A Mercantile Matriarchy on a Main Street: The Women of Hudson’s 400 Block
By Jamie Larson
Zoom in on Hudson New York, with its eclectic diversity and history. Zoom in closer on Warren Street and its stylish economy of art, antiques, design, fashion, and culture. Now, get closer still. Focus on the 400 block and an interesting anomaly; the large majority of the businesses (more than two thirds) are owned and operated by gifted female entrepreneurs at the top of their game.
“What’s nice is that everyone on the block has become really tight,” says Tessy Keller, owner of TK Home and Garden, a shop with a large but refined selection of everything from furniture and table settings, to hip children’s toys and quality bath products. (Above, Keller works the TK counter.)
“[In this industry] I think women are fast growing, more adventurous and a lot more eager these days,” she says. “And here [the 400 block] we’re all relatively new. Three or four years ago this block was sort of dead.”
It’s certainly not dead anymore and the diversity in the types of women-owned businesses just on this one block is quite astounding. 403 Warren alone is home to the offices of Modern Farmer Magazine edited by CEO Ann Marie Gardner, Pilates Hudson, owned by Nicole Meadors, and Sadhana Yoga, which Sondra Loring directs.
Iconic Hudson brands call the 400 block home, as well. The international makeup company Face Stockholm run by mother-daughter team Gun Nowak and Martina Arfwidson occupiess the space at 401 Warren and the ever-popular bookstore/pub The Spotty Dog, owned by Kelley Drahushuk, resides in the historic old Evans firehouse at 440.
Of course, like all of Warren Street, the 400 block also is home to art, antiques and fashion boutiques offering items of the highest quality, from Danusia Jarecka’s Skalar Antiques, with its collection of museum-quality Mid-century modern European and American furniture and lighting, to Alex Dewez’s Harvy’s Counter, which displays Dewez’s curatorial eye for balance in its elegance, whimsy, and edge. (Above right; Jarecka in her shop.)
In this day and age, a coincidental concentration of women-owned storefronts on a single block of a small-business-rich municipality shouldn’t shock anyone but, upon closer inspection, these shops really stand out. There’s a reason these successful women chose Hudson and it’s closely linked to the reason their stores have earned our respect and patronage. It’s all about quality.
“I’m attracted to excellence in quality, originality, and materials,” says Culture+Commerce Project owner Sherry Jo Williams, who may have inadvertently started the discussion about the women of the 400 block with the opening of her gallery’s current collection, “Women. Wood. Work.,” which features pieces created exclusively by female woodworkers of the Hudson Valley.
“It doesn’t jump out at you when you walk in that these [pieces] are feminine. The work is just a little different. The scale is different.”
A week before the show, Williams noticed something about the furniture being delivered by the artists and had a passing moment of concern. “I had a show full of benches,” she says, exaggerating a bit, as there are plenty of amazing non-bench items in the showroom.
Then she spoke with a friend, who was not surprised at all by the wealth of benches. She told Williams to contemplate the relationship women have with crafting communally. “Benches are a place to sit down together. Your knees touch. The designs are not conspicuously feminine or masculine but there’s a subtext predating the chair, if you will, about sitting together in community.” (Above, Williams at Culture+Commerce Project.)
Williams says she feels that same sense of community with the other women along the workbench that is the 400 block of Warren Street.
“There is opportunity here and we’re right in the middle of the city,” Williams says. “I felt promise and eclectic-ness and diversity. I think there’s a sense of hope here. The women on this block all have a sense of themselves. There are some really dynamic personalities.”
One of the block’s newest personalities is Laleh Khorramian, proprietor of Laloon, a stunning salon showcasing her sensual, one-of-a-kind garments, each an art piece in its own right. On the topic of the novelty of having so many women on one block, Khorramian echoes another sentiment shared by Williams and many others: it’s interesting but had no bearing on why she came to Hudson. “Landing here was incidental,” she says. “The space inspired me and Hudson was in line with my life’s direction.”
Again and again, store after store, the women owners say the same thing: Hudson just feels like the right place to be. (Above, Laleh Khorramian takes an important business call at Laloon.)
Jarecka of Skalar has been at 438½ for eight years. She’s been contemplating organizing a regular dinner of the Women of the 400 block and says that for professional women working in the art world (most of them successful New York City transplants), Hudson has a lot of allure. “Hudson and Columbia County have become a Mecca for the creative elite. That brings people here who want to be a part of it. I think Brooklyn is interesting, but Manhattan is no longer creative to me.”
She says the motivation for her upstate expatriation was all about quality of life, that the draw of Hudson for female, and male, professionals is that you can have the sophistication of an urban center but still be close to nature. “I can swim in a pond for a half hour in the morning before I open the store.”
Jarecka and Williams both agree that while business came first in the decision to open up shop in Hudson, there’s something about the way Hudson does business that appeals to them as women. “Here, when someone walks into the store, you spend time with each other,” Jarecka says. “We talk. There’s a chance we become friends. Even if they don’t buy anything, they become sponsors for your store and tell someone else. It’s a really nice situation in which to meet people. There is an aspect of embracing and hosting people, of building a community that is, you could say, feminine.”
Owners Gun Nowak and Martina Arfwidson
401 Warren Street
Owner Nicole Meadors
403 Warren Street
Director Sondra Loring
403 Warren Street
CEO and Editor-in-Chief Ann Marie Gardner
403 Warren Street, Second Floor
Kea on the Hudson
Owners Susan Gomersall and Azy Schecter
409 Warren Street
Owner Dena Moran
421 Warren Street
Louisa Ellis Clothing
Owner Melissa Bigarel
426 Warren Street
Owner Sherry Jo Williams
428 Warren Street
Owner Dawn Vennekohl
433 Warren Street
Owner Lorissa Lill
438 Warren Street
Owner Danusia Jarecka
438½ Warren Street
Spotty Dog Books and Ale
Owner Kelley Drahushuk
440 Warren Street
TK Antiques, Home and Garden
Owner Tessy Keller
441 Warren Street
Owner Alex Dewez
443 Warren Street
Owner Cora Hales
443½ Warren Street
Owner Mary Bergtold Mulcany
444 Warren Street
Owner Laleh Khorramian
445 Warren Street
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Riding High: Olympic Champion Peter Wylde’s Winley Equestrian Center
By Don Rosendale
Photos by Tracy Emmanuel
Millbrook regularly is featured as an equestrian nirvana in Ralph Lauren photo layouts, as well as countless New York Times Magazine and Town and Country spreads. The “Millbrook Hunt Country” that surrounds the tiny village of that name offers one of the country’s oldest and most famed foxhunts, two of the country’s premier Three Day Events (Fitch’s Corners and of course Millbrook), a decent medium goal polo league at Mashomack, and fancy boarding stables where for a mere $1,500 a month your horse will get better care than your son at Hotchkiss. But one thing that’s been missing until now has been someone with international and Olympic credentials to teach you how to ride. That drought ended this fall when Peter Wylde unpacked his tack trunk at Winley Farm. Wylde brought with him the Olympic gold medal earned in Athens in 2004, a World Equestrian Games bronze, a pair of Pan Am Games silvers and a reputation as a talented, patient teacher of other riders.
Wylde is movie star handsome – the comparison to Joseph Cotten is sometimes made – and as a Tufts graduate, well-spoken. As a teenager, he won the Medal Maclay at the National Horse Show, arming him as the best teenage rider in the country. And from there it was all uphill.
Winley Farm has been a Millbrook landmark for more than a century. Its 155 grassy acres, at the village’s edge, were for decades the home of Amory Winthrop, a patrician equestrienne. She died in 1998, and two years later, sisters Ester and Judith Goelkel arrived from Germany with a business plan to breed European “sport horses.” The Goelkel sisters built an equestrian “village” that, in teenage lexicon, would be called awesome. It has an indoor riding arena as big as a soccer field, with a concert hall sound system and innovative “walls” made up of overhead garage doors that can be rolled up on balmy days. The horse stalls are as big as some people’s living rooms, the heated viewing rooms overlooking the riding arena belong in Architectural Digest, and the brick paved aisles are wide enough for a Bentley to drive through without a side mirror brushing the blankets outside the stalls. There is a machine that looks like a Brobdingnagian revolving door that cools down horses after a workout by walking them in circles, and special heated shower stalls.
