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News of Woodstock, Shandaken, Phoenicia & Beyond

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  • 05/31/13--03:30: Theater pops up all over
  • STS does Grease Theatrical director Laurie Sepe-Marder was at Brio’s, the Phoenicia pizzeria, seeking a slice and worrying about how she was going to cast the male lead, Danny Zuko, in the STS Playhouse production of Grease. She took a look at the young, curly-haired, blond waiter who offered to take her order and asked him, “Do you sing?” Terrence Boyer, who watched Grease every day after school throughout eighth grade, says he wouldn’t have taken a role in any other play. This theatrical experience is his first. Isadora Newcombe, who played many parts on the STS stage as a teenager, including the title role in Gypsy!, seven years ago, has returned to play Sandy, the female lead in Grease, which opens Friday, May 31, and runs for three weekends in Phoenicia. With its focus on 1950s high school hijinks, Grease is a high-energy show that gives young people an opportunity to step onto the stage. Several Onteora students and an actor from Margaretville make up a chunk of the ensemble, with a Belgian exchange student, Audrey Arku, playing Frenchy. Chelsea Goodwin, co-owner of Pine Hill Books, has the part of Miss Lynch. Sepe-Marder, a veteran of over 35 directing [...]

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  • 06/14/13--03:30: Down to the Crossroads
  • The famous tale, as John Milward relates it in his new book Crossroads: How the Blues Shaped Rock ‘n’ Roll (and Rock Saved the Blues) published by Northeastern University Press, has a young Robert Johnson creating “an unholy racket” while playing on the breaks at a Son House gig in the 1930s. He played so badly that they had to make him stop. Yet less than a year later, when Johnson asked for a chance to play on one of House’s breaks, he’d become a visionary virtuoso of the blues, said to be a product of a deal he made with the devil, selling his soul for artistic transcendence at the crossroads near Clarksdale, Mississippi. And though there was much that went before, and though Johnson never achieved fame and fortune while still alive (he died mere years later, in 1938, before the age of 30 under equally legendary circumstances) the blues was never the same. But more than just telling the story of the blues, Milward is concerned with its connection with rock, with how, as Muddy Waters sang, “the blues had a baby and they called it rock ‘n’ roll.” He chronicles the love affair with young British [...]

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    The ladies are in full costume, with hoop skirts, bustiers and Victorian-era high heels, while the men are in tank tops and shorts. Not that it matters once everyone opens their mouths and starts singing, the chorus taking on a life of its own and edging the various leads of the new Woodstock Playhouse production of Les Misérables to ever-greater heights. The production’s director Randy Conti, Playhouse co-owner with his New York Conservatory for the Arts partner Doug Farrell, watches everything intently, marked-up script in his hands. No smiles, nary an emotion…until he calls for a break and effuses over the tightness of the production and performances taking shape. “We actually staged the whole show in three days,” he says. “Now we can actually have fun with it.” The curtain comes up on the Conti/Farrell/NYCA Woodstock Playhouse’s third season with a special sold out (and added seats) gala Thursday evening, June 20. Stories are starting to run in not only the regional press, but trade and theater papers elsewhere about how this, being the 75th year since the Woodstock Playhouse’s founding, things seem to be at an all-time peak only now. Move over Helen Hayes, Lee Marvin, Diane Keaton and Larry [...]

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    Her first book, Under the North Light, the Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham, was recently heralded with prestigious awards. Now author Lawrence Webster will lead a tour of Storybook, the home where Maud and Miska Petersham lived and created iconic children’s books together over a 40-year career. The couple’s granddaughter, Mary Petersham Reinhard, will join Webster in relating anecdotes and childhood memories as they re-explore the nooks and alcoves of the studio where they played and which the Petershams — two of the most influential illustrators of children’s books in the 20th century — designed during the 1920s. Decorated with motifs familiar to their illustrations, Storybook is a work of art in itself. The tour of the house at 2380 Glasco Turnpike starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 22. Webster will present a new slide show of the artists’ work related to Storybook, which she describes as “a classic Woodstock handmade house.” The Petershams bought the land from Peter Whitehead (son of the founder of the Byrdcliffe Art Colony) circa 1922. Miska oversaw the construction by local carpenters and stone masons. Although Byrdcliffe was prominent in the Arts and Crafts movement, the Petershams’ studio was not of [...]

