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Sunday, July 23, 2017
 
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The Rural We: Rory Block

Photo by Sergio Kurhajec

“Her playing is perfect, her singing otherworldly,” The New York Times has said of singer and guitarist Rory Block. Born in Princeton, N.J., Block grew up in Manhattan, where she was playing guitar by the age of 10 and sitting in on jam sessions in Washington Square Park by the time she’d reached her teens. The world finally started taking notice in the early 1990s and since then Block has received numerous honors, including five Blues Music Awards. She’s met blues legends Son House, Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt and others who’ve influenced her style, and to whom she’s paid tribute with her “Mentor Series” albums. After more than 20 highly acclaimed releases, the Chatham, N.Y. resident is working on a new “Mentor Series” project featuring the music of women blues artists, and has curated the Gospel & Blues Fest taking place at PS21 from July 28–30.

I grew up in NYC but always spent time in the country every summer. In the early 1970s, my husband and I began driving around looking for greener pastures and happened upon a little real estate office in Hudson, N.Y. Lying on the agent’s desk was a fascinating photo of a grand old house well beyond the budget and we ended up buying it. I love 200-year-old houses and history, and there is much of that to be appreciated in this beautiful area.

We live just two buildings away from the Old Methodist Church of Chatham Center. Over the course of 10 or more years, it sat empty. Then one day it came on the market and we jumped at the opportunity to save the building. I can’t tell you how many people have said how glad they are to see the building in use again! This is our third year and we have hosted many wonderful events each summer, the final one this year being the Choir Fest on Sunday, July 30 at 2 p.m. Sponsored by PS21, it is free to the public, features wonderful local choirs, and will be followed by a reception for the choirs and the public. It will be a really special event not to be missed!

I am in the midst of a rather large undertaking —
tribute recordings to early founding masters of the blues which I call “The Mentor Series.” Thus far I have completed six tributes, dedicated entirely to rediscovered blues masters who I met in the 1960s when they were brought through the city for concerts. These six will eventually be re-released as a box set. All of them will be available at the PS21 blues-gospel weekend.

I am currently embarking on The Mentor Series 2, tributes to great early women of the blues, which I am calling “Power Women of the Blues.” We are now working on the first, a tribute to Bessie Smith. I hope to have six CDs dedicated to some of the most beloved women blues artists by the completion of the project.

PS21 (Performance Spaces for the 21st Century), asked if I would like to put together a blues-themed weekend for them, and I was very excited to get involved. PS21 brings a wide variety of quality events to our area — dance, film, music and educational workshops — and this was a wonderful opportunity to participate.

As part of our PS21 blues-gospel weekend, I will be performing with phenomenal lap steel player Cindy Cashdollar on Saturday night, July 29. We call ourselves “Sisters of Slide” and we like to say “we’ve teamed up to rock your world!” If you like slide, please consider taking the slide workshop in the afternoon and then coming to our show in the evening.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 07/18/17 at 07:25 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Chan Lowe

Chan Lowe, a syndicated editorial cartoonist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other papers, has recently joined the staff of the Berkshire Eagle. He spent 33 years at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. The fact that he is now sharing his talent and skills as the deputy editorial page editor is a coup for the paper and for the community, considering that there are only about 45 cartoonists remaining at papers nationwide, and he’s one of the best. But it’s the icing on the cake for the Williams alum, who always wanted to move back to the Berkshires.

I am so thrilled to be working for the Eagle. What I do has more of an impact here. As an example, I was part of a small contingent from the Eagle who marched in the 4th of July parade in Pittsfield, and as we walked past people, they were applauding us. They got real exited because we were representing their hometown paper. I never got that when working with a paper that had a circulation of 400,000 on Sundays. There, the paper was just another institution. There may be fewer people here, but what we do matters a lot more.

Lowe in Pittsfield’s 4th of July parade. Photo by Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle.

Everyone thinks I was hired to be a cartoonist, but I was actually hired to be deputy page editor. I write editorials, as a member of a two-person team on behalf of the publisher and owners, to articulate a regional point of view. I produce a local cartoon for the Eagle once a week. I’ve done two so far, one on Berkshire County arts funding, the other on the Eversource rate hike. My job is to observe the issues, synthesize them, and filter things back to the readers.

