Greetings from Your Perfect Summer

The 23 best ways to get the most out of summer in Westchester



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Be a Renaissance Man (or Woman)

Photo by Mirna Falkner

Maypoles

Sometimes, you just want to sit on a haystack, gnaw on a giant turkey leg, and wash it all down with a pint of mead. When the mood strikes, your options are few—unless you feel like roasting that turkey yourself.

A quick ride away, however, will bring you to a glen brimming with these kinds of ye olde pleasures: The New York Renaissance Faire in Sterling Forest. There, the boar sizzles on the grill, the mead flows, and the huge pickles satisfy a kingly appetite. You can follow the tales of Robin Hood, check out a living chess match (in which players duel for squares), shop among glassblowers and blacksmiths, or watch jugglers, sword-fighters, and a day-ending joust.

We caught up with Alexandra Hastings, one of the Faire’s directors. She’s not just a behind-the-scenes gal—you can see her as part of a swashbuckling trio of sword-fighting femme fatales in the Faire’s “Vixens En Garde.” (Hastings is an accomplished fight choreographer and has worked with the Roundabout Theatre Company, the National Actors Theatre, and the New York City Opera.) The show distills Shakespeare’s works to their best elements—"the sword-fighting, the comedy, and the naughty jokes,” she says—adds in some improv comedy, and, oh yes, has the ladies play the juicy male roles (while male audience members fill in for the females). We asked the “duelist for hire” what it’s like to have a day job in the 16th century.

Photo by Deborah Grosmark

Vixen Alexandra Hastings

Which ‘vixen’ are you? My character is named Calypso Bordeaux. She’s the leader of these blades-for-hire. She’s a bon vivant who likes to drink, likes to fight, likes to flirt, and is just a lover of life.

How do you approach choreographing the fights for the show? My husband and I run a stage combat school in New York City. All of the women in the company have trained at the school, so we’re all highly skilled. The idea is to have a lot of strong, dynamic fighting that’s enjoyable to watch and very theatrical.

Are the fights completely choreographed, or is there room for improvisation? It’s all planned out. We have lots of audience participation in our show, but the fighting is all choreographed. We just make it look like it’s happening in the moment.

Photo by Ody Oliveri Anastasia

Do you have a favorite weapon? Yes—the whip. I’ve been an expert whip-cracker for just about twelve years now. Last year, I had two fights in the first chess game, and, in one of them, I got to crack a thirteen-foot whip. When you do that, it sounds like a gunshot. It makes the whole audience jump—it’s spectacular.

How is it fighting in a corset and tights? It’s awesome. It’s one of the best parts of the job. I love the bodice. It gives a lot of support, so you can do lots of Matrix-style backbends. It feels really empowering.

What’s the hardest part about staying in Renaissance character? The hardest part is dealing with the weather. We perform rain or shine. There was one day last year that turned into an utter monsoon. But, then again, that turned out to be one of my favorite days. We were doing a part of Romeo and Juliet where two characters are fighting and one dies accidentally. We were fighting, and there was lightning cracking and rolling thunder and the wind started to blow—it was electrifying. The audience was transfixed.

Final question: is the big joust at the end fixed? The short answer is yes. But the way the joust unfolds happens very much in the moment.

The New York Renaissance Faire runs from August 6 to September 15. For more information, call (845) 351-5171 or visit renfair.com.

 

Play Fair

We like to pretend that we’re all chic and urbane, but sometimes we’re a little bit country. While we dine at sophisticated restaurants, often we just want to chow down on prize-winning pies. And, when it gets cold at night, we reach for our hand-stitched quilts. When you need a dose of that country goodness, chart a course for the nearest county fair.

Putnam County 4-H Fair
Carmel, NY
(845) 278-6738
July 29 to 31
This fair, run by the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, is the perfect way to whet your appetite for summer fairs. Check out environmental exhibits, take the kids to visit the animals, listen to local bands, and participate in a country living auction. Admission is free, but you’ll probably spend some money on food.

