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Fourth 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival Is Collaborative And Creative

Eli Merritt Sculpture for Ten Spot.

By Lisa Green

If you’ve watched Pittsfield’s 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival develop since its 2012 inception, you’ve witnessed the ideal of community collaboration in action. Returning for its fourth year February 12-22, the wintertime festival, which was created to get people out of hibernation, give artists a mid-winter creative boost and stimulate activity for Pittsfield businesses, continues to expand. This year, more organizations than ever wanted to participate (in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find an arts organization in the area that isn’t involved). The result: more events and originality magnified. 

Jen Glockner, director of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development, says it was almost fluky how the newer events came together.

“We wanted to include The Berkshire Historical Society, because it’s so important to Pittsfield, and it turns out they were going to be opening their historical lingerie exhibit the same week,” she says. Crispina ffrench at Shire City Sanctuary was planning to do something for Valentine’s Day — and voilà, the two organizations collaborated. The Valentine’s Day dinner and dance party begins with the Historical Society’s Undergarment Fashion Show featuring ten models (some of whom you might know) wearing the lingerie — such as it was — from ten eras. (The three events have separate admission prices, so you came come to one or all). IS183, based in Stockbridge, was looking to bring a one-day painting workshop to Pittsfield’s Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, and was happy to fold that event into the festival.

And more serendipities: The Berkshire International Film Festival, which has participated every year, is celebrating its own special anniversary — it’s tenth, as it happens — so in celebration, will present the Best of Fest Shorts, 10 of some of the best short films selected from the past nine years of the film festival.

The coincidences continue: the Academy Awards show airs on — wait for it — the last day of the Pittsfield festivities. So BIFF is wrapping up the 10x10 with an Academy Awards party at The Beacon Cinema, complete with red carpet, a photo booth, drinks and buffet, and a big-screen simulcast of the awards ceremony.

Other new events include the 10 Minutes of Fireworks (on the Common on First Street), accompanied by a bonfire as well as sweet treats and warm drinks provided by Dottie’s Coffee Lounge. The Whitney Center for the Arts is hosting (among several other events) 10 Mini Trios by 10 Composers — a chamber music concert — and WAM Theatre returns to Pittsfield with a one-night-only staged reading of the critically acclaimed 2013 production of “Emilie: La Marquise Du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight.”

Festival regulars such as Gypsy Layne Cabaret and the Real Art Party are on the schedule. And one of the highlights, of course, is the 10x10 New Play Festival at Barrington Stage Company, which originated the 10x10 idea four years ago. With the 10x10 occurring as it does during the February school break, there is, as always, a lengthy lineup of kid-friendly events.

“This is just a great collaborative event,” says Kelley Vickery, director of BIFF. “Jen has taken what Megan Whilden [former director of the Office of Cultural Development] built and pumped it up.”

Next year, it might be more like 14x14.

The schedule is exciting and extensive, so your best bet is to check out the website. You’ll want to plan for it.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/02/15 at 03:28 PM • Permalink

10 Holiday Traditions We Love In The RI Region

By Rachel Louchen

The Rural Intelligence region is never short on things to do. But come the holidays, each weekend is packed with festivals, strolls, bazaars, parties and performances that have become beloved traditions. While some of these holiday happenings are fairly new, many of them have been going on for decades and it could hardly be the holiday season without them. Here are some of the most anticipated and celebrated traditions that evoke the holiday spirit year after year.

Litchfield County

Photo: Lyn Stirnweis

Kent Holly Days
November 28 – January 4
Kent Holly Days begins with a champagne stroll on November 28, but then keeps the holiday spirit running with a month of events. There is the nightly brass band and hot chocolate society, book signings, trunk shows, and the gingerbread contest, which is serious business. A highlight of the month-long Holly Days is the Kent Historical Society’s Colonial Christmas Celebration and the complimentary horse-drawn carriage rides from Kent Greenhouse.

New Preston Winter Stroll
Saturday, December 6, 3 - 6 p.m.

The entire charming Village of New Preston really lights up for the season when each storefront is ornately and beautifully decorated with festive lights and creative window displays. Inside, proprietors hand out complimentary drinks and treats amidst live music. The sixth-annual stroll is also unique because the entire town is pedestrian friendly; most of the antiques, clothing, home design, and book stores are all within walking distance to each other.

Photo: Don Perdue

Nutmeg’s Nutcracker, Torrington
Saturday, December 6, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Sunday, December 2, 7 p.m.

One of the longest regional traditions is Nutmeg Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, now in its 45th year. The entire town looks forward to The Nutcracker’s return and the high-caliber performances by the ballet company, so it’s not unusual for attendees to attend multiple performances. Audiences of all ages will be delighted as they are whisked away on a magical Christmas journey through the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairies.

Dutchess County

Parade of Lights in Pine Plains
Saturday, November 29, 5 p.m.