The entire newspaper industry has the Eagle under the spotlight because of what the new owners are doing. It’s so refreshing to be working for a newspaper where morale is high. New faces keep showing up. It helps to have a wholly-owned company. No one’s saying “where’s the return on my investment?” The owners can afford to take the long view. I’m really impressed with their commitment and the quality of the changes they’re making.

What do I want to do here outside of work? It’s hard to know where to start! I’ve already been to Tanglewood twice, and I’ve been to the Clark — I used to go there for art research when I was a student. I play the flute and hope to get involved in a chamber music group. I’m a woodworker, and the house we have under contract has a nice space for a workshop/man cave. I love designing and building furniture.

You didn’t have to convince me to move here. When this job became available, it wasn’t just perfectly aligned with my skill sets, it was where I was planning to retire. My wife was educated in Western Mass. and we’ve always loved this area. We’re a couple that belongs here.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/12/17 at 09:05 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor has been president of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation since January 2016. His path to philanthropy started while he was associate dean of students at Bates College; that’s when he started to serve on nonprofit boards. He left higher education to work for the Maine Community Foundation. The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has recently released “A Closer Look,” a research study that provides data on the pressing issues facing our region. Interestingly, the foundation’s footprint is nearly identical to the coverage area of Rural Intelligence, so the report’s findings are of great interest to us and our readers.

I’m from Ohio, but lived in Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Boston before my 23 years in Maine. One constant has been our connection to the Berkshires. My parents retired to Lenox and we have gathered here as a family over many years. It has helped to have a strong affinity to the area, to know the specialness of it. My wife is a pediatric nurse practitioner who works at Community Health Programs, and my daughter goes to Monument Mountain high school.

The purpose of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation is to build charitable resources to strengthen the community and improve the lives of the residents. We work with donors and other partners. We are very place based, focused on the region we serve.

Last January we wanted to get a deeper understanding of the trends and needs in the region. We wanted to identify a set of pressing issues to help us focus on the direction of the foundation. It’s an effort to build our knowledge that we will then share with nonprofits, their donors and residents.

As we were designing the study, we knew we wanted to hear directly from the residents, nonprofits, donors and other foundations, and civic and business leaders. We wanted to hear what was keeping them up at night. We conducted a dozen focus groups and sent out many surveys.

The report synthesizes a lot of the issues we’re seeing. Economic development and jobs are key challenges facing the region. Another theme to pay attention to are the demographic shifts that are happening. Rising rates of poverty are happening at the same time there is a growing proportion of homes owned by part-time residents. Another important issue is about youth in the workforce. They need to be able to see their futures here.

While we should be clear-eyed about what the data is telling us, it’s important to see the strengths and assets — of which there are many — as opportunities to confront the challenges head on. The solutions reside in building off what works here — the natural beauty, the culture, and the diverse population.

The report is available to anyone who’s interested. We plan to continue conversations with our communities to explore the implications of these issues. People can access the report by going to our website.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/03/17 at 05:18 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Richard Wise

Locals will recognize Richard Wise as the proprietor of the former R.W. Wise Goldsmiths in Lenox, Mass. Wise is an internationally renowned graduate gemologist, goldsmith and the author of “Secrets of the Gem Trade: The Connoisseur’s Guide to Precious Gem Stones,” which has recently been re-released in a second edition. In 2013, Wise sold his store, which he’d had for 35 years, to pursue his other passion: writing. His first novel, “The French Blue,” about a 17th-century French gem merchant, won a 2011 International Book Award in historical fiction. He is now working on his second novel.
 
I’m originally from Rhode Island, but I came to the Berkshires because it was the furthest point I could afford to go. The business actually started in New Bedford, Mass., but I was interested in making fine handmade jewelry, so I needed to go someplace where there were people with some resources. I had come to the Berkshires for many years to go to Tanglewood, so I opened my store in Lenox.

