Summer is an especially sweet time in the Hudson Valley. The privations of winter are like a bad dream dimly remembered come June. The farmers' market are up and running, the CSA shares have kicked in, vacations and weekend getaways are plotted. Evenings are bathed in a soft, dusky light that holds for hours past what seemed possible just weeks before. Summer sneaks up in the best possible way.
June is also when the events season heats up, with nearly every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day boasting sometimes multiple not-to-be-missed events. This year, a number of long-running events are celebrating milestones of longevity—Powerhouse Theater turns 30, both the Bard Music Festival and the Mohonk Festival of the Arts turn 25, and Mountain Jam is a decade old—and a couple of new events have popped up, including The Hudson Project on Winston Farm in Saugerties and Reggae 'Ting in the Delaware County hamlet of Bloomville. (For details, see Peter Aaron's summer music festival preview on page 54.)
A decade ago, if you had asked me what were the must-attend events, I would have invoked what was then (in my mind, at least) the holy trinity of summer culture: Powerhouse's laboratory for theatrical incubation, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's inspired and surprising takes on the Bard, and Bard's SummerScape, which links the classical music focus of the Bard Music Festival with the more popular (or lowbrow, perhaps) entertainments of the Speigeltent. These venerable institutions are still the gold standard, but some upstarts have staked a claim in recent years to prominence. I'm thinking here specifically of The Mount Tremper Arts Festival, The Wassaic Project, and the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice. All three are in out-of-the-way places, and all three takes interesting chances with their programming, with Mount Tremper pushing the limits of the avant garde.
It should come as no surprise that more festivals are popping up as the Hudson Valley's magnetic power to attract world-class talent to both work and live here is on the rise, and we continue in our evolution as a cultural superpower. What follows are my picks for what to do this summer. It'll be over before you know it, so enjoy while you can.
Trisha Brown Dance Company, June 27-28
Brown's troupe opens Bard's SummerScape with three works from the iconoclastic choreographer who upended the rules of modern dance in the 70s with her experimental bent and intellectual sensibility. Brown, 77, is now retired, and this will be the company's last tour of Brown's larger works. Maya Horowitz previews the performance on page 93. The intoxicating allure of the Spiegeltent is back again, hosted this year by legendary cabaret star Justin Vivian Bond. Highlights include Molly Ringwald singing jazz standards (July 5), the cabaret variety show Weimar New York (July 18-19), Bindlestiff Family Cirkus (July 25-26), and Amanda Palmer (August 15). Fishercenter.bard.edu
Powerhouse Theater, June 20-July 27
Ninety miles removed from the critical pressure cooker of New York City theater, Powerhouse creates a space for actors, writers, and directors to experiment with new work. Nicole Hitner previews the 30th anniversary season on page 90. This year, fresh from his nine-year run as fool-for-love Ted Mosby on "How I Met Your Mother," Josh Radnor stars in Richard Greenberg's dark romantic comedy "The Babylon Line" as a creative writing instructor who gets more than he bargained for with a class of suburban housewives. Radnor, a former Powerhouse apprentice—he starred in an apprentice production of "Macbeth" when he was 19—talked to me for the Chronogram Conversations podcast about the foundational experience Powerhouse had in his acting career. (You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or find individual episodes on Chronogram.com.) Powerhouse.vassar.edu
Hudson River Exchange, June 28-29
Every time I check my e-mail it seems as if there's a new maker's fair being announcement. (They're almost as think on the ground as distilleries.) A venerable institution in its second year, Hudson River Exchange brings the makers' movement to the waterfront in Hudson, with 100 vendors selling their own creations in a destination gathering for the creative community. Hudsonriverexchange.com
The Wassaic Project, August 1-3
This multi-disciplinary artistic be-in has the sprightly creative spirit of youth behind it, and is not hidebound by boundaries or borders. Over 70 artists are participating in this year's extravaganza, including Breanne Trammell, who will give you a manicure as part of her "Nails Across America" project. More than a dozen bands and DJs perform, along with film screenings and dance performances. There's even on-site camping—it's like Woodstock for the skinny jeans set. Wassaicproject.org
Lionel Richie at Bethel Woods, August 2
I can't help it, sorry. Between the video for "Hello" with the blind girl who sculpts an amazing clay bust of Richie's head and the African gibberish of "All Night Long," Lionel Richie's music is trapped in my adolescent head as surely as Han Solo was encased in carbonite. It's not cool or hip—not even in that anti-hip ironically detached way that the seemingly impossibly square becomes hip again. The music is just in there. We all have that nostalgia act we pine for, whether its James Taylor, The Temptations, Journey, or The Goo Goo Dolls. Luckily, they'll all be at Bethel Woods this summer. Instead of going to your class reunion, just head over to Sullivan County—the same music will be playing, except it'll be live. Bethelwoodscenter.org
We're rolling out a slew of events this year. Here's what we've got planned this summer:
Night of the Living Basques, June 25
In partnership with Elephant Wine Bar and Kingston Wine Co., we're offering an exclusive Spanish wine dinner—featuring Rich Reeve's revelatory tapas and Michael Drapkin's natural wines from the Basque region—at Elephant in Uptown Kingston. Chronogram.com/winedinner
Chronogram Poets, June 28
To coincide with this month's poetry-themed Books section (page 60), we're hosting a poetry reading at the Kleinert/James Art Center in Woodstock. Will Nixon emcees, and the featured poets are Celia Bland, Shira Dentz, Sarah Heady, Kasey Jueds, David Kherdian, Michael Perkins, Gretchen Primack, Michael Ruby, and Rebecca Schumedja. Chronogram.com
Full Moon Bocce, Saturday, July 12
A bocce tournament under the full moon in Beacon's Waterfront Park. There'll be pendulous balls to throw, a Frank Sinatra-style swing band for dancing, food from Beacon eateries, Italian wine, and local beer. Just the thing for a summer night. Chronogram.com/bocce
2nd Annual Chronogram Block Party, August 16
You asked for it, so we're doing it again. We're expecting 5,000 attendees this year, so we've signed up more food trucks and made the beer and wine garden bigger. We're still lining up the bands currently, but rest assured they'll be top-notch. The dunking booth will be back, as will the DIY art tent, and Chronogram cover cut outs. Expect some surprises this year as we up the ante on the block party experience. ChronogramBlockParty.com
You can follow the dedicated Twitter feed of our marketing and events coordinator Samm Henkin for live updates from Chronogram events and behind-the-scenes scoops: @ChronoSamm.