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.
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And they’ve never heard of love.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE Director Amanda Dehnert reflects on the “ineffable something in the dance that develops between two people” and the ‘love songs’ that don’t serve love at all:

Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage…

So say Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, in their 1955 ode to love’s natural
conclusion. But, is it true? Has it ever been? And now that we are far past our horse and
carriage days, as a society — do we still believe that marriage and love are inextricably
intertwined, just like chickens and eggs? Which comes first — the marriage, or the love?
And why do we find ourselves using these familiar words — chase, catch, aim, hit, lost,
won — to describe coupling?

The purpose of a man is to love a woman
And the purpose of a woman is to love a man…

So say the Mindbenders (1965, with an assist from Carl Ballard, Jr.), when they sing of
‘The Game Of Love’. It’s slightly jarring (and awfully binary), to think of there being no other purpose behind one’s gender or identity than ‘to love’. Of course, even when we extend this idea to modern society — men certainly don’t have to love only women, and vice versa — still, must we all play? Must we all find some person, any person, to serve as our partner/competitor in a game that isn’t necessarily very fun, or even particularly winnable?

They say we’re crazy but I just don’t care
And if they keep on talking still they get nowhere
So I don’t mind if they don’t understand
When I look at you and you hold my hand
’Cos they don’t know about us
And they’ve never heard of love…

So says Kirsty Maccoll, in 1979, with her song, ‘They Don’t Know’. And, she’s right. Whether there’s marriage (or not), whether there’s a reason that anyone else can see (or not), there is an ineffable something in the dance that develops between two people. It’s not made up of public moments. It doesn’t require exchanges of volleys, or virtues, or vows. Best of all: nobody else need understand the why or wherefore. After all, what do they know, anyway?

They don’t know about us.

And they’ve never heard of love.

 

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
By Kate Hamill | Adapted from the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
Running June 10 – Sept 4, 2017
Rolling World Premiere
A Co-Production with Primary Stages

 

WSJ: A Shakespeare Festival for the 21st Century

Originally Published in The Wall Street Journal
By Terry Teachout | July 6, 2017

With ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘The Book of Will’ the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival broadens its once-sacrosanct repertory.

What does it mean to be a “Shakespeare festival” in the second decade of the 21st century? Like many such enterprises, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is in the process of broadening its once-sacrosanct repertory, so much so that two of its three current mainstage productions are premieres. One, however, is a play about Shakespeare, while the other is a new adaptation of a novel as classic—and familiar—as anything the Bard ever wrote. The biggest and best news, though, is that both plays are the stuff hits are made of, and Hudson Valley has brought off a first-class coup by launching them in the same season.

Kate Hamill, whose stage versions of “Sense and Sensibility” and “Vanity Fair” were deservedly successful, has now turned her hand to a second Jane Austen novel, “Pride and Prejudice.” You wouldn’t think she’d have anything fresh to say about a book that to date has been filmed a half-dozen times (not counting “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”) and put on the stage at least as often. You’d be wrong, though, for the ever-ingenious Ms. Hamill has given us something completely and delightfully different, a smallish-cast period-dress “Pride and Prejudice” that she’s done over in the revved-up manner of a Hollywood screwball comedy. The language is traditional but the approach is thoroughly modern, with six of the eight actors playing multiple roles, several of them in drag. Cleverly compressed—one of the five Bennet sisters has vanished into the memory hole—and adapted with fizzy, festive freedom, Ms. Hamill’s “P&P” is full of “Bringing Up Baby”-style slapstick and the kind of barely controlled chaos that you’d expect to see in a five-door Feydeau farce.

Such a show demands worthy staging, and Amanda Dehnert, a prodigally gifted director whose work is not yet widely known on the East Coast, delivers the goods with gusto. Having previously seen her Oregon Shakespeare Festival productions of “Julius Caesar” and “My Fair Lady,” I wouldn’t have guessed that Ms. Dehnert also has a knack for pratfalls and spit takes, but her way with “P&P” is so adroit as to make me wonder what she’d do with a full-fledged farce like “Loot” or “Noises Off.” At the same time, she also makes sure to darken the mood just before intermission, reminding us that in the 19th century the finding of a husband was no laughing matter for unmonied women like the Bennet sisters.

