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Act Now! Participation Workshops: Civics 101 In One Day Or Less

Back when civics classes were a regular part of the public school package, we learned not to take our democracy for granted, but there seemed little reason to take that notion to heart. Things are different now, and while we have been slapped awake and propelled into action, we find ourselves in need of coaching. What exactly are our rights, and how do we best make our voices heard?

Those who want a citizen’s refresher course can attend the Civic Participation Workshops at Berkshire Community College on Saturday, April 1. The Four Freedoms Coalition, in partnership with Berkshire Community College, is holding a day of free, non-partisan advocacy workshops, with a mission to boost the confidence of budding (and veteran) citizen activists.

The idea for the trainings came from Becky Meier, who works with adult learners in the English As A Second Language program at BCC’s South County campus. Inspired by other communities doing similar programs, she brought the idea to the Four Freedoms Coalition, an organization with which she was involved.

“Lots of people have become reenergized and politicized, on both ends of the political spectrum,” she says. “I kept hearing people say they were confused about what to do. They weren’t sure how to write letters, or they were hesitant about making phone calls. Some don’t know who their elected officials are. Something is holding people back. I realized we needed a basic civics course.”

Workshops will cover a range of topics: how to write a letter to the editor, call your legislator, use social media effectively, advocate on the local, state and national levels, and how to run for office (or help someone else to). Among the people running the workshops will be Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and local community activists Shirley Edgerton, Sherwood Guernsey and Megan Whilden. All are volunteering their time.

Meier stresses that this is a nonpartisan event. Everyone is welcome and can choose to stay for an hour or the day.

“Hopefully, this is just the beginning,” she says. “If it’s successful, we’ll see what people are interested in, and continue to do other workshops.”

For more information and to register, click here, or call Becky Meier at (518) 781-4866.

Civic Participation Workshops  
Saturday, April 1, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Berkshire Community College
1350 West St., Pittsfield, MA

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/19/17 at 12:41 PM • Permalink

Members with Benefits: The Rest Of The Region

By Jamie Larson

Last week we explored the benefits of becoming a member of some of the Berkshires’ cultural institutions. The rest of our region, Columbia County, Litchfield County and Northern Dutchess County, is likewise resplendent with arts organizations worth joining. So here, again, we enumerate a few more of the perks of patronage around the region. The list of membership benefits to follow, like last week’s, is exemplative rather than comprehensive to encourage you to get involved. If we could, we’d join them all.

The Hudson Opera House, recently renamed Henry Hudson Hall, is about to enter one of the most exciting chapters in its long and storied history with the completion of a massive renovation and restoration project. The performance hall will be officially unveiled to members and donors at the Proprietors Ball April 22. Becoming a Friend of the Opera House ($50-$1,000) entitles you to discounts and access to special events. 

Become a member of the Opera House’s new Proprietors Association to become even more immersed in the future of the reinvigorated venue. At the Bronze level ($1,500) members receive recognition, an invitation for two to the president’s cocktail party, two tickets to the Proprietors Ball and advance notice with patron priority seating to all special events and performances. The Silver level ($3,000) gets you six tickets to the ball, and the Gold level ($5,000) entitles you to a table for eight at the ball and a seat-naming opportunity in the restored performance hall. Platinum donors ($10,000+) receive a table for ten at the ball, two seat naming opportunities, their name on the wall in the Center Hall Gallery and the opportunity to host an opening night performance followed by a reception with the artist.

Frederic Church’s Olana has breathtaking views, amazing architecture, engaging programing and excellent parties. Basic membership ($50 for one, $75 for a family or $25 for students and teachers) comes with unlimited free admission to the main house and walking historic landscape tours, a 15-percent discount on purchases from the Olana Museum Store, free or discounted admission to most educational programs and invitations to exclusive members-only exhibition previews and events. Slightly higher but still very affordable levels ($125-$500) include discounted summer party tickets, increasing numbers of unlimited guest passes, invites and extra tickets to members-only events.

Court Hall Circle members ($1,000) also receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the main house and Frederic Church’s designed landscape for up to five guests. Those who join the Bell Tower Circle ($5,000) are offered a private sunset wine-and-cheese gathering at a “special location” at Olana for up to 12 guests. Who knows where the Bell Tower Circle’s special location might be?

PS21, like the Opera House, is undergoing some major facilities upgrades that will have a huge positive impact on programming. The new indoor-outdoor theater will allow the organization to operate year round while maintaining the summer feel to which audiences are accustomed. Members ($40 for individuals, $25 for students, $60 for couples and $100 for 4 friends) receive discounted ticket prices. A Sustainer ($500) gets all admissions at the member price. A Samaritan ($1,000) also gets priority seating and the ability to sponsor specific events. Donors at the Sponsor level ($2,500) receive two full season passes and a discount on facility rentals.

The Spencertown Academy’s programing would be well worth supporting on its own, but the Academy also hosts one of our favorite literary events of the year, the three-day Festival of Books. Memberships are extremely affordable (student $20, individual $45, couple $80, household $100). Donors receive discounted tickets to Academy-produced programs, the opportunity to participate in an annual members-only art exhibit and an array of season-specific special members’ promos at annual events.

Basilica Hudson’s donor benefits reflect the spirit of the venue’s eclectic programming, focusing around the 24-Hour Drone event. Underwriting an hour of the Drone ($100) includes 1 ticket and a free coffee. Underwrite an artist performance ($250) and get 2 tickets, a free Drone survival kit and lots of coffee. Underwrite an ensemble’s performance ($500) and also receive a limited edition 24-Hour Drone poster designed by AJ Annunziata.

Additionally, make a gift of $500 or more to Basilica and they will engrave your name (or short phrase of your choice) on a plaque and affix it to one of the iconic hodgepodge of Hudson-made and salvaged chairs in the Basilica’s theater space.

The Fisher Center at Bard and its lineup of SummerScape programming and Spiegeltent events are a vital part of regional artistic life. Friends ($75) receive access to tickets before the general public, invitations to season previews and open house events, a 10-percent discount on Spiegeltent dining, a 20-percent discount on Fisher Center merchandise and the ability to reserve up to 4 complimentary tickets for the film series. Supporters ($150) are also welcome to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Fisher Center. Sponsors ($300) get invitations to opening night parties.