If you’re going to wait out in the cold for a parade, it better be worth it, and the Pine Plains Parade of Lights does not disappoint. The 29th annual celebration begins with a day of events that includes decorating the town’s tree and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus prior to the parade. The procession of cars and floats are, true to its name, all decked out with lights that set the entire hamlet aglow.

Sinterklaas, Rhinebeck
Saturday, December 6, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Sinterklaas is an extremely old tradition, dating back 300 years in the Netherlands. But it has a very modern presence in Rhinebeck, with a day-long, town-wide celebration of performances and open houses. Events include live music, dancing, theater, puppet shows and storytelling followed, at dusk, by a starlight parade, plus food and drink and a late-night party for adults.

Columbia County

Hudson Winter Walk
Saturday, December 6, 5 - 8 p.m.

The words “cheerful” and “hip” seldom figure in the same sentence, much less one that’s about the holidays. Yet, somehow, Hudson’s Winter Walk is both. There is the Santa parade, street musicians, fireworks, and people in costume, and shops and restaurants turn into warm and welcoming havens. Fireworks launched over Warren Street conclude the festivities, but many of the shops and restaurants stay open late.

Berkshire County

It’s A Wonderful Life at Shakespeare & Company
December 5 – 28

We consider It’s A Wonderful Life required viewing during the holiday season. Shakespeare & Company has taken a cue and hosts a live radio show, where the story of George Bailey and the angel Clarence come alive on stage. The production was so successful when it premiered last year that it returns this winter and just may become a longtime tradition, much like watching the film has been to so many generations.

Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas
Friday, December 5 - Sunday, December 7 

Dreaming of an idyllic New England Christmas? The Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce offers one that’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Literally. For the past 25 years, the organizers have gone to great lengths to create a tableau vivant of Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas”. Same decorations, same vintage cars — the only difference in the recreation is that the Red Lion Inn is all lit up; when Rockwell did his study, it was closed for the winter.

Williamstown Holiday Walk
Saturday, December 6, 3 - 6 p.m.

Williamstown decks the halls for its 31st annual Holiday Walk. The event has an old-fashioned New England feel to it with caroling and horse-drawn carriages, and classic events like visits from Santa and the live reading of A Christmas Carol. Don’t miss Saturday’s Reindog Parade, when dozens of family pets are dressed up as, you guessed it, Santa’s faithful animal sidekick. 

Photo: Joanna Geige

Great Barrington Holiday Stroll
Saturday, December 13, 3 - 7:30 p.m. 

The 6th annual Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Stroll is the chamber’s largest community event, often attracting more than 3,000 attendees. This year features 50 food and product vendors, crafts, music, caroling, face painting, live window displays, a character parade, hayrides, and gifts to the kids from Santa Claus. The evening ends with a spectacular fireworks show that rivals any held on the Fourth of July.

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 11/21/14 at 02:08 PM • Permalink

A Sweet Scene: Red Hook Celebrates Its Chocolate Heritage

“People are willing to brave horrible conditions just to eat chocolate!” said Kimberley McGrath Gomez, executive director of the Red Hook Chamber of Commerce.

Indeed. Last Saturday was a chilly, blustery day, but that didn’t seem to stop hordes of people from the village’s inaugural festival celebrating everything chocolate. Red Hook and the Chocolate Festival took its cue from the town’s once-thriving chocolate factory and opened with a “Learn How To Taste Chocolate” event conducted by CIA-trained chef Dan Budd at his shop, Taste Budd’s Chocolate and Coffee Café.

While there were plenty of events scheduled for kids (a Chocolate Bomb Skateboard Race, a Chocolate Wars bakeoff at the middle school and a Wandering Wonka), it was the adults who swarmed the chocolate vendors and strolled from store to store to taste the chocolates set out by retailers.

Merchants reported that they’d never seen so much activity in their stores…proving that chocolate is good for everyone and everything.

Video: Jamie Larson

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/04/14 at 09:33 AM • Permalink

Getting Crafty: IMPACT At Etsy Provides Tools And Ideas For Entrepreneurs

Scott Tillitt, Re>Think board chair and Antidote Collective founder, and Ajax Greene, Re>Think board vice chair and On Belay business advisor.

By Jamie Larson

“Seminar” and “workshop” aren’t words you’d typically associate with the unconventional character of Hudson and Etsy. But the IMPACT series kicking off this week at Etsy’s customer support office in Hudson isn’t your father’s sales meeting.

IMPACT: Crafting a Thriving Venture for the New Economy is a series of six workshops with a goal of reinvigorating local businesses — both the old and new — with truly innovative tools and ideas for the new economy. It’s a home-grown venture with a focus on community, social and environmental responsibility and style. You don’t have to be an Etsy seller to take part. But it helps if you think like one.

