Methinks it shall be yet another fantastic year for the Valley’s own critically acclaimed professional Shakespeare company. Now in its 23rd year, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival has morale to spare as it launches its 2009 Eco-Comic Stimulus Season, featuring three special plays from the Swan of Avon: perennial favorite Much Ado About Nothing, the raucously funny Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), and the lesser-known Pericles.
“I’m really looking forward to doing Pericles,” admits festival Artistic Director Terrence O’Brien. “It’s a brilliant, unusual production. A lot of people will be seeing it for the first time. We always try to do something less known, to try to let the audience know that Shakespeare is fun, not dusty.” That edifying mission is part of what has made the HVSF so endearing to the thousands of patrons who flock to performances summer after summer in the unique, open-air tent theater perched upon the picturesque grounds of the historic Boscobel mansion in Garrison.
This year’s company — 12 professional actors, all HVSF veterans, and eight apprentices — opens the season June 20 with an encore production of last year’s wildly popular Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). While not technically by the Bard himself, the clever parody covers all 37 of his plays in 97 minutes, with only three actors. “It’s very funny,” promises O’Brien. “It’s one of the shows where people come back again, and bring friends.”
Much Ado About Nothing, one of Will’s best-known romantic comedies, opens June 27, and the action-packed adventure Pericles follows on July 4. All three productions run through September 6. Inside tip: buy tickets for June or July. “We’re usually sold out most of August,” warns O’Brien. So, pack a picnic to enjoy before the show (or order a premade dinner through the box office), and wander around the expansive lawn and formal gardens, where more than 600 rose bushes flower continuously from June through the fall. And while you’re planning your trip to the bonny banks of the Hudson, allow for some time to spend at Boscobel’s cozy new state-of-the-art exhibition gallery (complete with two fireplaces) on the mansion’s first floor. Last year’s opening exhibit was dubbed “a little treasure” by the New York Times. Their second major show, Home on the Hudson: Women and Men Painting Landscapes: 1825-1875, includes the work of several painters from the Hudson River School. Admission is just $5 for HVSF ticket holders.
Tues.-Sun. $29-$46. 845-265-9575; www.hvshakespeare.org
Photograph by Ken Gabrielson
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival founding Artistic Director Terrence O’Brien, an American Conservatory Theatre alum, first launched a modest outdoor production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1987 at Manitoga in Garrison. Twenty-two years later, he is still enchanting an ever-growing number of Shakespeare devotees in the Valley with his legendary freewheeling style. Here, he weighs in on his long run and the festival’s education program, which brings the Bard into the lives of approximately 18,000 kids a year.
You’ve been doing the festival for more than two decades. How have you changed in those years?
Well, I’m married and I have two kids, and I think that those kinds of things really affect your understanding of the world as well as the art form that you work in. When I did A Midsummer Night’s Dream the first time, I had an understanding of the play that I think was good for someone 33 years old. Then I did it again 10 years later, and just the fact that I had been around and seen that much more of the world gave me insight into the play that I hadn’t had before. I think I was probably more glib about Shakespeare early on. We started out as a company that was dedicated to making Shakespeare accessible to a broad audience. We held to the rigor of the language and the integrity of the plays, but we made them fun and identifiable. I still believe all those things, but I think in addition to that I’ve been very interested in raising the bar in terms of what it means to be a stage actor, what it means to do Shakespeare. There’s a way to do Shakespeare as if the play was written this year, as a brand-new script. I don’t think I ever thought that.
Do you miss the fact that you used to have a smaller production than you do now?
We used to live together as a company. Things in some ways were much simpler, even though we had no money — we were much younger, and we could live like that. But now, I guess it’s kind of bittersweet; I miss some of that esprit d’ corps. My job has gotten a lot more complicated. At the same time, I think it’s really important that we do what we can to serve our community. In order to do that we have to grow, and we have to raise enough money to support the effort. I guess it’s a metaphor for adulthood.
The whole company actually used to live together throughout the summer?
The season was much shorter, so in the very first years we would all meet in a van on Columbus Circle and take the drive upstate. We’d stay in a very large manor home that belonged to a friend of the festival. We’d stay there Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night and then come back to the city. As the company got larger and the season got longer, the benevolence of the people who were housing us got challenged a little bit. (Laughs.) Then we started housing the actors at a college.
