continues. “That’s something I’m truly committed to and is something in the conversation and on my agenda every single day. Two years is going to go by quickly, so we can’t take our eye off of that. That has to be a priority on my agenda, the city’s agenda, and hopefully the county’s agenda as well,” Gregory said.
Finding a permanent shelter location has proved to be a challenge. A permanent shelter location was thought to be found in 2017 on Walworth Street, where a Code Blue structure would be built on property belonging to Shelters of Saratoga after local business owner Ed Mitzen, and his wife Lisa announced they would pay the costs for the new, permanent shelter to be built. In September 2018, however, following a lawsuit filed by local residents challenging the proposed shelter expansion as not being in accordance with zoning regulation, a Saratoga County Supreme Court judge nullified previously granted approvals by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board which would have allowed the shelter to be built.
Regarding the new temporary spot, the city of Saratoga Springs provided $50,000 towards the upkeep of the building as well as for paying rent in the off-season for the next two years, as well as supporting the S.O.S. outreach program.
As far as need, Gregory says the best way for people to help is to make donations directly to Shelters of Saratoga to aid in the continuation of the organization’s providing of services.
“We haven’t been reimbursed by the county or the state at all yet, so we’re carrying this tremendous financial responsibility forward,” Gregory said. “We’re not exactly sure what the county and state are going to reimburse us for and there’s always a risk of the unknown. That makes it difficult on a small non-profit like us because we can’t afford to incur those expenses and not get reimbursed, obviously. In the interim, we have applied and been approved for a bridge loan for $200,000 by a non-profit bank just in case reimbursement continues to be prolonged. At least that would not put the agency in a tough spot and cover some of the costs, until we get some kind of reimbursement.”
Finding a long-term solution to address the city’s homelessness issue – specifically including a permanent Code Blue facility - is listed among the city’s outlook of priorities in 2020.
“I’m so thankful to be working in this incredibly generous community - the amount of expertise and support and humanity - just coming together when there are needs and putting people first,” said Gregory, who was named executive director of S.O.S. last year. “We really do care about our homeless neighbors, keeping them safe, and I’m very appreciate of having a community that’s so behind S.O.S. It’s been a wonderful experience so far.”
Statement from Bonacio Construction Inc.: The temporary Code Blue shelter in Downtown Saratoga Springs required transforming this 4,000 square foot industrial space into accommodations for people during the cold temperatures. Thank you to our incredible team of local businesses who helped out on this project: Allerdice ACE Hardware for donating materials. B&B Plumbing & Heating for donating both its plumbing and HVAC services. CT Mail for providing its air monitoring services during asbestos removal at a discount. Kyle Fillion of Evolve IT for donating his services for video conferencing. Granite & Marble Works, Inc. for donating granite countertops. NRC NY Environmental for working on the asbestos abatement at a discount. Prediletto Electric for donating its time and supplies. Tom Roohan of Roohan Realty for donating the showers. Stone Industries for providing its services. Thermally Yours, Inc. for installing the insulation. Tuff Kote Flooring LLC for installing the epoxy flooring at half price. Winsupply of Saratoga Springs & Bath Expressions Showroom for donating the plumbing fixtures. Project Manager: James Ackerman.