A trio of Dutchess County-based organizations — the non-profit Re>Think Local and Antidote Collective and On Belay Business Advisors — and the worldwide, interpersonal online craft marketplace Etsy have launched the series to “provide universal tools and ideas for ‘craft’ entrepreneurs and local businesses at all levels.” The word craft in this context signifies anyone who approaches his or her business in an artisanal and thoughtful way. This being the Rural Intelligence region, that includes — well, just about everybody.

etsy1“Lots of people offer business workshops. Ours are different,” says Scott Tillitt, Re>Think board chair and Antidote Collective founder. “We talk about deeper vision and new economy values because consumers shop based on their values. We are also weaving in mindfulness. We have meditation practices as well because we recognize that it makes you more creative, calm and able to respond under pressure.”

The new economy has new goals, philosophies and buzzwords. Re>Think preaches “localism,” where local businesses and consumers create a community around shared values, which support a healthy, sustainable and socially conscious economy. Its mission talks about a “triple bottom line” where business owners seek to improve their financial profit as well as their social and environmental impact.

Workshop participants attend a preview party at the Etsy offices.

While the philosophy is central to the organizations, the goals and the workshops at Etsy are also very much grounded in the tangible skills small business owners need to grow their self confidence. The next couple of workshops focus on people and culture, legal strategies, and accounting and finance issues.

“What tends to happen in a solo-owned company is that the founder has invented this, let’s say, widget, but doesn’t know anything about marketing or other really important tools. We are supplying those tools,” says Ajax Greene, Re>Think board vice chair and On Belay business advisor. “No one person is a wildly creative marketer and an anal-retentive accountant and every other thing a small business needs.”

Melissa Gibson, who will be leading the Marketing workshop at Etsy Hudson on October 13 (she’s on the Re>Think advisory council), says too often small business owners get overwhelmed and spread themselves too thin because they’re trying to do everything themselves.

Melissa Gibson, Marketing workshop leader and Re>Think advisory council member.

“Very often small businesses lack a marketing budget,” Melissa says. “The biggest marketing secret is collaboration; work with others around you with shared interests and a common cause. Aside from being cost effective, mentorship and networking in general is so valuable.”

Etsy seemed a natural host for the IMPACT series despite the fact that it’s far from local. (It has, in fact, global status.) But though the website may have evolved into a worldwide marketplace, in many ways each of the nearly one million sellers on Etsy is a small business. For its sellers, which include many businesses in our region, Etsy is the economy.

“It helps us to host these events too,” says Jed Thorn, Etsy’s Manager of General Support. “We have a global outreach but from this office’s inception we wanted to be a part of the community. Etsy is by no means a small business anymore, but in this office, the world we inhabit is small business all day. every day.”

This is the collaborating group of support organizations’ first foray into Columbia County, but with the ever-growing number of small businesses here, especially in Hudson, the guidance and partnership appear more than welcome and poised for reward.

To find out more about IMPACT and register for workshops, visit

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 10/06/14 at 07:24 PM • Permalink

Young Farmers Create Hudson’s New Upstreet Farmers’ Market


Dan McManus and Tess Parker, co-owners of Common Hands Farm, started the Upstreet Market.

By Jamie Larson

With wide smiles, good intentions and dirt under their fingernails, the next generation of Columbia County farmers just, casually, reinvented the farmers market— by moving from Saturday morning to Wednesday evenings and out of the municipal lot and into the public park.

But it isn’t just the day and location; everything about the Upstreet Farmers’ Market, which kicked off July 30 in Hudson’s beautiful, if a little gritty, 7th Street Park, feels different. It’s cool on the grass, under the trees. There’s art and music and craft booths, lots of pedestrians and a working-class party atmosphere you don’t see on a Saturday morning. The entrepreneurial spirit at Upstreet, started by Dan McManus and Tess Parker, of Common Hands Farm, and Lori Weaver of Diamond Hills Farm, feels a little fresher, a little less polished and more youthful. At the nucleus of the market are a handful of farms founded and run by hard-working millennials quietly redefining what a successful local farm can look like.

Lori Weaver, owner of Diamond Hills Farm, is a co-founder of the market.

“The catalyzing point was last fall. We’ve been wanting to vend in Hudson and to give people a way to pick up during the week.” said Parker, who, like many new farmers, hasn’t been able to get coveted booth space at the long-established Sunday Hudson Farmer’s Market.

“We quickly saw there was a need,” McManus said, adding that the central location, day and time (4 to 7 p.m.) were really important to him. “It’s a different crowd than Hudson on the weekends. People who work in town are getting off, they’re tired and they need something to eat. We are setting a mood for a gathering place in the park where people can relax and eat or pick something up.”

Part of the mission of the Upstreet Market, which will operate until November 19 and has about 15 booths, is to allow all aspects of life in the area to share the space. They are looking for more farms who want join them, but also artists of all kinds who want a different kind of venue to share their work. While available space does fill up, McManus says there will always be a rotating guest booth so there is a spot for a new farm or craftsperson to get exposure every week.


