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Fairs & Festivals 2010

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Times are tough, no doubt about it. So it’s a good thing that here in the Hudson Valley our verdant green and sunny summers are chock full of interesting things to do, even on a tight budget. This year’s fairs and festivals pack a super punch — not only of star power, but eco-consciousness and community spirit. Take the family to the county fair, see Shakespeare on the starlit banks of the Hudson, catch Sting in concert, check out a huge collection of antique motorcycles, join in a West African drum circle — from Altamont to Katonah, you can spend every weekend until Labor Day having fun close to home.

Classical, etc.

It is only fitting that a region so steeped in history would offer fans of classical music such a rich and diverse array of performances to choose from. Whether you prefer opera, chamber, or jazz, the Valley has an experience waiting for you in time-honored places, from the nation’s prized military academy to the decadent grounds of a treasured estate.

The Caramoor International Music Festival (June 26-Aug. 11) has a dramatic and exciting season lined up, in celebration of their 65th year of presenting the best classical, opera, chamber, and world music on the historic grounds of Caramoor. Famed pianist Mitsuko Uchida opens the season June 26 with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27. “Bel Canto at Caramoor,” the critically acclaimed opera series, presents two semistaged performances: Bellini’s Norma, featuring the return of soprano Angela Meade, will be performed July 10 and 16; followed by Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan on July 24. Other season highlights: Russian piano virtuoso Vassily Primakov plays Chopin selections as part of the Chopin and Schumann Bicentennial Celebration; the program also features pianist Vladimir Feltsman, cellists Edward Arron and Alexis Pia Gerlach, Caramoor Director Michael Barrett, and Maestro Robert Spano of the Atlanta Symphony in his Caramoor debut. Also making a first appearance at Caramoor is the New Shoots Festival, which features bluegrass and traditional American roots music, including New Orleans legend Dr. John and the Lower 9-11. The festival’s eponymous chamber music program hosts the resident Jasper String Quartet, Jupiter String Quartet, and clarinetist Anthony McGill, among others. For something a little spicier, catch the Extreme Chamber Music series featuring 2 Foot Yard, ETHEL, and NPR’s Christopher O’Riley, or the popular Latin American music initiative Sonidos Latinos. The season closes with the Jazz Festival (Aug. 6-8), with larger-than-life performances by Chick Corea, Brad Shepik, and Cuban Chuchito Valdes’ Big Band, among others (www.caramoor.org).

caramoor festivalShock and awe: A stunning display of fireworks completes Caramoor’s July 4 musical celebration

Photograph by Gabe Palacio

aston magna

As part of its 2010 Summer Festival, Massachussetts-based Aston Magna (June 17-July 17) includes dates at Bard College’s Olin Auditorium. This early-music fest has made a name for itself by featuring performances of classical songs played on historically accurate period instruments. Friday concerts at Bard include The Virtuoso Violin: Bach’s Three Partitas for Solo Violin (June 18); Completely Mozart, featuring an oboe quartet and clarinet quintet (June 25); Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona (July 9); and a celebration of 17th-century female artist Artemisia Gentileschi, with music by Monteverdi, Marini, Frescobaldi, and others on July 16 (845-758-7425 or www.astonmagna.org).

shanghai quartetThe Shanghai Quartet

America’s oldest summer chamber music festival, Maverick Concerts (June 24-Sept. 5), is now in its 95th year, offering up a spectacular schedule of jazz, chamber, and world music in the woods above Woodstock. Once again, Music Director Alexander Platt has programmed a rich variety of old and new music, this year focusing on “The Romantic Generations: Barber, Schumann, and Chopin,” in honor of the composers’ centennial and bicentennial anniversaries, respectively. Among the many celebrated artists participating in A Salute to Samuel Barber at 100 are the Borromeo String Quartet, Imani Winds, and baritone Michael Chioldi. Performing in the summer’s standard chamber series are the Tokyo String Quartet (which kicks off the season on June 27), the Shanghai Quartet, the Miró Quartet, duo Opus Two, and Canadian violinist Lara St. John. “Woodstock Legends” concerts feature local folksinger Happy Traum, Indian flute master Steve Gorn, and jazz pianist Fred Hersch. A rare opportunity not to be missed this season is an open rehearsal on Aug. 29 with composer James Matheson, the Borromeo Quartet, and Judith Gordon as they prepare the world premiere of Matheson’s piano quintet (www.maverickconcerts.org).

