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Peace, Love and Shakespeare

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Wow, what a week! With summer in full swing, so, too, is life in the country. Things are hopping on both sides of the river, and in an effort to see, do and participate in all that the Upper Delaware River region has to offer, Dharma the Wonder Dog and I are running at full tilt, careening throughout the Catskills, happily bumping into many of you all along the way.

The office is thrumming with activity, so Dharma and I are in good company as the entire staff at The River Reporter is busily delivering all the local news, sports and entertainment that readers have come to expect for more than four decades. With the launch of our new website  officially under way, we appreciate your patience as the last of the bugs get worked out and look forward to keeping you even more up to date with alacrity and attention to detail. Don’t worry, the weekly print edition isn’t going anywhere, but our heightened online presence allows us to keep you informed daily as the news unfolds 24/7.

Last weekend’s highlights included the Town of Bethel Peace Parade, schvitzing my way through another fantastic Riverfest in Narrowsburg, NY and a sneak-peek at the Farm Arts Collective and their fantastical upcoming production, “Shakespeare on the Farm.”

The Peace Parade in Bethel was just great. Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival, hippies of all ages strode, rode and floated through town as tie-dyed folks lined the streets waving, hooting and taking pictures during what turned out to be a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Photo-ops galore, magical busses and K-Lake restaurants beckoned as kids blew bubbles and tossed candy to the crowd, prior to the chicken barbeque, live music and outdoor movie, which played to a standing-room-only crowd of enthusiasts. Sponsored by the Town of Bethel and the Kauneonga Lake Fire Company, the event was cool, groovy and a perfect way to begin the Woodstock anniversary celebration that The River Reporter will be covering in-depth over the coming weeks.


Three generations of the Carmack family (and Dharma’s boyfriend, Mugsy) rode in the Town of Bethel Peace Parade last weekend on Kauneonga Lake. | Photo by Jonathan Charles Fox 

What can be written about Narrowsburg’s Riverfest that hasn’t been stated before? Not much, other than bigger, better (and warmer) than ever before. Now in its 29th year, Riverfest “celebrates the beauty of the Delaware River and the artistic bounty of our community.” Presented by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, the annual gathering is the “flagship event for the hamlet of Narrowsburg as well as the Upper Delaware River region, attracting far-flung visitors with a full day of art and activities surrounded by breathtaking scenery."

With more than 40 artists’ booths, a Kids Korner and food court, the festivities build to a crescendo each year with the “centerpiece of Riverfest”—the poster auction. Sixty local artists created original posters in “every conceivable medium” and donated their work to be sold, live, to the highest bidder. The artwork was fantastic but suffice it to say that Brandi Merolla’s “LOVE-HOPE” poster created a bidding frenzy and the crowd went wild.

Speaking of “wild,” I happily accepted artistic director Tannis Kowalchuk’s invitation to get a peek at the Farm Arts Collective’s inaugural production “Shakespeare on the Farm,” which debuts this weekend at Willow Wisp Organic Farm in Damascus, PA. Described online as “a magical farm tour and performance piece with stilt walkers, a madrigal choir and appearances by some of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters,” it is all that and so much more.

Co-directed by Kowalchuk and Mimi McGurl, with text by William Shakespeare (and Melissa Bell), this amazing (IMHO) theatrical experience features music by Doug Rogers and Rima Fand, wildly imaginative costuming by Karen Flood (and company) with wowza production design provided by Sue Currier, who babysat with Dharma while I snapped hundreds of photos that cannot possibly capture the allure of this magical production which must be seen (IMHO) to be believed.

“I’ve been thinking about how farming, food, art and community-building connect,” Kowalchuk said “and it seemed to me that a farm was a perfect setting for Shakespeare, so we spent a year developing material, looking for ways to present characters in the farm environment.” Tannis plays Titania, Queen of the Fairies (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and leads spectators on “an enchanted tour,” while along the way, Jon Jon Thomas and Jess Beveridge play Hamlet and Ophelia, who encounter Ariel, (The Tempest) who is portrayed as a truck-topping weathervane—that’s right—by the incandescent Yurika Sase, as the audience observes Ophelia losing her mind in a field of flowers. Keep an eye out for Romeo and Juliet, along with other surprises that I won’t divulge…

Shakespeare on the Farm promises to be an amazing visual and theatrical experience, and with only four performances slated (August 3, 4, 10 and 11) you would be wise to make a reservation, since Kowalchuk and Co. have a reputation in these parts.

Visit www.farmartscollective.org for reservations and information. While you’re at it, like The River Reporter on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and Twitter, as watch as we wind our way through summer, keeping you up to date on everything happening in the four counties and two states that we call home. The River Reporter: We’ve got you covered.

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