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.

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