military academy at west point hellcatsThe Hellcats of West Point

The United States Military Academy kicks off its Music Under the Stars (June 13-Sept. 4) summer concert series in West Point with The History of Jazz, presented by the academy’s Jazz Knights. Held in the historic outdoor Trophy Point Amphitheatre, the series’ concerts take place every Sunday through Labor Day, with a special Independence Day Celebration on Saturday, July 3. Although the academy boasts five ensembles, the summer schedule includes performances by just three: the Jazz Knights; the Hellcats, West Point’s bugle and drum corp; and the Concert Band. The season culminates with the traditional performance of the 1812 Overture on Sept. 4 (845-938-2617 or www.westpoint.edu/band).

 

shawn colvin at clearwater festivalGreen scene: Folk-pop singer Shawn Colvin is one of the top-shelf performers at this year’s Clearwater Festival

Music Festivals

If a trip to Bonnaroo is beyond the realm of possibilities for your wallet, you’ll be psyched to know you can get your folk and popular music fix without leaving the Valley. So don’t pack away your tie-dye once Mountain Jam is over — here are some other diverse and exciting musical happenings close to home.

It’s time once again for Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival (June 19-20) at Croton Point Park. In addition to performances by legendary founder Pete Seeger, headliners include Steve Earle, Shawn Colvin, Joan Osborne, and Buckwheat Zydeco. Also slated to appear are indie darlings and Valley natives the Felice Brothers and Revival favorites Toshi Reagon, Dog on Fleas, and the Walkabout Clearwater Chorus.

The country’s oldest music and environmental festival, Clearwater also features a World Dance Tent, where boogie inspiring performances by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, C.J. Chenier, Folklore Urbano and others will have you shaking your tail feather for the environment. True to the cause, the festival offers a Green Living Expo, river rides on the famed Clearwater and Mystic Whaler, storytellers, family-oriented entertainers, a juried craft show, and the interactive Circle of Song (www.clearwater.org).

Although it’s only five years young, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has had no problem hauling in the big guns for their 2010 season. This year’s schedule includes legends like Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band (June 26); Crosby, Stills, and Nash (Aug. 31); the Moody Blues (July 10); the New York Philharmonic (July 3); and Sting (July 30), who performs his greatest hits accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. Other big names set to appear include Santana (July 17), Dave Matthews Band with Amos Lee (July 13), Brooks and Dunn (June 27), O.A.R with Citizen Cope (Aug. 7), and Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon (Aug. 28). A special mini-fest, the Bethel Woods Bluegrass Jamboree (Aug. 22), brings in favorites like Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, the Travelin’ McCourys and Dan Tyminski, and Cherryholmes.

The Museum at Bethel Woods — which is dedicated to the history of the 1960s and the cultural implications of Woodstock (which took place on the same site that now holds the museum and arts center) — hosts a moving Vietnam War exhibit through July 11. Eddie Adams: Vietnam showcases the work of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, offering visitors an intimate glimpse at the war that defined an era (www.bethelwoodscenter.org).

Now in its 30th year, Altamont’s Old Songs Festival (June 25-27) offers festivalgoers what few fests do: the opportunity to learn from the performers, rather than just hear them. Saturday and Sunday evening performances present more than 80 old-time and world music artists ­— including Prince Edward Island fiddler Gadelle, Delta blues singer Eleanor Ellis, and West African drummer Fode Sissoko, among many others. Daytime programming includes upwards of 120 hands-on and interactive workshops. Franco-American old-time band Groovemama works with school-aged string players in the Great Groove Band, whose daily rehearsals culminate in a Sunday afternoon performance; kids can also join the Festival Jug Band, and learn to play a washboard or kazoo. Other festival highlights include a drum circle, contra dance, open jam sessions, and an open mic event. Camping passes are available (www.oldsongs.org).