But by 2013, the stalls stood largely empty. Wylde, who had been training in Europe for the last decade, was at a horse show in Palm Beach, Florida when Judith Goelkel suggested he might take over Winley as a facility for what in the horse world are called “hunters” and “jumpers.” A decade ago, Wylde had been based at Dan Lufkin’s estate a few miles away, so he was familiar with Winley. “I knew it was spectacular, like no other place in the world,” he says. “So it didn’t take long for me to decide to accept the offer.” He accepted in a New York minute, moved to Millbrook, and, to set down roots, he and his husband/business partner Eduard Mullenders bought a home on Tower Hill, 10 minutes from Winley. “I’m here for the long run,” he promises.
The local equestrian set got a taste of Wylde training last week at the first clinic he offered at Winley—two days, 90 minutes each day, starting with groups challenged only by obstacles no bigger than a curb and working up to some serious fences. The clinic sold out within a day. The first flight was a group of five pre-teen girls on their show ponies with tails so perfectly groomed they must have gone to Frederic Fekkai on the way to class. Doting mothers (who seemed electrified by Wylde’s mere presence) stood by the rail. Wylde lived up to his reputation as a master teacher. He worked patiently with each girl and her pony, always encouraging, never rebuking, getting the best out of each rider, until the end of the 90-minute session. Even to the untrained eye, they were performing better than they were at the beginning.
One of the inaugural group was Julie Fink and her pony, Mr. Goodbar. Her mother, Jodie, stood at the rail, ecstatic. Wylde had been diffident about the prices of his stalls and services, but Jodie was willing to talk about the tariff. “It’s $400 for the two-day clinic, 90 minutes each day,” she disclosed, quickly noting: “And it’s worth it.” And after a pause, “It’s worth every penny. He is an amazing teacher.”
As for those perfect horse tails, she revealed that the credit goes not to Fekkai, but to Maddie Duggan, who runs the stable in Mabbetsville where that particular squad of riders all board.
33 Winley Crescent
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Locally Grown: Made In The Berkshires Festival
By Amy Krzanik
This year’s Made in the Berkshires Festival (running October 11-13) is practically overflowing, with over 30 works of original live theater, music, dance, and literary readings, but co-curator Hilary Somers Deely swears that “it’s actually streamlined this year.” Created three years ago by local actress, director, and producer Deely and artistic co-conspirator, actress and director Barbara Sims (shown L to R: Sims and Deely), the Festival includes performances at Berkshire Theatre Group’s Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield and Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. The opening night extravaganza, which, at $50, Deely calls the “best deal in town,” will be held at the Colonial and features some of Berkshire County’s most talented dancers, writers, composers, and filmmakers.
Three dance troupes, Berkshire Pulse, Community Access to the Arts’ (CATA’s) The Moving Company, and Heather Fisch and the Androgynes will offer three very distinct visions of what dance can be. Fisch (shown below), self-described accordion tamer and entertainer, is fresh off her cabaret musical success, La Belle Epoque, which ran at the Mahaiwe in August. The Moving Company, under the choreography of Dawn Lane, will perform Common Ground, a piece that works as “a metaphor for noticing similarities and accepting differences, and establishes the stage as a place for humor, poignancy and democracy.” No matter what CATA does, it always brings the house down, so it’s fitting that the troupe’s performance will be the evening’s finale.
The night’s short films include Patrick Toole’s Fat Boy Needs Energy; Ben Hillman’s time lapse view of Bartholomew’s Cobble through a year of slowly changing seasons; and Sam Handel’s The River, starring wife Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under), Adam Driver (Girls), and Michael C. Hall (Dexter) as “The Guru.” Filmed locally, the movie tells the story of a pregnant woman working at the co-op in Great Barrington, who tries desperately to leave work and make it to the river for a swim.
Poet CD Nelsen will read “Dragon Breath,” while a Gregory Crewdson photograph, taken in Pittsfield, is shown behind her. Local author Kevin O’Hara will read a short story from his forthcoming book, Memoirs of a Bearded Nurse. The piece, “A Night in the Heavens,” tells the story of a night nurse at Berkshire Medical Center’s Jones II Ward who brings six patients on a trip to an observatory.
One highlight of the night that both Sims and Deely are especially excited about is the premiere of Gerard McBurney’s original composition, Cherry Cottage - Five Variants for Piano, performed by pianist John Goodwin. The work is inspired by the movie Cherry Cottage: The Story of an American House directed by Dave Simonds and written by Hans Morris. The film tells the story of a small cottage in Stockbridge, built in 1782 and home to many notable inhabitants, including former Williams College President Mark Hopkins, Charles McBurney (Gerard McBurney’s great grandfather), and current inhabitant Hans Morris. A visual montage by Dave Simonds will be shown during the performance, and old letters found in the home will be read aloud by Mac Morris, Walton Wilson, and both Deely and Sims.
Come early for an art show in the lobby curated by Suky Werman, and featuring work by ten local artists including Roselle Chartock, Jane McWhorter, Sean Riley, and Rebecca Weinman. And stay late for a Taste of the Berkshires, a sampling of local food and drinks.
The second day of Made in the Berkshires features readings of short stories and short plays at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge. Four short plays and two short stories will be followed by a reading of acclaimed playwright Chris Newbound’s new full-length play, Old Family Friends, directed by Barbara Sims, and starring Kevin O’Rourke, (Boardwalk Empire). Sims describes the work as a story that centers around a woman in her twenties who has moved back to her suburban home to look after her terminally ill mother. “There are secrets long kept, and tensions to be worked out,” she says. “Chris has a very good ear for dialogue and the characters in the play speak to each other in a very real, human way without sentimentalizing the characters or the situation.”
Day three of the Festival finds us back at The Colonial for a day of short films and dance. Berkshire Dance Theatre (shown above), under choreographer Chuck Paquette, will make its Festival debut, and there will also be pieces by Berkshire Pulse, and another performance by The Moving Company. “Everyone knows about Jacob’s Pillow, but we’re showcasing some fantastic dance you don’t usually get to see, and we’ve got some great dance here,” says Deely.
The finale of the weekend festival will be an “improvisational experiment and musical conversation” by singer Vikki True and her large back-up band. “It’s a fun way to wrap up the festival,” says Deely. Sims adds, “Vikki True is truly a Berkshire treasure. She performed with her ensemble in the Unicorn last year and the audience literally didn’t want the concert to end.”
Sims and Deely wanted to make all of this great art affordable to everyone, so single events are only $15, and an All-Access pass is $100. The pass gets you entry to all three days of festival activity, a free lunch on Saturday from Elm Street Market in Stockbridge, and a 10% off “Backstage Pass” to do your own shopping there all day on Saturday, courtesy of The Red Lion Inn. “The Inn is holding a Made in the Berkshires Weekend,” says Sarah Eustis, Red Lion’s Director of Business Development, promoting the festival to their guests and serving a special Made in the Berkshires Cocktail (shown above) using Berkshire Mountain Distillers New England Corn Whiskey, ginger beer, and Hilltop Orchards apple cider. Eustis partnered with The Festival because she thinks what they are doing is important. “We’re committed to things made here in the area, including local food, but the talent we have in the Berkshires is not a product you can put on the shelf.”(0) Comments
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Hudson Valley Arts Festival Rises in Rhinebeck
By Robert Burke Warren
The folks behind the inaugural Hudson Valley Arts Festival – October 4th, 5th, and 6th at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck – are aiming high. “We want to be awe-inspiring,” says organizer Stacey Jarit. As the director of Artrider productions, Jarit has been producing arts events in the Tri-State area for thirty years, and she’s certain the Hudson Valley is ripe for her carefully curated gathering of visual artists, craftspeople, gourmet food purveyors, music, and interactive activity. (At left, a piece of sculptural wood by Peter Petrochko.)