Do you live still in Manhattan, or are you in the Valley?
We live in Manhattan, but a couple of years ago we also bought a house in Garrison. So the Garrison house is our kind of weekend house. My wife and I both have “real” jobs in New York.
Is your real job related to the theater as well?
No — gosh, no. I write software for law firms.
So this is your hobby?
I have two full-time jobs. I wish it were as simple as a hobby, especially in the last two years. Even during rehearsals, I work on my day off in order to keep things going.
In the very beginning did you ever think that the festival would grow as much as it has?
I don’t think I did. When you’re 30, you feel immortal. You don’t think of things in that way. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was the really profound impact that the festival would have on the community. We have a very, very loyal audience of around 30,000 people, many of whom have seen six or seven or eight seasons with us. They’ve developed relationships with actors — even though they’re not personal, they look forward to seeing certain company members. At the time, I don’t think I ever anticipated that it would grow into that.
By the end of the summer, are you completely tired of Shakespeare?
No, I feel very let down in September. When everybody takes off, I feel like ‘Oh, shoot — what do I do now?’ I miss it immediately.
Why do you love Shakespeare?
The writing is just so good — everyone always says the words, the words — but it’s the writing. When I go to another play by another author, the writing is never quite as powerful, never quite as rich as Shakespeare’s. As a theater person it’s far-reaching — you get to play gods, kings; people get to see things happen that they’d never want to see happen to themselves. You see things you’d never want to experience, but yet you can identify with them. He writes it in a way so that you can feel a part of it.
Is there any other particular type of theater you like?
I like all sorts of things. I’m currently working with a group of people I call the American Shakespeare Lab. We’re experimenting with an acting technique which is kind of an evolution of what we’re doing at HVSF. I’m trying to do Shakespeare so it has the spontaneity of a sporting event.
That sounds like a challenge.
It is, but we’re having a lot of fun.
Do you have any sense of where your freewheeling style came from?
It comes from a lot of different places. It comes from inside my head, and by extension from the people who I’ve hired that I find in some ways like-minded; and then partly because it suits the audience who comes up here. Their desire for an experience is very different than a desire for a theater experience in New York City; they haven’t come out of the subway and had to inhale their meal down and all that. They’ve had a chance to relax, and they’re open to it.
Tell me about the education program HVSF runs.
We have a couple of programs in the summer that are suited towards our schedule, one of which is an apprenticeship program that’s part of our acting company. It’s for college students — immediately post-baccalaureate, and last year we had a couple of master’s candidates. We try to do teacher training as well.
In the spring, we also take a production into schools and present it to large groups of students. We’ve toured about 40 schools, mostly in the Hudson Valley. This [past] year we did Macbeth. We do a 90-minute edited version that represents the whole play, and then actors do a Q&A program. We’re trying to make Shakespeare accessible to all ages without sacrificing integrity of material. Sometimes teaching artists will go into the schools in advance of the program to prepare students for the production.
What does the preparation look like?
We try to get the students actively involved, on their feet. We have the most success working with smaller groups of interested students, like those in drama programs. When we do something like Macbeth, the teaching artists will work with the students on two or three scenes, saying ‘You two guys get up and do this.’ Even for an hourlong play, just doing a one-minute scene changes the students’ understanding of the production, it changes the experience completely.
There’s always something surprising at Bard SummerScape, which celebrates dance, film, opera and a multitude of other arts
Photograph by Stephanie Berger
Classes may be over for the summer, but — as far as many Valley locals are concerned — things are just getting started on the Bard College campus. The seventh SummerScape season opens July 9 with Lucinda Childs’ Dance, kicking off seven weeks of diverse entertainment including opera, theater, film, dance, music, and of course, cabaret. Highlights of this year’s festivities include a full production of Meyerbeer’s opera Les Huguenots; “Politics, Theater, and Wagner,” a film festival inspired by the Bard Music Festival’s 2009 theme “Wagner and His World”; and Aeschylus’s epic trilogy of plays, Oresteia.