If variety is the spice of life, then the Belleayre Music Festival (July 3-Sept. 4) is one very large spice rack — this summer’s program features everything from country legends like the Charlie Daniels Band (July 24), to Broadway diva Patti LuPone (July 10), to Rossini’s Cinderella (Aug. 28). Other highlights: “Red, White, and Bluegrass: Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder” (July 3); classic-rock icons America (Aug. 14); and New Orleans favorite, the Aaron Neville Quintet (Sept. 4). The Belleayre Festival Orchestra performs romantic classics including Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (July 17), and the Children’s Opera Theater offers a free afternoon performance of the Three Little Pigs on Aug. 29 (www.belleayremusic.org).

 
mountain jam music festival

Mountain Jam Music Festival

Hunter Mountain, June 4-6

In just six short years, WDST-Radio Woodstock’s Mountain Jam has grown from a one-day event with four performing groups to a three-day super fest with 50 musical acts. Last year’s event drew approximately 12,000 people each day — quite a substantial increase from the original 3,000 participants. And this year, festival founder Gary Chetkof anticipates similar attendance.

“Word on the street is it’s a very cool, diverse lineup,” Chetkof says of the festival’s 2010 program, for which he can largely take credit. “Booking a 50-act festival is kind of like being a chef — you have to have the right ingredients, the right variety, the right flavors.” This particular menu has something for every taste; there’s a well-rounded sampling of today’s music, from seasoned performers to up-and-comers, representing genres from blues to folk to Hassidic reggae pop.

» Flash back to Mountain Jam’s 40th anniversary

What has made Mountain Jam one of the year’s most anticipated festivals may be the same sort of cutting-edge musical style that has for years set WDST apart from the rest. “The radio station has always championed the emerging artist. But the reality of being in this business and trying to appeal to a wide audience — you have to present the emerging artist with the established,” explains Chetkof matter-of-factly. So in addition to such fresh talent as Company of Thieves, One eskimO, and the Avett Brothers, this year’s program includes heavy-hitters like Toots and the Maytals; festival partner Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule; Alison Krauss and Union Station; and Derek Trucks with his wife Susan Tedeschi. A special 70th birthday tribute to Levon Helm will feature such artists as Steve Earle, Jackie Greene, Ray LaMontagne, and Patterson and David Hood of Drive-By Truckers. And of course, homegrown talent is amply represented as well. “One of the reasons we went to 50 bands — there are so many great bands out there and so many locals, so we just added another stage,” says Chetkof. Among the Valley’s own are Simone Felice and his new project, The Duke and The King; Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams; 14-year-old blues guitar prodigy Mojo Myles Mancuso; and jam band IS.

It’s the Woodstock vibe: the right people, the right music. Everyone is really nice and kind. The music is just the catalyst for people to gather

With such a lineup, it’s no surprise that the festival draws a diverse crowd. “Mountain Jam attracts a really wide demographic group — 18- to 64-year-olds — all there for the same reason: the love of great music and the community aspect of spending a few days together away from the realities of their home life,” says Chetkof. He fondly recalls sneezing at the first festival — held in 2005 to commemorate WDST’s 25th anniversary — and having 12 people turn to say “bless you.” “It’s the Woodstock vibe: the right people, the right music. Everyone is really nice and kind. The music is just the catalyst for people to gather.”

And Mountain Jam certainly embraces that Woodstock spirit of peace, love, and good vibes. The festival’s Awareness Village provides concertgoers with all the familiar amenities of a three-day music fest while encouraging social, political, and environmental consciousness. “It’s the spiritual place of the festival,” says Chetkof. “It’s a more ecological, more socially conscious place.” In addition to an organic beer and wine garden, prayer altar, sculpture garden, and nighttime poi dancing, a number of services will be available in the village. Woodstock Wellness, for example, offers chiropractic, massage, and energy work. Local farmers will discuss organic farming techniques. Owners of solar generation companies talk about the benefits of installing solar panels on homes, and nonprofits such as Heads Up (which works to help people register to vote) will be on hand to provide information (www.mountainjam.com).

 

trisha brown dance groupSmooth moves: The Trisha Brown Dance Company kicks off the seven-week SummerScape festival at Bard College

Photograph by Julieta Cervantes

Performing Arts

The community that celebrates the arts together, stays together, right? These two community-based festivals inject the best of the performance arts right into the hearts of small Hudson Valley communities.  