“This year, National Geographic designated the Hudson Valley one the top 20 travel destinations in the world,” Jarit says. (The list also includes Crimea, Kyoto, and Memphis, TN.) “We live in such a culturally rich, arts conscious place. Many HVAF artists live in the area, but mostly sell work outside the Hudson Valley, so this is a great opportunity for them and for everyone. People will come to Rhinebeck and their jaws will drop.”
The HVAF will feature a special showcase of the Hudson Valley Furniture Makers, including celebrated artisans Michael Leggett, Rob Hare, and Michael Puryear. Puryear’s Shaker and Scandinavian-inspired work (one of which is pictured at right) enjoys particular renown, with pieces in the Museum of Art & Design in NYC and the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA. “I infuse my work with shibui,” he says, “the Japanese term for simple elegance.”
According to Jarit, “The Hudson Valley Furniture Makers don’t often show because they can’t easily schlep their work. We’re giving them half of one of the pavilions, and they’re creating a whole environment. People will get to meet and talk with the creators. You don’t get that in a store or gallery.”
Jarit has designed the HVAF to have an eclectic mix. “It’s a coming together of the best in different art forms,” she says, “with a strong emphasis on fine craft and visual art.” In addition to ceramics stars Cliff and Holly Lee and award-winning hand-weaver Patricia Palson (at left), Woodstock’s own create-your-own-art hotspot Fiber Flame will offer a bustling, hands-on children’s area.
Rising Rhinebeck chocolatier Oliver Kita is one of Hudson Valley Arts Festival’s many gourmet food purveyors. Kita is particularly excited about the event, which he sees as timely for both small-scale artisans like himself and an increasingly selective consumer culture. “Artisan chocolate today is where artisan bread was fifteen years ago,” he says. “People understand and expect really high-quality product. When I was first starting out eight years ago, it was just me and a couple of others. Now there’s a plethora of people starting businesses, which is great. There’s room for everybody.”
For the HVAF, Kita says, “We’ll go from the elegant to the ridiculous. You have to have something at all price points for people because not everybody is going to drop forty dollars on a box of chocolate. We’ll show off our finest things, but we also have items that are more attainable for people who just want to sample it, who don’t want to use a credit card.”
A sampler of Kita’s wares is mouthwatering: “On the higher end, we’re going to be promoting the Great Estates Collection, which honors the mansions studding the Hudson River. The tastes come from local farms,” he says. “Olana is Moroccan orange, the Boscobel House is caramel apple, and we have Staatsburg strawberry. But I do funky stuff, too, because sometimes people just want a graham cracker. I do s’mores, and ginger snaps with toffee on top.”
While patrons’ eyes, hands, and mouths will be alive with sensation, HVAF also offers plenty of ear candy; stages will pulsate with music ‘round the clock, from folk duo Mike + Ruthy (left) to funkateers Mambo Kikongo and rock from the Lindsey Webster Band. For something a little different, musician Todd Crowley brings his “Musical Petting Zoo,” where patrons interact with dozens of instruments from A (accordion) to Z (zither). Additionally, the HVAF is partnering with the Woodstock Film Festival, offering discount admission to attendees who bring tickets or ticket stubs from WFF.
Overall, Jarit’s Hudson Valley Arts Festival seeks to remind attendees of the value of buying direct. “We live in a time of mass production,” she says. “Everything is imported. We forget that so many talented people work in the U.S., making amazing things. They have such energy and sophistication in their craftsmanship and design sense. It never ceases to amaze me.”
Like Oliver Kita, she’s happy about a gradual shift in public perception of homemade goods. “It’s a totally different conversation these days,” she says. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and my thirty-year-old daughter is taking over. Five years ago it didn’t speak to her, but there’s a new crop of young artists who’ve come in. It’s very timely and very important.”
The Hudson Valley Arts Festival
Dutchess County Fairgrounds
October 4th, 5th and 6th
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Chekhov Re-imagined, Tap-Dancing, and Frankenstein Onstage: Mass Live Arts Begins With a Bang
By Robert Burke Warren
Fame lust. Celebrity worship. Delusion. Codependency. Jealousy. Unrequited love. Wayward teenage girls. Are these the makings of modern-day tabloid fodder? Perhaps. But… Anton Chekhov’s revered 1895 ensemble comedy The Seagull? Yes.
Tina Satter, director, playwright, very fast talker, and major creative force behind Obie grant-winning, NYC-based theater group Half Straddle, was amazed at The Seagull’s modern-day relevance, too. Upon seeing a 2009 Broadway production starring Kristin Scott Thomas, she marveled at Chekhov’s perspectives on the temperaments of performers, yeoman artists, fans, and young girls in the throes of change. With Half Straddle, she mounted her “response,” Seagull (Thinking of You). After several work-in-progress runs, the show premiered at NYC’s P.S. 122 in January. Then came the Obie grant. Now, Seagull (Thinking of You) descends on cutting edge theater-focused Mass Live Arts festival’s first summer season.
Following Seagull (Thinking of You), which runs July 18, 19, 20, will be Half Straddle/New York City Players’ collaboration/work-in-progress Mona’s House of Dance (July 25, 26, 27) and Radiohole’s Inflatable Frankenstein (August 1, 2, 3). Mass Live Arts’ artistic director Ilan Bachrach is evangelical about bringing these experimental productions to the Berkshires: “With some of the most educated and eager audiences around,” he says, “I think it’s long overdue that we seek out and support those who have dedicated their lives to pushing the boundaries of what a live performance can be.”
So what constitutes a “response” to a classic play? Satter sourced Seagull (Thinking of You) from Chekhov’s original, as well as Chekhov’s letters, various biographies, and her own dealings with ensembles, both offstage and in the context of a theater company. “It’s not an adaptation at all,” she says. “It’s a continuation of my experience with The Seagull, and working with the people I made it with. It’s like I put it into a snow globe and shook it up. There’s a through-line that sort of follows the play, in which I use the six main characters [Nina, the ingénue, Masha, the bored daughter of the working-class property manager, Trigorin, the well-known writer, Treplyov, the failed experimental playwright, Irina Arkadina, the fading actress, and an amalgam of Dorn, the doctor, and Sorin, Irina’s put-upon brother]. I took sections from the play, or I re-wrote them, or stuck in a section with a piece of one of the letters.”
“The Broadway production was really simple and beautiful,” she continues. “I got obsessed with [ingénue] Nina when she says, ‘I love the lake the way a seagull does.’ I thought, ‘Chekhov is rendering the inner and outer lives of the young girls in the cast [dreamy Nina and bored, snuff sniffing, Wednesday Addams-ish Masha]. I’m very interested in adolescent girls and the changes they experience. That was my way in. So I re-read it and I thought, ‘This play is amazing… it’s about people trying to be writers and actors, and this group filled dysfunctionally with love and weird codependency, and this really intense stuff between mothers and sons and friends. And the group dynamic felt very similar to working with a company, which I’ve done since we founded Half Straddle in 2008.
“Chekhov captured things that are very specific to his characters,” she continues, “but are totally universal and more relevant now than ever. It’s amazing that he caught that. Trigorin the writer, for instance, is a super sophisticated drawing of someone who’s achieved a certain level of success, and has really complicated feelings about that. That feels contemporary to me. And [in Seagull (Thinking of You)] Masha is a skateboarder who wears black Goth lipstick. They all smoke. And we use both original music and pieces of songs by modern female-fronted Russian folk metal band Arkona.”
Satter is excited about Mona’s House of Dance, too. “I’m obsessed with groups of people,” she says. “I wrote a play about a football team [In the Pony Palace/Football] , I wrote a play about a nurse hospital. I love the dynamics and aesthetics of group scenes. But for Mona’s, what’s experimental for me is that the characters don’t know each other. There’s more distance, but they all have to interact when they have a commonality of space, but no woven backstory like in Seagull. I’m interested in repressed, slow moving things. To find the dramatic stuff in that.”
