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

 

Advertisements

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.

The Most Hated Man in New England

THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA’s Chris Thorn talks about finding his center and portraying the humanity of Benedict Arnold on stage.

So, Chris, how does it feel to play the most hated man in American history?

Thorn-Chris_Headshot

Chris: Oh, it’s great! You know, it’s funny: I’m from Maine and in New England the meanest thing you could say to a kid who’s done you wrong is, “ya such a Benedict Ahnald.” It was, like, the biggest insult of my youth, which didn’t occur to me until just recently. But I try not to think of it as portraying the most hated person in the world. My main job is to make him human.

And how do you get into that mindset?

Chris: For me it’s not really about a mindset. Richard Nelson wrote a really great play, and I have a series of actions that I have to do in the play, one after another. Rather than getting too tied up in is somebody good or is somebody bad, I just pursue what they want… remorselessly. You play each action without regret to survive. So in a way, I guess I’m honoring Benedict Arnold? Or trying to keep him alive. I’m basically arguing his side of the story.

Davis [McCallum, HVSF’s Artistic Director] talked about how HVSF’s Theater Tent is a place where trial plays work really well, so in a lot of ways you can think of this as Benedict Arnold’s trial. I think there’s some evidence in my favor and objectively there’s probably some stuff that makes me look not so great. But, ultimately, I’m (he’s) just a person. I can make my case.

Behind the scenes of Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s promotional shoot for THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA, running in repertory August 4 – September 3, 2017.

That’s the thing about these Revolutionary War or period stories: we forget that they were just people who wanted to fall in love, make money, and be successful. All the things that we want all the time. So, they’re not that foreign… and that makes them very interesting to play.

When I first decided to do THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA, Davis said to me, “get ready. You’re gonna get boo’ed in the supermarket.” And I was like, “really?! People are still mad about it?” But I kind of get it now. There’s a certain antipathy from what we learned in history classes. I enjoy advocating for people who aren’t heard, so to speak; the underdogs. I like arguing for the other side.

Has this opened new doors in your own mind? Do you feel differently about the man or his situation than you did before?

Chris: One of the things I do before I start rehearsing any play is that I pick elements or characteristics of the character that are like me. I’m a boy from New England, and he was from Connecticut, and I don’t know if that has changed much in the last 200 years or so.

I think it’s opened my mind to how important this country actually is to me. I’ve always specifically identified as a dude from Maine and I think I do really love American stories. Nelson’s play has opened up a new perspective of American pride for me: pride over the land and the earth.

Our Director, Penny [Metropulos], spoke to us about how this country is huge and made up of all these beautiful places. I’ve been lucky enough to travel while acting and have experienced everything from the deserts of Arizona to the blue hills of Kentucky to the coastline of Maine (the most beautiful place in the world, if you’re asking). The United States is an incredible place with a very complicated political history that continues to this day, and all that tension between loving this land and tolerating its politics makes people human. That’s what Penny articulated to me: you can love the land but not love the government. That struggle can be difficult.

160410_Button_BuyTickets

THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA
By Richard Nelson
Directed by Penny Metropulos
Running August 4 – September 3, 2017

Kurt and Nance

After 63 shows and 33 years together, the grand couple of HVSF is back for another season

Originally published in the July 7, 2017 issue of The Highlands Current
By Alison Rooney

It never grows stale for Kurt Rhoads and Nance Williamson. They’ve performed in productions together at least 63 times, by their own count, the majority at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF), where they unofficially reign as king and queen of the players. Back again this season (which is Rhoads’ 20th and Williamson’s 17th), the audience favorites appear in four productions between them and overlap in one.

By now they’ve played many Shakespearian roles more than once but say each time reveals something new.

“Every time you go in and do it, you think you know it, but it’s a whole new lens,” says Rhoads. “It can be hard, at times, if you loved the first production of it you were in, but inevitably something starts to grow and you wind up seeing it in a whole new light; the writing holds you in a whole new way.”

Williamson says she associates plays she has done multiple times to periods in her life. “There are a lot of moving parts in terms of getting to know the role, deepening your interpretation,” she says. “It doesn’t get stale, it gets richer and there’s an increased ability to speak the speech more generously. It’s a gift to try it again; your point of view broadens along with your life experiences.”