Cleo Post tends the booth for Highland Farm.

“Open air anything is much more pleasurable,” said mixed-media artist Mary Brueckmann, standing next to her display of broken glass portraits. “You have all types. The vibe here makes a huge difference.”

Sitting on a shady bench taking in the fountain, Linda Mussmann, owner of the Time and Space Limited theater and art center said it’s nice to see some action in town off the main business district of Warren Street. “It’s a perfect place and a great atmosphere,” she said. “It definitely suits these young farmers. It’s inviting.”

“It’s so nice to have something mid-week. It’s not competing with the weekend market and there are a lot of things that are different,” added Jennifer Stockmeier, who’s been to the market each week since it opened. “I personally like to know the people I’m buying from and this is so local.”

The laid-back atmosphere is undoubtedly a byproduct of youth in the booths. Common Hands, Diamond Hills, Ten Barn, and Green Mead (all represented at the market) are just a few of the growing number of farms started and run by earnest, hard-working folks still in the summer of their lives.

“Everyone is working really hard so being able to get together at the market creates a community of peers,” said Parker, adding that this new generation of farmers, which has been popping up over the past few years, seems a bit more flexible and willing to take risks.

The 7th Street Park in Hudson, once home to the city’s more nefarious trades, is now the site of Upstreet’s more wholesome activities.

“We are trying to find our niche and we’re using multiple [marketing] strategies,” she said. “[Being new] means you specialize more but you also don’t want to try and do too much and spread yourself too thin. I make good money on edible flowers and herbs. I didn’t expect that.”

The farmers at Upstreet are humble about their early success and acknowledge that the Hudson Valley and Berkshires are very supportive regions for their goods and agricultural ethos. But they still need places to get their name and high quality product in the public eye, and that’s why Upstreet has been so welcome.

“There’s a lot of walk through-traffic here. People who might not know the market, or know our farm, just stop by,” said Lori Weaver, of Diamond Hills Farm, whose table is a photo gallery of cute animals. “This is a really good opportunity for newer farms coming up.”


Dan Wall deftly picks his banjo at the Upstreet Farmers’ Market.

“I don’t know if it’s as easy elsewhere” for young people to start a farm, Parker said. “I think our generation is drawn to farming because it’s a noble cause. And it’s a backlash against the idea of having all this debt and meaningless jobs our parents generation worked.”

Upstreet Market
4-7 p.m. Wednesdays until November 19, reopening May 2015.
7th Street Park Hudson NY

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 09/08/14 at 04:25 PM • Permalink

TEDxHudson To Bring Big Ideas – And Big Names — To Town

Photo by Amanda Marsalis.

By Greg Cerio

The revered chef Alice Waters [in photo, left] has much in common, perhaps surprisingly, with Theodore Roosevelt. For example, they enjoy some of the same regional cuisine.

On October 8, 1914, the Boston Globe reported: “Col. Roosevelt likes the soup they make in Hudson.” The previous day, the former president had a speaking engagement in the upstate New York city. However, he kept his audience at Hudson Opera House waiting while he ate not one but two bowls of vegetable soup brought to him from a nearby lunchroom. “I have to be fed,” Roosevelt explained.

Almost exactly 100 years later to the day, on Saturday, September 27, Waters, proprietor of the famed Berkeley, California, restaurant Chez Panisse and a leading light of the “farm-to-table” food movement, will take the same stage to express her own appreciation for — if not the soup, specifically — the food grown, raised and prepared in the Hudson area. The occasion is the debut event for TEDxHudson, one of the newest of the locally cultivated organizations that arrange public conferences and colloquies under the aegis of TED — an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design — the influential, globally oriented “big ideas” summit held annually since 1990.

Waters will be the guest of honor at the daylong symposium, and will introduce the main speaker, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., head of the international environmental advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance. And while the physical landscape — from the local farmlands to the health of the Hudson River and global watersheds in general — will be the topics of the day, the underlying context of TEDxHudson is the cultural landscape of the host city.

A list of all upcoming TEDxHudson speakers will be announced next month, but, with its A-list headliners, the September 27 event is clearly an auspicious start. Along with the establishment of antiques and art galleries, the Basilica Hudson events space and the Marina Abramovic Institute, and the opening of numerous admired and inventive restaurants, the inauguration of TEDxHudson is another step in a noteworthy civic revival.

TEDxHudson was the brainchild of Richard D. Katzman, a local business leader and patron of Hudson Opera House. As a longtime attendee of annual TED conferences, Katzman was eligible to secure a license for TEDx events. Tambra Dillon, the visionary co-director of Hudson Opera House, took the idea and ran with it. “Tammy and [HOH co-director] Gary Schiro were so enthusiastic. They knew what this meant,” says Martha Holmes, a member of the TEDxHudson operating committee. “They knew this was an anointment of the town. Having a TEDx means you’ve earned a place in the discussion. You’re bringing in people who have something to say to people who want to listen.”