On the other side of the spectrum is Radiohole’s critically acclaimed Inflatable Frankenstein, which closes out the festival with “a sticky, goopy, embarrassing, all-over-the-place and absolutely necessary mess” as Ben Brantley of The New York Times described it. Exploring James Whale’s classic films and the tragic life of novelist Mary Shelley, Inflatable Frankenstein is brimming with whims, technological absurdity, and massive amounts of bodily fluids. Ilan Bachrach says, “Radiohole is the closest theater will ever be to punk rock. Their technological innovation has trickled into mainstream theater without most people knowing it. They continue to shape the future of theater with their work.”
Between Radiohole and Half Straddle, Mass Live Arts’ dream of bringing offbeat, challenging, and deliriously fun theater to the Berkshires is well under way.
Mass Live Arts / 13
Daniel Arts Center
Bard College at Simon’s Rock
84 Alford Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Seagull (Thinking of You)
July 18, 19, 20, at 8 p.m.
Mona’s House of Dance
July 25, 26, 27, at 8 p.m.
August 1, 2, 3, at 8 p.m.
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Treat Your Beasties Well: A Guide to Pooch Pampering In The Region
By Dale Stewart
No need to say it: People feel more strongly about dogs than they do about any other breed of domesticated animal (sorry cat and ferret owners), holding a category no other animal has attained. Paul McCartney wrote “Martha My Dear” about his sheepdog. Virginia Woolf wrote a whole novel, Flush: A Biography, in the voice of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel. Slogans such as “Dog is my co-pilot” have launched a thousand bumper stickers. We pamper, coddle, and spend gobs of cash to do all sorts of things to make their lives happier — at least in our own minds — contributing to a hefty chunk of the nation’s GDP. In that totally understandable spirit (come here, honey cakes, and give me a kiss), Rural Intelligence has rounded up a go-to list of boarders, trainers, and groomers to help kick off the dog days of summer.
Bonnie: Your Pet Nanny (of Hudson and Beyond)
Bonnie: Your Pet Nanny provides a “your house, but better” atmosphere for your four-legged darling. Owner Bonnie Kovacs provides overnight stays at your place or hers, and while at either place your pet gets snuggled and walked and spoken to just like you would to them. (Kovacs also has a secret life as a singer in a comedic burlesque troop.) “I’m all about enhancing your pet’s life when you can’t be there with walks, companionship, and affection. It’s my job to make sure you don’t worry while you’re away from your pet.” As a bonus she sends texts about your pooches before bedtime. “When dogs are here it’s like a cocktail party. I make sure that your babies leave feeling serene and peaceful.” (Prices vary and are available by request.)
Ledgewood Kennels in Millerton is a state-of-the-art facility (think radiant heat floors and cool air-conditioning in the summer). Each dog run has its own indoor and outdoor area. The staff pampers pooches with pats and treats and makes sure they’re exercised three times a day on their grassy back yards. The kennel recently began offering weekday doggie day care, during which your furry friend can cavort with other pooches under the watchful eyes of the knowledgeable Ledgewood staff. ($25 day rate, $112 a week). The kennel also has a K9 Aquatics & Sports Facility and offers dock diving, a unique sporting competition that can be enjoyed by both dog and owner. In addition to day-care and overnight boarding, The Ledgewood Kennel offers grooming, training, and a Dock Diving Dog Pool. Kennel food is included in the overnight rate ($27.25 per night, rates vary with multiple dogs and longer stays), but they’ll feed Petunia your preferred brand — if you bring it. For a few dollars more, Ledgewood Kennels provides extra walks, swimming in their dog pool, bathing and nail clipping. Boarding fees range from $27.25 for a single dog for a single night and drops to $18.50 per dog if you have more than one.
639 Smithfield Road
Millerton, NY 12546
Love Us and Leave Us
At Love Us and Leave Us, services range from morning hikes ($20 one dog; $35 two dogs) to doggie day care ($20; half day for two dogs $35; full day one dog $28; full day two dogs $50). But they are best known for classic overnight boarding at their 24/7 “free-range” facility, where dogs lounge in a home-like atmosphere with other dogs, with guaranteed outside time, snuggling on the couch, and playing in the “sandbox.” There are no crates or kennels, even at night, when your dogs are invited to sleep on couches or dog beds or even with staff members. Love Us and Leave Us never has more than 15 dogs a night, to ensure your pooch is never lacking for human time. “Pack Leader” Renee DeRagon is an ABC certified dog trainer, and her staff are all “pet first aid” certified. (One dog $40/night; 2 dogs $70/night). Add a bath ($20 & up depending on size) or nail trim ($10).
1525 West Housatonic Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Shaker Hill Pet Resort
The spa-like Shaker Hill Pet Resort, part of the beloved Pittsfield Veterinary Hospital, boasts a safe and relaxed environment for your four-legged friend’s overnight stay, as well as various levels of behavioral classes and grooming services. Shaker Hill offers swanky 7’ x 7’ private “Hotel Rooms” that hold up to five dogs depending on size, as well as single dog “indestructible” small (3’ x 6’) and large (4’ x 6’) “Rover Rooms” with piped in music. (Prices start at $30.00). Nightly pricing includes: food, bowls, fresh bedding, and the administering of oral medications. (Add $7.00 a night for puppies.)
1634 West Housatonic Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Litchfield Hills/Northwest CT
Diamond Creek Pet Retreat and the Canine Sports Center
At this rolling, 70-acre rural estate in Goshen, pets are strictly referred to as guests and treated like royalty. Standard rooms ($33 per dog) come with tons of toys; bed with bedding; constant housekeeping; indoor/outdoor accommodations; three outdoor potty breaks; pee posts for boys; and general medication dispensing. If that seems too bare bones, you can upgrade to the “Serenity Suites” ($40 per dog) and a “Zen Room” ($40 per dog); these accommodations boast a noise-controlled space with tempered glass doorfronts, continual fans for gentle breeze/air flow, and a la carte options like nature walks and snacktivity. Story time can be added, as well. Play yards, lounges, and a fenced field are available for all.
416 Old Middle Street
Goshen, CT 06756
Tail Waggers of Litchfield
Family-run Tail Waggers, nestled in the scenic Litchfield Hills, is a state-of-the-art facility perfect for overnight stays ($30 per dog). Butch will forget you exist in their spacious play yards; huge playground stocked with toys galore; mock fire-hydrant; agility ramp; and pool. In less favorable weather, they can frolic in the 1,000-square-foot indoor play area, complete with rubber-matted floors and air-conditioning. Doggie day care, grooming, and training are also available.
568 Torrington Road
Litchfield, CT 06759
Dogs of Hudson operates in a modern facility under the watchful eye of trainer/owner Erica Nance, who has a well-educated approach; she has a Master’s degree in experimental psychology and trains “(wo-)man” and their best friend.” After a few sessions with Nance’s straightforward “clicker method,” along with positive reinforcement, you’ll notice you’re no longer yelling, pleading, or begging your BFF to come when called or get off the couch. Her training approach is meant for everyday life, with lessons that range from “how to eat with your dog at a café” to life-saving tricks on how keep your pet from running out an open door. (Courses are $160 & up.) Dogs of Hudson is well equipped with 2,000 square feet of training space with agility set-up and time-out spaces; smaller breakout training spaces for puppy playgroups; and small dog socials, not to mention 1,000 square feet of well-selected, hard-to-find dog training items, healthy treats, books, leashes, and apparel.
