Best of Westchester 2011: Arts & Leisure
Bookworms, movie buffs, artists, and all other culture mavens can enjoy these cultural hotspots.
New Halloween Attraction
photo by Bryan Haeffele
Philipsburg Manor, Sleepy Hollow | 914.631.8200 | hudsonvalley.org
Sleepy Hollow is synonymous with Halloween, and, last October, Historic Hudson Valley finally debuted a spooky event befitting the legacy of Washington Irving. How so? It’s scary. At the Horseman’s Hollow, visitors walk through horrific scenes and among ghoulish creatures that pop out of darkened corners. Dim lighting, intricate set decorations, haunting music, and feature-film-worthy costumes and makeup—plus the general old-timey vibe from the historic location—make the Horseman’s Hollow our number-one Halloween destination.
Clay Art Center
Port Chester | 914.937.2047 | clayartcenter.org
Shrinking arts budgets? Tell that to The Clay Arts Center; it has been so successful that it’s actually managed to expand. It’s added 650 big, bright, and brand-new square feet to its gallery’s formerly 250-square-foot space—all the better to bring in nationally recognized ceramic artists for its exhibitions. The old gallery space transformed into the Pottery Shop, so visitors can take home functional and decorative pieces from local and national artists. Fans of ceramics needn’t look any further.
New Professional Writers Group
Marmaduke Writing Factory
Pleasantville | marmadukewritingfactory.com
Want to chat up local professional writers in their natural habitat? Check out the occasional open-to-the public offerings sponsored by this new collective of published writers. Launched last fall, the group of 14 Westchester authors, including Ben Cheever, Kate Buford, Simon Schama, and Marilyn Johnson, meet in a cozy space on the lower level of the historic Marmaduke Forster House. Every so often, it opens its doors to the community to host free literary events that also offer the books of “factory workers” for sale and autographing. Check the website for future happenings, starting up again in the fall after a summer hiatus.
Shar Adrias at Sleepy Hollow Performing Artists
Tarrytown | 914.909.5070
Shar Adrias went from dancing in her living room to dancing on stage with Ludacris at the MTV Video Music Awards—and today, you can dance right along with her during her hip-hop classes. The dancer, who teaches her own original choreography and routines to young adults at the school, picks up her inspiration from the song itself. “The music tells you what to do,” she says. “I’ve been training so long that when I listen to a song, I can just envision the movement.” She describes her style as free, flowy, sassy, strong, confident, and “I’m-so-Sasha Fierce.”
The Westchester Chamber Symphony
New Rochelle | 914.654.4926 | westchester chamberorchestra.org
It’s a subtle change—just one word—but an important one. The Westchester Chamber Orchestra has morphed into the Westchester Chamber Symphony. This is a good thing—for one, it signifies the professional group’s larger size, which contributes to a fuller sound. The transformation also represents a shift to a more symphonic repertoire, which means we get to hear good stuff like Haydn’s “Symphony No. 92” and Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 4.”
The Village Book Store
Amazon.com? No way. The Village Book Store owner Roy Solomon is a living, breathing database of books. (We’d say he’s a living card catalogue, but that’s so 20th-century.) Plus, you can access his knowledge without agonizing over the most efficient search terms. (And he’ll never end up trying to sell you something like patio furniture—can you say that about your favorite online retailer?) Book groups stumped for their next selection and anxious gift-givers rely on his recommendations. And so should you.
“A Proper Cup,” Voracious Reader’s in-store tea salon, satisfies a previously empty niche: a place for readers who also want to socialize over snacks. (The Starbucks coffee cart just isn’t good enough.) Families can browse through the shelves of kids’ and young-adult books, and, when they’re finished, retire to the tearoom for refreshments. A Proper Cup offers more than a dozen different kinds of loose-leaf teas—in addition to lemonade, iced tea, scones, cupcakes, lemon bars, and a selection of gluten-free and vegan products—in a whimsical setting Alice herself would enjoy.
The Picture House, with its historic architecture, was always a gem—but it definitely needed polishing. It got it—and wow! In the lobby, a new entryway—with a beautiful Palladian window—greets guests, and the concession area is larger and has better treats (from nearby Provisions). Inside the theater, cramped seats were replaced with cushier ones with cup holders. Now, the swank factor of the theater matches the quality of the film programming that goes on.
Local Music Festival
Pleasantville Music Festival
We love this festival because it beautifully combines the feel of a small-town, outdoor-in-the-ball-field concert with world-class, nationally recognized musicians. Need examples? Try Jakob Dylan, Rusted Root, Joan Osborne, Dar Williams, and Roger McGuinn. This year? “Walking in Memphis” singer/songwriter Marc Cohn, folk band Augustana, and singer Nicole Atkins take the stage, among others. And, with 20 acts on three stages, there’s also lots of up-and-coming bands, local bands, and family-friendly acts, too.
Place to Learn About Wine
Westchester Wine School
(914) 478-5197 westchesterwineschool.com
The biggest asset to the Westchester Wine School is its director, Ned Towle, who’s worked in all facets of the vino biz, from selling it at a wine shop in Manhattan to picking grapes in the south of France. The Harvard grad had a roundabout path to his passion working with communities in Peru, for the city’s Office of Management and Budget, and attending a seminary before settling in Westchester to open his wine school. Now, budding oenophiles can draw from his wisdom, taking classes from the “World of Wine” survey courses to more intensive workshops like “Wine 101: Tasting, Savoring & Talking About Wine.” You’ll sound like an expert in no time.
New Theater Series
White Plains Performing Arts Center
(914) 328-1600; wppac.com
Kudos to the WPPAC for recognizing that Westchester wants more than watching done-to-death revivals. The Center is now spoiling us with brand-new productions like Wallenberg, an epic musical drama; That Time of the Year, a family-friendly holiday musical; The Passion of the Hausfrau, a one-woman comedy; Renovations, a dramatic straight play; and Two on Tap, a dance-driven performance. That’s what we saw last year at the center’s mainstage. We can’t wait to see what it brings us next.
Caroline Corley at 107.1 The Peak
No one tells a back-story like music enthusiast Caroline Corley. Whether she’s talking about self-declared “the greatest rock band in the world” (The Stones), or what her “spys” told her about some recent show, she adds warmth, insight, and honesty to her playlist, making you feel like you’re sitting concert-side with her shooting the breeze. Corley does the 5 am to 10 am slot on weekdays, as well as Saturday mornings, and often fills in for her colleagues. Those who listen—really listen—will know she has a chocolate lab named Mick Jagger, recently lost 40 pounds, and has an affinity towards “white skinny boys.” As she often tells people, “I got this job because I told [Program Director] Chris Herrmann that I lived three miles from The Peak, and, if anybody ever called in sick, I could be here in, like, ten minutes.” Thank God for that. Her fiery personality, smooth voice, and insider info make us want to listen all night long (hey, isn’t that a song?).