Subsequent membership levels see even more benefits before entering the Patron level ($1,500) where members receive access to the best seats and personalized ticket handling through the Patron Priority Line and access to the Bard Music Festival Patron’s Lounge at Olin Hall. At the Producer level ($2,500), you and a guest are invited to an exclusive pre-performance dinner, and at the Director level ($5,000) receive reserved VIP parking for all events at the Fisher Center and an invitation for two to an intimate dinner with a performer, creator or scholar.

Photo: Buck Lewis


The New York Stage and Film Festival at Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater is an audience member’s dream put on by an organization whose members include many of the stars and creators behind the work celebrated at the event. Joining the festival’s Producer’s Circle ($1,000 or above) invites you to join an informal group of active supporters, and makes you a part of the NYSAF community. Members have close contact with the artists and staff and get behind-the-scenes access to the organization.

All members ($100) of the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck are recognized by name in the lobby and receive a complimentary ticket. Become a Director ($250) and receive two comped tickets to any of the theater’s great productions. Producers ($500) are invited to the VIP opening night reception. Angels ($1,000+) receive four tickets and get to attend a rehearsal.

The Millerton Moviehouse shows a lot more than just blockbusters. On any given night you can catch the best of independent film, live theater broadcasts, gallery exhibitions, forums and more. Member support allows the Moviehouse the flexibility to support a wide range of expression. A Silver membership ($60 for individuals, $100 for dual) means $2 off movie tickets, 1 free movie ticket when joining (2 if dual), invitations to special member events, discounts at local shops and restaurants and reciprocal membership discounts at Art House theaters nationwide. At the Gold level ($100/$175) members get an additional free ticket per person and $5 off all special event tickets.

The Sharon Playhouse membership provides half of the organization’s funding, making membership at any level vital to their continued success. Become a Partner ($500) and you’re invited to all Mainstage opening night receptions. The Playhouse’s Angel Program ($1,000+) provides members with a complimentary cocktail before any Mainstage production, a pair of complimentary premium seats to a production of your choosing and access to “Angel-only” special events. Platinum Angels ($2,500) also receive an invitation to observe an hour of auditions in NYC or Connecticut and two premium seats to all Mainstage productions. Enter the Director’s Circle ($5,000) and you have premium seats at the Mainstage and Stage II plus two tickets to the annual Spotlight Gala and an invitation to attend the first rehearsal of a production of your choosing.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 03/13/17 at 08:52 AM • Permalink

Fulfill Your Role In The Arts: Become A Member

By Jamie Larson

Now, as you’re receiving seasonal brochures to the region’s arts organizations, is perhaps the best time of year to consider becoming more than just a visitor to these institutions. Consider membership. Your support is vital to the enduring legacy of the museums, theaters and sites that comprise regional culture, so they’ve designed membership benefits that offer more than just a tote bag. Most organizations have curated benefits packages that foster a community around the institution, turning audience members into contributors and, at some levels, even collaborators.

We’ve done the homework for you on some of benefits available to members at the Berkshire’s preeminent arts venues, and we encourage you to pick one (or more) to champion.

Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is the premiere performance space of our region. As such, the membership levels are significant, starting at Friend ($100), which includes the opportunity to order tickets early, a 10-percent discount at the Glass Houses and Symphony Shop, Talks & Walks advance registration, and discount admission for most Tanglewood Music Center Fellows’ recitals, chamber music performances, Festival of Contemporary Music performances and more.

In between Friend and the Koussevitzky Society Virtuoso membership level ($5,000) which includes all benefits plus an individually specific all-access experience, is a long list of benefits worth exploring. At the Advanced Ticket level ($500) you receive free admission for two to both Friends-only symphony working rehearsals. Join the Tent Club ($750) and receive dining privileges at the Tent and a season parking pass. Highwood Club members ($1,500) get additional donor-exclusive experiences and dining club privileges at Seranak (the former home of conductor Serge Koussevitsky) as well as a closer parking space. From there, higher levels of donation allow members to interact directly with musicians and even the opportunity to name a BSO Prelude concert performed during one BSO Shed performance.

MASS MoCA provides its individual members ($65) unlimited admission to the gallery as well as exhibition opening events, plus purchasing discounts at the museum shop, café and nearby Porches Inn. The dual/family memberships (starting at $95) cover admission for two and children under 18. The Contributor level ($200) grants all the same plus free admission to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The Director’s Forum level ($1,000) has a lot of value: you can bring four guests free to the museum and openings. Higher donation levels allow members to include even more friends and family in these and more museum activities for free, which seems an excellent way to not only support but expand the community around the unique museum. 

At The Clark Art Institute, an individual membership of just $65 gets you unlimited year-round admission, access to members-only exhibition previews and events, discounted tickets to concerts, films, public talks and other special events, as well as discounts at the museum store and café.

Higher levels of donation get members complimentary admission for increasing numbers of guests as well as invitations to events like the Clark Society dinner, events around and about exhibitions and the museum’s programming, and participation in the North American Reciprocal Museum program and the Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums.

For dance lovers, Jacob’s Pillow is as good as it gets. Memberships start at just $50 and already includes invitations to free members-only events. The acclaimed venue has many benefits that focus on providing personal connection to performances and performers. At the $250 level you get your first invitation to a Saturday evening cast party and higher levels mean more exclusive invites to to intimate Creative Residency showings ($500), all Saturday parties and personal guided tours ($1,000).

Members of the Ted Shawn Circle ($2,000 to $10,000) are invited to all Ted Shawn events, the annual Visionary Leaders event, a morning talk series with the director of preservation, and observation of select rehearsals. Those fortunate enough to be able to donate beyond $25,000 get to sponsor parties and an opening night performance as well as a number of select VIP perks. 

The Norman Rockwell Museum is a celebration of an icon who captured life in the present while looking forward to a better America. Membership to the museum begins at $50 and a family membership for two adults and four children is only $75. At the $150 level members get admission privileges to more than 800 North American Reciprocal Museums (NARM). Benefits at increasingly higher levels include two unlimited guest passes, special invitations to exclusive parties and learning opportunities, private collection tours and a lunch with the director or curator of the museum.