355 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534
The trainers at Diggity are all self-described animal addicts and promise to be as crazy about your dog as they are their own. All staff have experience in training and caring for animals of all shapes and sizes; founder/trainer Larie Pidgeon is a certified Canine Behavior and Training Specialist, with a particular focus on aggression management, obedience, and off-leash socialization. Pidgeon’s unique approach, “Canine Bridge Building,” is no “one size fits all” training approach, personally developed through years of education, research, mentoring, internship, and personal experience. “Training is something that comes from a lifelong commitment to not only educating yourself on the canine world but above all else emerging yourself in that world as well.” Diggity Dogs does everything from basic training to off-leash obedience, behavior modification, new baby socialization, and post-puppy boot camp training. ($125.00 1st hour & $85.00 each additional hour.) They also offer house sitting services, daily dog walks, overnights, and hikes.
7 Reeder Road
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
Hayes Happy Dog Training Center
The educators here pride themselves on their ability to train puppies of all ages and skill levels: from a pet owner just looking for the basics, to therapy dog level dogs, to an enthusiast looking for that elusive competitive edge. They offer on-site training (6 group classes $100; private lessons at $50 per hour) and home visits (2 visits required, $200). Since different dogs learn at different speeds, they base the lesson on the uniqueness of each dog and the commitment of each owner. In addition to various levels of training, daycare, boarding, and grooming is available.
48 Boice Road
Egremont, MA 01230
Litchfield Hills/Northwest CT
The Canine Sports Center
Providing a well-rounded education for your pooch, the center, part of the Diamond Creek Pet Retreat, can easily take a family pet from unknowing pup to hunting hound, specializing in all points in between, with basic pet obedience courses from puppy preschool to graduate 301 obedience training in a group setting. There are also agility classes and more challenging courses such as “competition obedience” and “conformation ring training.” Behavioral consultants are on staff for the couch-chewing Fidos in need. (Courses $160 & up.)
416 Old Middle Street
Goshen, CT 06756
Pampered Pooch Grooming Salon
Clients of Pampered Pooch rave about owner Kera Shetsky and her “magical hands.” She’ll take your pooch (who should really be washed more frequently than you think) from bedraggled mess to Westminster competitor in no time (with a bow or bandana thrown in). Her seven years of experience helps her take on even the most temperamental in the pack. The salon also offers quick in-and-out grooming services like face trim, nail grinding, teeth brushing, and ear cleaning. ($30 & up.)
226 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534
Grooming By Betsy
Well-heeled dog owners bring their canine companions to Betsy and her super-experienced, creative, and artistic staff of groomers, who work on all breeds of dogs (and cats), exclusively using Quadruped Pet Products, an all-natural and biodegradable line. (Prices by request.)
7466 South Broadway
Red Hook, NY 12571
Wash & Wag Salon & Boutique and Mobile Grooming
A full-service pet grooming machine for the Berkshires and beyond, Wash & Wag was first established by Robin Mallory, a certified groomer, and husband Joe in a big, hot pink van. The Salon and Boutique expanded to include more stationary pet grooming for dogs (and cats) in February of 2013. Wash & Wag services include shampooing, nail clipping, de-shedding, de-matting, puppy cuts, and brush outs. They use Dr. Bronner’s all-organic castile soaps and organic shampoos made in Italy by Royal Pe; all other products are organic when possible. ($30 & up.)
389 White House Square, Route 7
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Mobile service is by appointment only.
Annie’s K-9 Design
The Vidal Sassoon of grooming salons, Annie’s K-9 Design is owned and operated by Diana La Mesa, a certified master groomer with more than 20 years of experience. La Mesa and her team regularly attend seminars and expos to keep at the head of the pack. Annie’s K-9 Design only uses all-natural shampoos, Hydro Surge Bath — an invigorating massage that keeps them calm and relaxed, and professional grooming techniques for all breeds of dogs (and cats). (Prices vary by breed and by coat.)
568B Torrington Road
Litchfield, CT 06759
Hours: Monday - Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Animal communicator Cindy Brody (she hates the term psychic) travels the world and the Hudson Valley to bring you and your pet peace. “My mission is to make every animal happy.” Brody can communicate with your canine and help you understand their side, as well as help them communicate their wishes. Something her happy clients have found especially handy for end-of-life dogs and those that have crossed the rainbow bridge. (Prices vary.)
Dogs have feelings, too. Reiki is often used to heal physical and emotional stress. Liz Wassell MSW, RMT can work on your pampered pet by phone or in person. (One-hour Reiki session for people or animals: $70.)
(845) 616-1219 or (917) 513-5993
Buddy’s Place, LLC
For the beloved pet that has gone to the great beyond, you can wear a bit of their ashes around your neck in a cylinder keepsake pendant, a la Angelina Jolie in her bad girl phase. (Prices vary.)
192 Knitt Road
Hudson, NY 12534
Open daily by appointment.
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Black Velvet: Gentle Giants in Litchfield
By Nichole Dupont
“Never turn your back on a stallion,” Ann Egan says as she enters the dusty paddock where her prize stud stands. “A stallion can have an off day, you just never know. I love this big guy, he’s my heart horse. But he’s still a stallion, nonetheless.”
It’s easy to see where the love comes from. Egan’s 13-year-old prize stallion, Wincredible, is a gorgeous sight. At 18 hands high (for those of you non-horse people, a hand equals 4 inches; so this baby is 6 feet high from his feet to his shoulders—that’s a big ‘un!), this velvety black equine is the paragon of his Percheron breed. Muscled, shiny, and bedecked with a raven mane and solid feet, his features harken back to the days of powerful war horses and a wild Breton landscape. But make no mistake, this stallion’s life is a far cry from the mud-tossed working existence of his forebears. Wincredible’s value rests literally in his bloodlines. He is the stud, the money maker, for Litchfield’s North Point Farm, owned and operated by Tim and Ann Egan, who, despite her obvious ease with the draft giants she raises, says she never had an interest in large breeds.
“The whole draft horse thing was foreign to me,” she says. “Tim built this barn and it stood empty for two years. Then, one year, when we went to the Big E [the Eastern States Exposition]—Tim wanted to see the steer showing—he pointed his finger at a Percheron pulling a cart. He wanted to get some for the barn. He liked how they looked.”
That was five years ago. Now, a few geldings and several mares later, North Point Farm has put itself on the map for producing some of the world’s most gallant, champion horses. All with an honest hand, says Ann, whose motto for the farm is “firm and fair.” While they do train and sell some of their herd, the bulk of North Point’s business is in breeding; both on-site siring (which can take up to 30 days to get a mare pregnant), and the high-tech business of freezing, cooling, and shipping semen to ranches and farms all over the world (the latest shipment, thanks Wincredible, was just sent to Australia) to the mighty tune of $1,800 give or take. And because of their stallion’s gorgeous progeny, his standing sheet—consider it a dance card for horses—always fills up. The show season is also kicking into high gear and Ann, who has just come off a year of heavy travel giving workshops at events as far away as Calgary, Canada, is preparing, once again, to leave the farm with a semi that can pull nearly a dozen horses and heavy carriage equipment. If she is daunted, she doesn’t show it.
“If I own it, I show it,” she says, looking at Sherman, the farm’s only barn cat (and a New England champion himself). “I’m a farm wife from Connecticut. And it’s usually just the two of us, me and Tim, who keep this place going. I’m eating SpaghettiOs for lunch and my horses have a nutritionist. It’s a lot of work. Thankfully, I just so happen to like SpaghettiOs.”
And horses. Even “moody mares” as she calls them. And, of course, the fast-growing renown that is attaching itself to the North Point name. At her latest workshop, Ann could barely keep from trembling in her paddock boots when she met 85-year-old George Morris, an Olympic medalist and trainer who practically invented hunt seat equitation.
“I remember watching George Morris in the Olympics (in Rome), all us horse-crazy girls do,” Ann says wistfully. “And there I was talking to him. And three people even asked for my autograph, and I was stunned. I mean, c’mon, I’m a breeder. But people do love to talk about Percherons. That’s the thing about these horses, they really will try their best to give you what you want. Every time.”
As for Ann, her dream, ironically, is to one day walk into her state-of-the-art barn and see “a barn full of geldings.” But that may never happen. Entering the “maternity ward,” Ann stops to play with a leggy one-month-old colt (300 lbs. at birth) who has yet to be named, as his mother looks on. The boy is a rare sight at this farm full of feisty females.