Also not to be missed is the triumphant return of the wildly popular Spiegeltent, Dutchess County’s favorite place for summer revelry. The handmade, mirrored Belgian theater tent — whose 2006 debut was the first in the United States — will host family events during the week and late-night dance parties on the weekends throughout the full seven weeks. Trapeze dangling, beer swilling, cabaret favorites the Wau Wau Sisters, and the eccentric Bindlestiff Family Cirkus are scheduled to return (buy tickets early as they sell out quickly). For more detailed schedule information, visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.
The sloping lawn at Bethel Woods makes it an ideal spot to catch a summer concert
Photograph courtesy of Bethel Woods
It’s been 40 years since Woodstock rocked the world, but don’t wait another 40 years to go see a concert at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the state-of-the-art performing arts center (equipped with a groovy outdoor amphitheatre) that now sits on the grounds of the 1969 event. Check out who’s coming to town this summer: Earth, Wind & Fire and Chicago (June 14); Bad Company and the Doobie Brothers (June 27); the New York Philharmonic (July 11); Tom Jones (July 27); Peter, Paul & Mary (July 31); the Original New York Doo Wopp Show (Aug. 1); Dave Matthews Band (Aug. 5); O.A.R. (Aug. 12); Loggins & Messina (Aug. 21); Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra with Arlo Guthrie (Aug. 22); B.B. King with Buddy Guy (Aug. 27); and Brad Paisley (Aug. 29).
In honor of the Woodstock festival’s historic anniversary, the Museum at Bethel Woods presents a special exhibition, Give Peace A Chance: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In For Peace. Forty years ago the iconic couple made a poignant call for world peace, spending eight days in bed at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel; the infamous protest was documented in full by photojournalist Gerry Deiter. Bethel’s special show features some of Deiter’s never-before-seen photographs, supplemented with text and interactive installations to further promote peace, love, and optimism.
For more information: www.bethelwoodscenter.org
The Maverick Concerts present first-class chamber music in a rustic concert hall built in 1916
Photograph by Dion Ogust
Since 1916, Maverick Concerts, the country’s oldest continuous summer chamber music festival, has been presenting the best of classical repertoire in an enchanted woodland setting in Woodstock. Far removed from the austere and formal settings in which the material was initially performed, these concerts in the hand-built 1916 Maverick Concert Hall offer a welcome departure from the expected. This year’s programming focuses on the work of Hungarians Joseph Haydn, Bela Bartok, and Johannes Brahms. It is Haydn’s bicentennial year, and his story is one for the times, according to Music Director Alexander Platt: “Haydn too survived his share of economic hardships in Hapsburg, Austria. But, like Duke Ellington, he always kept the band together — an inspiration for me, joining all our great volunteers in keeping Maverick going through thick and thin.”
The season features performances by the Tokyo String Quartet, the Janaki String Trio, violin virtuoso Timothy Fain, the Shanghai Quartet, the Maverick Chamber Players with pianist Frederic Chiu, and many others. Local folk favorites Mike and Ruthy Merenda, and Elizabeth Mitchell and Family also appear on the Concert Hall stage. And there are four Young People’s Concerts on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. For more detailed schedule information, visit www.maverickconcerts.org.
The Powerhouse Theatre celebrates its 25th anniversary this year
Photograph by Walter Garshagen
Looks like it’s a big year for Valley theater: Ellenville’s Shadowland turns 25, and so does Vassar College and New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater. Long admired for nurturing new works by both fledgling and established writers, actors, and directors, Powerhouse is celebrating its milestone with several special performances, such as a sneak preview of The Burnt Part Boys (July 17-26); a concert reading of Whisper House by acclaimed playwright Kyle Jarrow and featuring music by Tony winner Duncan Sheik (July 10-11); and the premiere of Valley native Keith Bunin’s Vera Laughed (July 22-Aug. 2).
Both The Burnt Part Boys and Vera Laughed will be presented in full on the Mainstage, and The Burnt Part Boys will officially premiere off-Broadway in 2010.