I started as a craftsman, and learned much of the trade on the job. My interest was in the colored diamonds, and that became the basis of our business. I’d ask gem dealers about criteria and they gave me insufficient answers. Gems are an industry where no one told anybody about anything; it’s been secretive since the Middle Ages. I decided I would find out everything I could, and tell people about it. But I had to discover much of it by myself. There’s very little written about gems. I traveled around the world seeking gem-bearing areas. After a while it became clear that if you looked at a beautiful stone to write a paragraph about it, all the elements of connoisseurship become apparent. You discover what separates the truly great from the mediocre. My book was the first to really lay it all out.

I retired from retail three years ago so I could do more writing. The first thing I did was finish up the second edition. It’s been a bestseller for 14 years, but I expanded and reworked it. Most jewelers are not able to explain stones, why some cost $50 and some cost $50,000, and the book is very accessible to both the trade and consumers.

Now I’m working on a novel set 30,000 years ago. I’ve been fascinated with cave painting. It’s pretty clear Paleolithic folks were doing more than scribbling graffiti on cave walls. They’re part of a tradition of exceptional artists.

Working the jewelry trade was an enjoyable and interesting thing to do, but I’d always wanted to write. You reach a certain point and you realize that the one irreplaceable luxury is time. When I retired at 68, I became one of America’s oldest young writers.

Richard Wise photo by Scott Barrow.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/24/17 at 05:57 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Alice Maggio

Alice Maggio is the Executive Director at BerkShares, Inc., as well as Director of Programs at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. Since 2012 she’s worked with the board of BerkShares, now in its 11th year, to use the currency as a tool for local economic development. Maggio has represented the currency in places around the world, including conferences in New York City, Barcelona and the Hague. After earning a B.A. in Sociology and French Studies at Wesleyan, she went on to bake pies in Brooklyn, teach English in the Alps, and cook Basque food in Manhattan before returning to the Berkshires. She serves on the boards of the Berkshire Children’s Chorus, the Berkshire United Way and the 1Berkshire Strategic Alliance, as well as the Community Advisory Board for WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

I was born in Brooklyn, but my parents moved us up here when I was five because my dad wanted to have sheep. When I went to Wesleyan, I realized how different the Berkshires are from other areas of the U.S., and that I was privileged to grow up around sheep and eat food from farmers that I knew. My father is a great chef and my mother is a fantastic baker, so we as a family became interested in what is now called the local food movement. The year I went to college, 2006, Berkshares first were issued. At some point I got one and kept it in my wallet. It was the same year The Omnivore’s Dilemma was published, and that was a huge influence on me. I started to be more interested in how I could help contribute to the local food movement. I had a fabulous sociology professor who made me realize there were a lot of injustices, and a lot of social structures that are invisible but that create inequalities.

Photo by Kari Giordano

I graduated and moved to New York City, where I worked at Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a small pie shop started by two sisters. I was their first pie baker and I learned a lot about running a small business. I then went to the Alps to teach English and got placed in a tiny town five hours from Marseilles that was reminiscent of Great Barrington, but much more remote. It was very secluded but there was a farmers market that sold local produce and honey. After seven months there, I moved back to NYC and ended up cooking at a Basque restaurant run by a husband and wife team. I learned a lot, but realized I didn’t want a career as a chef. My interest in food led me there, but I hadn’t yet really found my place.

That’s when a good friend from Wesleyan got an internship with the Schumacher Center, which is located about two miles from where I live now in Egremont. I found out they’re involved with BerkShares, one of which had been in my wallet for the last five years. I’d been using it to show people where I’m from. There was a BerkShares internship available and, as I read its one-paragraph description, it sounded like it was describing me.

Through the internship, I started to learn about monetary policy and economics, and realized that I’d never before thought of money as a tool. I also realized that there can’t be a thriving local food economy if local business and culture weren’t thriving and supported. And the domino effect would go on from there, leading to wealth inequality, climate change, etc.

I’ve been learning from board members, and bringing what I learn at Schumacher into the community. The Center looks around the world for new models on how to build more sustainable and more just economies. What we learn is transforming how we view ownership of land and businesses, and the structure of institutions. We can bring those stories back to the Berkshires and then create our own stories. Schumacher has been an instigator, but people here have been willing to experiment for a long time. The first CSA in the country was Indian Line Farm, and we celebrate Robyn Van En, its founder, on our 10 BerkShare note. Ted Dobson of Equinox Farm was selling mesclun greens to restaurants, door to door, before people even knew what they were.