“We usually sell the colts; our setup was never designed to keep stallions,” she says. “We’re in the filly business. We sell three or four mares every year. But, god, I love to watch those foals go running across the field when it’s time to come in for the night.”
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Season Preview: 30+ Tix Pix Not To Nix
As the Rural Intelligence region gets more and more love on the national and international front, it seems like the summer seasons just keep expanding, pushing the limits of culture and celebrity. From world-premiere stage offerings to indie, eclectic (and electric) music venues, we have scoured the schedules of performing arts organizations near and far(ish), and highly recommend these hot tickets. In venues both large and small, established and new, there’s a cornucopia of cultural options. Dig in to the moveable feast. —Jeremy D. Goodwin
Joan Rivers at the Colonial
We were re-awakened to the brilliance of this fierce original Grande Dame of comedy with Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, the revelatory documentary that opened the Berkshire International Film Festival two years ago. The legend live, in person, onstage at the Colonial—what’s not to like?
Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA, Friday, May 10, at 8 p.m.
Jeanne Bresciani and the Isadora Duncan International Institute Dancers at Kaatsbaan Studio Theatre
The work of the late, pioneering choreographer Isadora Duncan—informed by myth, folktales and world culture—is carried on by this New York-based company, now celebrating its 35th anniversary season. The program, Isis to Isadora: The Ancient and Eternal Ideal in Art, should offer plenty to admire and chew over.
Kaatsbaan Studio Theatre, Tivoli, New York, May 11 & May 12
Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Mahaiwe
Paul Taylor’s recent penchant for giving the New England premiere of his latest work at the Mahaiwe is a welcome trend. This year’s three-day, four-performance visit by the famed dance company features the new Perpetual Dawn along with five other works, presented in different programs.
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA, May 24 – 26
Dave Davies at Infinity hall
We’re not typically too interested in half-baked nostalgia tours of aging 1960s rockers. But that’s not what this is. The founding force of The Kinks continues to do great work, particularly in his engaged and engaging live show. This chance to see him do his thing in the intimate setting of Infinity should be a special night.
Infinity Hall, Norfolk, CT, Friday, May 31, at 8:00 p.m.
Jim Breuer at the Colonial
The Saturday Night Live veteran and Half Baked co-star has been busy lately with a weekly show on Sirius/XM Radio. This is a chance to see what contemporary observations are now coloring his peerless stoner persona.
Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, June 6, at 8:00 p.m.
On the Town at Barrington Stage Company
After aiming straight for the jugular of crowd-pleasing but artistically accomplished Broadway fare with Fiddler on the Roof last summer, Barrington Stage makes a more esoteric choice this year with the less-often-produced On the Town. But for summer in the Berkshires, a jazzy piece with music by old friend Leonard Bernstein, set in a romanticized New York City, could hardly be more fitting.
Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, Pittsfield, MA, June 12 – July 13
Audra McDonald at The Colonial Theatre
The much-decorated soprano doesn’t need awards to prove how mellifluous she sounds, but nevertheless she couldn’t help picking up a fifth Tony this year for her work in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. (They sit alongside her two Grammys.) This concert performance will include a mix of showtunes, standards, and personal favorites.
Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA, Saturday, June 15, at 8:00 p.m.
No longer a novelty, this third incarnation of the Wilco-curated festival is digging in its heels and out to prove itself on its own festival terms. With a diverse lineup including Yo La Tengo, Medeski, Martin and Wood, and a new project from Marc Ribot and Los Lobos’s David Hidalgo, plus two Wilco sets (including an all-request one) and a comedy lineup curated by the very popular John Hodgman, this is well beyond the realm of “big Berkshire event” and jousting with the greater rock scene at large.
MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, June 21 – 23
Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration at Tanglewood
We’ll be among the first to get a crack at this new project, spearheaded by the Garcia estate and led by the very busy blues-jam guitarist Warren Haynes. The mix of searing guitar, the tastefulness of the Boston Pops as conducted by Keith Lockhart, and the peerless body of American songcraft left by Garcia and writing partner Robert Hunter should result in some unexpected textures. Combine the high-end tailgating of Tanglewood with the fan base who invented the pre-show “parking lot scene,” and expect a wild one.
Koussevitzky Music Shed Lenox, MA, Saturday, June 22, at 7:00 p.m.
Joan Baez and Indigo Girls at Tanglewood
It’ll be a veritable feast of golden vocal pipes, O.G. girl power, and earnestness at this very tasty doubleheader. Coming the day after the Boston Pops take on Jerry Garcia, and the same weekend as the Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA, this is part of the busiest weekend on the pop-rock front the Berkshires has seen in a long time. Koussevitzky Music Shed, Lenox, MA, Sunday, June 23, at 2:30 p.m.
Arms on Fire at Chester Theatre Company
Chester has snagged itself quite the little world premiere with this new musical by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, the team behind Spring Awakening, the influential hit and critical favorite that has inspired a host of pop/rock-influenced efforts since. This is no doubt meant to be a bit of leg-stretching before the show’s eventual move to New York.
Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA, June 27 – July 27
Aston Magna Festival at the Mahaiwe
The long-running baroque music festival ventures down from the hill, where it is in residence at the Daniels Arts Center at Simon’s Rock, for this highlighted performance featuring soprano Dominique Labelle, three special guests on period instruments, and artistic director Daniel Stepner conducting the full Aston Magna ensemble. The program combines Bach’s second Brandenburg concerto and the cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen with the gamba music of Marin Marais. If you see just one period-instrument orchestra of Baroque music this season, the combination of talent, material, and setting makes this program a leading candidate!
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA, Saturday, June 29, at 8 p.m.
Opening Night at Tanglewood
For the always-glitzy kickoff of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood season, familiar podium favorite Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos leads the BSO in an all-Tchaikovsky program featuring the composer’s Symphony No. 5, and sets charismatic violin star Joshua Bell loose on the Russian’s Violin Concerto. Koussevitzky Music Shed, Lenox, MA, Friday, July 5, at 8:30 p.m.
Lake Street Dive at Helsinki Hudson
This upwards climbing Boston quartet is making a habit of outgrowing its regular venues, on a heavy-touring itinerary around the country. Called back to Helsinki after a successful show over the winter, the group’s sultry, soulful pop has found the perfect environs.
Helsinki Hudson, Hudson, NY, Saturday, July 6, at 9:00 p.m.
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Siti Company at Bard SummerScape
A contemporary response to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, A Rite is a collaboration between legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones (who is in residence at Bard) and director Anne Bogard in a Bard SummerScape co-commission, looking at the tumultuous historical context that gave birth to Stravinsky’s original.
Sosnoff Theatre, Annandale-on-Hudson, July 6 & 7
Oresteia at Bard SummerScape
Epic, thorny and ambitious—like the best of Russian artworks—this 1895 opera by composer Sergey Taneyev is based on the plays of Aeschylus. This landmark production is said to be the first time the trilogy, sung in Russian, will be staged in its entirety outside of Taneyev’s native land. Not quite a light evening at the theatre, but a precious chance to see this rare accomplishment.
Sosnoff Theatre, Annandale-on-Hudson, July 6 – August 24
The Master and Margarita at Bard SummerScape
The Mikhail Bulgakov-penned novel on which this fantastical story of 1930s-era Moscow is based features a trip to hell, a vodka-swilling cat, nudity, and enough satirical bite to suppress it in the Soviet Union until 1967. Hungarian film and theatre director János Szász directs this new stage adaptation, which he wrote with Gideon Lester.
