One of my family’s favorite summertime activities is heading forty-five minutes up the Hudson for an evening at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival on the Boscobel estate. The evening usually goes as follows: We arrive and pick up tickets at will call and put on a sticker with a cartoon of William Shakespeare printed on it. We then walk down a long path lined with apple trees drooping with the weight of their fruit. After passing through the rose garden on your right and the house on your left, our view opens up to a large lawn over looking the Hudson Valley. Sprawled out on the lawn are groups of people all picnicking before the show. We set up our own picnic blanket and proceed to eat whatever delectable delights I packed and sip whatever wine my dad thought worthy to tote. Twenty minutes before the show, ushers come round to ask the guests to begin moving towards the large tent and to take their seats. At 8pm, the Shakespeare troop puts on a fantastic performance, whether comedy, history, or tragedy. Well fed literally and culturally, we return home along the dark, windy roads. These evenings always struck me as reaching the epitome of civilized life.
Boscobel is a quintessential example of Federalist architecture and is situated in Garrison on a hill with arguably the best view of the Hudson River.
As you can see, some people really know how to live. West Point, as you can see in the right of the picture, is right across the river. Further down the river is the famous spot where the Patriots strung a giant chain along floating logs across the river to stop the British ships from advancing. It was a great victory for the Americans because they were able to pummel the British with cannons from the hills. This place is filled with history, and it is fun to ponder it as you picnic.
The picnic last night, in case you were wondering, included a menu of shrimp salad served on croissants, brie and apple slices served on baguette, mozzarella, tomato and basil, watermelon slices, vegetable quiche, and homemade chocolate chip cookies, all prepared by yours truly.
The show on the program last night was Pericles. Though warned it was a weird show that may not have actually been written by Shakespeare, I enjoyed it immensely. I have never been disappointed by a Hudson Valley Shakespeare production, and last night was no exception. I thought they did a marvelous job striking a balance between humor and drama, alternating seamlessly between ship wrecks and dance breaks. Though the plot is a strange one, or at least strange when compared with Shakespeare’s other works, and though the rhyming patterns in the verse are decidedly different, it was nevertheless a pleasure to see a Shakespeare play previously unknown to me. It felt like finding an antique in an old attic, or discovering another piece of candy in the box when you thought it was empty. I look forward to studying the play a bit. There were many poignant lines I hope to find and memorize in the text.
Pericles is the sixth production I have seen at Boscobel. Others included As You Like It, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Richard III, Cymbeline, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. I can’t wait for next summer.
There is something to be said for high culture and civilized evenings. Sure it may include snooty folks, but that needn’t ruin your enjoyment of the activity itself. I don’t think that anyone need feel guilty about evenings like this, tossing around words like bourgeoisie with contempt. I choose rather to rejoice in the fact that human beings strive for beauty and find it abundance. I love evenings at Boscobel because it sets some of the most beautiful plays in the English language in a stunningly beautiful location. It is a testament to human accomplishment. It is a wonderful way to live life to the fullest.