Like Teddy Roosevelt, those people need to be fed. Lunch for the expected 250 patrons of the TEDxHudson event — included with the $85 ticket, along with après-speeches cocktails — will be provided by Mona Talbott, a friend of Waters and a former cook at Chez Panisse.

The founder of the Sustainable Food Project at The American Academy of Rome, Talbott recently moved to the Hudson area — she will open a specialty food store there in October — and is a perfect exemplar of the community-mindful cook. Her menu is far from finalized, but Talbott plans to offer three options, each highlighting the produce and proprietors of a local farm. The boxed lunches will include some kind of short, written narrative about each farm, says Talbott. “Lunch won’t just be something that tastes good; it will also tell a story.”

Just as the story of Hudson’s rebirth is being written, by people like Talbott and the organizers of TEDxHudson.

TEDxHudson at the Hudson Opera House
Saturday, September 27, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
$85 (ticket includes lunch and cocktail reception)
To purchase tickets, call (518) 822-1438 or order through the website.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/11/14 at 02:24 PM • Permalink

Like a Rock: Robert Burke Warren at the Hudson Opera House

uncle rock in wagonBy Nichole Dupont

He calls himself “Uncle Rock,” but musician-songwriter-teacher Robert Burke Warren is soundly rooted in the role of father. This occupation, according to the Georgia native, has brought him full circle from his first band with then front-man RuPaul to penning ballads for Rosanne Cash, back to performing, this time trading up the leather pants and kerosene breath for Crocs and the occasional sippy cup.

“I’ve become a better guitar player, and a decent singer now that I’m performing so much,” Warren laughs over the phone. He and his family (wife/rock writer Holly George-Warren and son Jack) are on the last leg of the journey home to the Catskills from a vacation in North Carolina. “It’s kind of a surprising endeavor, the Uncle Rock thing. I actually think performing for kids is a lot more fun. The kids dance. They’re really uninhibited. It’s a whole new world of playing music.”

On Saturday, Uncle Rock will be bringing his unique blend of “acoustically driven songwriter folk” to the Hudson Opera House for fans of all ages to enjoy. (The show starts at 10 a.m. so best to avoid living like a rock star the night before.)

Warren is a rock veteran who sounded off his career at an age when most of us were learning to drive and smoke cigarettes. In his late teens, with his band Wee Wee Pole, Warren toured the South as a bassist and swankishly lost soul (and yes, with RuPaul who Warren described was at that time “more of a thrift-store cross-dresser than a drag queen”). A few bands, a stint as the lead in a West End run of The Buddy Holly Story, a songwriting collaboration with Rosanne Cash and eight albums later, Uncle Rock is utilizing all his coolness and talent and hard-earned experience to teach kids about music.

“I stayed at home with my son [Jackson] for the first five years of his life. It was so much more than I thought it would be,” Warren recalls. “I’m a songwriter, so my life is my raw material. Becoming a parent changed everything for me, my perspective on the world. My son and his peers, I was in that world.”

Robert Burke WarrenApparently, it is a world that suits Warren—himself raised by a single mother—very much. In 2006, Uncle Rock, a Grammy-nominated “kindie troubadour” who tours the region bringing music and ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll to the doorsteps of Dora-weary parents, was born. Most recently, Warren, along with alt-rock violinist Tracy Bonham, schooled a group of kindergarten kids at the Paul Green Rock Academy in Woodstock, NY.

“The rock camp is music appreciation at its best. Many of the kids haven’t spent a lot of time around people who play music,” Warren says. “Rock is an organic, sort of primal thing that they can do and everyone can perform in some way. We’ve got go-go dancers, percussionists, some guitarists. Demystifying music is a big part of what I do.”

Demystifying it for the kids, and actually making music enjoyable for the parents, is a Herculean task in this era of Kidz Bop albums that make most parents want to shove an icepick through their ears. Warren successfully officiates over the marriage of rock n’ roll and (somewhat) wholesome parenting, engaging the latte-craving adults as well as their pint-sized rock stars.

“An Uncle Rock gig is the best when parents are engaged with the kids. It’s an old-fashioned timeless situation to have everybody singing these classic tunes,” he says. “It’s potent. It’s an ancient kind of method of connection and it’s my favorite thing to do.”

And to the hard-asses who would turn their noses up at Warren’s decision to consecrate his musical talent and wisdom with the family crowd, he just laughs with the easy knowledge that any musical legend worth his or her salt has to be able to speak to the masses. And that includes moms, dads, grandparents and the future urchins of rock.

“My heroes are people who did a lot of things—Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie—they covered a lot of children’s material and got everybody involved,” Warren says. “And I’m someone, too, who wears a lot of hats.”