“It’s great producing the Bunin piece, because he’s from Poughkeepsie,” Producing Director Edward Cheetham says. Not only did Bunin — a successful playwright and writer on the award-winning HBO drama In Treatment — grow up in Poughkeepsie, he cut his professional writing teeth at Vassar. “When I was about 13 I took a summer film class at Vassar,” he recalls. “About 10 years later they hosted my first professional reading, of my play Principality of Sorrows. So it’s apropos for Vera Laughed to premiere here.” The play is about Russian writer Ivan Bunin, rumored to be a distant relative of Bunin’s. The first Russian to win a Nobel Prize in literature, Ivan Bunin lived the last several decades of his life as an exile in France, where he wrote only about Russia, in Russian, and so garnered little commercial success. “It’s a way to look at my heritage and family history,” says Keith Bunin, in more ways than one. It will be the first time Bunin has been home for a stretch since college.
Duncan Sheik, the co-creator of the Tony-winning musical Spring Awakening, returns to Powerhouse this summer with his latest collaboration, Whisper House. A haunted lighthouse musical written by Kyle Jarrow and directed by Keith Powell (30 Rock), Whisper House will enjoy a two-week developmental workshop culminating in a two-night concert reading. “The Powerhouse run has two goals,” explains Jarrow. “The first is to do revisions, working on improving the piece and making it work better. The other is — because it’s a musical — integrating the music and the text.” From the beginning, however, the piece was a collaboration. “Musicals often are,” says Jarrow. “You don’t usually have more than one writer on straight plays.” Though further production plans have yet to be disclosed, with three such accomplished bosses, Whisper House is surely destined for success.
For more detailed scheduling information, visit http://powerhouse.vassar.edu.
The Rhinebeck Grand National Super Meet showcases a huge collection of antique motorcycles
Photograph courtesy of Grand National Super Meet
Motorheads delight — the country’s largest antique motorcycle show and swap meet is back for its third year of death-defying demonstrations, international vendors, and unparalleled exhibitions. Last year the Super Meet brought over 10,000 visitors from around the world to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, but Meet Coordinator Tim Talleur is confident that number will increase by at least half this year.
To be considered an antique, a bike must be at least 35 years old, but many of the ones on display date back much further than that. In fact, one of the show’s biggest draws is the Motorcycle Timeline. Last year’s featured over 400 motorcycles (with another 150 on standby), the oldest dating back to 1896. The kicker? “Every bike in the timeline was in perfect working condition,” Talleur says. “No one has seen these bikes running before. They’ve seen them in books or pictures, but they’ve never heard them run.” The sheer number of pristine specimens even impressed a “shocked” curator from the Guggenheim, who approached Talleur. “They tried to have an exhibit and couldn’t find bikes for it,” he says.
But it’s not just the motorcycles that draw a crowd; the meet has joined forces with the Antique Truck Club of America and the fairground’s Century Museum Village and Collector’s Association, which hosts an Antique Machinery and Tractor Show. “Basically, if it’s old, leaks oil, and makes noise, we want it,” jokes Talleur.
The event is family-friendly in more ways than one. In addition to hosting the Dutchess County Sherriff’s Operation Safe Child, the meet welcomes back the Cody Ives Globe of Death. A mom ’n pop family ensemble of daredevils, the Ives defy physics as they ride motorcycles within steel balls as small as 16 feet and with as many as three riders. And the thrills don’t stop there: The California Hell Riders will be in attendance with their “Wall of Death,” a 24-foot-wide circular board track with vertical walls, modeled after the outlawed Motordomes of the early 20th century. “You can watch from the ledge as they ride 1930s Indians right up to the edge,” says Talleur. “You’ve got to see it.”
One-day pass $15, three-day pass $25, under 13 free; www.rhinebecknationalmeet.com
The Half Moon, a replica of Henry Hudson’s boat, takes center stage on River Day — and all summer — as the Hudson Valley celebrates its Quadricentennial
Photograph by Thomas Moore
Rumor has it that 2009 is the Hudson Valley’s Quadricentennial — and celebratory events have been taking place from Manhattan to Albany all year long. Summer is the perfect time to fete the anniversary’s shining star — the Hudson River — and River Day plans to do just that with its Great River Day Flotilla. The first Saturday in June serves as the official opening day, kicking off a week of festivities to honor 400 years of Hudson history.