PS/21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century (June 18-Sept. 3), Chatham’s own not-for-profit performing arts organization, is “Celebrating Our Town” with its fifth anniversary season. Held in a unique, strikingly modern outdoor amphitheatre tent, PS/21 provides locals with everything from movies to dance. The season kicks off June 18 with the first of six Friday Night Swing Dances. The popular Free Movie Tuesdays begin June 22, and continue for an extra week (through Aug. 31) showing such classics as The Gay Divorcée, Singin’ in the Rain, and White Nights. Main Street at the Tent Film Festival offers more free movie screenings; The Music Man, Groundhog Day, and Cinema Paradiso are among the scheduled “small-town” flicks. Beginning July 7, Walking the Dog Theater presents Thornton Wilder’s Our Town four nights a week through the end of the month. Dances for a Variable Population hosts a weeklong fitness class and performance workshop, which culminates in a live performance on Aug. 7. Other dance events include the Rubberbandance Group’s hip-hop, ballet, and modern fusion (Aug. 20-21); and the triumphant return of Parsons Dance (Aug. 27-28). One-day engagements feature Saugerties-based environmental theater troupe Arm of the Sea Mask and Puppet Theater and their epic City That Drinks the Mountain Sky (Aug. 29); a performance by the classical Walsh-Drucker-Cooper Trio (July 18); and the fifth annual double harpsichord Bach concert on July 11 (518-392-6121 or www.ps21chatham.org).

Hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “one of the most intellectually stimulating of all American summer festivals,” Bard SummerScape (July 8-Aug. 22) brings opera, theater, dance, music, and cabaret to Bard College’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Though SummerScape is fairly young (in its eighth year) compared to its muse, the world-renowned Bard Music Festival, the richness and caliber of its programming has earned it a comparable reputation. This year’s 21st Music Festival (Aug. 13-15, 20-22), “Berg and his World,” focuses on the life and times of Viennese composer Alban Berg through orchestral, choral, and chamber concerts, and various educational forums. The complementary seven-week SummerScape features such highlights as the first staged North American production of Franz Schreker’s opera The Distant Sound with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra; Austro-Hungarian playwright Ödön von Horváth’s play Judgment Day; the Trisha Brown Dance Company, which opens the festival; and the 2010 Film Series, “The Best of G.W. Pabst.” The ever-popular Belgian Spiegeltent will be back hosting daytime family programs, late night dancing, and an exciting array of cabaret — including the irreverent return of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the Wau Wau Sisters. This year you can catch WKZE Radio Archaeology deejay Raissa St. Pierre at the Spiegeltent hosting Thursday Night Live (with beloved SpiegelMaestro Nik Quaife), who brings in an eclectic mix of local and international musicians (845-758-6822 or www.fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape/2010).

two jews walk into a war... at shadowland theatreTesting faith: A scene from Two Jews Walk Into A War…, a featured work at Shadowland this summer

Shadowland Theatre

Ellenville, June 4-Oct. 3

After an epic 25th anniversary season, Shadowland Artistic Director Brendan Burke is feeling highly optimistic. “Despite the economy and our worst fears, we had our best year ever in 2009. I think we’ve found our audience,” he says. “The stories are very strong, the most interesting we’ve had in a few years.” Strong stories — and an auspicious reunion — should make for a vibrant season. Famed actor John Astin — best known for his role as Gomez Addams in the original TV series The Addams Family — returns to Shadowland to share the stage with Anthony Blaha in the play Guest Artist, under the direction of James Glossman. “One of the exciting things about this production is that I’ll be doing it with Blaha, a former student. This is a real thrill,” Astin enthuses. “I worked with Anthony under James’ direction last summer — it’s going to be delightful to get together with them again.”

Astin first came to Shadowland, at Glossman’s behest, in 2000 when he appeared in Bluff, an experience he remembers fondly. “A mutual friend gave Glossman my number; he called and asked me if I’d do Bluff. I told him I didn’t have time, but as the conversation went on I became more impressed with his creative spirit, his intelligence, his love of theater. As a result of that phone call, I said ‘I’ll read the script anyway and give you my opinion.’ I read it and loved it and decided to do it.” The rest is Shadowland Theatre history: Astin performed with Burke (who was working as an actor at that time), who made quite an impression. “I was one of those writing to the board to support the idea of Brendan leading the organization,” Astin admits. (Burke assumed the role of producing artistic director in 2005). “He’s a very talented guy, a regular impresario now. It’ll be a pleasure to work with him again.” Burke is also looking forward to Astin’s return, citing his Guest Artist role as “a wonderful tour-de-force for him.”

