Bits & Bytes: Jayne Benjulian monologue workshop; new teachers at Steiner school; Neumann at the Millbrook Library; ‘Share Our Wisdom/Harvest Our Lives;’ preparing for Aug. 21 eclipse

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By Thursday, Feb 16 Life In the Berkshires
David Scribner
Poet Jayne Benjulian reading from her book of poetry, 'Five Sextillion Atoms,' at The Bookstore in Lenox, Mass.

Poet Jayne Benjulian monologue workshop

Housatonic — Poet, producer and curator of “Rock the Constitution” at the Colonial Theatre Jayne Benjulian will teach a workshop titled “Writing & Performing the Monologue” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Saturdays of March 11, 18, and 25. A public performance of the participants’ work will take place at Fuel in Great Barrington on Saturday, April 1.

On Jan. 21, six actors and six writers performed “Rock the Constitution” to a standing-room-only crowd at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. Actors read from the Constitution; writers performed monologues they had written to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington. That experience motivated Benjulian, who has both a theater and literary background, to teach poets, fiction writers and essayists how to craft monologues.

In the workshop, participants will learn what makes a monologue compelling to an audience. They will read, listen to and practice three major types of monologues. The workshops will include intensive free writing to carefully selected prompts; guidance on sculpting one or more monologues and defining the voice of each piece; and guided rehearsal for public performance.

Benjulian was director of new play development at Magic Theatre in San Francisco and chief speechwriter at Apple. She is the author of the new poetry collection “Five Sextillion Atoms.” Her workshop welcomes poets, playwrights, storytellers, fiction writers and experimenters.

The cost of the workshop is $150. For more information, contact


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Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School announces new teachers

Tracy Fernbacher.

Tracy Fernbacher.

David French.

David French.

Great Barrington — The Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School will welcome Tracy Fernbacher and David French as new teachers for the 2017–2018 school year. Fernbacher will teach first grade and French will teach fifth grade.

Fernbacher was selected from a pool of applicants after a national search. She earned her master’s degree in Waldorf elementary education from Antioch University in Keene, New Hampshire and also holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration in international management from Pace University in New York City and a vocational teacher’s license from the New York State Department of Education. Fernbacher taught English and substituted for multiple grades at the Chengdu Waldorf School in Sichuan province, China, while attending the Chengdu Waldorf Teacher Training Institute in 2009–2010. Prior to her teacher training, Fernbacher was one of the founding parents of the Brooklyn Waldorf School.

French was selected after a national search to replace retiring teacher Tracey Brennan. He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder. He also holds a master of science degree in clinical psychology from the University of Oregon where he specialized in children and families. Mr. French brings twelve years of Waldorf teaching experience to his new position, including a full cycle of teaching at the Eugene Waldorf School in Oregon.

GBRSS will host a “Meet the Teacher” event with Fernbacher and first grade subject teachers in music, language, movement and handwork on Saturday, March 11, at 10 a.m. For more information or to reserve a spot, contact Robyn Coe at (413) 528-4015 x106 or


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Jeffrey Neumann paintings at Millbrook Library

'Sands Motel' by Jeffrey L. Neumann.

‘Sands Motel’ by Jeffrey L. Neumann.

Millbrook, N.Y. — The gallery at the Millbrook Library will display “Paintings From the Soul of America,” a solo exhibit by artist Jeffrey L. Neumann, through Wednesday, March 15. An opening reception for the artist will be held Friday, Feb. 17, at 4 p.m. with a gallery talk and slide show at 5 p.m.

The show will feature new work by Neumann including paintings from his childhood in New Mexico. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Neumann studied at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Springfield College, where he received a B.S. in 1981 and a master’s of education in visual arts in 2008. He has exhibited numerous solo and group shows in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. As well as creating his own art, Neumann owns the Neumann Fine Art in Hillsdale.

For more information, contact the library at (845) 677-3611 or


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‘Share Our Wisdom/Harvest Our Lives’

Susan Dawdy.

Susan Dawdy.

Pittsfield — On Monday, Feb. 20, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires’ social worker Susan Dawdy will present the free program “Share Our Wisdom/Harvest Our Lives,” a group facilitation about aging, at Congregation Knesset Israel.

Dawdy will conduct a group facilitation exploring options for aging, eldering, and facing mortality. Participants will have the opportunity to share from their own experiences as well as to review what is being contemplated and written about the subject of aging.

In her years as a licensed clinical social worker, Dawdy, MSW, LICSW, has worked on, supervised and initiated programs supporting family members of all ages. Utilizing the ground of mindfulness, she uses numerous different modalities to help people integrate life experiences and accept and live in the current time.

For more information, contact the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires at (413) 442-4360 or


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Scientists, public prepare for Aug. 21 solar eclipse

Jay Pasachoff in front of Williams College's Hopkins Observatory.

Jay Pasachoff in front of Williams College’s Hopkins Observatory.

Boston — The path of totality of the Monday, Aug. 21, solar eclipse will sweep across the United States from coast to coast for the first time in 99 years. At a symposium of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science currently being held at the Hynes Convention Center, a team of astronomers will describe both scientific and public-interest aspects of the eclipse, which will dazzle those who travel into the zone of totality, a swath across the continental United States only 70 miles wide.

The symposium was arranged by solar-astronomer Jay Pasachoff of Williams College and Caltech in collaboration with Angela Speck of the University of Missouri, the largest university within the zone of totality. Pasachoff will discuss science to be gleaned by the eclipse observations and Speck will speak about ways to observe the eclipse. Also speaking will be Massachusetts-based science consultant Charles Fulco and professor Tyler Nordgren of the University of Redlands in California. Michael Kentrianakis, project manager of the American Astronomical Society‘s Eclipse 2017 Task Force, will be the discussant at the session, which will last from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 17.

Two citizen-science projects are among the activities that will be described. Hugh Hudson and Laura Peticolas of the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Science Laboratory are heading a project to use thousands of images taken by members of the general public to provide an animation of variations in images over the 90 minutes that the moon’s shadow will take to cross the continental United States. In a separate citizen-science plan, Dr. Matt Penn of the National Solar Observatory is planning a Citizen Continental-America Telescope Eclipse Experiment (Citizen CATE) with 60 identical solar telescopes spaced across the path of totality to make an animation of highly calibrated identical images to show coronal dynamics.


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