Dutchess County Fair
Rhinebeck, NY
(845) 876-4000
August 23 to 28
Nearly a half-million patrons head to Rhinebeck each year—whether or not there is a Clinton wedding—making this the second-largest county fair in New York State. Taste blue-ribbon brownies, see the area’s finest racing pigs, and check out a contender for Jackpot Heifer before checking out who’s playing at the Grandstand.


Yorktown Grange Fair
Yorktown Heights
(914) 962-3900
September 8 to 11
Though the Westchester County Fair—and its delightfully low-budget television commercials—are no longer, this is the next-best thing. The neatest thing about the fair is that all of the blue ribbons go to your friends and neighbors. Last year’s best heirloom vegetables, for example, were from a garden right in Yorktown Heights, and the best cross-stitcher was found in Peekskill.

 

Wear Your Favorite Eye Patch

Photo by Bryan Haeffele

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for…you. Forget the Pirates of the Caribbean—the Pirates of the Hudson have arrived and have laid siege to Philipsburg Manor. If you dare, you can put on your finest bandana, hook hand, peg leg, or shoulder parrot, and mingle among them. There, you’ll see belly dancers gyrating to the sounds of pirate musicians, shop for fenced booty from the Thieves Market, marvel at the Museum of Oddities, feast on foods prepared by Tastefully Yours, and imbibe grog from the Captain Lawrence Brewery. (Just keep an eye on your own wallet—these scalawags have sticky fingers.) Pirates-in-training can take part in a treasure hunt and climb on a shipwreck—or be forced to walk its plank. Pirates of the Hudson: The Siege of Sleepy Hollow comes to us from the same people who brought us the Horseman’s Hollow event on Halloween. The event takes place from July 2 to July 4 and, as with the Horseman’s Hollow, you must have a timed ticket to enter. For more information, call (914) 631-8200 or visit hudsonvalley.org.

Captions: Sing, "Yo ho ho and a bottle of Captain Lawrence," with the Pirates of the Hudson.

Photo by William  Marsh

Performances by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival take place outdoors.

 

Celebrate 25 Years of Shakespeare

Yes, we know that Shakespeare was around more than 25 years ago. But his local franchise—the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival—is celebrating an important milestone this year. For its 25th season, the company is presenting a roster of three productions: Hamlet, The Comedy of Errors, and Around the World in 80 Days. As always, they’ll be performed on the grounds of the Boscobel House and Gardens—you know, the one with the jaw-dropping views of the Hudson River. We chatted with Terrence O’Brien, the festival’s founding artistic director, about making it this far—and what’s up ahead.

What is the feeling going into your twenty-fifth season? The notion, in some ways, is to celebrate our twenty-fifth year by doing what we’ve always done—performing Shakespeare so that it reaches and touches our audience.

Tell us a little bit about the Shakespeare plays you’re doing this season, Hamlet and The Comedy of Errors. We’ve never done Hamlet. I think we’re finally ready. Hamlet is so rich—it’s just incredible. And The Comedy of Errors is almost on the other end of the spectrum. It’s written almost like commedia dell’arte, but it still sounds so familiar. If Shakespeare leapt out of his grave today, he could get a job working on the best television comedies around because the rhythm of his writing and his outlook on life is so similar.

You’re also doing a non-Shakespeare play this season, Around the World in 80 Days. Why did you choose to go non-Shakespearean? Some people still have a fear of Shakespeare. We’ve always had a contemporary approach to Shakespeare, so it fits that we’re doing a more contemporary play. Around the World in 80 Days is like a Pixar movie in a way, in that it’s designed to appeal to everybody.

Board tall ships and learn about sailing on the Long Island Sound at the Mamaroneck Harbor Fest.

 

 

 

See Tall Ships in Mamaroneck

Time was, tall ships sailed across these parts on a near-constant basis. Now, though, you’ll have to find them at the Mamaroneck Harbor Fest. On June 5, head straight for the docks at the Harbor Island Park to see (and board) the historic vessels and their ecological exhibits. Then, tour the rest of the park, and down Halstead Avenue, for food, vendors, storytellers, musicians, and games.

 

 

 

 

 

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