Berkshire Theatre Group members at the introductory level ($50) receive first option ticket purchase privileges with season announcements and a 20-percent discount on BTG gift items. Subsequent levels add complimentary tickets and theater tours. At the $1,000 membership level you’re invited to the President’s Circle Supper and receive a VIP parking pass for summer performances. The highest level ($10,000+) entitles you to dinner with the BTG board president, complimentary meals at Jane’s Café and other personalized benefits.

The Williamstown Theater Festival gives all members (starting at $50) priority ticket handling. Higher level “WTF Friends” memberships ($300) provide advanced access to tickets for Fellowship Projects. These are new works created by up-and-coming playwrights, directors and members of the WTF Non-Equity Company.

“WTF Friends with Benefits” ($600) receive access to a donors-only lounge where they can mingle with Festival artists before all Main and Nikos Stage productions. Invitations to other events come with higher levels as well. “WTF Lovers” ($2,500) receive “guaranteed access to a pair of the best seats in the house for all Main and Nikos Stage productions,” ticket concierge service through the development office, an invitation for two to an exclusive WTF Lovers cocktail reception and other special events with Festival leadership and artists throughout the season. WTF also adds two free drinks per production. Donations surpassing $10,000 afford members personalized access to the Festival house seats and more.

Barrington Stage Company has an enthusiastic member base; their fun events bring folks together from all over. All members ($50+) are acknowledged in the season playbill and “Angel” members ($250) get 20-percent off in the lobby shop.

Starting at the Benefactor Level ($500+), members get complimentary passes to new play readings. At the Founders Society level ($1,995+), members receive season access to the Patron Lounge, personalized concierge assistance for priority seating, invitation to all summer Boyd-Quinson Mainstage opening night parties and complimentary scripts to all Mainstage shows. As donation levels increase, the benefits get even better and include guided backstage tours, meetings with the casts, complimentary combo passes, opportunities to attend rehearsals and much more.

The Berkshire Museum is as busy as any community center, and that’s really what it is. Basic membership, just $50 for an individual or $75 for dual/family, offers a general admission pass for a guest and free admission to science and technology centers worldwide. Supporters ($250) get additional guest passes plus invitations to exclusive events and travel opportunities. For $1,000, you join the Crane Society, which gets you behind-the-scenes access to the museum’s collections, unlimited free admission, season passes to the Little Cinema, a place at the annual Crane Society gathering with the executive director and other social events.

The Berkshire Botanical Garden offers unlimited access memberships that start at $50 for individuals, $30 for students and $100 for a family. Members also enjoy advance notice and member prices on classes, lectures, workshops and more. A $150 membership also comes with two guest passes. A $500 “Patron” gets an added escorted tour of the garden for up to 10 people and invitations to special receptions. Members who donate $1,000 or more join the Fence Club and receive all benefits and invitations to garden exhibition previews and special privileges at year-round Fence Club events. Additionally, that package promises a one-hour, on-site consultation with a member of the Garden’s horticultural staff.

Other Berkshires Cultural Organizations To Consider:
The Mount
Hancock Shaker Village
Shakespeare & Company

Next week: Cultural organizations in the rest of the Rural Intelligence region.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 03/06/17 at 10:04 AM • Permalink

Sylvia Center Cooks Up A Family Class at Valley Variety

Program Director Jenn So with young cooks in training.

By Jamie Larson

The Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook is an excellent example of how our regionally specific “farm to table” philosophy runs deeper than commerce and consumption. The programing provided on site at the farm during the growing season, and now to local children after school, is helping to expand the inclusivity and reach of the local farm and food community that many of us have come to take for granted. 

The Center’s latest series of cooking classes brings kids and parents from Hudson, New York’s at-risk community, where food insecurity and lack of access to healthy options are serious and under-addressed issues, into the kitchen at Valley Variety for a free six-week course on how to prepare healthy meals and hone cooking skills.

Jenn So, who leads the classes and is the Sylvia Center’s director of programs, says the classes are a welcome expansion of their mission that, along with their after-school programs in the Hudson City School District, is funded through a generous grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

“Kids are picky eaters, so we create an environment where we expose kids to what hasn’t worked for them in the past,” says So. “The veggie mac and cheese is one the kids really like. It’s not just the veggies but the addition of a freshly made sauce, too. They see what goes into it. Also, because the class is six weeks, the kids really become confident in their skills.”

The parents say they’re picking up some useful new skills and recipes but are also just pleased to see their kids so engaged and eager to cook.

“She’s really been enjoying the new types of food we’ve been making,” father and EMT William Mackey says of his daughter, as she busily stirs the batter for banana chocolate chip muffins. “We’ve already started eating healthier at home. This makes me much more aware of our options and we’ve learned some new techniques.”

Another aspect So says is rewarding about the Wednesday night class is how it brings together the two halves of the Hudson community that is so dramatically and visibly segregated along racial and economic lines.

“We all know about the gentrification of Hudson,” So says. “One thing that’s special about this class is that, with Valley Variety hosting, it’s a great opportunity for a community that has been displaced to feel comfortable in a space they might not have otherwise.”

The plain truth is that seeing a group of families of color casually enjoying themselves in one of Hudson’s many high-end stores is, unfortunately, anomalous.

“It was always a part of the idea to use the space with the community,” saysd Valley Variety owner Chuck Rosenthal, who’s hosting the classes for free. “So when the Sylvia Center approached us, it was a natural fit.”

The Sylvia Center’s on-farm programing won’t get rolling until the plants get growing in the summer time, but their website offers some great examples of their programs worth checking out or donating to. And So says they’re always looking for volunteers.

The Center’s work supports a rich connection between community and agriculture in ways that are deep, making foundational connections that, if the kids at Valley Variety are any indication, will last a long, long time.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 02/21/17 at 08:11 AM • Permalink

Ten 10x10 Activities You Should Consider

There’s really only one thing that’s not a ten about Pittsfield’s 10x10 Festival: this is the sixth year it’s been supplying locals with reasons to get out on a winter afternoon or evening. Taking our cue from the theme, we’re highlighting ten of the many performances, exhibits, fitness and other activities that bring light and fun to the area from February 16-26. The festival is organized by The City of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development.