Theatre Two, Annandale-on-Hudson, July 11 – 21
Edie Brickell and Steve Martin at Powerhouse Theatre
Whether it’s his art collection, novel-writing or bluegrass band, Steve Martin has a lot more on his mind than comedy these days. We reap the benefits with a first look at his new—wait for it—bluegrass musical. Written with Edie Brickell (née of the New Bohemians), Bright Star is directed by Tony winner Walter Bobbie (Chicago) and will be one of the hottest things going this summer. Powerhouse Theatre at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, July 12 - 14
Pygmalion at Williamstown Theatre Festival
We first knew Robert Sean Leonard in Dead Poets Society as the sensitive, privileged, aspiring actor in a conservative prep school where students hang out in a cave and poignantly jump on their desks to salute Robin Williams. But his adult career has seen eight resilient seasons on the Fox hit House, and he hits the boards in the Berkshires this summer as the iconic professor Henry Higgins. WTF’s season announcement cites parallels to reality television makeovers, so prepare for a bracing teasing-out of the class and gender politics embedded in George Bernard Shaw’s classic.
Main Stage, Williamstown, MA, July 17 – 27
Natalie Merchant with Hudson Valley Philharmonic at the Mahaiwe
The pop songstress, a Rural Intelligence-region dweller who is still probably best known for her work as a founding member of 10,000 Maniacs, has orchestral music on her mind. A new record is combined with heavy touring in partnership with various orchestras around the world. Her local stop should provide a memorable and intimate exposure to Merchant’s latest musical adventures.
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA, Sunday, July 21, at 7 p.m.
Mother Courage and Her Children at Shakespeare & Company
Shakespeare & Company has always been about more than just Will, but this season is the first in recent memory where the company’s most-anticipated, highest-profile production is, in fact, not penned by the Bard. After her sold-out run in The Tempest last summer, Olympia Dukakis returns to Lenox in a production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children. Also reuniting from the team of The Tempest is director (and S&Co. artistic director) Tony Simotes and Olympia’s thespian brother, Apollo. For good measure, John Douglas Thompson (familiar as the lead in S&Co.‘s Othello, Richard III, and 2012 hit Satchmo at the Waldorf) joins the powerhouse cast. Prepare for a clinic in virtuoso stage chops. Tina Packer Playhouse, Lenox, MA, July 26 – August 25
Hilary Chaplain at PS21
Described immodestly as an “amalgam of Lucille Ball and Charlie Chaplin,” Hilary Chaplain is a physical comedienne who has soaked up expertise from the legendary Bill Irwin, who raved about her work. She won the Solo Show Award at New York’s International Fringe Festival with this quirky story of a woman who turns everyday objects into her companions in her quest for that good, old-fashioned aspiration: love.
PS21, Chatham, NY, Saturday, July 27, at 8 p.m.
Radiohole’s Inflatable Frankenstein at Mass Live Arts Festival
One of three forward-thinking, New York-based theatre companies comprising the inaugural Mass Live Arts festival, Radiohole presents this ostensibly wacky and creative amalgam of the works of Mary Shelley and the films of James Wahle. The New York Times’ Ben Brantley called it “a sticky, goopy, embarrassing, all-over-the-place and absolutely necessary mess,” which sounds like an endorsement based on what they’re going for. The festival aims to bring the cream of experimental theatre from New York to the Berkshires for performances and artistic residencies.
Daniel Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA, August 1 – 3
The Bridges of Madison County at Williamstown Theatre Festival
After last year’s Far From Heaven, WTF comes at us again with a musical based on a well-known title with a cinematic history, realized by an artistic crew with great pedigree. This world premiere production features Steven Pasquale, best known for his work on the FX series Rescue Me. Music and book are by prolific composer Jason Robert Brown, and Tony-winner Barlett Sher, who The New York Times called “one of the most original and exciting directors” on the scene, helms it. With the brand name title and accomplished talent, we can figure this production has its GPS set for Broadway. Main Stage, Williamstown, MA, August 1 – 18
Rita Rudner at the Mahaiwe
Rita Rudner has made herself into the queen of Las Vegas comedy in recent years, but brings her road show to Great Barrington as one of the highlights of a great summer for comedy in the region.
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA, Sunday, August 4, at 7 p.m.
Jessica Lang Dance at Jacob’s Pillow
The prolific choreographer has now formed her own company, to better realize her compositional proclivities and yen for multimedia experimentation. It made its Pillow debut last season, and returns with a program highlighted by a world premiere collaboration with Canadian design house molo—plus a piece incorporating video art by Japanese-born visual artist Shinichi Maruyama, and Lang’s experimental dance film White.
Doris Duke Theatre, Becket, MA, August 7 – 11
The Beauty Queen of Leeanne at Shakespeare & Company
Fresh from her triumphant Off-Broadway run in her own Women of Will, Shakespeare & Company founding artistic director Tina Packer takes the stage in this dark comedy, alongside company comedic favorite Elizabeth Aspenlieder (Rough Crossing, Bad Dates), as a manipulative mother seeking to sabotage her daughter’s last chance at love. If you caught Packer’s snarling take on Queen Margaret of Anjou from Women of Will, this sounds deliciously diabolical. Matthew Penn, co-director of the Berkshire Playwright’s Lab, helms it. Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Lenox, MA, August 8 – September 15
Wendy Whelan at Jacob’s Pillow
The twenty-five-year veteran of the New York City Ballet has a roving taste and ecumenical expertise ranging from repertory givens like Swan Lake to the freshest work of contemporary masters. She ventures into creative waters for the aptly named Restless Creature, a Pillow co-commission for which she’ll perform four new duets composed and danced with four celebrated collaborators— Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo—each known for work in distinctive and varying styles.
Ted Shawn Theatre, Becket, MA, August 14 – 18
The Goat Rodeo Sessions at Tanglewood
We sure loves us some Yo-Yo around here, whether as featured soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra or leading one of his fascinating, cross-genre experiments. Fresh from winning a Grammy for The Goat Rodeo Sessions, he leads a tour with the all-star string ensemble assembled for that effort: bassist/composer Edgar Meyer, mandolinist Chris Thile, and fiddler Stuart Duncan.
Koussevitzky Music Shed Lenox, MA, Thursday, August 15, at 8:30 p.m.
Pearsonwidrig Dance Theatre at PS21
The offbeat, internationally touring dance company presents a program led by Ordinary Festivals, a piece set to vintage Italian folk music and composed for “300 oranges, 7 performers, and 2 knives.”
PS21, Chatham, NY, August 16 & 17
Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah at Barrington Stage Company
Getting a first look at the latest witty historical mash-up from the pen of playwright Mark St. Germain has become a highlight of recent theatre seasons. Coming off a run of his well-received The Best of Enemies at George Street Playhouse last fall, and with last season’s smash Barrington Stage premiere Dr. Ruth, All the Way headed to Hartford’s TheatreWorks this May, the Pittsfield theatre is set to unload the world premiere of his newest, Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah. Seemingly a variation on the formula of his biggest hit Freud’s Last Session (which imagined a meeting between the good doctor and C. S. Lewis), the new work depicts Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald locking horns in Hollywood, where Zelda’s beau spent his last, sadly dissipated years.
St. Germain Stage, Pittsfield, MA, August 15 – September 29
Anna Christie at Berkshire Theatre Group
Playwright David Auburn is best known for his 2000 play Proof, which turned the neat trick of winning both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony. (His 2005 film adaptation featured Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and Jake Gyllenhall.) But he’s fond of taking the summers to stretch his directing muscles at Berkshire Theatre Group, where he breathed fresh life into Tennessee Williams’ overlooked A Period of Adjustment in 2011, and turns to another giant of American theatre this time out by helming Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie, the play that earned O’Neill the second of his four Pulitzers. (Tough competition.) Look for a thoughtful examination of O’Neill’s usual meditations: the haunting past, pained familial relations, and sailors. Plenty of sailors.
Fitzpatrick Main Stage, Stockbridge, MA, August 20 - 31
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In Millbrook, Dyslexia Gets Unscrambled
When Ellie O’Heaney was in fifth grade, she didn’t picture college in her future. Diagnosed with dyslexia years before, she’d grown accustomed to feeling frustrated and adrift in the classroom. “She’d say, ‘Why would I willingly go on to more school?’” her mother Elizabeth O’Heaney recalls. “‘I’m only doing it now because I have to.’”