One of the things I’m most proud of is our 10-week program for young people ages 14-25, called Entry to Entrepreneurship. It’s crowd sourced at every level. We start out by asking participants, “What are the gaps in our local economy?” The idea is called “import replacement.” What do you want to buy that you can’t buy locally? Then they go on to develop a business plan. Guest speakers come in and talk about how to get a loan, how to bookkeep, etc., and mentors volunteer their time. Then the students present their plans to the public.

On Sunday, we’re co-sponsoring a screening of the new documentary Jane Jacobs: Battle for the City, at the Triplex in Great Barrington. Jacobs is one of our inspirations. She came up with the idea of “import replacement” as a way to keep regions lively.

What I really love about the Berkshires is related to its small business community and the small-town feel. It creates a web of connections; you end up being connected to people in multiple ways. You see them at the supermarket, and you serve on a boards with them, and you dance with them at a contra dance. You can feel the interdependence; there’s an accountability to each other and a feeling that we’re all in it together. People everywhere look for that and we have it.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 06/20/17 at 01:46 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Phyllis Feder

At 81 years young, Phyllis Feder is the only woman of her age operating a winery and vineyard in the United States. Clinton Vineyards, a 100-acre farm winery in Clinton Corners, New York, was started in 1977 by her late husband, Ben Feder. After his death, in 2009, Phyllis decided to continue Ben’s legacy and this year the vineyard will celebrate its 40th vintage with anniversary festivities on Saturday, June 24 from 2–6 p.m. There will be live jazz; a pop-up farmers market of local vendors; and tastings of what many people have agreed is the winery’s best Seyval Blanc yet.

I’m a first generation American; my mother was from Russia and my father from Austria. While they were very interested in seeing that I was educated, their own education was cut short by where they were raised and other circumstances. But I was raised in the Bronx, and there was never any question that I was going to go to college. My choice of study was based on whether I could get a job in that field. Back then, most women were led to believe they would be a secretary or a teacher, then they’d get married and have kids. That wasn’t for me; I always wanted to travel. I remember crying in the piazza in Venice because I was remembering listening to the New York Philharmonic performing from there when I was younger… and there I was… in Venice!

After attending Antioch, I came back to New York for grad school and started working in public relations in the nonprofit sector. I became head of a PR group for those in the nonprofit world. After taking over I realized we needed to think about how we were presenting ourselves, and I enlisted the help of Milton Glaser who headed Pushpin Studios. After living near him and often seeing him on the subway, he invited me to see the studio. Then their PR person left and I was hired for the job. That was the beginning of a marvelous 24-year career.

In the world of graphic design I met a lot of wonderful people. Through some friends, at the age of 50 I was fixed up on a blind date with a book designer named Ben Feder. I’m very tall and I knew he was intimidated by my height, so at the end of the evening I stood in the gutter so we were eye to eye. According to the rules of etiquette at the time, it was okay for a woman to give a man her business card, so that’s what I did. 

He brought me up to the farm at Clinton Corners and I called my brother and told him I’d just seen the sexiest thing – Ben on his tractor. Ben was truly a renaissance man; he trained as an artist and he loved cooking, the only thing Ben Feder didn’t do was the tango. He had an amazing smile and sparkling blue eyes. There’s a photo of him in the tasting room and he still is very present here.

When he envisioned a vineyard, he learned about viticulture and chose Seyval Blanc. It’s very versatile, so you can make several types of wine using one grape. He first planted them in 1974, and the first release was in 1977. He only made about 300 cases, and it won all the awards in the Northeastern competitions. Now we’re celebrating our 40th release of Seyval Blanc, and I’ve heard it’s the best we’ve ever made. The growing conditions last year were really ideal.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 06/13/17 at 01:42 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Shaun O’Boyle

In 2015, Berkshires-based photographer Shaun O’Boyle spent two months in Antarctica, where he took a series of pictures that now comprise his project, “Portraits of Place in Antarctica.” Some of the pictures, which tell the story of historic huts built over 100 years ago by early explorers and their present-day successors — modern-day science stations and field camps — are on display in the Berkshire Now gallery space at the Berkshire Museum. O’Boyle received a BFA in architecture and industrial design from Parsons School of Design and, in his day job, provides architectural photography for Hill Engineers in Dalton, Mass., his home town. But he’ll not only be returning to Antarctica; he also has plans to explore the Arctic Circle.