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    Maverick Concerts’ 2013 season will be emphasizing both Britten the composer and Britain his country. At the first performance, Sunday afternoon at 4, a relatively little known major work by Sir Edward Elgar will be Britain’s contribution, and the performers are filled with enthusiasm about it. Pianist Melvin Chen was once a regular presence in the Hudson Valley during his tenure at Bard College. He has since moved on to Yale University, but returned this spring to give a recital at Bard and now opens the Maverick Season. “Maverick has such a great history and tradition,” he told me this week. “The Miró Quartet and I feel it’s an honor and a pleasure.” Miró’s cellist Joshua Gindele adds another element of continuity. “With the recent retirement of the Tokyo Quartet, we feel we’re picking up that spot. They were former mentors of ours. It’s an honor to be taking their place in any series, which we’re doing several times this season.” Both Chen and Gindele feel that the Elgar Piano Quintet is a neglected masterpiece. “It’s a spectacular piece that people don’t get to hear,” says Gindele. And it’s an old favorite of Chen’s. “When you think of Piano Quintets,” [...]

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  • 07/14/13--03:30: A Winter’s Tale at Comeau
  • A jealous king, an abandoned child, a message from the Delphic oracle, and a princess ignorant of her royalty are the elements at the core of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, to be presented by the Bird-On-A-Cliff Theatre Company from July 12 through August 4. As usual, the Woodstock Shakespeare Festival shows are held on their outdoor stage at the Comeau Property in the center of Woodstock, starting at 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and admission is free. The play is one of Shakespeare’s late works. Although it contains comedic moments, it’s often referred to as a romance, with intense psychological drama and fantastical elements, leading to a happy ending. Producer and Bird-On-A-Cliff co-founder Elli Michaels says, “It’s different. It’s intriguing. The language is tougher, more sophisticated, and there’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s almost like two plays, the first part dark, the second part more fluffy and light.” Veteran director and actress Nicola Sheara is directing. “Nicola makes it subtle,” says Michaels, “as in ‘Less is better’ and ‘Make sure you know what you’re saying.’ It’s a joy to work with her.” David Aston-Reese, the company’s other co-founder, plays the lead, King Leontes. Woodstock Shakespeare Festival [...]

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    Sharon Breslau, whose one woman play Gloriously Naked & Flailing opens in a fresh new version at the Byrdcliffe Theatre Thursday for two weekends of Friday and Saturday evening performances following a July 18 pay-what-you-will preview, fills a room. Coming into Sunfrost’s brightly-lit but well-cooled juice bar on a recent morning, she’s got everyone buzzing and meeting each other in moments. And simultaneously keeping up conversations on her Bluetooth…confusing some by seemingly breaking into the occasional non sequiter before folks realize they’re just one of at least two conversations in progress. Breslau, who is also one of the region’s top realtors, and a very busy mom and wife, is one of those sorts. She doesn’t do anything half-cocked or part-time. Her new play is partly a reconfiguration of an older work she started putting together in the 1990s, and put on for Performing Arts of Woodstock in 2007. But it’s also largely new, having been workshopped into a fresh narrative form, from a writerly as well as an actor’s perspective, with a longtime writer friend during a North Carolina creative retreat Breslau took last winter. It follows the 30 year journey of a woman named Gloria and the people she [...]

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    When West Hurley filmmaker Tobe Carey started making a documentary about local railroads, a year and a half ago, the project looked like an uncomplicated history leading up to a charming account of current-day tourist lines. Then the conflict broke out over railroads versus rail trails, Catskill Mountain Railroad versus Ulster County executive Mike Hein, and the film suddenly had to grapple with the story of the ongoing controversy in all its bitterness. The filmmaker will not take sides, and the movie may be completed before the battle is resolved. But train buffs will find plenty to like in the nostalgic portrayal of Catskills railroads, depicted through photos, film footage new and old, songs, and interviews. Carey, who professes no particular personal interest in trains, is known for his documentaries on local subjects, including Deep Water, about the making of the Ashokan Reservoir; Catskill Mountain House and the World Around, about the heyday of the Catskills resorts; Sweet Violets, about the Rhinebeck violet industry of the early 1900s, and others. When friends suggested he tackle railroads, he was reluctant, knowing the scope of the topic was vast and might take up three years of his life, as the Mountain House [...]

