Shakespeare in the Hudson River Valley
Image: Hudson Valley Shakespeare
What makes a festival festive? To answer this question, hop in your car and head for Garrison, the small town across the Hudson River from West Point that is home to my favorite outdoor summer Shakespeare festival. The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, founded in 1987, is that rarity of rarities, an artistic enterprise that gets everything right. Impressive as its productions are, the real secret of the festival's success is that it offers its patrons a total experience that adds up to more than the sum of its admirable parts. The shows are bright and lively, the performers engaging, the setting gorgeous, the atmosphere joyous. I won't say that it's impossible to have a bad time at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival - some people are inexplicably resistant to pleasure - but I've been going to Garrison for four summers now, and my annual visit has become one of the most eagerly awaited dates on my theatrical calendar.
It's impossible to talk about the festival without first mentioning the site. The company performs in a huge tent pitched on the lawn of the Boscobel House, a lovingly restored Federal-style 1808 mansion located on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. The performances get underway just as the evening sun slips behind the mountains of the Hudson Highlands. Wise playgoers dine on the lawn an hour or so before curtain time - tasty catered picnic baskets can be ordered in advance - and enjoy a spectacle that has been capturing the imagination of American landscape painters for the better part of two centuries.
Sunset on the Hudson can be a hard act to follow, but Hudson Valley pulls it off. . .