The Great River Theater Festival returns to its roots in Saxtons River for its second season with four shows, two workshops and several gatherings over three weekends that began June 28.
Main Street Arts will offer multiple three performances of Peter Shaffer’s “Equus,” a psychological thriller that is now considered a modern classic. Upcoming shows are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 5, 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the MSA theater, which has been reconfigured so that the audience literally has a ringside seat.
The show is directed by David Stern and features a cast that includes Michael Duffin as psychiatrist Martin Dysart, Cassie Dunn as Jill, Libby McCawley as Hester and Liam Johnson as the tortured young boy who has blinded six horses with a metal spike. The show is suitable for ages 15 and older.
Meanwhile, over at the Horowitz Performing Arts Hall at Vermont Academy, Shakespearean actor John Hadden is directing A.R. Gurney’s “Scenes from American Life,” with performances on the Fridays and Saturdays of July 6 and 7 and July 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, July 8 and 15, at 2 p.m.
Gurney’s play opens in 1930 and journeys through more than three dozen scenes to show us a cross section of upper-class life in Buffalo, the playwright’s hometown. As the story wends its way to 1980, its light-hearted and nostalgic themes carry an undercurrent of a serious side that includes prejudice and repression, with references to wars, dictators, demagogues, dropouts and fallout.
Cast members, each playing many roles, include Bronwyn Sims, Lionel Chute, Liz Guzynski, Joanne Fuller, Kate Udall, Grace Johnson, Marit Bjerkadal, Louise Connor, Ira Richardson and Alec Dandelions.
Back over at Main Street Arts, Jana Zeller and Kalob Martinez will offer a Sandglass Theater production of “Puppet Crimes” Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m. The show is recommended for ages 12 and older and consists of two pieces.
“El Beto,” with Martinez behind the curtain, is a version of “Macbeth” set in modern times in the Mexican drug cartels. Zeller’s offering is “Kasper and Gretel,”who bicker and dream in the style of Punch and Judy.
Younger theater-goers will have a chance to experience Sandglass puppetry at two shows, Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at Main Street Arts when Zeller presents “Kasper’s Adventures,” a family-friendly show originally conceived by Zeller’s mother, Ines Zeller Bass. Advance reservations are advised.
Adding to the mix of the Festival are two workshops. Bronwyn Sims is leading a Rhythm Space and Character Workshop exploring the building blocks of theater through the LeCoq technique Saturday at 1 p.m. The fee is $20. Sandglass artists are offering a free “Tape Guy” puppetry workshop Sunday at noon.
In the Main Street Arts gallery, artist Heather Geoffrey’s “Borderlands” exhibit will hold an opening reception Friday, July 6 at 5:30 p.m.
Informal gatherings to meet the cast and directors will take place at the Saxtons River Inn at 9 p.m. after the performances Friday and Saturday, July 6 and 7. Main Street Arts will host cookouts on both Saturdays, July 7 and 14, at 6 and 5:30 p.m., respectively. Hannah Hoffman will provide live music at the latter.
For more information, visit greatrivertheaterfestival.org.