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    It took the organizers of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice a whole day to design a schedule for rehearsals and sound checks to accommodate 60 soloists, 110 choristers, and 40 orchestra musicians. Fifty-five local residents have offered space in their homes to accommodate visiting performers, while the orchestra members will spend their one overnight in rooms donated by Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson. As Louis Otey and Maria Todaro put together the fourth annual festival, the largest one yet, the logistics are mind-boggling. The couple depends upon the grace and generosity of numerous volunteers, indispensable to keeping the cost of tickets at affordable rates. Most shows are $15 or $25, with lower rates for children. The event will be held in Phoenicia from Thursday, August 1, through Sunday, August 4. Besides bringing in audiences to hear singers who perform around the U.S. and internationally, Otey and Todaro say their project is designed to build community. The couple has sung for the Phoenicia Business Association — not to solicit donations, but to establish a connection. Interns from Shandaken, Saugerties, Kingston, and Italy have thrown themselves into administrative tasks. Young Mary Sorich of Mount Tremper, who wants to [...]

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  • 04/13/13--03:30: Every penny helps
  • “It’s a chance to listen to international stars in a rustic, picturesque setting — without having to pay hundreds of dollars,” said Louis Otey, co-founder and co-director of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice with his wife, Maria Todaro. The Phoenicia festival’s 2013 program will observe the bicentennials of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, while also featuring its usual wide-ranging mix of world music, theater, jazz, gospel, Gregorian chant, prose reading, and more. The fourth annual festival will take place August 1-4 on an outdoor stage on Phoenicia’s parish field and at other venues around the town. The third member of the Phoenicia-based founding group, baritone Kerry Henderson, has withdrawn to focus on his new company, LiederWorks, reviving the art of the classical song recital. Other changes this year include a bigger stage and bandshell, plus a 42-piece Festival of the Voice orchestra. A campaign on Kickstarter.com has been launched to come up with the funds to pay top-notch players, many of them drawn from the Westfield Symphony Orchestra of New Jersey. Todaro sang the role of Carmen last year with the Westfield Symphony under the direction of David Wroe, who is helping to assemble the festival orchestra. Garry [...]

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    Roger Shultis, 85, used the particular saw he gave to Rennie Cantine when he was young on Ohayo Mountain, as did his father and his grandfather. According to Cantine, the saw that is now part of a Guitar Sculpture is at least 150 years old. “17 years ago he gave me saw blades that I wanted to do something with. I made guitar sculptures and he said he loved them so much that he had more blades for me…” Cantine says he told Shultis that he should pass the saws down to his own family. “It’s my saw blade and I can give it to whoever I want,” replied Shultis. The sculptures, Cantine’s passion, have been part of his Woodstock Guitar Festival for years now. It’s a series of events that begins with the placing of sculptures by different artists at locations all over town, as they have been all summer. Official ceremonies kick off 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, August 10 with an opening reception for some of the cream of the crop at Oriole9 restaurant, with artists including Woodstock luthier Joe Veillette, whose Grand Guitar is the model for the sculptures; Cantine, who’s created a number of them; Lenny […]

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    Kaleigh Griffin grew up in Woodstock and Olive, graduated from Onteora, and then SUNY New Paltz with a double major in English and Media Production, served as an intern at Beacon’s Beahive last summer, and is currently in between jobs living in New Haven. She’s an aspiring journalist and film producer whose first video production, a documentary, created so much buzz following its showing in a senior thesis classroom presentation that she’s been asked to take it down from the Internet…at least until it gets its first festival screenings and distribution deal. John Synan was born and raised in Amityville, Long Island to a huge family with 9 brothers and sisters. He was an ace in school, with a genius-level IQ, and became a technical illustrator for NASA after which he spent some years in the military, eventually ending up in Vietnam…from which he was honorably discharged and sent home. And eventually made it to Woodstock, riding north from New York on a bike, following some time in mental hospitals. Griffin’s film, First Name: Jogger, Last Name: John, is a 20-minute exploration of this sweet man Woodstockers have known as one of their own for years now…but never as well […]