Uncle Rock on Saturday, August 16 @ 10 a.m.
Tix: $10/$8 members; $6 kids
Hudson Opera House
327 Warren Street, Hudson, NY


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Posted by Nichole on 08/01/14 at 05:40 PM • Permalink

Pittsfield’s Free Shakespeare In The Park Is To Be

By Lisa Green

Ask Enrico Spada [right] why he wanted to start a free Shakespeare in the Park venture — in Pittsfield — and he’ll give you a couple of reasons: I saw it being done successfully in other cities. I wanted the opportunity to work on a play with local actors. The city of Pittsfield really deserves this kind of a project.

It’s all true. But after saying all that, he admits his motivation was a lot simpler.

“I just wanted to do it,” says Spada, who for the past 8 years has taught, directed and performed at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox.  And he — with a lot of community support — has made Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park happen. The first production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opens July 17 in Pittsfield’s Springside Park. It’ll run through July 27, with performances Thursday through Saturday.

Pittsfield these days is all about culture (the downtown, called Upstreet, was the first city in western Massachusetts to be designated a cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2012), and no doubt the city’s zeitgeist helped push Spada’s concept forward. With the backing of Pittsfield’s former Director of Cultural Development Megan Whilden, he approached the Parks Commission last fall, applied for and received a grant from the Pittsfield Cultural Council, met the matching grant from Berkshire Money Management and secured sponsorships from other businesses.

Assistant Stage Manager Haley Barbieri, Stage Manager Alex Reczkowski, Director Enrico Spada and Julie Castagna, an actor, in rehearsal at the Whitney Center. Photo by Fiona Barnett-Mulligan.

“We’re putting this together through the kindness and generosity of strangers,” Spada says. Barrington Stage and the Monument Mountain Regional High School’s drama program have donated the costumes. A stage is being built with lumber provided by Berkshire Production Resources, and the set is made from pallets and barn doors (“an abstract design,” Spada quips). Spada himself is not only directing but also doing the sound design.

But the resources Spada seems most proud of are the local actors. “They’re really talented and don’t get the chance to do Shakespeare except in the winter,” he says. The actors comes in all sizes and ages, from about 6 years old and up. There’s even a dog in the company (and she’s a pro; this is her second production, so she’s not apt to forget her lines). Since Spada has directed Shakespeare & Company’s Fall Festival of Shakespeare high school residency program for seven years, plus other K-12 residency programs, getting the younger set involved was a no brainer. And really, their presence in the production will make Shakespeare just that much more accessible to kids in the audience, an important target market.

Maizy Broderick Scarpa as Puck in rehearsal at the Whitney Center. Photo by Fiona Barnett-Mulligan.

The play, slightly abridged, starts at 8 p.m. to take advantage of the night sky, but everybody will be out by 10:15 or so. Prior to the start time at selected performances, the company will be offering “interactive pre-show workshops,” an opportunity for people to play with Shakespeare’s text, movement and dancing.

Although Midsummer’s eight performances are the only shows scheduled this summer, Spada would like to see the lineup increase to two (if not more) next year.

“My goal is to raise enough money to hire artists to do all the technical parts so I can just produce and direct,” he says.

To kick off the opening night of Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park, Cultural Pittsfield is throwing a mini fundraiser during the Third Thursday street party on July 17 from 5-8 p.m. Actors from the company, as well as local artists (who will be selling their work), will gather under a tent for a meet-and-greet. Hors d’oeuvres will be provided by Mission Bar + Tapas. Admission fee is $5.

Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park  
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
July 17-27, Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m.
Springside Park, 874 North Street, Pittsfield, MA

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/06/14 at 05:35 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Falls Village

By Kimberly Jordan Allen

Chubby Bunny Farm

Each town in Connecticut has its own character, and Falls Village is no exception. Falls Village, a part of Canaan, CT, is a distinctive blend of farmers, home-schooling iconoclasts, entrepreneurs, homesteaders, weekenders, locals and tastefully irreverent creative types. With everything from a renovated church that is now a home, to ultra-modern abodes, to 18th- and 19th-Century architectural styles, Falls Village is eclectic and bold. I’ve lived in Falls Village for the last nine years, and though my family and I spend a lot of time throughout the tristate area, our hearts belong to this beloved town. Here are a few reasons to praise the noble hamlet.

1. Local, local, local: Chubby Bunny Farm.The farm, run by the gracious and unassuming Tracy and Dan Hayhurst, not only provides delectable local organic meat and vegetables, but also nourishes the town as a beacon for the community with its openhearted manner. Tracy and Dan are always inviting folks to drop by, participate, walk the land and volunteer. A new Chubby Bunny farmstand has opened on Undermountain Road, where the farm is located, and you can peruse fresh vegetables and fruits as well as products from other nearby purveyors, including Hosta Hill (kimchi and sauerkraut), Mead’s Maple Syrup, Whippoorwill (beef), Howling Flats Farm (pork), Lost Ruby Farm (goat cheese), Rustling Winds (raw milk and yogurt), and Adamah Farm. The stand is open during the harvest season Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