Astin is not only full of praise for his former costar, but for Blaha as well: “From what I’m given to understand, in the general area, Anthony has quite a fan club. He’ll have a long, successful career; he’s so versatile. I remember him coming to audition for the beginning acting class [at Johns Hopkins]; he was so quiet I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this kid to speak up.’ He did Marc Antony from Julius Caesar and knocked me out.” With such history and warm feelings among cast and crew, Guest Artist — which was written by actor Jeff Daniels and runs from June 25-July 18 — is a not-to-be missed production.

Faith and resilience is something Shadowland knows all about — over the past years Ellenville’s “little theater that could” has earned a place as one of the Valley’s hottest theater venues

In addition to Guest Artist, Shadowland presents the regional premiere of the audience friendly musical The Marvelous Wonderettes by Roger Bean (July 23-Aug. 15); Michael Hollinger’s zany theater noir Red Herring (Aug. 20-Sept. 12); and the New York premiere production of Yankee Tavern (Sept. 17-Oct. 3) by Steven Dietz. In this season finale (a comic thriller), a guy inherits a bar at Ground Zero, and with it a conspiracy-theorist barfly. “It’s very interesting,” says Burke. “It explores why we’re so apt to believe things we know aren’t true.”

The season kicks off June 4 with Seth Rozin’s Two Jews Walk into a War…, a production Burke is particularly excited about. “It’s a true story — the play takes place in 2006 — based on the last two Jews in Kabul, who are enemies; they don’t like anything about each other. But they occupy the same synagogue, and both believe in trying to revitalize it. It’s about faith and resilience.”

Faith and resilience is something Shadowland knows all about — over the past years Ellenville’s “little theater that could” has earned a place as one of the Valley’s hottest theater venues. And to show their appreciation for years of loyal audience support, they continue to make their work as accessible as possible, charging only $28 a ticket. “The value you get at our particular theater — the sets, the technical effects — is on par with anything on Broadway,” Burke insists. “And you don’t have traffic, tolls, parking, or the crazy expense of tickets” (845-647-5511 or www.shadowlandtheatre.org).

rhinebeck grand national super meetLet’s roll: Antique motorcycles are the main event at the Rhinebeck Grand National Super Meet, which also features vintage equipment and machinery

Rhinebeck Grand National Super Meet

June 11-13

Hold on to your Halcyon goggles: The world’s largest antique motorcycle show is rolling back into the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. The 2010 Rhinebeck Grand National Super Meet — presented by a coalition of six chapters of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) — will be the best yet, according to chairman Dan Henke. “This is a world-class exhibit,” Henke claims, likening this year’s format to popular West Coast Concours d’elegance like Pebble Beach or Half Moon Bay.

In previous years, the Super Meet’s biggest draw has been its Antique Motorcycle Timeline. Last year, the display included 412 antique bikes, all manufactured between 1890 and 1975 (the AMCA cut-off date). This year, “we’re shooting for 500 if we can,” Henke says. “It’s quite a range of motorcycles, handlebar-to-handlebar.” Also returning: the California Hell Riders and their Wall of Death, an authentic replica of a 1920s-style wooden motordrome — one of only three in the U.S. The track is but 14 feet high, 24 feet in diameter, and sits 90 degrees perpendicular to the ground, so that the three riders are, in fact, riding sideways. “It’s family entertainment — it’s full from when it opens in the morning to closing time,” says Henke of the gravity-defying show.

For the true gearhead, a full range of antique machinery will be on display, from the Mid-Hudson chapter of the Antique Truck Club of America, to the Rhinebeck Aerodrome, to the Strictly Vintage Hot Rod Club — the latter displays fully restored cars from the postwar era to the 1950s. Like the AMCA, Henke says the Hot Rod Club is “comprised of strictly vintage equipment, restored to authentic specifications, not modernized.” And of course a number of high-end vintage motorcycle clubs will also be present, including Brough Superior Motorcycles (à la Lawrence of Arabia), Morgan Three Wheelers, the 101 Indian Scout Club, and the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club. “It’s quite a show,” Henke offers. “A lot of us had Japanese motorcycles in the ’60s, so to see them all restored like they were when we were kids brings back a lot of memories for us baby boomers.”