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  • 04/13/13--03:30: Every penny helps
  • “It’s a chance to listen to international stars in a rustic, picturesque setting — without having to pay hundreds of dollars,” said Louis Otey, co-founder and co-director of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice with his wife, Maria Todaro. The Phoenicia festival’s 2013 program will observe the bicentennials of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, while also featuring its usual wide-ranging mix of world music, theater, jazz, gospel, Gregorian chant, prose reading, and more. The fourth annual festival will take place August 1-4 on an outdoor stage on Phoenicia’s parish field and at other venues around the town. The third member of the Phoenicia-based founding group, baritone Kerry Henderson, has withdrawn to focus on his new company, LiederWorks, reviving the art of the classical song recital. Other changes this year include a bigger stage and bandshell, plus a 42-piece Festival of the Voice orchestra. A campaign on Kickstarter.com has been launched to come up with the funds to pay top-notch players, many of them drawn from the Westfield Symphony Orchestra of New Jersey. Todaro sang the role of Carmen last year with the Westfield Symphony under the direction of David Wroe, who is helping to assemble the festival orchestra. Garry […]

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    Miss the Rock Academy take on Pink Floyd’s The Wall up at the Byrdcliffe Barn last weekend? Needing to hear some hot music outdoors to completely shake the winter’s cobwebs, and the past week’s rainy hangover, once and for all? The 8th season of the free Woodstock Concerts on the Green, curated and engineeed by the Woodstock Music Shop’s Jeff Harrigfeld, who also records everything he presents, starts up this Saturday, May 25 with a 1 p.m.-6 p.m. line-up that starts with those talented and fired-up students from the new Paul Green Rock Academy (who go on to perform the best of Zep in Bearsville next weekend), the booty shakin’ bluegrass group Two Dollar Goat, Sin City playing “cosmic American music,” world musicians Passero; the Hamilton Hill Robotic Steel Band from Schenectady, classic rock and blues from the Ronnie Bait Band and up-and-comers Two Dark Birds closing out what promises to be a truly great bill. “The concerts have developed into a tradition by building community, promoting business and most importantly, giving local musicians a chance to share their music with locals and visitors,” noted Harrigfeld of the Village Green events he’ll be putting on for the town every other […]

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  • 08/25/13--03:30: Champions of Love
  • “We were playing tunes, just Marc and I,” says pianist Warren Bernhardt, from his deck on a lake in Wisconsin, “and I said, y’know we sound really good, we should do an album just us.” Marc Black, the singer/songwriter who may just have played more gigs in Woodstock than anyone, ever, agreed. “Just as a document because we have all this life behind us,” he says, from back here in New York. “So I said OK. We decided to do it at Scott Petito’s [studio, in Catskill] because he has a really nice piano and is pretty flexible in his understanding of music. We basically just set up next to each other, went in for two days, did about five or six songs a day and that was it.” The result is an extremely heartfelt and lovely CD called Champions of Love, and the two will celebrate its release with a show at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, August 31 at the Maverick Concert Hall. “We got this idea, Champions of Love, because we could feel that’s what the music was about, championing love,” says Black. “It feels like a completion. This is just about living the lives that we have lived […]

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    Within a month the 2013 Woodstock Film Festival will be history…and its new posters, t-shirts and other paraphernalia all collectibles. We’ll be running wrap up stories on the various celebrities who came to town — or nearby sites for the action including Kingston, Rhinebeck, Rosendale, and Saugerties — to mingle with the crowds of locals who attend screenings and workshops, concerts and parties, as well as the many who help out the big event each fall as volunteers, making it one of the community’s key events each year. For now, though, the WFF headquarters are abuzz with activity as everyone starts the countdown to the festival’s October 2 through October 6 run. Press releases have gone out announcing who’s going to be getting the big honors this year, and what films have been chosen from local, national and global entries to play in the festival’s 14th outing. Did you know that legendary film director Peter Bogdanovich, the former critic and Museum of Modern Art film programmer who made such late 1960s and early 1970s seminal works as The Last Picture Show, What’s Up Doc and Paper Moon before going on to become an actor on The Sopranos, among other roles, […]

