OUR TOWN Cast Members Make Weekly Dinner a Priority

When Beacon resident and transit director Bernadette “Bunny” Humphrey-Nicol first learned about HVSF’s community-driven production of OUR TOWN in the spring of 2016, she was hesitant. “My wife found an ad for an HVSF workshop in Beacon and one of her clients said, “Bunny should try!” But… OUR TOWN? A lily-white play about a lily-white town? I thought, what kind of role could there possibly be for me?”

Anne Provet, a fellow Beaconite and psychologist, saw opportunity in those initial theater workshops. By that time, Provet’s twins had grown and moved off to college. “I essentially had an empty house and I’d been desperately looking to get back into the arts. So I thought, why not? What’s there to lose?

Prior to the early gatherings held in libraries, community centers, and churches throughout the Hudson Valley, Bunny and Anne had never met. Most of the OUR TOWN workshop participants hadn’t. But soon, these two citizen actors would develop something rarely found and rarely kept after settling down, developing careers, and growing families: a brand new friendship. And, they’d begin a weekly ritual of Tuesday night dinner (pictured here: enjoying pasta and a glass of wine at Cold Spring’s Riverview Restaurant in August).

The two first met when the entire cast, crew, and staff gathered together under the HVSF Theater Tent at Boscobel House and Gardens. “We stood next to each other and had one of those random ‘what role do you play?’ sorts of exchanges, nothing all that consequential,” Anne recalls. But in the weeks to come, their director would push them to create as one company, to act as one company, and to grow as one company.

“Our connection really began when we started developing music for the show in rehearsal,” says Bunny, “John [Christian Plummer, the director] basically said, “bring your instruments,” and that was that. We all came together to weave our talents into the show. I played the drums while Anne was on the guitar and we both got into the swing of looking to each other to keep tempo. Even when we were on stage, in performances, I’d look at her.”

After months of workshops and rehearsals and a handful of performances over the Labor Day weekend, some cast members took up the mantle and began gathering for workshops in Peekskill led by fellow cast member and HVSF Associate Artistic Director/Director of Education Sean McNall. The workshops centered around verbatim theatre, in which plays are developed from the exact words spoken by people interviewed about a particular subject or event.

Seven or so OUR TOWN cast members signed up, the majority from Beacon. Bunny, Anne, and several others began carpooling each Tuesday. “That’s how we ended up with Tuesdays!” Bunny exclaims. “Even after the workshops had ended, we tried to keep gathering – at restaurants in Cold Spring and Beacon, even at a Trivia Night at the local brewery. In the end, Anne and I stayed in contact.”

“There’s always more to know about how someone else experiences the world.”

Then came the election. “I think the turbulence of the last election really brought us closer. Since then, we’ve been through a lot together: we’ve protested together, traveled together, spent time with each other’s family, shared health news, personal news…” Anne trails off. “It’s rare to find a friendship like this at my age.”

“I had some very low points after the election,” says Bunny, “we both needed the other to pull us out and build us back up.”

Blog-AnneBernadette_DSC_5146-editAnne likes that Bunny and her wife, Michelle, maintain their sense of independence. Bunny appreciates Anne’s sense of adventure… sort of.

“She hates to be uncomfortable!” chides Anne. “We just got back from traveling in Maine together. We stayed in a cabin but I didn’t really tell her it was a cabin. She didn’t even think to ask if there was a shower!” (There wasn’t.)

Have the two friends learned from each other? “I’ve definitely seen my horizons expand since meeting Bunny,” says Anne. “We certainly share similar views on race and civil rights, but there’s always much more to learn. There’s always more to know about how someone else experiences the world. And, of course, I’m heterosexual, divorced…”

“I’m not!” Bunny laughs.

“We help each other understand the world. Together.” Anne notes, as she welcomes a large plate of linguini and passes Bunny the bread.

Like Anne and Bernadette, the cast, crew, and helping hands of 2016’s OUR TOWN brought with them a diversity of experiences, expectations, inspirations, and desires. In future seasons, HVSF will offer more first-hand access to art-making for our Hudson Valley community through Full Circle, HVSF’s community engagement wing. Learn more here.

Photos by Ashley Garrett and HVSF Staff.

“As the introductory workshops [for 2016’s community-driven production of OUR TOWN] continued, these adventurous Hudson Valley community members came back for more. And they began to write to me. People explained what this process meant to them; they talked about loneliness, about the joy of connecting with their kids, about rediscovering themselves. One said in an email: “People need to come together in this country…we don’t farm together, we don’t build homes together, we don’t make music together. We don’t even walk past each other’s homes and tip our hats.” These aspiring artists all seemed to be searching, and not just for a part in a play.”

– program excerpt by Emily Sophia Knapp, Associate Producer, OUR TOWN



2017: Our Top Ten Favorite Moments

An improvised “I Do.” An evening of wild, Hamilton-infused energy. We take a quick look back at some of our favorite moments from the 2017 Summer Season with the folks who keep the lights on, the HVSF Administrative Staff…

1. A Top-Secret Proposal

“About a month into the season, my Assistant Company Manager’s boyfriend messaged me on Facebook: I want to propose to Kristin. Can I do this onstage? The conspiracy grew slowly: me, then our Stage Manager (Marci), Production Manager (Chris), Artistic Director (Davis), Managing Director (Kate), my intern (Mary Caitlyn), and finally our actor playing Feste, Michael Broadhurst, who would serve as the MC. On the fateful night, Kristin and her boyfriend’s families were in the audience watching TWELFTH NIGHT. At intermission, Marci and I told the entire cast, and during curtain call Feste selected two “volunteers” to come onstage. With the cast watching onstage and production staff watching offstage, Kristin said yes(!) and the audience gave them a standing ovation.”
Katie Meade, Company Manager

