The easiest way to be in the know.
It’s Friday, Nov. 11. No longer just a place to watch a show, Uptown! Performing Arts Center is now a content producer. What that means and what to expect from their first theater performance in years. Plus, is this the end of West Chester’s Halloween parade? After successfully pulling off its first parade in years, the Borough announced this week it is ready to call it quits and how likely is it you’ll find the house of your dreams in the Borough? In this real estate climate, not likely. We look at the numbers. Grab yourself a hot beverage and let’s catch up.
Uptown!’s seismic change in structure and the return of live theater
Earlier this year, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center made two big announcements – one, it had hired Carmen Khan as the theater’s first-ever artistic director, and two, it would be returning live theater to its stage. The latter captured the headlines. Carmen captured the profiles, but there was a third piece of information that was game-changing for the High Street performing arts center. While Carmen’s hiring was a big deal – she is a Borough resident who founded and served as Artistic Director of the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre where she directed and produced more than 60 performances. (It is hard to think of a better pedigree for the position.) It was noteworthy that the position even existed at all.
With the hiring of an artistic director, Uptown! officially made the leap from a venue where theater and other performances can be viewed to a producer of its own content. It’s a creative direction very few venues ever take on. Uptown! is the only performing arts center with a regional theater company under its roof – not People’s Light, not the Kimmel Center, not the Delaware Theater Company. While the undertaking is immense, the reward is equally big. Uptown is now responsible for casting, set creation, costume design, rehearsals, marketing, ticket sales, and everything in between across a variety of mediums – stage, dance, comedy, music, and movies. In return, there is creative control and perhaps, more importantly, there are more funding options. Institutional funding – think those large arts grants – goes to the performances, not to the venues. Under this model Uptown! can now make its case for that funding. It also means that we are in for something completely unique, something entirely ours yet utterly professional.
“My vision for this is to be a cultural town commons for West Chester and the whole Chester County community,” says Carmen. That is not to say she has plans for the community to take the stage. “We want that every time you go to Uptown! you are seeing something really amazing,” she says. It is her polite way of hinting that your Uncle George won’t be cast in her next production (unless, of course, you are a relative of the Clooneys.) There is a production value and performance standard she expects from her shows and it’s the reason she’s here.
“You hire an artistic director for their aesthetic,” she tells me. So, I counter, how would you describe your aesthetic? That, it turns out, is a three-parter.
- “Beauty. Beautiful music, sets, choice of shapes, the details of how things become beautiful,” she says.
- The shows she chooses to produce must be “moving, but still entertaining.” “It’s got to have heart,” she says.
- Finally, there must be what Carmen calls the “sacred connection” between the audience and the actor. “It’s that connection that interests me the most.”
As she is talking, Uptown! Marketing Director Carol Flannery comes over with the “playbook” for “The Butterfingers Angel, Mary & Joseph, Herod the Nut and Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols in a Pear Tree,” the Christmas story retelling from the author of the Miracle Worker that will be the new Artistic Director’s first production. Without giving too much away, the book is filled with page after page of costumes, trendy animal prints for a posh cow, a carpenter’s tool belt for a clueless Joseph, and a set design that features a massive draped map of the Holy Land for the actors to engage with.
There is excitement as we flip through the pages pointing out comic details. Little winks at the usual seasonal Nativity productions. “It’s so ridiculous. It’s really silly,” says Carmen of the production but it also has that heart she is looking for. There is the actor-audience connection she values and that beauty, not just in the sets and the wonderfully rich costumes but in the originality of the production. There are the carols you love, but unlike you’ve heard before. Deck the Halls for example, sung scat-style.
The comedic “Butterfingers Angel,” scheduled to open Nov. 30, will be the first time we see Carmen’s vision in action. Next will be “The Mountaintop,” a two-man production set at the Lorraine motel the night before Martin Luther King Jr. is shot. The last will be “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” planned for the end of April. While each of these unique productions finds a new way to check the boxes Carmen outlined above, that is her aesthetic. She is still learning ours.