2. The Falls Village Inn. Built 175 years ago, the inn rests at the heart of the small center of town and has been a significant part of its evolution. Four years ago, the Falls Village Inn was purchased, renovated and updated in a fresh, welcoming aesthetic. With the talent of local folks such as the Cockerlines and interior designer Bunny Williams, the inn was imbued with a new luster and has become the go-to watering hole. It features a welcoming front hall, freshly designed guest rooms, a taproom for more casual fare, and a wraparound porch and formal dining room. You can pop in for an organic, grass-fed burger, or linger over shepherd’s pie by the fireplace. The staff is always on-point and very kid-friendly. They always have crayons at the ready, and are willing to replace a spilled cranberry juice without blinking. It’s this kind of no-rush, hometown pace that keeps us coming back for more.

3. The flora and fauna. The Falls Village Flower Farm is a favorite place to find native and non-native plants. Husband and wife team Tom and Roberta Scott have been growing, gardening, and advising for 20 years. Whether you’re seeking perennials, vegetables, or just want to talk plants, this family is always available. Expect to be greeted by two jovial pups.

4. The sounds. Music Mountain is well known for its long-standing chamber music events throughout the summer, but it also features jazz, folk, cabaret, big band and opera events during the season. This is a picturesque spot to enjoy an evening of entertainment with friends and family.

5. Education and community. Isabella Freedman and Adamah Farm are part of a vibrant learning organization that practices sustainability, environmental education and spiritual practice. Adamah is run by Isabella Freedman, a Jewish retreat center that offers workshops, as well as providing community events and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture shares). The retreat center is situated on a beautiful piece of land populated by happy goats and folks of all ages. At their small shop, and some farmer’s markets, you can find their delicious goat milk yogurt and pickled goods.

6. The great outdoors. Great Mountain Forest is the place to go if you want to learn how to use that chainsaw properly (don’t we all?), study different birds and their nests, or just immerse yourself in an incredibly beautiful landscape. Led by Jody Bronson, forest manager and always-smiling fixture, this property is a bucolic place to hike, bike, cross-country ski, or snowshoe. The property features approximately 6,000 acres of protected land (crossing from Canaan into Norfolk) that serves as a learning environment, as well as functioning as a National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer Station. The Yale School of Forestry, and other schools and conservation organizations use the land to learn more about our natural habitat.

7. The cafes. Toymakers Cafe is a fixture in town, offering British-infused meal choices, including bangers and mash; epic sweet potato waffles; fresh espresso; and stimulating conversation. We’ve frequented this restaurant—which is actually a house complete with couches and comfy chairs—for years and there is always a friendly, familiar face to be seen. It is rare to go anywhere in Falls Village where folks don’t know your name and Greg and Annie—the married couple who own the café—are always sure to socialize and check-in with their customers. Greg is a longtime biker (think Triumph as opposed to Harleys), and Toymakers draws motor enthusiasts.

Just down Route 7, Mountainside Café has reopened after a few years and the town is thrilled. Stories are told of their famous pancake breakfasts and the café has been updated with a new menu. Mountainside Treatment Center, a large employer in neighboring Canaan, CT, is a thriving organization that offers substance abuse treatment and awareness programming. One of the ways Mountainside serves this goal is through their café. The restaurant employs newly sober people as a way to assist in their recovery process. The food, locally provided by some of the farms mentioned above, is delicious. This is another enticing spot where folks congregate.

8. The water. No discussion of the area would be complete without touching on the raw beauty of this Northwestern Connecticut town and the Housatonic River that punctuates the landscape. Affectionately called “the Housy” by locals, the river features the dramatic Great Falls (hence the name) of the town that provides dynamic river features for kayakers, tubers and nature enthusiasts alike. In the summer, you can find people fishing and swimming in the area, or just strolling along the riverbanks.

9. The land. The Appalachian Trail runs through Falls Village and each summer sees thru-hikers stopping for a rest or some food. Taking time to enjoy the Connecticut section of this iconic trail is a must and provides for some scenic vistas, as well as time along the Housatonic River, including the rugged Great Falls section.

10. The hub of it all. The late-Victorian David M. Hunt Library is a true hub for the town. The library was founded in 1889. We love to visit it at different times of year. During Halloween, library staff build a fire where folks meet for catching up and making s’mores. During the late spring, an annual plant sale provides a venue for lively discussions of heirlooms, the latest town meeting, or to simply find starter plants for the garden. Each week, staff holds story time for kids.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/09/14 at 02:07 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Red Hook

By Jamie Larson

The Town of Red Hook seems to encapsulate everything we like about Dutchess County and, indeed, all the pleasures of the eastern shore of the Hudson Valley. Pastoral farmlands surround and blend seamlessly into quaint villages that offer some incredibly refined metropolitan attractions while clothed in the relaxed fit of rural comfort. The town is a vibrant cell with two nuclei, the Village of Red Hook and the Village of Tivoli, each unique and each worth a visit.

dinerThe Historic Village Diner
Sometimes there’s one place that captures the feel of a village. The first New York diner ever to be put on the National Register of Historic Places, the Village Diner hasn’t changed much since it was fabricated in the 1920s. Old as it may be, it still might as well be the center of town. Everyone in town, and from other places far and wide, meets here and eats here. If you want a table on the weekend, come early or be prepared to wait. Let’s be clear, Red Hook folks don’t just come for nostalgia’s sake. They come for the amazing food. It’s a traditional, long diner menu done perfectly, and sometimes even better.