2. “Benedict’s” Supporters

“I loved when Chris Thorn (the actor who played Benedict Arnold in this season’s THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA) and his family stopped in the HVSF office on Main Street in Cold Spring. They were standing around outside and noticed the large poster hanging in our window, which was a picture of Chris. There were a lot of oohs and aahs and excitement from his family. They were very proud of him – as we all were!”
– Linda Patterson, Finance Director

3. Nance’s Belvedere Dash

“After I had seen the audience settle into the Tent for the evening, I would wait for Nance to come up over the hill as Mrs. Bennet in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Her loud hallooing for Mr. Bennet, complete with the silly bonnet and the bell was a brilliant beginning to the play. I would watch, as like clockwork, half-way between the belvedere and the Tent where she would pause, putting one finger up and doubling over for breath. This got a big laugh every night and after that laugh, I knew the audience was connected to the story and on their journey for the evening.”
– Catherine Taylor-Williams, Director of Development

4. Opening Night of THE BOOK OF WILL, Closing Scene

“When those pages began to fall… I was just weeping in the audience at the beauty of the play.”
– Kate Liberman, Managing Director

“I loved the moment, after the curtain call, when there were spontaneous calls of “Author, Author!” I watched Lauren Gunderson’s (playwright, THE BOOK OF WILL) mom watch as her daughter modestly acknowledged the ovation.”
– Davis McCallum, Artistic Director

5. Live-Action Revolution

“Big ups to the Week of Revolution 21+ Trivia Night. It was a surprisingly cold August night, but a hardy and sizeable bunch of trivia buffs hung out after THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA to take part. Our friends at The Middle Company put together a great batch of questions, loosely tied to the American Revolution (“Paul Revere” by the Beastie Boys featured). My team – strangers at the outset – showed great group cohesion as we created a tableau of Washington Crossing the Delaware. And took full points. Amazing.”
– Jena Hershkowitz, Development Associate

6. Ready For Their Closeup

“I have the pleasure of devising photo and video shoots each season to help tell the story of what’s on stage. Sometimes, these shoots are quick and painless, with actors in minimal costumes playing around inside a studio. And sometimes, as was the case with this season’s LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST, these shoots involve over-sized, insulated animal masks worn by exhausted actors as they gallivant about in mid-90-degree Hudson Valley heat. Of course, our Conservatory Company rose to the challenge like the champions they are, and it reminded me how incredibly generous and dedicated our actors have to be to bring their best selves to the Theater Tent. I wish we were able to use all the images we captured that day!”
– Emma, Director of Marketing & Communications 

7. HAMILTUNES on the Hudson

” The Hamilton Community Sing-Along! A night in which the tent was filled with electricity and joy supplied by our community members joining on stage and singing their hearts out – a night I will never forget. I loved watching Nathaniel Ramos (who was one of the local child actors in last year’s OUR TOWN) completely kill it as Elizabeth Schuyler.”
– Kate Liberman, Managing Director

8. Suffrage Stories

“I loved marveling at the courage and talent and honesty of the community playwrights featured in the HVSF Bakeoff, and personally reporting by email to playwright Paula Vogel on the spectacular success of the short plays that had been inspired by 100 years of women’s suffrage in New York.”
– Davis McCallum, Artistic Director 

9. A Playground for Play(s)

“The way to get my 3 year old son, Lucas, to accompany me to work at the Tent was to promise him a chocolate and vanilla Go-Go-Pop from the HVSF Cafe Tent and that he could sit on one of the golf carts. He would run to the Cafe and shout, “PLEASE chocolate and vanilla PLEASE!” After that was over, he would try to sneak past our House Manager, Lindsay, to see if he could break into the Tent to see what the actors were doing.

Once he realized my job was to meet people at the Tent, he decided he’d do the same: “This is my mommy, Catherine. I’m Lucas. What’s your name?”

Being a child in the theater is lots of fun and HVSF is a great place for kids. On any given night you could see impromptu soccer and frisbee games. Artistic Director Davis McCallum’s kids Thomas and Angus were there, Actor/Associate Artistic Director Sean McNall’s son Declan, as was Actor John Tufts’ son Henry. One night, Kurt Rhoads explained to Lucas how baseball worked. It’s a family place, and I’m proud to be part of that.”
– Catherine Taylor-Williams, Director of Development

10. Oozing Collins and the Chair

Who needs words for this PRIDE AND PREJUDICE chair bit?
The whole office is still laugh-crying at it.


What were your favorite moments of the 2017 Summer Season? Share them with us on Facebook or Instagram, or by emailing boxoffice@hvshakespeare.org.

2017 Raffle Winners Announced!

During the 2017 Summer Season over 2,000 generous audience members like you participated in our annual Education Raffle to support HVSF’s In-School Education Programs. 13 Cold Spring-area businesses donated over $1,000 in prizes for our lucky Raffle winners, and the generosity of the HVSF audience brought in over $24,000 to keep the magic of Shakespeare alive in schools and communities throughout the tri-state!

Congratulations (and thank you!) to each of our 2017 Raffle Winners:

Learn more about HVSF’s year-round Education Programs reaching over 60,000 students and educators throughout the tri-state region, and check out our 2017-2018 Education Brochure.