“We are trying to figure it out,” Carmen says. “And plays help us figure it out.”.
So go see what they are doing and let them know how close they have come.
And how fun is this? Special discount for Hello, West Chester readers! – Use code HelloWC and skip paying service fees on ‘The Butterfingers Angel’ tickets! Offer good through Nov. 18th, available online, in-person, and by phone.
West Chester Housing Market Report for October
On November 2 the Fed voted to raise interest rates another .75 percent thus pushing interest rates over 7 percent for the first time since 2000 and prompting the New York Times last week to declare: “The Housing Market is Worse Than You Think.” Thought that was as good a sign as any to check in on the West Chester housing situation.
Bottom line: While West Chester remains a highly competitive market driven by limited inventory, there are signs things are cooling off from its feverish peak of the last couple of years.
See the full report here.
Save the Date: West Chester Wedding Guide Fall Showcase
Attention West Chester brides and grooms to be, mark your calendars for November 20. The West Chester Wedding Guide Fall Showcase is returning to the beautiful Chester County History Center. It is a must-attend event for the area’s newly engaged. Relax with a drink while you browse more than twenty local vendors and locations. Talk to DJs, Wedding Coordinators, invitation designers, caterers, and florists as you eat, drink and celebrate your wedding planning! Register for giveaways while securing vendors that will make your wedding day uniquely yours.
The event runs from 1 to 3 p.m. when one lucky couple will leave with a pair of Flyers tickets! Grand prize drawing is at 2:45 p.m. Tickets are $5 per couple and include two complimentary drinks. Get your tickets here.
There must be something in the air. This week both the West Chester Fire Department and the Good Fellowship ambulance company sounded the alarm over high call volumes. According to Assistant Fire Chief Justin McClure, the department’s incident hours are up 12% over this time in 2021, and there are no signs of things slowing down. Good Fellowship Ambulance also reported higher than usual call volume with October ranking as the busiest month ever tracked by the EMS company.
Have you seen this girl? West Chester Police are seeking assistance in locating 17-year-old Lila Ramirez Gabr of West Chester. Ms. Gabr has been missing since Tuesday and is believed to have run away to the Fresno, California area. If you have seen Ms. Gabr or have any information on where she may be, contact the West Chester Police Department at 610-696-2700.
Have you seen this man? Philadelphia police are searching for 31-year-old Eric Wertz believed to have been last seen in West Chester borough. He is wanted in connection with an aggravated assault that occurred in the Fairmont section of Philadelphia. If you have any information or have seen Mr. Wertz contact central detectives at 215-686-3093.
Travel along 322 could be delayed. On Nov. 16 Aqua crews will begin replacing a water main along Downingtown Pike between W. Marshall and W. Ashbridge Streets. Construction is expected to last at least two months with crews working weekdays from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
First, congratulations to everyone who voted this week. According to Chester County Voter Services, the Borough of West Chester has 10,671 registered voters (we could probably work on that) and 5804 people voted or just around 55 percent. Probably good for a midterm election year, but below the county average of 66 percent. Shout out to wards 1 and 7 on having the highest voter turnout in the borough, tied at 62 percent and, Ward 4 you’ve got work to do. Only 40 percent of your members voted.
In last week’s athletic shoutouts, I overlooked at least one other notable high school season. So this week, belated high fives to Henderson’s Boys’ Soccer team on a solid season. The boys defended their Ches-Mont title, placed third in Regionals and qualified for the State tourney where they sadly lost this week to Father Judge in penalty kicks. The Union feels your pain. They also had three members named to the All Ches-Mont First Team. Congratulations to Ryan Kuegler, Diego Terran, and Nick Ricciardi on your first team selection.
Also, this week good luck to Rustin’s football program which won handily in the first round of the District 1 Class 5A football playoffs last Friday. The Golden Knights continue the pursuit of greatness tonight against American Division rivals Kennett.