Pride and Prejudice HVSF 6-17 142_by T. Charles Erickson

The cast of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival PHOTO: T CHARLES ERICKSON

In addition to having written the script, Ms. Hamill plays Lizzy Bennet with winning impishness, and Jason O’Connell, a well-known Hudson Valley face, is wonderfully, almost incapacitatingly shy as Mr. Darcy. Top comic honors, though, go to Mark Bedard, who doubles as the fathomlessly snooty Miss Bingley and the disgustingly obsequious Mr. Collins. Either one of his performances would have been noteworthy, but that the same person should be playing both parts (as well as that of Mr. Wickham) is a truly stupendous piece of quick-change clownery.

If you can’t make it to Hudson Valley, Ms. Dehnert’s production will be transferring to New York’s Primary Stages in November. I can’t imagine that it will stop there: Like “Vanity Fair” before it, Ms. Hamill’s “Pride and Prejudice” is the kind of show that would flourish in a small Broadway house. Should “P&P” fail to receive the commercial production it deserves, you can bet that it’ll be the toast of the regional-theater circuit.

The Book Of Will HVSF 6-17 219_Maryn Shaw, Sean McNall, Kurt Rhoads_by T. Charles Erickson

Maryn Shaw, Sean McNall, and Kurt Rhoads PHOTO: T. CHARLES ERICKSON

THE BOOK OF WILL

Lauren Gunderson’s “The Book of Will,” Hudson Valley’s second premiere, is a different sort of period piece, a play about the posthumous publication in 1623 of the First Folio, in which fully authentic texts of most of Shakespeare’s plays saw print for the very first time. If that sounds like dry-as-dust pedantry to you, fear not: Ms. Gunderson, whose plays are hugely popular outside New York but has yet to receive a major production in Manhattan, has given us a serious comedy, by turns charming and darkly poignant, in which a history lesson is embedded so gracefully that you’ll scarcely know you’ve been schooled.

Davis McCallum, Hudson Valley’s artistic director, has given “The Book of Will” a lively staging that’s as close to ideal as it’s possible to get, but the play is so soundly made that it would come off as well in a less deft production. “The Book of Will” is a cinch to be taken up by Shakespeare festivals all over America—as well it should be.

 

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
By Kate Hamill
Adapted from the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
A co-production with Primary Stages
Running June 10 – September 4, 2017

THE BOOK OF WILL
By Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Davis McCallum
Running June 9 – July 28, 2017

NYT’s Outdoor Stages: A Madcap ‘Pride & Prejudice’ in the Hudson Valley

Originally Published in The New York Times
By Mary Jo Murphy | June 29, 2017

Lizzy Bennet lives with Mr. Darcy in Queens.

This summer, however, the prickliest pair in fiction can be found most nights in their own D.I.Y. Pemberley, a tent in Garrison, N.Y., overlooking the Hudson River — and reminding audiences that the finest china in their beloved Jane Austen is as likely to be a chamber pot as a teacup.

Lizzy is Kate Hamill. Her stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” had its premiere last Saturday at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival there, where it will play in repertory until September before shifting to Primary Stages Off Broadway in November. And yes, Ms. Hamill acts opposite her nonfictional boyfriend, Jason O’Connell. It’s a first for the couple, although he played the future brother-in-law, Edward, to her Marianne Dashwood in Ms. Hamill’s previous Austen adaptation, “Sense & Sensibility,” a rollicking muslins-on-wheels affair (by the appropriately named theater company Bedlam) that had an acclaimed run Off Broadway last year.