These days, Ellie is singing a different tune. An eighth-grader at the Kildonan School in Amenia, New York, she’s learned to appreciate the talents she has because of—not despite—dyslexia. “She’s completely empowered,” her mother says. “She thinks her brain is superior to mine. And I agree with her!”
Ellie’s transformation was made possible by Kildonan, which helps students with dyslexia identify their strengths and use them to meet linguistic challenges. O’Heaney, a special education teacher, believes her daughter’s experience should be the rule, not the exception. To that end, she’s teamed up with Kildonan headmaster Kevin Pendergast and national mentoring organization Eye to Eye to sponsor Discussions on Dyslexia on Sunday, April 21.
Four leading experts on dyslexia will form a panel to discuss the neuroscience behind a diagnosis that’s often misunderstood. A cash bar, dessert reception, and raffle with prizes like a week-long stay at a Vermont farm round out the event. And lending the event star power is moderator Alan Alda, an actor and science enthusiast who also happens to be Ellie’s grandfather.
O’Heaney and Pendergast (pictured below with Ellie) say their goal is to help parents, educators, administrators, and the public better understand dyslexia as an alternative way of processing information. One important thing to know, Pendergast says, is that although dyslexia is often portrayed as a problem, it actually comes with many benefits and unique talents.
For one thing, most dyslexics see images in three dimensions. Pendergast says this makes processing written language more difficult. “Non-dyslexics must have invented written language and given it two-dimensional symbols,” Pendergast says. That’s why a person with dyslexia might look at a lowercase b and see a p or q.
But while three-dimensional visualization can make linguistic learning more challenging, it also makes dyslexics exceptionally gifted in fields from art and architecture to engineering. O’Heaney says she’s amazed by her daughter’s problem-solving skills, which allow her to do things like mentally rearrange spaces for maximum efficiency.
Take their family’s recent trip to check out a farm for sale. O’Heaney told Ellie that while the house seemed just right for their needs, the barn looked too small. “She was like, ‘Give me a minute,’“ O’Heaney says. “And she redesigned the entire barn in her head, saying what about this: We build out from this side, put a couple more stalls over there, add a washroom over on this side. She thought of where the stall doors would go, where the water’s going to come from, where we’d wash horses, where we’d throw hay out of stalls. She thought of everything.”
The more people understand the wide range of strengths that people with dyslexia possess, O’Heaney says, the more educators can use that knowledge to inform instruction for dyslexic students.
“It doesn’t take a lot to include dyslexic kids in mainstream classes,” she says. “But they get excluded because they have fallen so far behind that they can’t be remediated in the classroom. We want educators and administrators to start having conversations about how to catch it earlier, so that dyslexic kids can be included in regular education.”
To help reach that goal, Discussions on Dyslexia is inviting donors to sponsor tickets for teachers from area schools who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend. And proceeds from the event benefit two organizations committed to helping dyslexic students: Kildonan and Eye to Eye, a national mentoring program that pairs children with language learning disabilities with adults with similar labels.
Pendergast says that meeting successful adults with dyslexia inspires students to imagine exciting, fulfilling future careers for themselves. In fact, he says, dyslexics tend to be some of the most innovative thinkers around.
“Go into any office building,” Pendergast says, “and ask who are your best problem-solvers, who are the most creative—there’ll be people with dyslexia all over that list.” —Sarah Todd
Alan Alda Talks With the Experts: Discussions on Dylsexia
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Cash bar open from 6:00 pm to 6:50 pm; Program begins promptly at 7:00 pm
Chelsea Morrison Theater, The Millbrook School
131 Millbrook Road
Millbrook, NY 12545
To purchase tickets, click here.
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IS183’s Annual Gala: As Out of This World as the Arts School Itself
From the dedicated yogis of Kripalu to the myriad musicians, painters, actors, writers, and other artistic types who flood the western edge of Massachusetts, the Berkshires’ ability to attract creative energy is downright otherworldly. It’s almost as if there’s a mysterious force hidden in the region’s mountains and forests, pulling every nearby idealist and dreamer into orbit.
On Saturday, March 9, at Lenox Commons, the portal to that font of cosmic energy opened for one night only. That’s when IS183, the Berkshires’ only community arts school, hosted its hotly anticipated annual costume gala: The Big Bang at the Energy Vortex.
“It’s playing on the idea of the Berkshires as this energetic, magnetic healing center,” says IS183’s marketing coordinator Dina Noto. The party conjured up a mid-century vision of the space age with a retro gourmet dinner curated by Red Lion Inn chef Brian Alberg, a silent auction with more than 120 prizes, and a rollicking electro-swing dance party. Some 375 guests attended, clad in elaborately imagined costumes that ran the gamut from greasers and astronauts to aliens, caped Star Trek villains, and sun queens bedecked in metallic lamé. (For a little extra fashion inspiration, Bill Wright Photography put together a swinging gallery of costume ideas.) The party was expected to raise $75,000 to benefit IS183’s extensive arts education programming.
Of course, an intergalactic party is nothing without stellar decorations. A volunteer crew headed by Williams Theatre technical director Maia Robbins-Zust worked for weeks to create an unforgettable atmosphere featuring robots, space guns, enormous vinyl records, and a swirling energy vortex. On the packed dance floor, video art inspired by 1960s sci-fi flickered on the walls while DJs spun tunes from atop a giant cardboard mountain. “It’s like walking into an installation art project,” says IS183’s executive director Hope Sullivan.
The intricately planned evening is typical of IS183’s can-do attitude, a lens into the sophisticated, creative spirit that guides the arts institution. Much of the credit for that ambition goes to Sullivan, the school’s own one-woman energy source. A former advertising executive in New York City, Sullivan took the helm of IS183 more than seven years ago because she wanted to seek new ways to build community through the arts. “What the responsibilities of a community are, how we ensure it’s a place we want to live — these are questions that resonate with me,” Sullivan says.
Under Sullivan’s leadership, IS183’s myriad arts programs have helped fuel the Berkshires’ innovative, civic-minded spirit. Its K-12 after-school program, Learning Through the Arts, uses multimedia projects to teach academic subjects from geology to math, reaching 350 kids a week at 19 regional public schools. A rotating series of workshops and classes offer children and adults the chance to master everything from digital animation to improv to calligraphy. And with more than 75 painters, sculptors, photographers, and other creative professionals on staff, IS183 employs more artists than any other regional organization.
“Our primary goal is to be a transformative force in the community,” Sullivan says. “We’re a small organization, but we have a big job. And it starts with education and engagement.”
Particularly close to Sullivan’s heart is IS183’s multi-week creative enrichment summer program for at-risk kids. Last summer, Pittsfield eighth-graders learned about water and river ecosystems — including their very own Housatonic — with Fluidity, an arts-focused service learning program. Sullivan says this kind of experiential, hands-on approach to learning can help make abstract academic concepts concrete. “Kids may have trouble learning words about boats if they’ve never seen one,” she says. “But if you paint boats or create a flotilla, you can create context.”
Much like the ever-expanding universe, IS183’s reach only continues to grow. A new partnership with Williamstown’s Little Red Schoolhouse has been bringing the school’s artistic offerings to North County since December. And IS183 is currently accepting nominations for its inaugural Berkshire Arts Educator Award, which honors the area’s most inspiring K-12 arts teachers. The winners will be revealed at an April 25th ceremony at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield.
Proceeds from the gala will go a long way toward making sure that IS183 can continue its massive arts outreach efforts. But the Energy Vortex is far more than a fundraiser. “This is a way for practicing artists to have a public voice,” Sullivan says. “There’s an amazing egalitarian spirit to it. We’re bringing a lot of different collaborators, people from all different perspectives, to find common ground in making this massive installation.” With that kind of creative investment, there’s no doubt gala guests will get a very big bang for their bucks. —Sarah Todd
IS183 Art School
13 Willard Hill Road
Stockbridge, MA 01262