Naturally, the two met doing Shakespeare, As You Like It, a comedy in which the typical course of true love doesn’t run smoothly, until it kind of does. That was echoed by their first interaction, which took place at the Dallas Theater Center. Rhoads, who had just earned an MFA from the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago (his bachelor’s degree was in English, from the University of Chicago) was excited to become a member of a young classics company. Williamson — who grew up in rural Wisconsin as one of three daughters of a veterinarian, and is a theater graduate of St. Olaf’s College and Trinity University at the Dallas Theater Center (MFA) — was there already.

After the funding for the company was pulled on the day Rhoads arrived, the program head gave him a job teaching movement. The only problem was, Williamson already had the job. Like a true Shakespearian heroine, she was miffed. Nevertheless, six months later, after playing opposite each other in a school-tour production of As You Like It, the pair was wed. Seven years later, they again performed in As You Like It, and they’ve done the play together three more times, including last summer at HVSF [see Nance and Kurt in the 2016 teaser for As You Like It below]. “It’s our love play,” Williamson says.

The pair spent the ensuing decade working frequently for the Dallas Theater Center and Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, which performed in an open-air band shell not dissimilar to the HVSF tent at Boscobel. There were also similarities in the style of DTC director Adrian Hall and the presentations by HVSF. “Hall liked to do the works using clothing, not costumes,” says Williamson. “Storytelling was the goal.” Hall also pushed to develop regional theater, which he called “art where we are.”

After a decade in Dallas, the couple in 1992 moved to New York City, where they acquired agents and found steady employment. During most years they mix lead roles in regional productions with commercials, TV work and the occasional Broadway outing. (Williamson’s most recent was in Romeo and Juliet with Orlando Bloom, while Rhoads appeared in Julius Caesar starring Denzel Washington.)

“Our plan was never to stay in New York City but rather hunt around for another company where we could hang our hats,” Williamson recalls. “We didn’t realize that most companies had been done away with by that point,” and did not know “that in a way the [entire] country would become our ‘company.’”

Their theatrical agent attempts to find work for them together but, if he can’t, they have a “six-week” rule. If separated for that long, one hops on a plane.

They’re great fans of each other as actors. “Kurt has a kind of bravery that’s pretty bold, in different ways,” Williamson says. “It can be funny or dangerous. There are these moments: In Othello, as Iago he rubbed Desdemona’s back, kept his hand on her — the guy that’s supposed to help you recover oversteps his boundaries, with his wife in the room. It’s not in the script, but so bold. Kurt lifts things off the page that aren’t there. Makes them really unique. He brings his vivid imagination to the text.”

Rhoads assesses his wife: “Nance has a warmth of presence; she puts the audience at ease and makes them comfortable. Nance lets people in, in a good way. And, if she makes a mistake, she forgives herself and the audience goes with it. In An Iliad one night I messed up about seven times and ugh — I kept thinking about it —she rides with it.”

Despite the amount of Shakespeare they have performed, they have not acted in all of his plays. Rhoads prepared to do Timon of Athens but the production was cancelled. “When you taste a part, it’s hard to let go of it,” he says. They both have gaps in some of the history plays.

After spending summers in Garrison, Rhoads and Williamson decided, in 2002, to move here. “I wanted to have a place where I could read outside,” says Rhoads. “There’s a kind of desperation that actors start to feel, living in the city. Your work becomes your only measure. I’m from a small town in Illinois, about 5,000 people; my parents ran a Sears Catalogue store. I like the kind of balance of living in a manageable community with a connection to nature.”

Williamson agrees. “There was a constant nervousness about paying rent, whereas now instead I can focus on having a garden to take care of,” she says. “Moving up here has been a gift, largely because we’ve gotten to know so many people, meeting them in the grocery store, saying hi, having conversations. For actors to have a home base is healthy.”

Both say they will be more than content to continue taking the stage in Shakespeare. “In Shakespeare you say what you mean; you’re speaking the truth,” says Williamson. “With many other playwrights, like O’Neill, what characters say is more ambiguous. But all of them benefit from revisiting: they need ripening, need to be in the barrel in the basement.”