An exciting addition to this year’s schedule is Mid-America Auction’s vintage motorcycle sale. “It’s their first time on the East Coast,” says Henke. “They’re bringing in people from all over the world, and will be auctioning off 100 to 125 high-end vintage motorcycles.” (The auction takes place June 12 in Building E.) Also new this year is the AMCA National Museum (recently relocated from Hershey, PA). Henke says the museum is slated to open to the public in the fall (518-622-8519 or www.rhinebecknationalmeet.com). 

powerhouse theater

Powerhouse Theater

Poughkeepsie, June 25-Aug.1

Vassar College and New York Stage and Film’s popular theater residency program is riding high after a successful 25th anniversary season last year. Unique in the scope of its programming — which largely focuses on the creation or development of new works — Powerhouse has made a name for itself by celebrating and nurturing the process, not just the finished product. Highlights this summer include the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley’s Pirate; and the return of playwright — and Poughkeepsie native — Keith Bunin (Vera Laughed), whose new play Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir will be one of three workshopped over the summer.

While Powerhouse has traditionally put on three full-scale mainstage productions, this year they are only doing two. “Last year was a big year for us,” explains Producing Artistic Director Ed Cheetham. “But it will be a good summer. Again, a lot of variety.” In addition to Shanley’s Pirate (which was read last season), the mainstage hosts a production of We Are Here from writer/actor Tracy Thorne. “It’s the first full-length production of a new play from a new writer — that’s exciting,” says Cheetham.

Those who were able to catch last year’s workshop of American Idiot from award-winning director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, Side Man) will be glad to hear that Mayer returns this year with a newly envisioned version of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. The musical, by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane, was originally produced in the ’60s and made into a movie starring Barbra Streisand in 1970. “I think what Michael is doing will be an interesting twist, with great music,” says Cheetham of the project, which will be produced by Spring Awakening’s Tom Hulce. “They’ve done bits and pieces over the years, but this is the first chance to really sit down and work with it. Michael’s been wanting to do this here since 2006. I think this will be an opportunity for them to take the idea they had and put it up in front of an audience, and figure out how it will play out.” On a Clear Day is one of two musical workshops scheduled. 

onstage at powerhouse theater

Other highlights include the Reading Festival, which features a new screenplay from actress Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein, Ira & Abby), and new plays from Patricia Wettig, Stephen Karam, Romulus Linney, and Richard Nelson, among others. Slated for workshop along with Bunin’s Sam Bendrix is Handball by playwright Seth Zvi Rosenfeld, and My Life With Men — and Other Animals by Maria Cassi and Patrick Pacheco. “[Cassi] is an Italian performance artist whom I’m very curious about,” Cheetham admits. “It will add a different little flair.”

The popular Apprentice Company will also be doing something a bit unusual: In addition to outdoor performances of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal, the company presents a one-night workshop production based on Walton Jones’ The 1940’s Radio Hour. Says Cheetham: “It will be like what we did with Hello! My Baby [in 2009] — a whole new piece from old music in the public domain” (845-437-5907 or www.powerhouse.vassar.edu).

 

hudson valley shakespeare festivalPhotograph by William Marsh

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

Garrison, June 15-Sept. 5

Fans know that, when it comes to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, you should expect the unexpected. If you’ve never been, then get thee hence to Garrison as fast as you can. This critically acclaimed program — which takes place outdoors on the breathtaking banks of the Hudson River at Boscobel — is guaranteed to expand the horizons of even the most well-read literati. This year, Artistic Director Terrence O’Brien and his professional cast present Shakespeare’s popular comedy The Taming of the Shrew (opening June 26); the lesser-known romance Troilus & Cressida (opening July 3); and The Bomb-itty of Errors (opening June 16), an award-winning hip hop adaptation of the Bard’s The Comedy of Errors.

