hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


Arts & Culture September 2023


Short articles from the calendar pages



Chestnut trees, labor issues
are focus of local library talks


The return of chestnut trees and the effects of the pandemic on labor organizing will be the focus of presentations at local libraries this month as part of the Vermont Humanities Council’s Snapshot lecture series.
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, at the Rutland Free Library, Thomas Estill will explores the historical uses, economic importance, and demise of the American Chestnut tree -- as well as ongoing research to bring the tree back and possibility reintroduce it into the wild in the near future.
The American chestnut, once common across the eastern United States, became all but extinct after a fungal disease, accidentally imported from Asia, decimated the trees in the early 20th century. But researchers have been making strides in recent years toward disease-resistant varieties.
Estill is a board member of the American Chestnut Tree Foundation’s chapter for Vermont and New Hampshire. He has been planting chestnut trees in New England since 2014 and currently manages a 60-tree orchard.
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27 at the Manchester Community Library, Jamie McCallum will examine the long shadow of labor militancy and workplace organizing that began during the pandemic, building on hundreds of interviews with workers and a mountain of other data to look at the pandemic through the eyes of the American working class.
McCallum is an associate professor of sociology at Middlebury College. His research focuses on labor and work issues around the globe.



Chapman Museum
plans cemetery tours


The Chapman Museum of Glens Falls has announced the return of its popular cemetery tours this month after a three-year hiatus.
The tours will again bring history to life as actors share the stories of local figures. This year’s tours will be offered Saturday, Sept. 30, at Pine View Cemetery, at 21 Quaker Road in Queensbury.
Guided tours will depart every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The duration of each tour is estimated to be 60 to 90 minutes. Golf carts, each accommodating up to 12 guests, will be available for the 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. tours.
Participation in these tours is priced at $20 per person, with a special rate of $15 for Chapman Museum members. To take part, please register in advance by contacting the museum at (518) 793-2826.
Early registration is recommended. Payment will be collected at the time of booking to confirm the reservation.



Valley Artisans to show works of cut-paper artist Maude White


“True Nature,” an exhibit by cut-paper artist Maude White, will open Sept. 22 and run through Oct. 17 at the Small Gallery at Valley Artisans Market in Cambridge.
White is a cut-paper artist who recently left Washington County for the Hudson Valley. Her beautiful and incredibly detailed works are achieved by the completion of thousands of tiny precision incisions made skillfully onto paper using very sharp blades and typically depict images of flora and fauna.
In “True Nature,” White explores the secret places where fantasy and reality meet.
White’s work has been featured by Orion Magazine, Audubon, The Artist Magazine, Art House Press, Urban Outfitters, and The Public, among others.



In pair of free workshops,
WAM offers ‘devised theater’


LENOX, Mass.
Artists and community members are invited to join WAM Theatre’s experienced teaching artists to experiment with techniques of devised theater at a pair of free workshops this month.
As the phrase suggests, “devised theater” is a performance method where the play is invented by the performers, rather than constructed from a pre-written script. The process is collaborative; participants use a variety of techniques -- which might include writing, improvisation, games, movement and brainstorming -- to create original work. Unlike purely improvised shows, devised theater uses activities to come up with material that is then shaped into a planned performance.
Each workshop in WAM’s fall series offers members the opportunity to engage with theatrical storytelling and community building connections using a variety of devising practices. These special afternoon workshops are free and open to all, regardless of experience level.
“Bringing our community together through devised theater is a natural fit for WAM,” said Maizy Scarpa, a WAM Theatre teaching artist who is its new director of community engagement. “Not only is it a fantastic tool for imaginative storytelling, but it’s also a communal practice, which makes it a powerful conduit for activism. Instead of bringing a written script to life, the devising process brings a group’s ideas, imaginations, fears, and dreams into three-dimensional space. Once there, the ensemble can choose what to explore, celebrate, question and center.”
The first of the two workshops, “Devised Theatre for Strength and Resiliency,” with Priscilla Kane Hellweg will take place from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at the WAM Creative Hub in downtown Lenox. Hellweg will guide the group through devised theater exercises to imagine a better tomorrow.
The second workshop, “Devising Theatre Online,” with Nicole Orabona, takes place from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30. Aimed at those wanting to expand their artistic practice and connect digitally with a greater sphere of collaborators, this workshop will be entirely online and facilitated over Zoom. Orabona will lead improvisation and collaboration activities to explore the process of creating art and connecting through digital platforms.
These free workshops are expected to sell out, and registration is now open. Visit www.wamtheatre.com/workshops/ to reserve a spot or to learn more.