Speaking of Football programs doing well, shout-out to the Peirce Football team who raised an amazing $9031.88 for UniteforHER during their 2022 “Pink Out” football game. I don’t know how many seats they had to sell, cookies they had to bake, or cars they had to wash to get there, but good for them.
Now, back to soccer for a second. The West Chester University Women’s Soccer team begins their NCAA Division II Tournament run this weekend as the number 1 seed in the East Division. The 19-0-1 Golden Rams earned a first-round bye and will face the winner of Bloomsburg/West Virginia St at noon on Saturday. Go Rams!
And finally, congratulations to West Chester’s own game five stealing, Henderson-graduate Chas McCormick on his World Series victory. It was a hard-fought series, and we’ll see you next year.
And a request, if you know anyone involved in high school athletics especially if they manage the team’s social accounts, please encourage them to reliably post scores and updates (cough) Henderson Athletic Director (cough). I am happy to share the victories, but updates have become very hard to find.
Now doesn’t Gay Street look nice-ish? After nearly two years of disruption, Gay Street has been repaved marking the official, if less than perfect, end of PECO’s work on the street. If like Councilman Patrick McCoy, you didn’t feel the paving work up to Borough standards, don’t worry the Public Works Department is on it.
“Our objective is to get that looking nice again as soon as possible. “Probably next season,” Public Works Director Don Edwards told council members this week at the Public Works committee meeting.
Also, hello to the 2022 downtown holiday decorations. The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce was out hanging their thousands of lights and decorations this week. It’s all part of the Chester County Hospital Lights Up Holiday Weekends in West Chester. Expect the final touches to be completed by November 19.
Speaking of things happening on Gay Street, the Gay Street closure will once again be the topic of discussion at next week’s Borough Council Work Session.
On the agenda? Set a length for the 2023 closure.
What to expect: Lots of differing opinions and a variety of concerns from dead zones to delivery windows to revenue loss. Also, promised a resident petition signaling overwhelming support for a 24-7 closure.
Prediction: Lengthening the closure from May to October seems to have strong support among Council Members, the business community, and residents – beyond that it’s anyone’s guess.
How to get your opinion heard: Looks like there are three options – send an email to Borough Council and let them know your thoughts (remember a few emails can have a big impact), attend the meeting and voice your thoughts publicly (Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. at Borough Hall), find that petition and sign your name to it (or make a point of not signing your name to it.)
This week we are also saying hello, to a new salon. CC Haggarty and Company is now open at 134 N. High Street previously occupied by Emily Alice, another salon. I once declared us the Bubble Tea Capital of Chester County. We also may be the most put together. With the opening of CC Haggarty, downtown West Chester boasts 12 salons and eight barber shops. This does not include specialized nail, brow, lashes, and professional make-up locations. Wow, are we posh.
Speaking of our fancy selves, let’s say hello, to a new Wink Lab which is bringing some much-needed love to the corner of Hannum and Wayne. The salon which specializes in brow and lash services is completely renovating the existing building, previously home to a car mechanic.
“We love West Chester and when we found this building with such a privileged location we identified its potential and were sure we could help revitalize the town’s entry,” said Wink Lab CEO Alejandra Arango Uribe. “My Pinterest board has become a reality.”
It is now official. You can say goodbye to future development at Crebilly Farms. (Whew.) According to a report in the Daily Local this week, Westtown voters overwhelmingly approved raising their own taxes in order to conserve the land as a passive recreation park. Under the now-approved provision, residents will fund a quarter of the purchase price for the 208-acre lot. Grants are expected to cover the rest. The remaining 114 acres will be subdivided into four individual lots to be sold, each with a single home.
A massive thank you to our neighbors to our south. Way to take one for the team.
This week we also have a few goodbyes from the West Chester Parks & Rec Department, starting with the Halloween Parade.