1. 10x10 New Play Festival at Barrington Stage Company Ten 10-minute plays by 10 different playwrights. Feb. 16–March 5.

2. Chair-ity Auction at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge Ten local artists have used their creative genius to recycle chairs no longer being used at the lounge. Bid on the chairs via a silent auction, with proceeds going to the Pittsfield Education Foundation. The public is invited to a reception for the artists on Feb. 17 from 5-8 p.m.

3. BIFF 10 Best of Fest Shorts at Beacon Cinema The Berkshire International Film Festival, in collaboration with the Beacon Cinema, presents some of the best shorts from the annual Festival. Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. & Feb. 19 at 2:30 p.m. Free.

4. WordXWord’s 10 New Voices at Berkshire Museum WordXWord introduces 10 fresh new voices in a fast-paced program of poetry and spoken word. Feb. 20, 7 p.m. Free.

5. 10x10 Yoga at Berkshire Yoga, Dance & Fitness Explore 10 poses to relieve stress. All levels welcome. Feb. 22, noon-1 p.m. Free.

6. 10 Minutes of Fireworks at the First Street Common Feb. 25, 5:45-6 p.m.

7. 10 Spot: 10 Photographs by 10 Artists Now–Feb. 25 at The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts; now through March 20 at Sohn Fine Art Gallery in Lenox.

8. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Presents Dance for Social Justice at the Boys & Girls Club Danza Organica of Boston leads a Dance for Social Justice Movement Workshop for all ages, followed by a lecture/demonstration performance. Feb. 24, 4-5:30 p.m. workshop; 6-7 p.m. performance.

9. 10 Flavors of Jazz at Flavours of Malaysia Berkshires Jazz presents The Matt DeChamplain Trio, with vocalist Alta De Champlain, performing 10 styles (or “flavors”) of jazz. Feb. 25, 8 p.m.

10. Berkshire Art Association’s Real Art Party at Berkshire Museum Artists from the Berkshires and beyond contribute 10x10-inch original work to be given away for $25 each. Feb. 23, preview party (free) at 6 p.m., auction begins at 7 p.m.

10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival in Downtown Pittsfield, MA
Feb. 16-26, 2017

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/14/17 at 11:09 AM • Permalink

Hudson Sock Auction Brings Warmth At A Cold Time

By Jamie Larson

It’s hard these days, for Americans with the capacity for empathy, to know how to prioritize our not inexhaustible philanthropic energies and resources, beset as we are, on all fronts now, by animus and woe. When the whole nation seems to be falling quickly into a long cold darkness, how does one choose which piece of limited kindling would do the most good if lit first?

Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling anyway. So color me surprised when I found a supremely worthy cause in the form of the upcoming Hudson Neighborhood Knitters Sock Auction. The event, to be held Saturday, Feb. 18 at Verdigris Tea and Chocolate in Hudson (where the group meets to stitch and crochet regularly) will auction off dozens of handmade socks stuffed with prizes, including a $100 bill. The proceeds from the sale of the footwear will go towards the pre-assured purchase of 500 pairs of high-quality thermal socks, distributed by the Hudson Salvation Army to local folks in need this increasingly difficult winter.

Socks have always been the number one item requested by the homeless, and the founder of Hudson Neighborhood Knitters Claudia Krisniski says being able to make a meaningful personal impact in the community while doing something they love (and would be doing anyway) shows that every little bit counts.

“Knitters love to give back,” says Krisniski, owner of the Country Wool shop. “We live in turbulent times. I grew up in the 60s and it feels the same now. People need to ground themselves and take care of their neighbors.”

The auction will be first and foremost a really fun event. There will be refreshments, a wine bar and music.

“When we display the socks there are also fun facts, including how many hours they took to make,” says Krisniski. “One pair took ten episodes of Gun Smoke.

The power of knitting as a symbol of charity and support was on full display recently during the national and international women’s marches when hand-knit pink “cat” hats were imbued with a powerful meaning. When the opposition seems insurmountably monolithic, symbols become more important than ever. There will be a pair of pink socks with a set of cat ears up for auction.

“We have to take care of our neighbors now. I hope we will be fine,” says Krisniski, who supplied a lot of pink yarn through Country Wool for those revolutionary hats. “If we look out for each other locally, hopefully we can get through what the administration throws our way.”

Professional auctioneer Rupert Fennell has volunteered his time to auction off the socks. There will be at least 25 pairs up for grabs; they include some extremely intricate styles and designs for men, women and children. A few pairs are already on display at Verdigris, so if you didn’t already have an excuse to go there this week, you’re welcome.

“The knitters have always been a joy to have at Verdigris. They brighten up my day whenever they meet,” says Verdigris owner Kim Bach. “This is a great way to help the homeless and I think the plan is to do this every year. So far, the socks that we’re displaying are incredible. They are each really different and so many people are participating. It’s really impressive.”

Indeed. Knitting a gift of support, whether it’s pink hats for women’s rights, blankets for troops abroad or socks for the homeless, takes an implicit dedication of time, thought and care. It’s something hard to define about tradition, warmth, home and compassion. It seems more difficult each day to decode why we all must struggle so and what on earth we can do to help each other but I can tell you one thing I know that helps; socks. Socks help.

Hudson Neighborhood Knitters Sock Auction
Saturday, Feb. 18, 7-9 p.m.
Vedigris Tea and Chocolate Bar
135 Warren St., Hudson, NY

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 01/30/17 at 09:24 AM • Permalink

Eye Candy Close To Home: A Social Media Guide

By Nichole Dupont

Cutting the junk out of your diet is a staple for New Year success (or so we all think). But before you hop off the social media train and vow never to “waste time” on Instagram again, maybe you should take a look at these eye-catching, clever sites from the Rural Intelligence region that cover the gamut; food, fashion, photography, even a little bit of philosophy. Artists, business owners and foodies are becoming (or have already become) connoisseurs of the quip, offering up tidbits of whimsy that could very well spark a kitchen remodel…or a tart…or a trip to the library. Call it politics-free browsing, with purpose.