They volley this idea between them. Rhoads: “You can let some of the preciousness go, have a lighter touch, not hit it so hard.” Williamson: “It’s like you’re playing jazz. You know it so well you can let it breathe.”

This season, Kurt Rhoads takes the stage in TWELFTH NIGHT, THE BOOK OF WILL, and THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA; Nance Williamson in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA.

Revolutionary & Hopped Up on Language: Davis McCallum on THE BOOK OF WILL

Blog-BOOK Davis HeadshotI never refer to Shakespeare as “The Bard.”

Here’s why: “The Bard” conjures for me an image of Shakespeare, a long time ago and
far far away, gazing out a gothic window at the Warwickshire countryside. As he strokes his mustache, his quill is ready to deliver his genius to the page. He’s untouchable, remote, more a literary demi-god than a man. This person is a stranger to me. And I’m not sure I like him.

At Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, our Will Shakespeare is a man of the theater — himself an actor and shareholder in The King’s Men, the theater company he founded with his friends and colleagues, and for whom he wrote every single one of his plays. This Shakespeare is unapologetically Elizabethan and yet utterly our contemporary — weird, bawdy, passionate, poetic, revolutionary, humane, hopped up on language, and bursting with the confidence that anything is possible in the theater when the power of the human imagination is unlocked by the right words in the care of a great actor. This Shakespeare belongs to everyone, and it’s his ability to capture our shared humanity that makes his plays resonate today.


“Our Will Shakespeare is utterly our contemporary – weird, bawdy, passionate, poetic, revolutionary, humane, hopped up on language, and bursting with the confidence that anything is possible…”


When I first read THE BOOK OF WILL, I found this same Shakespeare on every page of Lauren’s play. And I was so excited by the discovery that I called her that same day and
asked if we could produce the world premiere at HVSF.

Although the plot of the play concerns the making of the First Folio — one of the single most important and influential events in the history of publishing — it’s not a play about a book. It’s a play about a theater company. At the heart of the play is the friendship between two actors in the company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, who take upon themselves the task of saving their friend’s words from near-certain oblivion. And now, four hundred years later, those words have not only survived: they have given so many people so much joy, and solace, and courage. The simple fact that we are all together under this magnificent test is a testament to the life-force contained within them.

So, in the spirit of the play, I’d like to propose a toast…

Not “To The Bard,” but: “To Will!”

160410_Button_BuyTickets

THE BOOK OF WILL
By Lauren Gunderson | Directed by Davis McCallum
Previews June 9 – June 21, 2017
Running June 22 – July 28, 2017
Rolling World Premiere

this production is supported in part by
THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS

HVSF Welcomes Drama League Directing Fellow

The Drama League recently announced its 2017 Classical Directing Fellowships for Artists of Color. One of three theaters participating in the program, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is thrilled to announce that Damascus native Kholoud Sawaf will join the company in July to assist directors Penny Metropoulos on THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA and Ian Belknap on LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. Sawaf will also direct the Festival’s two-day Community Bakeoff, part of the HVSF2 new play reading series at the Philipstown Depot Theatre.

HVSF Artistic Director Davis McCallum was part of a distinguished panel that selected this year’s fellows: “I was blown away by Kholoud when I met her in the interview process,” McCallum noted, “and I am delighted that she will be joining HVSF as our 2017 Drama League Fellow.”

Sawaf-Kholoud_Headshot

Kholoud Sawaf

Sawaf has worked as a theatre and documentary maker in Lebanon, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. In collaboration with TheatreSquared, she’s adapting and directing R&J Damascus, a recipient of a $250,000 grant through Doris Duke Foundation’s Building Bridges Program. Some of her directing work includes The Chairs (U of A), Merci Maurer (devised) with ArkansasStaged and Vietgone (TheatreSquared, 2018). Sawaf’s assistant directing credits include Vietgone (Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Manhattan Theatre Club). She received a BA in Mass Communication from American University of Shajrah and a MFA in Directing from University of Arkansas.

The Classical Directing Fellowship for Artists of Color immerses a director in the productions and institutional life of a company working in the classical canon. In addition to their work with each respective theater, Fellows participate in Professionals Week, an intensive week of professional theater immersion including performances, seminars, workshops with industry professional, and field-focused discussions. Past Drama League Fellows at HVSF include Emily Lyon (2015) and Noa Egozi (2016).

