Bard Summerscape returns with variety of performances
If you're tired of explosive-laden blockbusters and schlocky reality TV, consider Bard Summerscape, an oasis of highbrow entertainment. The annual festival, which returns Friday and runs through Aug. 19, features film, theater, opera, dance and cabaret performances at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson.
This year's event has the added glint of star power, with Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage starring in a theater production of "The Imaginary Invalid," a Moliere comedy directed by his wife, Erica Schmidt. The duo teamed up at Summerscape once before, for a production of Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" in 2008. Since that time, Dinklage's star has risen, having won acclaim and awards for his role on HBO's "Game of Thrones," which makes "Invalid" a likely draw to attendees. But Schmidt's production is noteworthy in other ways as well.
"The director has decided to have an all-male cast even though there are female roles, so [the show] will feature Peter Dinklage and other cast members dressed as women," said Mark Primoff, Summerscape's director of communications. "It's an artistic decision that will have very interesting and amusing results."
Born out of Bard College's desire to create a theater that could accommodate a variety of genres ranging from orchestra to opera, Summerscape is more than just any single event. Before the program was launched, the school hosted a long-running summer music festival that focused on a single composer each year. After the construction of the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center, Summerscape was created to expand upon and enrich the offerings of that fest, which takes place in the last two weeks of Summerscape and will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year.
Summerscape and the Bard Music Festival complement each other, with the stage productions and featured films picking up on a theme established by the showcased composer's work. Camille Saint-Saëns, the 19th century French composer, has been selected for this year's music festival, inspiring a French-themed roster of Summerscape performances: "The Imaginary Invalid" was the last work written by the celebrated French playwright Moliere; the comic opera "The King in Spite of Himself" was written by Saint-Saëns' contemporary Emmanuel Chabrier; French dance company Compagnie fêtes galantes fuses Baroque dancing with contemporary choreography; the film festival, "France and the Colonial Imagination," spotlights French colonialism; and Saint-Saëns' compositions will be performed in an exploration of the composer's influence on classical music in his era and beyond.
As to what sets Summerscape apart from other area arts festivals, it's not just the sheer multitude and variety of events, but also the quality of them.
"Most of what we do is produced from the ground up, specifically for the festival," said Primoff. "These are all-new productions ... and what you see here can't be seen anywhere else."
For those who might be intimidated by Bard College's seemingly remote setting, Primoff notes that the campus is centrally located for the region.
"We're easy to get to and very accessible to major metropolitan areas that surround us," he said. To encourage out-of-towners to attend, the festival is offering shuttle services to and from the Poughkeepsie train station as well as round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard College.
For those who make the trek, Primoff promises: "You will find things here that are extraordinary."
IF YOU GO
What: Bard Summerscape 2012
When: July 6-Aug. 19; performance schedule varies, check website for details*