Let’s begin with the creature comforts. Or, the only comfort. Despite the snarky memes about not posting what you’re having for dinner, we love pictures of food. And anything eats related. Harney & Sons Tea out of Millerton, New York has a gorgeous website, complete with blog and gallery pics, which will immediately inspire you to get out your only tray and serve up some biscuits and tea. A heartier, vegan feast for the eyes is found at the Zen-esque Instagram home of Elixir, a vegan café in Great Barrington, Mass. Morning light streams across a bowl of porridge stocked with pecans, pepitas and bananas, and you can’t help but want to recreate that healing fare for yourself.

Another food porn site — this one veers more towards vintage decadence — is the Insta-home of Pleasant and Main Café in Housatonic, Mass. Serving stands are piled high with fat muffins and croissants and sweet crepes are dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and all of the food is set in charming seasonal vignettes.

If you want to do a little more than just look and drool, A Raisin and a Porpoise is a blog worth visiting. The witty (and deep) musings of Berkshire-based writer, mother and sheep farmer Janet Elsbach are combined with recipes.  From delicate glazed madeleines to nettle and potato hash, the recipes — dotted with great photos of Elsbach’s expressive critters — are the epitome of country comfort, right down to the tablecloth pattern. But always with a twist.

More country charm awaits at Made in Ghent, the cyber home of Little Ghent Farm, a work-in-progress, diversified family farm and deli outlet in Ghent, New York. Green springscapes, gem-colored preserves, and even a muddy swine or two seem almost holy in their screen presence. (With such gorgeous photos, it comes as no surprise that co-owner Richard Beaven is a professional photographer.)

Speaking of piggies, Raven and Boar, a small Chatham, New York pig, poultry and produce farm, boasts a gorgeous gallery of everything that is essential and romantic about life on the farm. The irony of life is captured while scrolling through pictures of fat, whiskered pigs and thickly marbled cuts of meat. And it’s beautiful.

Real Estate
Everybody loves a good kitchen. Or bathtub. Or even balustrade (yeah, I wrote that). And we are all guilty of perusing and sighing over local real estate guides, poring over grainy pics of lakes and cathedral ceilings. Why not enjoy the view in color? is “living” website of real estate — including vacation and rental properties — on both sides of the Hudson River. The site is curated and provides new content daily. One can easily get lost in thought looking at enchanted cottages and lacy Victorians, many of which are affordable and just within reach.

A crazy-decadent real estate experience can be found on the William Pitt Sotheby’s Instagram home for Connecticut and Massachusetts. Style-drenched images of airy farmhouse kitchens, hidden gardens, and sophisticated libraries have provided this writer an escape from waiting room doldrums.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t toot our own horn when it comes to real estate; Rural Intelligence features real estate listings of some of the region’s most outstanding properties every week in our Real Estate pages. Just so you know.

The Stage
Sometimes a little snippet of performance is all that’s needed to get the creative juices flowing (or to inspire you to finally buy that season stage pass). If you have an hour, or several hours as will probably be the case, check out the mother lode of recorded performances and vintage photographs at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival archives page. The archives pay homage to many of the dancers who have graced the Pillow stage (including Mikhail Baryshnikov, whom yours truly got to see when she was 16 years old, total fangirl). Of course, founder Ted Shawn and the Men Dancers play predominantly in the mass content of the archives.

Old black and whites of gorgeous dancers find kinship with the nostalgic images put out by the Hudson Opera House (located on Warren Street). A collage of images include the long road of that building’s renovation as well as rich color shots of current exhibitions and performances and sepia-stained ephemera.

Art and Photography
Arguably, everything on social media (especially Instagram) is art. I’ll leave that to you and your tiny Polaroid carrying friends to suss that out, but in the meantime, real beautiful work is showing up on Imgrum from the likes of the very young, very talented Jake Borden, a Berkshires-based camera fella and assistant to NatGeo photographer John Stanmeyer. Borden boasts an Instagram account — jakebordenphoto — of gritty, haunting portraits and landscapes. Also in the photography frame is fashion designer Adam Lippes, who will occasionally post from his weekend getaway in Monterey, Mass., but mostly the page is suffused with gorgeous settings and stunning models in Lippes’ designs.
Artist and designer Ali Herrmann floods her Instagram account with bright bespoke images of her work. The mostly heavy-duty encaustic and oil paintings are available on Etsy as well, should the screen on your phone not suffice.

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Posted by Nichole on 01/03/17 at 06:31 AM • Permalink

Your Holiday Guide: What To Do When Cabin Fever Strikes

It’s a time for list checking, so we’ve compiled one for you to make things easier when relatives or friends are visiting for the holidays and you want to (let’s be honest) get them out of the house for a few hours. Or maybe you have time to attend one of these events at last. The Rural Intelligence region is full of places and performances imbued with the holiday spirit. Which get your check mark?

Holiday Markets

Dec. 17, Great Barrington Berkshire Grown Holiday Farmers’ Market Local vegetables, apples, cheeses, meats, bread and crafts. Plus music, food and fun for kids. Monument Valley Middle School, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Dec. 18, Williamstown Berkshire Grown Holiday Farmers’ Market Local vegetables, apples, cheeses, meats, bread and crafts. Plus music, food and fun for kids. Williams College Towne Field House, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Dining Specials

December 15, Lee Chez Nous Manger! Boire! Eat! Drink! Discover Moldovan cuisine and wines, including traditional dishes such as layered vegetable and salmon salad; beef stew “Fripturica de vaca;” and crepe and cherry cake shaped like a hat. Reservations recommended. 6:30 p.m.

December 22, Lee Chez Nous Manger! Boire! Eat! Drink! A special holiday extravaganza menu, featuring a mushroom souffle, mushroom stuffed filet of Arctic char, and a very French creamy apple tart. Reservations recommended. 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 23 – 30, Lenox Table Six A special holiday week dinner includes warm “turkey stuffing” spoon bread, coq au vin and beef bourguignon and gingerbread cheesecake.