Welcome to HVSF, Kholoud! We can’t wait to meet you this summer!

First Look: 2017 Rehearsals Begin

Long before the Theater Tent is erected on the edge of the Hudson, our acting company gathers in New York City to begin the rehearsal process — memorizing lines, developing their characters, reviewing sets and costumes with designers, meeting staff and supporters, and more. Go behind the scenes with our 2017 company! Photos by Ashley Garrett.

HVSF Meet & Greet 2017-21

Longtime fan favorites Jason O’Connell and Kurt Rhoads

HVSF Meet & Greet 2017-29

THE BOOK OF WILL Playwright Lauren Gunderson joins in from the West Coast

HVSF Meet & Greet 2017-3

Company members Kimberly Chatterjee and Sean McNall with HVSF supporter Siew Thye Stinson

Previews of TWELFTH NIGHT, THE BOOK OF WILL, and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE begin June 8. Meet the cast under the Theater Tent this summer!

160410_Button_BuyTickets

 

Kate Hamill’s Top 7 ‘Musts’ for an Ideal Mr. Darcy

When considering Jane Austen’s aloof, hard-headed Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which devilishly handsome leading man comes to mind? If you’re like anyone with access to BBC or A&E in the mid-’90s, Colin Firth may be your go-to embodiment of this unlikely romantic hero, having appeared in 1995’s made-for-television Pride & Prejudice directed by Simon Langton.

“Women being attracted to [Mr. Darcy] took me by surprise,” Firth recently told The Daily Mail. “When I took on the role it seemed to me that he was imperious and stiff and forbidding, and I didn’t know what there was to play apart from him scowling all the time. I thought it would be quite fun and liberating to play someone who was completely and utterly dislikeable, unsympathetic, judgmental and snobbish.”

Darcy may find a foe in Firth, but a friend in playwright Kate Hamill. Hamill’s playful adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE makes its debut under the HVSF Theater Tent this summer, and not without the weirdo women (and men) who’ve become signature players in a Hamill adaptation.

“I’m so disinterested in beautiful, perfect people,” beamed Hamill. “Lizzy Bennet’s a total weirdo and should be treated as such. She and Darcy are both odd ducks… odd ducks that swim together.”

So how will Hamill’s Odd Duck Darcy shape up this summer? Here are her top seven must-haves in an ideal leading man:

  1. Righteous: “He tries to do the right thing all the time”
  2. Smart: “He’s capable of being quite nerdy.”
  3. Stubborn: “That’s a big one!”
  4. Principled: “He has to be someone with a lot of integrity.”
  5. Funny: “Intentionally and unintentionally, for sure.”
  6. Magnetic: “Someone you feel a deep connection with.”
  7. But, above all: “HUMAN! There’s just no other way to put it.”

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is in previews June 10 – June 23, 2017 and runs June 24 – September 4, 2017. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

160410_Button_BuyTickets

Love is a Devil: Director Ian Belknap on LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST

“Masculine desire… what is it? What is love when you’re young?”

If LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST Director Ian Belknap had answers to his questions, he probably wouldn’t be exploring them onstage with us this summer.

This classic tale of eight unwitting young lovers follows a familiar trajectory: Boys make a pact. Attractive girls arrive. Love blossoms, and the pact is no more. It’s an age-old story told and retold in Tennyson’s The Princess, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida, and even – to some extent – in Dennis Dugan’s block-buster film Saving Silverman.


“I would forget her; but a fever she
Reigns in my blood and will remember’d be.”

Dumain, LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST


O, the weight of young love!

Still, layers of self-discovery, emotional curiosity, and forbidden romance within LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST continue to resonate onstage. Belknap finds that first piece – self-discovery – particularly worthy of reexamination this year, as LOVE’S cast, the HVSF Conservatory Company, embark on a unique journey of their own. Following the Conservatory Company’s appearance under the theater tent this summer, these eight young actors will bring the show on tour to schools with The Acting Company (for which Belknap serves as Artistic Director) leading finally to their acceptance into Actors’ Equity, a key milestone in the life of a professional actor.