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    What is it about a place that attracts people? Fords and falls, bays and crossroads? But what draws artists and thinkers, and those wishing to commune with something more inspiring than mundane? Why one small valley, when there are so many around? Why this place? Answers will abound as artists and townsfolk gather at the opening of a monumental new exhibit of local landscapes spanning more than a century of works, at the Woodstock School of Art on Saturday, September 14 (an opening will take place 3 p.m.-5 p.m. that day.) Most will be visually imparted, meant to be taken in quietly, soulfully, the way we take in landscapes themselves. But that’s the magic of The Woodstock Landscape: Then and Now, curated by current WSA president Kate McGloughlin. By including singular works — by everyone from Birge Harrison, John Carlson, Bolton Brown, Carl Eric Lindin and other artists who first moved into the community 100 plus years ago, through the modernists and expressionists of the 1920s and 1930s to such current landscape painters as Tor Gudmundson, Eva Van Rijn, Mariella Bisson, and McGloughlin herself — what comes through is less a view of individual talents, or trends in painting, as […]

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    Miss the Rock Academy take on Pink Floyd’s The Wall up at the Byrdcliffe Barn last weekend? Needing to hear some hot music outdoors to completely shake the winter’s cobwebs, and the past week’s rainy hangover, once and for all? The 8th season of the free Woodstock Concerts on the Green, curated and engineeed by the Woodstock Music Shop’s Jeff Harrigfeld, who also records everything he presents, starts up this Saturday, May 25 with a 1 p.m.-6 p.m. line-up that starts with those talented and fired-up students from the new Paul Green Rock Academy (who go on to perform the best of Zep in Bearsville next weekend), the booty shakin’ bluegrass group Two Dollar Goat, Sin City playing “cosmic American music,” world musicians Passero; the Hamilton Hill Robotic Steel Band from Schenectady, classic rock and blues from the Ronnie Bait Band and up-and-comers Two Dark Birds closing out what promises to be a truly great bill. “The concerts have developed into a tradition by building community, promoting business and most importantly, giving local musicians a chance to share their music with locals and visitors,” noted Harrigfeld of the Village Green events he’ll be putting on for the town every other […]

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  • 05/31/13--03:30: Theater pops up all over
  • STS does Grease Theatrical director Laurie Sepe-Marder was at Brio’s, the Phoenicia pizzeria, seeking a slice and worrying about how she was going to cast the male lead, Danny Zuko, in the STS Playhouse production of Grease. She took a look at the young, curly-haired, blond waiter who offered to take her order and asked him, “Do you sing?” Terrence Boyer, who watched Grease every day after school throughout eighth grade, says he wouldn’t have taken a role in any other play. This theatrical experience is his first. Isadora Newcombe, who played many parts on the STS stage as a teenager, including the title role in Gypsy!, seven years ago, has returned to play Sandy, the female lead in Grease, which opens Friday, May 31, and runs for three weekends in Phoenicia. With its focus on 1950s high school hijinks, Grease is a high-energy show that gives young people an opportunity to step onto the stage. Several Onteora students and an actor from Margaretville make up a chunk of the ensemble, with a Belgian exchange student, Audrey Arku, playing Frenchy. Chelsea Goodwin, co-owner of Pine Hill Books, has the part of Miss Lynch. Sepe-Marder, a veteran of over 35 directing […]

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  • 10/05/13--03:30: Pele the conqueror!
  • Part I During much of the last century it wasn’t so rare a thing for an extraordinary talent to pass through town, crystallizing a moment in art. Such work soon entered the collective memory of a community committed — for much of its history, anyway — to the creation of similar expression. The result being that the town became the recipient of art speaking simultaneously of an individual, a time, and the place called Woodstock. Pele deLappe who died in 2007 at 91 was exactly such a gifted transient, though it’s unlikely even she realized how unique her talent was since it never brought her wealth or fame. Those who believe in fate, however, might look back over the early years of her remarkable life and recognize in these a period of what might just be called genius. Nor did such a prodigy spring from a vacuum but from a co-mingling of raw talent, patronage, the mentorship of exactly appropriate greats and near-great artists, political views denying her fashionable success while keeping her at the very edge of such, all roiling within an immense energy including — but hardly limited to — a frank sexuality. In short, Pele deLappe epitomized […]

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