Take the Kids

December 17 & 18, North Adams Berkshire Scenic Railway Christmas Themed Family Train Rides: Take a one-hour, round-trip journey on the Tinseliner while enjoying 1950’s holiday music. Santa Claus will join the crew to visit with each family on the ride back. The train will make a stop for anyone wishing to purchase a Christmas tree from the nonprofit PopCares.

Holiday House Tours

Dec. 17 & 18; Dec. 26 & 27  Wilderstein Historic Site, Rhinebeck. Italianate villa of the Suckley family, including its last resident, Margaret (Daisy) Suckley, cousin and confidante of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Regular Tour Season: Thursdays through Sundays from May – October. See website for special events and holiday happenings. Holiday House Tours from 1–4 p.m.

Dec. 18, Germantown Clermont Christmas at Clermont Open House: Free admission to explore the decorated mansion at your leisure, with docents available to answer questions in each room. Cider and cookies will be available in the visitor’s center. 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Dec. 29 & 30, Pittsfield Candlelight and Chocolate Tour at Arrowhead Experience the house as the Melvilles lived it, then enjoy a cider and chocolate reception. Tours at 7 p.m., $25. Reservations necessary.


Dec, 15-18, Lenox It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play The beloved holiday production returns to Shakespeare & Company, with its live sound effects and rapid character changes. Follow George Bailey as he discovers the value of this wonderful life, guided by “angel, second-class” Clarence, on his own quest to earn his wings. Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Lenox.

Dec. 17, Spencertown Grant and Twain Stephen Lang (Avatar) stars as Ulysses S. Grant in this reading of a new play by Elizabeth Diggs. Held at (and a benefit for) The Spencertown Academy Arts Center, 4 p.m.

Dec. 18, Hudson Hedda Lettuce Holiday Spectacular Six-time “Drag Queen of the Year” award-winner Hedda Lettuce’s annual holiday cabaret, “Lettuce Rejoice!,” includes such favorites as “Here Comes Tranny Clause,” “Do You Hear What I Hear” rendered as “Do You Think That He’s Queer” and more. Helsinki Hudson, 7 p.m.

Now – Dec. 22, Pittsfield A Christmas Carol Celebrate the holidays with the whole family and revel in the joy and redemptive power of Christmas as told in the timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, the infamous miser who is shown the error of his ways and reformed by four spirits. Journey back to Victorian England and experience the classic story filled with carols and the wonderment of the season. Berkshire Theatre Group at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. Sensory-Friendly Performance: Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. (Photo by Travis G. Daly)

Dec. 23, Annandale-on-Hudson  Jazz darlings The Hot Sardines get into the big, brass-filled spirit of the season with “Holiday Stomp,” yuletide classics & lesser-known gems by Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald & more. Bard College Fisher Center, 8 p.m.

Dec. 31, Great Barrington Berkshire Bach Society presents Bach at New Year’s. The Berkshire Bach Ensemble, under the direction of harpsichordist Kenneth Cooper for the final time, will perform the Brandenburg Concerti – all six of them. Great Barrington, 6 p.m.

Galleries and Museums

Now - Dec. 31, Pittsfield Berkshire Museum Now Playing: Festival of Trees 2016, an annual exhibition featuring 100+ decorated trees reflecting this year’s movie theme.

Through March 19, North Adams MASS MoCA Nick Cave: Until, a massive immersive installation where the artist uses the museum’s football field-sized space to create his largest installation to date, made up of thousands of found objects and millions of beads, which will make viewers feel as if they have entered a rich sensory tapestry.

Now - May 29, Stockbridge Norman Rockwell Museum Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning, the first museum exhibition on the world’s most successful animation partnership, creators of The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs and many more.

As always, you can check for more upcoming events in our various “Intel” sections:
Dining Intelligence (Listings of Food and Drink Events & Restaurant Features)
Local Shopping Listings
Music & Dance Listings
Visual Arts Listings
Books Listings
Theater Listings
Local Movies Listings

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/12/16 at 01:44 PM • Permalink

Start A New Tradition This Thanksgiving Weekend

As you’re enjoying time with friends and family over the weekend, you might find yourself wondering what there is to do away from the dining room table. If getting a jump on holiday shopping is in your plans, then this Saturday, Nov. 26 is the perfect time. It’s Small Business Saturday, but you can “shop small” in our region on Friday and Sunday, too (and beyond) at local fairs, festivals and galleries. If you’d like a night out on the town, we’ve compiled a handful of concerts and performances for you. And our Play & Learn events are a fun way for kids and adults to share magical times together.

View & Shop:

Nov. 25 – 27, Spencertown Spencertown Academy Arts Center The Handmade Holiday Craft & Gift Show is a high-end curated sale of jewelry, quilts, cards, toys, scarves, ceramics, handmade books, art, ornaments, wreaths, edibles and more. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. 

Nov. 25 & 26, Kent Champagne Stroll A weekend of shopping, dining and champagne sipping. Sample 30 champagnes and sparkling wines at 30 shops. Special promotions and appetizers will be offered town-wide. 4-8 p.m.

Nov. 25 – 27, Hudson Basilica Farm + Flea This alternative to “Black Friday” will feature quality products from a diverse group of about 125 regional makers, farmers, chefs and vintage collectors. Fridays hours are 2-9 p.m., with a Black Friday Cocktail Soiree from 5–9 p.m. Saturday hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. & Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Nov. 25 – 27, Poughkeepsie Hudson Valley Art Market at Locust Grove. Shop for fine art and hand-crafted, fairly traded gifts created by Hudson Valley makers. Hours are 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday. While you’re there, sign up for a holiday house tour of the historic mansion, which will be festively decorated and feature a special exhibit from the museum collection — antique toys and games. Tours are Friday through Sunday beginning at 10:15 a.m., with the last tour leaving at 3:15 p.m.   

Nov. 25 – 27+, Gaylordsville The Christmas Shoppe at the Merwinsville Hotel. Stop by the historic 1843 hotel to revel in the holiday decorations and enjoy a complimentary hot chocolate while you shop for holiday gifts created by local artisans. Also available for purchase: baked goods, Christmas trees, wreaths and other items. The shop will also be open Dec. 2–4 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. with extended hours on Fridays until 7 p.m. 

