Rip, roaring
by Doug Muller
October 23, 2008 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A multi-media celebration of the heritage of the Catskills will soon allure local audiences, when the Saugerties Art Lab joins forces with the Gnomon Shadow Theatre and several local artists to stage Shadows of the Catskills. The event - which combines shadow puppetry with original live music, dance and film - is a community-supported, family-friendly production; its sponsors include the Dutchess County Council for the Arts, the Puffin Foundation and the Saugerties Kiwanis Club.

The event aims to spread awareness and appreciation of the Catskill Mountains' unique cultural heritage. All of the components of the event resulted from research into Catskill-specific stories and traditions. Zzoe Rowan - who, with his wife Sharon Penz, comprises the Gnomon Shadow Theatre - says that the music used in the production, which was put together by Katherine Jeannotte, was all researched locally, drawn from local sources and will be performed by local musicians. The films, too - produced by Taima Smith - draw their images from the local visual environment, and all of the stories brought to life by the shadow puppets originate in Catskill myth and history. Says Rowan, "The production is a condensation of everything about the spirit of the Catskills."

For the puppetry, this means a long history of stories put onstage, from Native American myths through tales that have their origins in the early 20th Century. Among the stories to be told is a local creation myth about Kaaterskill Falls and - in dribs and drabs throughout the production - the tale of Rip van Winkle. (Rowan and Penz contemplated leaving the old man out of the event, as his story is so well-known; but in the end they decided to invite the legendary character in as the show's narrator.) All of the stories will be accompanied by integrated music, film and dance - a feat that at first seemed iffy to Rowan. "We have a small shadow theater in the Western European tradition," he says. "For this event we are undertaking something much larger. I was very skeptical that we could pull this off. But the level of art that's being made by all the contributors is turning out to be amazing."

The Shadows of the Catskills performance will take place at the Shandaken Theatre Society at 10 Church Street in Phoenicia on Saturday, November 1 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, November 2 at 2 p.m. Additional shows will take place the following weekend at Cahill Elementary on Main Street in Saugerties on Saturday, November 8 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, November 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $7 at the door and $5 in advance; advance tickets are available on the Saugerties Art Lab website at; please bring your receipt from the online transaction to expedite the ticket process. Advance tickets are also available at the Saugerties Farmers' Market, Hope Farm Books in Saugerties, Bop to Tottom in uptown Kingston and the Nest Egg in Phoenicia. Groups of 12 or more receive a 10 percent discount.

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