After successfully pulling off its first parade since the start of the pandemic last month, the Borough of West Chester is ready to call it quits.
“It’s no easy task to shut down downtown on a Wednesday night in rush hour,” Park & Rec Director Keith Kurowski shared with Public Works Committee members this week. “I lost sleep for days.” The event which requires shutting down several blocks of Gay and Market Streets as well as a block each on Darlington and Matlack is extremely labor intensive to execute involving not only Mr. Kurowski but Public Works, police, fire and emergency personnel, and dozens of volunteers.
“We are having some discussions at least in a preliminary state moving into 2023 of having another event besides the parade,” Mr. Kurowski informed the committee. While discussions are in the early stages, there were assurances made that there would still be a Halloween-themed event in the Borough. “Trunk or Treat” was name-dropped (they seemingly have fonder memories of the Borough pandemic attempt than I do), perhaps at Borough Hall, perhaps in one of the parks. When I was growing up our town put on a Haunted House in a local park which was always fun. Whatever is decided, the required elements include candy, costumes, marching bands, and cheer and dance teams.
Also, out this week, several pieces of equipment at Everhart Park’s popular new playground. We originally learned of the removal of the zip line for repairs last week and it turns out that the review has led to the discovery of a few additional issues.
“[Park & Rec Director] Keith Kurowski met with an independent playground consultant in the park yesterday. The consultant evaluated the installation of the playground and identified a few problems,” Friends of Everhart Park President Susan Frens shared with members this week.
In addition to the zip line, the cone-shaped monkey bars and one of the slides is being reviewed and repaired. Parts are ordered and “fortunately, everything is still under warranty.”
Finally, how are you already planning for the Christmas holidays? I don’t know, but some of you are clearly on your game because earlier this week West Chester Parks and Rec shared that their Dec. 3rd Breakfast with Santa is nearly sold out. The event starts at 9:30 a.m. and will be held at the Chester County History Center. It includes a fully catered breakfast, personal time with Santa, and even a small gift for attendees under 12. The cost is $15 per person. Tickets are required and they are going fast.
Pay it forward. Veteran’s Day Edition.
Each November 11 we take a day to remember and honor all those who have served our country. Here are a few options around the West Chester area:
The Chester County Bar Association is hosting a Veteran’s Day Ceremony on the steps of the historic courthouse. Festivities begin at 3:30 p.m. and include a speech by Chief Justice Emeritus of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ron Castille, a performance by the West Chester University marching band, and military aircraft flyovers.
Also, the West Chester retirement community Watermark at Bellingham will be holding a multi-generational Veterans Day ceremony. The event coordinated by 92-year-old resident Dick Breen will feature a speech by Dick’s son, Richard, a former media and public relations expert for the Army Signal Corps. After his presentation, Richard will open the floor to the audience for what should be a lively discussion on service. Event begins at 1 p.m. at the Watermark meeting room (1615 Boot Road) and is expected to last for about an hour.
Finally, West Chester University recently opened a new WWII exhibition, “For Reel: The Cinematic Art of the Second World War.” The collection features rare movie posters from Philadelphia film critic Stephen Friedman and uses them along with other press materials to bring the WWII era to life. You can view the exhibit now through Dec. 9 at the Knauer Art Gallery, 817 South High Street.
And, for all you Veterans, first, thank you – and second, free stuff. Note: offers are good for Nov. 11, unless noted otherwise – and be prepared to show a valid Military ID.
- 7-Eleven – free Quarter-Pound Big Bite 100% all-beef hot dog. (Although, depending on location, proceed with caution)
- Dunkin’ Donuts – free donut
- Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers – receive a card for a free Freddy’s Original Double combo meal.
- Fred Beans of West Chester – free oil changes plus 30 percent off other services both Friday and Saturday. (Coupon and ID required)
- Insomnia Cookies – free six-pack in-store with any purchase
- Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant – free Brewski Burger or fried chicken sandwich and soft drink.