Nov. 25+, Great Barrington L’Atelier Berkshires The Gift is this new gallery’s 1st annual small works exhibition, where you can find unique and handmade art for holiday gift-giving.

Nov. 25+, West Stockbridge Diana Felber Gallery The gallery’s first-ever Holiday Show will feature paintings, photography, sculpture, ceramics, fine woodwork, furniture, jewelry and other work by 25 different artists. Enjoy a 10-percent discount on everything in the store until Christmas. If you’re in town on Saturday night, stop by the gallery for live bossa nova music with Maya and Vitor from 7–9 p.m.

Nov. 25+, Lenox The Richmond-West Stockbridge Artist’s Guild announces its Holiday Fine Art Show, running from Nov. 25 – Dec. 10 at the Lenox Library’s Welles Gallery. The show will feature paintings, sculpture, pottery and other works by local artists, including many smaller paintings and unframed pieces. The show will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and stay open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday evenings. Attend the opening reception on Saturday, Nov. 26 from 2–5 p.m.

Nov. 25+, Washington Depot Washington Art Association The Holiday Gift Show will showcase unique gifts created by local fine artists and craftspeople, in a wide range of prices. Nov. 25 – Dec. 24.

Nov. 26 & 27+, Lagrangeville Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery The Annual Christmas Fair is your chance to shop the monastery’s organic artisanal vinegars which are the only ones produced in the Hudson Valley following an ancient method. There are currently eight vinegar varieties to choose from, including red wine, white wine, rosé, sherry and honey apple cider. Other products available at the fair include jams, tapenade, sauces, chutney, salsas, soups, dried culinary herbs, crèches from all over the world, Christmas cards and more. The fair continues the following weekend, Dec. 3 & 4. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Play & Learn:

Nov. 25, Millerton Black Friday Celebration The fun begins at 10 a.m. with a free screening of the holiday classic Home Alone, plus treats and giveaways, at The Moviehouse. The Farmers Market will run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Millerton Methodist Church, offering kids’ activities, crafts and face painting. The Northeast-Millerton Library will be handing out free books at Memorial Park from 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. At noon, enjoy free horse & carriage rides through the village. Mayor Martin Markonic will light the tree at 5 p.m., and the Parade of Lights begins at 5:30 p.m. Afterwards, come to the holiday party with Santa at the Firehouse. Stores will be serving cider, hot chocolate, wine and cookies all day.

Nov. 25–27+, North Adams Berkshire Scenic Railway Christmas Themed Family Train Rides: Take a one-hour, round-trip journey on the Tinseliner while enjoying 1950’s holiday music. Santa Claus will join the crew to visit with each family on the ride back. The train will make a stop for anyone wishing to purchase a Christmas tree from the nonprofit PopCares. Train rides will also be offered on Dec. 3 & 4, 10 & 11 and 17 & 18.

Nov. 25+, Kent Kent Gingerbread Festival starts Nov. 25 and continues through December. Maps to find the houses can be picked up at participating businesses in town. A fun scavenger hunt through town leads to a sweet reward.

Nov. 25, Red Hook Pack Walk Red Hook Public Library hosts its first Black Friday Pack Walk, a family-friendly alternative to shopping. Start at the library and travel through the village. The Dutchess SPCA will bring adoptable dogs and accept donations of items needed at the shelter. Participants are invited to bring their four-legged family members and walk with the group. 11 a.m.

Nov. 25 & 26, Pittsfield Herman Melville’s Arrowhead Candlelight and Chocolate Tour: Experience the house as the Melville family lived it, then enjoy a cider and chocolate reception where you can ask questions to your heart’s content. Reservations required. 7 p.m.

Nov. 25–27+, Rhinebeck Wilderstein Holiday House Tours Florists and designers transform the mansion into a magical holiday wonderland. Tours are self-guided, with a docent in each room to share information and answer questions. Enjoy complimentary hot mulled cider and cookies when you visit.

Nov. 25+, Staatsburg Staatsburgh Gilded Age Christmas The mansion re-opens for the holiday season with tours from 12-4 p.m. (Last entry at 3:30 p.m.) Experience Christmas, Gilded Age style, and be sure to stop by the museum shop, which is full of holiday gifts. Nov. 27 Holiday Whodunit This one-hour, interactive “history mystery” for children and families will take you back over 100 years. Interview the guests and servants (costumed interpreters) in order to solve the mystery. 1-4 p.m. (Last entry at 3:30 p.m.)

Nov. 26, Hudson Olana Beesewax Candle Making: Megan Denver from Hudson Valley Bee Supply will demonstrate the art of making rolled and dipped beeswax candles. 10 a.m.

Watch & Listen:

Nov. 25+, Ghent The Turn of the Scrooge The Ghent Playhouse’s traditional British-American holiday Panto is back with all the familiar characters – and maybe a few new ones – as The Pantaloons put a zany spin on A Christmas Carol.

Nov. 25–27, Egremont The Barn at The Egremont Village Inn The Lucky 5 jazz band will get your feet stomping on Friday beginning at 8 p.m. On Saturday at 8 p.m. (the bar opens at 5 p.m.), you can cut loose again with live music from The Corner Store Antiques. On Sunday, yodel your heart out during karaoke night starting at 7 p.m.

Nov. 25, Pittsfield The Colonial Theatre Rev Tor Band & Friends will perform The Last Waltz Live, an all-star re-creation of The Band’s classic concert film. They’ll be joined by a full horn section and a dozen local, regional and national artists for this special community event. 8 p.m.

Nov. 26, Great Barrington Berkshire Bach Society presents Frank Nemhauser conducting a Handel’s Messiah Sing with The Berkshire Bach Players. Bring your own score, or borrow one at the door. First Congregational Church at 4 p.m.

Nov. 26, Hudson Club Helsinki A performance by Woodstock soul-rock artist Simi Stone, who plays violin, guitar and percussion, boasts a versatile voice, and commands the stage like a latter-day Tina Turner. 9 p.m.