“These are eight actors depicting eight lovers, and so much more,” noted Belknap. “Our cut is fast-paced with players moving fluidly between roles and there’s something powerful about these emerging actors playing similarly-aged students and their educated instructors. Student becomes teacher, just as the princess becomes the queen in the final notes of Act 5.”


“Masculine desire… what is it? What is love when you’re young?”

– Ian Belknap


One might say this play, in particular, is itself a labor of love: “LOVE’S offers some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful, but densely written, language. It’s tough for any actor, but once you’ve done it… you’ve done it.”

“And only a writer of Shakespeare’s caliber would have the courage to craft that final scene,” admitted Belknap. “‘The news I bring is heavy in my tongue. The king, your father’ is dead. Seriously?! It’s devastating because Shakespeare waits until the absolute last second to bring the news of the King’s death. It’s shocking because there has been little to no foreshadowing and then, at the 23rd hour, BOOM. Childhood ends. These characters – these actors – take up the mantle of adulthood.”

But let’s get back to that youthful romance…

“As is the case with ROMEO & JULIET, my hope is that students can easily see themselves in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST because they’ve been here before,” admitted Belknap. “They’ve known young love, forbidden love. They’ve made the same jokes about the teachers and adults in their lives. They know what trying to maintain one’s honor means. To them, it means an awful lot.”

 

LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST runs August 14 – August 29, 2017 under the tent (including free family matinees on August 15, 22, and 29), and tours with The Acting Company this fall. Season tickets go on sale to the public March 15, but members of our Saints & Poets Society (March 8) and Festival Circles (March 1) have early access. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

Our American Identity: Director Penny Metropulos on THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA

“What’s going on outside is enormous,” offered Director Penny Metropulos, delving into the cultural context of this season’s THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA by Richard Nelson. “Protests, battles, meetings of congress, the war raging on – still, the interactions between characters are so personal, so intimate.”

THE GENERAL, first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1996, follows the treasonous plot of Benedict Arnold as he plans his defection and flight from a fledgling United States. Long reviled by most Americans and world historians as a traitor, Arnold’s 1779 struggle with our newborn nation is revisited in this powerful text, exposing “the puritanical hypocrisy and corruption that marched beside the heralded courage of our national beginnings.” (The Village Voice)

thegeneral_rsc_by

Royal Shakespeare Company’s premiere production of THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA. Photo by Zuleika Henry.

“What I love about this play is its humanism,” Metropulos revealed. “Nelson gives us an intimate, crystalline, personal look at these characters who, for so long, have been larger than life in our minds.” Revolutionary War-era staples such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the malefactor himself, Benedict Arnold, move fluidly between scenes, currying favor of leadership, chiding one another, bemoaning personal circumstance, exposing their own fragility.

Unique to this summer’s production is something HVSF doesn’t usually get to explore with Shakespeare’s works: site specificity. Arnold’s own command at West Point, now known as the United States Military Academy, can be seen from the Theater Tent on the opposite bank of the Hudson. Many of Arnold’s key stops along his escape path lie on HVSF’s side of the river, with historical markers noticeable along local paths and roadways.


“This play is part and parcel of our identity as Americans.”

– Penny Metropulos


“I’m always interested in anything that makes me study harder and it seems like a good time to brush up on American history,” admitted Metropulos.

“This play is part and parcel of our identity as Americans and all the contradictions and complexities therein: our ideas about loyalty to country versus loyalty to our neighbors, feelings of personal dishonor, the fear that our stories and opinions may not be heard, the disillusionment we sometimes feel about our country, and our never ending search for the true meaning of freedom… it’s all here.”


“Good plays and good actors tell stories.”

– Penny Metropulos


Still, Metropulos is quick to assert that she’s not aiming to make a personal statement on stage, but to put on a great show: “I don’t think it’s my place to make assumptions for or about our audience or their politics. Good plays and good actors tell stories. Seeing historical figures in this new light, we very well may question our assumptions about our shared American history.

THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA is in previews August 4 – 7, 2017 and runs August 8 – September 3, 2017. Season tickets go on sale to the public March 15, but members of our Saints & Poets Society (March 8) and Festival Circles (March 1) have early access. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.