Tivoli Bays Park
I think we’ve made it clear that Red Hook is bucolic as all get-out but just to drive the point home, walk off your big diner breakfast at Tivoli Bays, where Red Hook meets the Hudson. The trails wind lazily through the woods, past the impressive ruins of a massive barn, and down a hill to a marshy dock on the bay. Watching the tides roll away beneath shade oaks or setting off in a kayak through the lily pads is a wonderfully relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

Holy Cow
Is it time for some homemade ice cream? You know it is. Like the diner, Holy Cow is a local celebrity business. The line is long but the ladies behind the counter are experts at sweetly handing over the treats each person craves. There’s something for everyone, from amazing ice cream flavors, frozen yogurt, sundaes and shakes to cookie sandwiches, cakes, frozen bananas and the messy scoop of ice cream in a cupcake wrapper known as an “udder.” The other unspoken tradition of Holy Cow is that nearly everyone eats at the nearby picnic tables or in the parking lot, where you can make a new friend or meet the whole town. 

Rusty’s Farm Fresh Eatery
For lunch, head to Rusty’s, where you’ll find great, inventive offerings of all types made with ingredients as local as they come. In the summer, meals are made with produce from the community garden across the street and the flower boxes right out front. The freshness of the ingredients will assuage any guilty feelings about ordering one of the amazing topping-loaded specialty burgers. We’re not sure what’s in the “Rusty’s sauce” but we know we want it on everything.

Kaatsbaan International Dance Center
Tucked away down a winding drive by the river in Tivoli is the much renowned Kaatsbaan Dance Center, located on a 153-acre historic site (the former estate of Eleanor Roosevelt’s grandparents). The dance center’s mission is to provide an inspiring yet affordable year-round home for dancers, choreographers and companies to practice, grow, create, inspire one another and perform. For dance audiences, it’s a hidden jewel that presents national and international dance companies in its 160-seat studio theater, providing an intimate dance experience.

Apple Blossom Day
More than most locales, Red Hook is a truly engaged community. No matter where you go in town, you’ll see families engaged in activities at the library or one of the many parks. Nothing brings the entire town together quite like Apple Blossom Day, coming up soon on May 10. This full-day festival takes over every shop and restaurant as the village welcomes spring, and it reminds everyone of the town’s agricultural roots. What better to rally around than those beautiful buds, with their promise of things to come.

Greig Farms
Greig Farms, set equidistant between the two villages, is emblematic of the tight relationship between Red Hook’s community and its farms. The lower level of the main barn houses the town’s vibrant farmers’ market. Backed by a live jazz band, you can shop for local produce, meats, cheeses and artisanal foods that are some of the best in the Hudson Valley (which then, logically, makes them some of the best products on the face of the earth).

mercatoMercato & Luna 61
World-class local ingredients translate directly into world-class fine dining. While there’s a plethora of amazing restaurants in town, the refined Italian-modern delicacies served at Mercato make for a transformational experience. Tucked into a humble residential façade, Mercato serves patrons with the refinement, skill and essence of the best metropolitan restaurants… but this food is sourced from farms within walking distance. And if you’re a vegetarian, a vegan, gluten free or if you just want a sophisticated yet totally meat-free meal, go to Luna 61 in Tivoli. This is one of those places where, crazy as it sounds to some carnivores, you just don’t miss the meat. The dishes produced are such high quality and spiced so expertly, you’ll be addicted after the first bite.

Bard College & The Fisher Center
Bard College, which is ranked as one of the best schools and one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, is a mecca of culture both during the school year — hosting popular and important writers, thinkers and artists — as well as during the summer months when it is home to the Bard Music Festival (this year celebrating Schubert from August 8-17) and Bard SummerScape (running June 27-August 17) with most performances taking place in the breathtaking Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. 

swanThe Black Swan
Your day’s wrapping up and by now you’ve eaten four or five times and done a lot of walking around. It’s time to reward yourself for your good works with a nightcap and some bad behavior. The Black Swan in Tivoli is an icon of the area’s less reserved predilections. A cross between a dive and an historic pub, the Black Swan is the type of local bar that you don’t see much anymore. It’s a charming place to have one too many. Get a ride and enjoy yourself with all the friends you made.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 04/27/14 at 04:06 PM • Permalink