Nov. 26, Poughkeepsie HUNG With Care The holiday burlesque spectacular returns to the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center. This year’s show pays homage to the 12 Days of Xmas with a dozen festive (and feisty!) interpretations of the classic holiday carol performed by world-class burlesque stars. 8:30 p.m.

Nov. 26, Norfolk Infinity Hall Judy Collins, beloved folksinger, author and humanitarian, will perform songs from her impressive career that has spanned more than 50 years. 8 p.m. 

Nov. 27, Hudson Club Helsinki Wally’s Holiday Follies is a holiday-themed variety show featuring an all-star lineup of regional talent, including pianist Tony Kieraldo, country duo Oxbow Road, Helsinki open-mic co-hosts Cameron Melville and Ryder Cooley, and singer-comedian Heather Fisch, hosted by 87-year-old Walter V. Hughes. 6 p.m.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 11/22/16 at 01:12 PM • Permalink

Masterson and Davidson Have Stories To Tell

Photo by Deborah Lopez

By Jamie Larson

When well-known actors/directors Mary Stuart Masterson and Jeremy Davidson moved to northern Dutchess County three years ago, they found a comfortable family home and a community they enjoy. Then they found a trove of local stories they wanted to tell. Storyhorse Documentary Theater, now in its sophomore season, was started by the couple to tell those true stories, steeped in local culture.

Their latest dramatic reading, The Kept Private, delves into the all-too-true history and legacy of slavery and racism in the Hudson Valley. Written by Davidson and starring accomplished actors including Masterson, who is relinquishing directing duties for the first time to Carl Cofield, the performance will be staged November 10 through 13 in a barn at Brook No Evil Farm in Red Hook, where the piece’s main character rests in a small cemetery.

Professor Brian McAdoo, Davidson and Masterson meet in preperation for The Kept Private. Photo by Deborah Lopez.

Masterson (Fried Green Tomatos, Benny & Joon, The Cake Eaters, and a recent guest starring role on NCIS) and Davidson (Salt, Windtalkers, and an impressive list of recognizable TV roles) moved to the area after the arrival of their fourth child.

“We knew we wanted to raise our kids in a rural setting and we also needed to be within striking distance of NYC,” Masterson said, adding that they first tried living in Westchester County. “But we couldn’t hack the suburban life, mostly because we work from home and, ‘home’ has to have its own center rather than be the place where the bed is while everything else revolves around the city.”

“[Here]I knew I could grow vegetables, have enough space for everyone to spread out and good schools for the kids, but what I didn’t know was that Jeremy and I would be smack in the middle of a cultural, intellectual Eden. Surrounded by interesting people living deliberate and conscious lives in an exquisite setting, it seemed to evolve naturally that our work would grow out of this place in which we want to grow deep roots. “

Lieutenant Walter Patrice with a picture of one of his ancestors in Poughkeepsie.

Davidson said they fell in love with the area while visiting friends and knew instantly it was the place to finally make a permanent home.

“We’ve always kind of been gypsies,” he said. “Our work creates this sort of disconnected, transient life where you’re always moving and you’re surrounded, usually, by like-minded people. Here there are people busting their butts for a living and everyone has different and important stories.”

Though they’re still relatively new to the area, they say the style of life in the upper Hudson Valley suits them well. You can’t really blame other local celebrities for wanting to have some incognito time when they come home to the RI region, but Masterson and Davidson seem to have a compulsion for community activity. In addition to everything else, Masterson has been working with Stockade Works in Kingston to help pass legislation to increase the tax credit for upstate film makers from 30 to 40 percent. The bill recently passed the legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.

The barn at Brook No Evil Farm.

“Oh gosh,” Masterson said, thinking up a list of her regular haunts. “There are so many good places to eat! I love Cinnamon and Samuel’s in Rhinebeck, Mercato in Red Hook, and literally everywhere I’ve been in Tivoli. I love Poet’s Walk and Montgomery Place for gentle hikes. Hearty Roots, Sawkill and Westwind are farms that are nice to visit.”

Right now the couple are in crunch time, preparing for The Kept Private, opening only weeks after a successful run of their other show for the year, Good Dirt (based on the stories of local farmers and preformed at Bard’s Fisher Center in October). Davidson said the weight of the real lives behind these stories is what motivates him.

“When someone shares their story with you it’s a really courageous act,” Davidson said. “You hear the intimacy of their lives. I feel a responsibility to get it done right. These stories have some stakes involved. I know we’re not going to heal anything but we are having the conversation. Acknowledging that someone’s voice matters is really special.”

Susan Frazier, 1880.

The Kept Private was based on Professor Brian McAdoo’s Earth Science survey of African-American burial grounds in Rhinebeck, conversations about race in our community, historical documents, and the 1834 Revolutionary War pension application of a 93-year-old black farmer from Milan named Andrew Frazier. While Masterson usually directs, given the topic, they wanted to collaborate with artists of color, bringing on Cofield to guide the performances of the diverse cast and its designers. After the reading there will be an audience “talkback” with historians and Black Lives Matter activists to further contextualize the work.

“For the performance we wanted to weave together a tapestry of race and slavery. Doing it in a Dutch barn that contains that history is really relevant,” Davidson said. “But we knew this wasn’t just our story to tell.”

Storyhorse performances this season are even more deeply connected to a sense of place than last year’s. That connection feels like a testament to how fully Masterson and Davidson have opened themselves up to their new hometown. And it’s given them a chance to work together. It’s like a little mom and pop business…run by movie stars. One thing that’s really impressive about the pair is that they manage to make that seeming contradiction comfortably true.

“We love this work because it adds more meaning to our lives than it takes resources from our energy bank,” Masterson said. “I think we work very well together and complement each other’s strengths and weakness. We have always collaborated, so it is nothing new. It is just a progression for us.”

Storyhorse Documentary Theater
The Kept Private
The Barn at Brook No Evil Farm, Red Hook, NY
November 11 & 12 at 7:30 p.m.
$27.50 General, $10 Students
November 13 at 2 p.m.
Pay what you like

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 10/31/16 at 02:56 PM • Permalink