periclesRichard Ercole in Pericles

“With the comedies, we have 10 shows we cycle through,” explains O’Brien. “It’s my third time through a production of Taming of the Shrew, and each time I have a different perspective. I’m 10 years older, my kids are 10 years older — I see things that I didn’t see before. And the same is true with our audience. Since many of them have been with us for years, they can see how the production differs. The linchpin of our history is the comedies we cut our teeth on; they’ve become the thing people look to us for. I feel like it’s our job as a company to do things less familiar, expand for the audience Shakespeare’s lesser-known works.” Pericles and Cymbeline are two such works that have been produced in recent seasons. Troilus & Cressida — which O’Brien says is a “really interesting drama that shares many similarities to Romeo & Juliet, except that Troilus and Cressida are in their 20s and more experienced” — promises to be as well-received.

Pushing the envelope even further is The Bomb-itty of Errors, which “is a remarkably accurate rendition, and very funny,” O’Brien says. Performed by only four actors and a deejay, this “ad-rap-tation” of Shakespeare’s most farcical comedy has already been produced off-Broadway and at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival. It was just a few seasons ago that the HVSF added a third play to its schedule; the slot usually is reserved for smaller, quirky adaptations like Bomb-itty. “Economically speaking, the fact that it has a small cast allows us to add a third play without going to the poorhouse,” says O’Brien. “And it’s good for us to do things that appeal to a younger audience, who then may come back and see other plays.”

hvsf tent

In addition to the opening of Troilus & Cressida, O’Brien looks forward to seeing his company in action once again. “I think I have a really interesting acting company. For the last few years I’ve worked with the same people. This year we’re adding three people we haven’t worked with before. It’s exciting to get a new infusion of ideas.” And as always, he is eager to see how audiences react to the program. “I just like seeing how people respond to what we’re doing. When people are relaxed they’ll say things about what they’ve seen in a really genuine way, and [the environment we create] is conducive to that.”

This year, the HVSF also takes part in a series at the Depot Theater in Garrison called In Process. “Company members will be doing readings and things off the main stage. It will give me, and the community, an opportunity to see familiar people do new things. And it gives us a chance to see how people respond to what we do,” enthuses O’Brien. Event information will be available on the organization’s Web site (845-265-9575).

 

County Fairs

Orange County Fair
Wallkill, July 21-Aug. 1

This southern Valley fair is the grandpa of the bunch, now in its 170th year. The ground’s Orange County Fair Speedway is the oldest continuously operated dirt track in the country and the epicenter of the fair’s activities. For up-to-date event information visit www.orangecountyfair.com.

Putnam County 4-H Fair
Carmel, July 23-25

This free fair brings a fun-filled weekend of cool crafts, grazing animals, and delicious food to the Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park. Visit www.cce.cornell.edu/putnam for more information.

Ulster County Fair
New Paltz, Aug. 3-8

No need to take out a second mortgage for a night of family fun. This fair’s $15 admission fee includes parking, all entertainment, and rides, too. And opening night is Carload Night, just $40 per car no matter how many you have crammed in there. There’s lots to do for the whole family including a petting zoo; Magic Circus; special senior’s entertainment; truck, pig, and horse pulls; a sheriff’s museum; live music, and much more. Find out more about the fair at www.ulstercountyfair.com.

Dutchess County Fair
Rhinebeck, Aug. 24-29

Though it remains dedicated to its roots as an agricultural fair, this Valley favorite — celebrating its 165th year — provides all the sticky treats, rides, games, and exhibits a person could want. Fair features include the Antiques Museum Village; the Northern Dutchess Rod & Gun Club Wildlife Exhibit; arts and crafts; endless concessions; a new environmental initiative, the Green Tent; livestock showing and racing; grandstand music performances; horse shows; and a new Memorial Garden in the Horticulture Center. Read more about the festivities at www.dutchessfair.com.

Columbia County Fair
Chatham, Sept. 1-6

In addition to more than 175 exhibits, rides, livestock, and a 1964 musical tribute, this year’s Columbia County Fair will host special events such as Columbia County Bounty, a showcase of the county’s varied farming communities; the Bounty Cooking Contest, offering $1,000 to the amateur or professional chef who makes the most delectable locally sourced dish; and both watermelon and blueberry pie-eating contests. Visit www.columbiafair.com for more information.

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