Ms. Hamill, 33, says she plans to adapt all six Austen novels for the stage — probably in the order of their writing, the better to chart her own progress against Austen’s. “Northanger Abbey” may be next. (“There’s something I love about teenage vernacular,” she said in an interview last week.) Starting with “Sense & Sensibility” was perhaps wise: She could gauge the appetite for yet another Austen adaptation before adapting the most adapted — and cherished — of them all, “Pride & Prejudice.” “It’s the one everyone knows,” she said. “People have a serious attachment to it.”

“Sense” was such a hit that even a committed Janeite’s attachment might well withstand an irreverent “Pride.”

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Jason O’Connell and Kate Hamill, center, in “Pride & Prejudice” at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Credit Nicole Fara Silver for The New York Times

And it is irreverent. Think men cast as Mary, the plain and prudish Bennet sister, and as the snobbish Miss Bingley. A lot of “intentional water spillage.” Mr. Bingley as near to being a puppy as a man can be without being on all fours.

“People might feel I have desecrated their idols, but, you know, at least I’ve tried to do something interesting,” she said, noting that she had not put zombies in it, and that “I haven’t set it on Mars.” She has discovered, however, that “Janeites” — and she counts herself as one — “are pretty open-minded people; they’re exceptionally generous. Because sometimes I’m taking liberties.”

Ms. Hamill doesn’t see the purpose in adapting a classic unless there is a clear point of view. She found hers for “Pride & Prejudice” in the exaggerated notion of courtship and marriage as a game with winners, losers, referees and exceptionally bad coaches. She applied her own “historical ambivalence about marriage” just as she was arriving at the age when her friends were pairing off around her. She concluded that matches happen between people “whose weirdnesses fit together.”

She looked to the Shakespeare canon for a model. “It’s a romantic comedy, and I was thinking, what romantic comedies do I not hate?” The answer was “Much Ado About Nothing.”

“I thought the big challenge going into it was, everyone knows who gets together,” she said. “I wanted to make a certain story uncertain. How do you make a ‘Much Ado’ where you’re really not sure if Benedick and Beatrice get together?”

She was not afraid to go broad and go silly. There are games galore in her production. (In researching games of the period, she said, she discovered one in which participants simply slap one another in the face. It’s not in her production.)

30JPHAMIL2-master675

Kate Hamill in her Elizabeth Bennet best for “Pride & Prejudice.” Credit Nicole Fara Silver for The New York Times

Bells ring throughout her play: wedding bells; alarm bells; the kind of bells that signal rounds in a prizefight; a chime that sounds, if only in your head, when you connect with your imperfect perfect match. (“It kind of annoys me when both Lizzy and Darcy are supermodels,” she said.)

The clanging insistence of bells became a critical device to her retelling of this classic story about the game of games: the marriage game.

Ms. Hamill grew up in a farmhouse in rural Lansing, N.Y., the fifth of six siblings. She knows how to milk a cow and collect eggs from hens, but she spent much of her time reading (“My parents didn’t believe in TV”), and she joined the theater program in her very small high school. That’s where she gained some sage advice. She was studying to be an actress, but the drama teacher told the girls that if they wanted work, they had to create it.

When she moved to New York, one of her jobs involved writing copy for catalogs. Hundreds of descriptions of jewelry. “You start to just amuse yourself: What else can I say about this pendant?” Early on, she said, “in my mind a serious writer was someone different from me,” and she remained committed to acting. But she wearied of auditions for “silent suffering girlfriend” and “girl in bikini.” That’s when she recalled her old instructor’s counsel. Three-quarters of all plays are written by men, and an overwhelming majority of parts are for men, she said, reeling off statistics she seemed to have learned the hard way. She began to think about creating “new classics.”

In addition to the two Austen novels, she has adapted Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair,” and is at work on Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” and — why not? — “The Odyssey,” for which she wrote a scene, she said, featuring a Cyclops singing to his sheep.

In the meantime, she is vastly amused to be doing a show with Mr. O’Connell in which they get to “bicker and hate each other for hours” — and nightly he must recite a proposal that was written by her.

 

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
By Kate Hamill
Adapted from the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
A co-production with Primary Stages
Running June 10 – September 4, 2017

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!

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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.

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