Fairs & Festivals 2010

From traditional county fairs and innovative theater performances to music of all types, these 20 local events help put the fun in summer


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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).

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