- Smoothie King – free 20-ounce smoothie.
- Starbucks – free tall (12-ounce) hot or iced brewed coffee at participating Starbucks stores. (Open to spouses too)
- Wawa – free coffee (open to family members too)
- Wendy’s – free small breakfast combo
- Great Clips – free haircut that day or a free haircut card to use at a later date.
Find a complete list of national chains offering freebies and discounts here.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? Germs hit our family hard this week so we will likely be laying low. Maybe ordering a pizza?
If you are around this weekend, East High School will be debuting its production of Much Ado About Nothing. Better Than Bacon is at Uptown tonight ready to make you laugh. Maybe start the night with an Au Pair cocktail from Slow Hand, get into the Thanksgiving spirit with some turkey, feta, and spinach meatballs with sage broth and garlic bread crumbs (yum) from Split Rail. Then slide over to Uptown! and catch that Better than Bacon performance? That’s a good evening, right there.
And this week a very special thank you to The Kit Anstey Real Estate Team for joining Hello, West Chester as our latest Community Sponsor. Kit and the team have won numerous awards and are active members of the West Chester community – a perfect partner in this tight real estate market!
The Kit Anstey Real Estate Team
Nationally-ranked Kit Anstey Real Estate team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors specializes in residential real estate in West Chester and surrounding areas. Kit Anstey, a West Chester resident, loves being a part of the bustling Borough. Kit’s team was the winner of the 2022 Readers’ Choice by the Daily Local News as Best Realtors of Chester County. Watch their West Chester video!
If you would like to help keep Hello, West Chester going, here are 3 easy ideas –
- Tell your friends and neighbors.
- Help spread the word on social media. (Leaving a comment when you see a post really helps increase reach.)
- Or make a small donation of thanks. (Venmo works too if that’s easier.)
Mark your calendars:
- Nov. 10-12 – Much Ado About Nothing, East High School, 7 p.m. (There is also a matinee showing at 1 p.m. on Saturday). Tickets are $10 and available at the door.
- Nov. 11 – Better Than Bacon: Improv Comedy for a Cause, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Performance will open with Hot Breakfast a dork rock band from Wilmington. A portion of the proceeds will go benefit ACT in Faith and Safe Harbor. Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at the door.
- Nov. 11 – Zia Yoga Storytime, West Chester Public Library, Community Room, 10:30 – 11 a.m. Geared toward families with kids 2 to 6. This is a free event. Registration required.
- Nov. 11, 12 – Multiplicity Dance Concert, Madeleine Wing Adler Theater, 7:30 p.m. There will also be a 2:30 p.m. performance on Saturday. General admission: $12/adults; $7/kids
- Nov. 13 – 2022 WCU Harp Festival, Madeleine Wing Adler Theater, 3 – 4:30 p.m. This energetic harp orchestra is a fifteen member ensemble. This is a free public event.
- Nov. 14 – WCU Faculty Recital: In Young Lee, soprano, Madeleine Wing Adler Theater, 8 – 9:30 p.m. Tickets are not required. This is a free public event.
- Nov. 15 – 2022 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Awards, Uptown Theater, 3 – 6 p.m. Preservation Pennsylvania will honor excellence and innovation in preservation practice. Tickets are $75.
- Nov. 15 – Community Conversation: Why must we confront the painful parts of US history? This is a virtual presentation of the Chester County Community Fund. Registration required.
- Nov. 18 – Whiskey Logic, Kildare’s Irish Pub, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Local cover band playing hits from the 60s to the 90s. This is a free show.
- Nov. 20 – 2022 Fall Wedding Showcase, Chester County History Center, 1-3 p.m., Admission is $5 for the wedding couple and includes 2 free drinks.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
Oh, one more thing, if you think one or more of your friends would like Hello, West Chester, too, please forward this newsletter and tell them to come and join us.
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