Valley denizen Natalie Merchant has two gigs in her own backyard this month. The singer-songwriter began her career as a college student, when she joined the alt-rock band 10,000 Maniacs in the early ’80s. In 1993, she launched a solo career with Tigerlilly, her five-times platinum album that contained the hit singles “Carnival” and “Jealousy.” Released in May, her brand-new self-titled record — her first album of original songs in 13 years — was described by the New York Times as “a set of dark, brave, thoughtful and serenely startling songs.” The songstress kicks off a national tour in support of her new LP on July 3 at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (8 p.m. $55-$75. 601 Broadway, Kingston, 845-339-6088, www.upac.org), then heads south for a July 19 show at Tarrytown Music Hall (8 p.m. $58-$118. 13 Main St., Tarrytown, 877-840-0457, www.tarrytownmusichall.org).
PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century, Columbia County’s summer arts fest, offers everything from live theater to films, jazz concerts to community sings. This season, dance takes center stage, as the inaugural Chatham Dance Festival gets underway in August. July’s highlights include ventriloquist Steve Charney and his chum “Harry” (July 18), a concert of music by 17th-century composer Henry Purcell (July 19-20), and the Actors’ Ensemble production of two short plays about life on the prairie at the turn of the 20th century (July 25-26). Performances continue through Sept. 6. Call or visit Web site for complete schedule and ticket information. 2980 Rte. 66, Chatham, 518-392-6121. www.ps21chatham.org
The Powerhouse Theater season shifts into high gear — and as usual, there are big names all over the playbill. For example, Josh Radnor (of TV’s popular How I Met Your Mother) stars in The Babylon Line, Richard Greenberg’s story of a bohemian writing teacher and a group of (apparently) straight-laced Long Islanders (through July 6). The ensemble cast for the musical In Your Arms (July 5-13) features Tony winner Robert Morse; John Patrick Shanley (of Doubt fame) writes and directs The Danish Widow, a Hitchcock-like mystery (July 16-27). And Ripcord, part of the reading festival (July 25-27), is directed by David Hyde Pierce (TV’s Frasier, Broadway’s Spamalot). Call or visit Web site for complete schedule and ticket information. Vassar College. 124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie, 845-437-5907. http://powerhouse.vassar.edu
The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival celebrates two birthdays this summer: The popular outdoor theater troupe is back for its 28th season, while its namesake muse turns 450 years young. The lineup assembled by new artistic director Davis McCallum features a Shakespearean tragedy (the oft-performed Othello) and a comedy (Two Gentlemen of Verona). And a third play not written by the Bard is also on the bill: The Liar, a 17th-century farce retooled by contemporary playwright David Ives, is this season’s offering. The three plays are performed in repertory in a state-of-the-art tent on the grounds of Boscobel, with drop-dead views of the Hudson as part of the scenery. Through Aug. 31. Call or visit Web site for complete schedule and ticket information. Rte. 9D, Garrison, 845-265-9575. www.hvshakespeare.org
Historians and art lovers alike will want to check out the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild’s latest exhibit. Works by painter Katharine L. McKenna can be viewed at the Walls of White Pines, the guild’s new exhibition space. Built in 1902, the building known as White Pines was the home of Ralph and Jane Whitehead, founders of Byrdcliffe — the famed art colony that first gave Woodstock its artsy reputation. A part-time local resident (she divides her time between Woodstock and the Western states), McKenna’s colorful landscapes light up the interior of this historic Arts and Crafts-style house — which is a work of art in itself. Sat.-Sun. 12-5 p.m. through July 27. 454 Upper Byrdcliffe Rd., Woodstock, 845-679-2079. www.byrdcliffe.org