Adrienne Truscott's Innovative Camper Home in Tivoli | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Adrienne Truscott's Innovative Camper Home in Tivoli 

click to enlarge Covelli and Truscott’s 17-foot 1982 Wilderness Camper is tucked away on a corner of their five-and-a-half-acre property. Bought secondhand in New Jersey, they drove it Upstate during a tornado and fully renovated it last year. Now it includes a sleeping area, kitchenette, and lounge. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • Covelli and Truscott’s 17-foot 1982 Wilderness Camper is tucked away on a corner of their five-and-a-half-acre property. Bought secondhand in New Jersey, they drove it Upstate during a tornado and fully renovated it last year. Now it includes a sleeping area, kitchenette, and lounge.

Adrienne Truscott, known for her one-woman performances at Bard Spiegeltent, shows off her bold, quirky nook in the Hudson Valley.

Adrienne Truscott didn't ask for this. The performance artist who juxtaposes burlesque, off-color humor, and feminism to create theater that is at once hilarious and provocative to the point of cringing uncomfortability has built a career on forgoing any need for permission. Her partner, Carmine Covelli, a drummer for Kathleen Hanna's band the Julie Ruin and a backup musician and dancer for comedienne Bridget Everett's cabaret show Bridget Everett and the Tender Moments, operates under a similar ethos: Get an idea, look around for readily available supplies, figure out how to do it, and get started. Over the course of their 17-year collaboration as partners and artists, the two have, according to Truscott, "gathered, jimmied, repurposed, constructed, and reconstructed" whatever struck them as interesting, relevant, or recyclable into theater sets, art pieces, and musical performances. A little bit of scavenging and a lot of going with the flow has taken them through the realms of low art and high, around the world (Truscott has spent the past 10 winters touring the Australian fringe festival circuit; Covelli regularly travels with his bands) and now to their five-and-a-half-acre property in Tivoli.

click to enlarge The exterior of the studio shed with Covelli at the BBQ. “I would like someone to monetize the sweat equity we›ve put out into the world, over the past 20 years,” he says. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The exterior of the studio shed with Covelli at the BBQ. “I would like someone to monetize the sweat equity we›ve put out into the world, over the past 20 years,” he says.

click to enlarge The couple’s trailer bedroom. The interior of both structures was restored with scavenged and recycled materials, including metal and wood from the property’s razed house. - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • The couple’s trailer bedroom. The interior of both structures was restored with scavenged and recycled materials, including metal and wood from the property’s razed house.

"It's our kooky little respite from the city and possible end-of-the-world bunker," explains Truscott. The freshly mown lawn is dotted with an eclectic mix of outbuildings and borders a pond brimming with wildlife. At one end, a remodeled trailer provides year-round sleeping quarters. Overlooking the pond, a prefab converted garage-shed, provides a four-season incubator for their creative hatchlings. A fire pit, outdoor dining table, open-air shower, wood-heated clawfoot soaking tub, hand-built dock, and island large enough to hold "one person or four turtles" says Truscott, are all evidence that Truscott and Covelli have adapted to, and are now fully integrated with, the pond's thriving ecosystem. Further afield, a storage shed guards the scavenged raw materials and equipment for ongoing and possible creative projects. And a wagon converted to a food truck is the basis for Covelli's latest brainchild: the Vinyl Donut, a food truck/roving record store, which Covelli plans to take live in the Hudson Valley this month. Like their art, their slowly evolving habitat is very much a work in progress that could take a turn towards the delightedly unexpected at any moment. It is also the physical manifestation of their creative process. Or, as Truscott puts it, "What we are doing up here is a real-life cumulation of how we collaborate artistically and how we survive."

Sufficiently Odd, Possibly Alive

click to enlarge “We can just sit and watch this pond for ages,” says Truscott. “There is a great blue heron, a green heron, a beaver, and a muskrat. It feels like a free menagerie. Two geese landed—they think it’s their land, we think it’s ours.” They also had six goslings, but all six were eaten in one day. “It’s nature,” shrugs Truscott. “Nature can be horrible and unpredictable.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • “We can just sit and watch this pond for ages,” says Truscott. “There is a great blue heron, a green heron, a beaver, and a muskrat. It feels like a free menagerie. Two geese landed—they think it’s their land, we think it’s ours.” They also had six goslings, but all six were eaten in one day. “It’s nature,” shrugs Truscott. “Nature can be horrible and unpredictable.”

In 2008, Truscott had been performing as one part of the Wau Wau Sisters at Bard's Speigeltent for three years when Covelli and Truscott began to see the area as more than a tour stop. (In August, Truscott performed her show "Asking for It," a "one-lady rape comedy," as part of this year's Spiegeltent lineup.) More and more friends were moving to the area, and they liked the abundance of art and fellow artists. "The combination of those two things was like an anchor, and we started to look around," remembers Truscott. "But we began to look around like fakers." The idea of owning something seemed far-fetched for two constantly touring performance artists. They contacted a local real estate agent and asked to see any property "that was odd, but seemed like it could be turned into something living, even if it didn't seem that way," says Covelli. He took them to a former roadhouse, a brothel, a guitar shop, a one-room schoolhouse, a farmhouse, and then a house the agent swears was haunted. "He had some weird, blurry orb pictures that he still seemed shaken by," recalls Covelli.

click to enlarge “It’s ironic,” says Truscott. “I’ve become known for doing a show about rape—which is all about consent—when the bulk of my artistic career has been based on the premise that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. As an artist, it’s the only way I’ve survived in the world, but as a woman, I certainly don’t feel that way.” - DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid
  • “It’s ironic,” says Truscott. “I’ve become known for doing a show about rape—which is all about consent—when the bulk of my artistic career has been based on the premise that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. As an artist, it’s the only way I’ve survived in the world, but as a woman, I certainly don’t feel that way.”

It was a patron of their shows, and now a neighbor, who told them about the parcel for sale on a back road in Tivoli. "We got here, and there was a wretched old house—the foundation was cracked, siding was missing, tar paper was on a few sides. It wasn't like we drove up and fell in love with it," remembers Truscott. The land was overgrown with grass and weeds up to their chests, completely obscuring the property's details. However, they noticed a giant willow tree and waded through the weeds to see it, finding a pond hidden by the overgrown bush.

They realized the property had plenty of potential. ("That's one thing we're really good at," notes Covelli, "seeing potential.") They had never owned anything before and knew the sweat equity required to make something livable out of the ramshackle, neglected lot would be great, but they also saw an opportunity to create something they could really love. Family members pitched in to help them buy the property, but asked the question: "But then what?"

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