The flotilla commences at the Statue of Liberty with the boat and yacht clubs of Manhattan and New York City being led up Henry Hudson’s historic river path by New York State heritage ships including the Onrust, a replica of a 1612 Dutch ship; Pete Seeger’s sloop Clearwater; the historic replica Half Moon; and the Beacon Sloop Club’s Woody Guthrie. The day ends in the Tarrytown and Nyack area. Over the next several days the flotilla continues along its way to Albany and Rensselaer, with overnight stops in Beacon/Newburgh (June 7-8), Poughkeepsie (June 9), Kingston (June 10), Athens (June 11), and Castleton (June 12). Throughout the week, special events will be held at various boat and yacht clubs, waterfront parks, and civic institutions as the flotilla journeys to Albany. For great views of the ships, check out our story on Riverside Dining, or visit www.exploreny400.com for more up-to-date information.
All seats at Ellenville’s award-winning Shadowland Theatre are within 25 feet of the stage
Photograph by Paul Cowell
It’s Shadowland’s birthday, but it’s Valley theatergoers who are getting the gift. Ellenville’s popular professional theater celebrates its 25th anniversary year with a star-studded summer lineup (and a season subscription costs less than one ticket to a Broadway show). “This season exemplifies the mission of the theater,” says Producing Artistic Director Brendan Burke. “It’s a nice balance of challenging, rarely done, and audience favorites.” Highlights include plays by two treasured Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwrights, Arthur Miller (The Price) and David Mamet (American Buffalo), and the directorial debut of Tony-nominated actor John Cariani.
“I’m most excited it’s our 25th year, which is an accomplishment for any small, not-for-profit theater, but especially in this economy. And we’re probably in the best shape we’ve ever been,” says Burke, adding that he is thrilled that both Orson Bean and Stephanie Zimbalist are set to star in The Price, which opened the season May 29. Zimbalist, best-known for her five-year turn as Laura Holt on NBC’s Remington Steele, holds theater in the highest regard. “Theater makes me better,” she says. “It sharpens your blades.” And The Price is, by every estimation, quite a whetstone. “It’s an odd play,” says Bean. Throughout his 50 years in show business, this veteran actor has appeared everywhere from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Broadway to How I Met Your Mother; he is most widely known as the long-standing panelist on To Tell the Truth. Despite the play’s seemingly heavy themes — reconciling the past and the ties that bind — Bean maintains it will get a lot of laughs. “At least it will when I do it, I’ll tell you that.”
Written and directed by John Cariani, Almost, Maine opens June 12. Renowned as the forensic tech Beck on Law & Order, Cariani has also appeared on Broadway as Motel the Tailor in Fiddler on the Roof, a role that garnered him a Tony nomination. This is his first foray into professional directing. Almost, Maine premiered at the Portland Stage Company in 2004 to critical acclaim, had a short run off-Broadway the following year, and is featured in New Playwrights: The Best New Plays of 2006. “It’s pretty thrilling,” Cariani admits of his work’s success. Set far from the coast in Almost, a mythical town in the deepest part of Maine, the romantic comedy paints a magical picture of people falling in and out of love over the course of one night.
The season continues with Gutenberg! The Musical! by Scott Brown and Anthony King (July 17-Aug. 9); Accomplice by Rupert Holmes (Aug. 14-Sept. 6); and closes in September with American Buffalo, a timely piece considered to be one of Mamet’s greatest (Burke will direct). The icing on the cake: Any unsold seats to Thursday and Friday performances go for whatever you can pay. Happy birthday to us!
Shows are Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. 845-647-5511 or www.shadowlandtheatre.org
July 23-Aug. 2, Middletown
The annual attractions at this 169-year-old fair include a demolition derby, a kids’ pageant, and America’s only railroad carnival. Check out the Web site for updates. 845-343-4826
July 24-26, Carmel
Crafts, food, livestock, and Civil War reenactments are part of the fun at this free fair. 845-278-6738
July 28-Aug. 2, New Paltz
The petting zoo, pig races, and baby contest are popular events every year, while this summer’s performance by the Oak Ridge Boys should keep the 122nd edition of the fair rocking. 845-255-1380
Aug. 25-30, Rhinebeck
This historic funfest — the second largest agricultural fair in the state — attracts half a million happy fans every season. This year, expect special performances by Air Supply, Jason Aldean, and a surprise star who will dance her way onto the stage. 845-876-4001
Sept. 2-7, Chatham
The last Valley fair of the season offers livestock, a rodeo, a fun beauty pageant, and country music superstar Jo Dee Messina. 518-758-1811