I was selected by the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program to join a seven-week project, which I’ve named “Portraits of Place in Antarctica.” I spent weeks with scientists and other people who were working on astronomy, biology, ocean and glacier studies. The purpose of the Foundation’s program was to bring artists to the ice, to share information about what’s going on down there.

I’ve been interested in architecture my whole life, so I wanted to document the huts of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott, the early explorers, and photograph the present-day science station, to show parallels between the two. A lot of the science they were studying back then, they’re studying today, so it’s a continuation of the early work. They use a lot of high-tech stuff now, and astronomy is probably the newest work going on in Antarctica right now.

It was really cold when I got there. We made a trip out to Cape Evans on snowmobiles when it was about –35 degrees. But by the time I left in December, it was in the teens and 20s, so it felt a lot warmer. It’s a big, sprawling place, with about 1,000 people. There are dorm buildings, a huge galley that employs truck and bus drivers, buses and taxis, people maintaining the roads, mechanics and carpenters. I was the first artist to arrive. I shot over 10,000 photographs. At the Museum I’m showing 36 prints — that was the hardest editing job I’ve ever done.

I was named a Guggenheim Fellow in Photography and will be going to the Arctic for three weeks in July, to Spitsbergen, an island that’s part of Norway. My daughter, who is 14, is coming as my photo assistant. Spitsbergen has a longer history than Antarctica; it started with the whaling industry. They found coal there, so there’s coal mining, and a lot of Russian influence. I plan to photograph the buildings, landscape and wildlife. The weather will be pretty mild, in the 30s and 40s, and the sun will be up 24 hours a day.

In November I’m going back to Antarctica via ice breaker from Chile, across the Drake Passage, to Palmer Station on the peninsula. I’m prepared now — I’ve got a stock of long johns and wool socks.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/05/17 at 01:20 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Jonathan Lerner

Writer Jonathan Lerner became a full-time activist at the age of 19, joining the staff of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In 1969, the militant Weatherman faction took over SDS. Lerner was one of its founders, the editor of its newspaper, and a member of the group until its demise in 1976. He’s now a contributing editor to Landscape Architecture Magazine and a writing and communications consultant for design professionals. His articles on architecture, art and design, environment, food and travel have appeared in Metropolis, National Geographic Traveler, The WSJ, Town & Country, Travel+Leisure, The Washington Post and many other publications. He’s the author of the novels “Caught in a Still Place” and “Alex Underground.” A Columbia Land Conservancy supporter and the Chair of the Hudson Conservation Advisory Council, Lerner lives with his husband, Peter Frank, in Hudson. He’ll read from and discuss his new memoir about his time with the SDS and The Weathermen, “Swords in the Hands of Children,” on Sunday, June 11 at 5 p.m. at Hudson Hall.

I grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland. My grandparents were Eastern European Jewish immigrants, and my parents lived the “American dream.” For a while, we lived in Taiwan because my dad was in the State Department, which was rare for Jew at that time. In the early ‘60s, after we had moved back to the States, where people were just coming to consciousness about the “American dream,” civil rights and the Vietnam War. Maybe because of having traveled, I was a kid who was aware of those contradictions. I think that has a lot to do with why I ended up as a radical, although millions of others did the same thing. We grew up in a time of affluence and the promise wasn’t being matched by what we saw on TV – black people being teargassed and firehosed for trying to vote, villages in Vietnam being torched.

I went off to college at Antioch in 1965. I wasn’t particularly political, but Antioch had a long political history, and I was involved in guerilla theater that was meant to encourage people to go off to demonstrations. I dropped out after two years and went to New York City, thinking I’d do theater. Within a couple of months, things were heating up, demonstrations were turning violent. War was making us crazy and the demonstrations weren’t making a difference. I joined the staff of SDS, and that was an odd thing because I’d never even been to a meeting, but I was asked and I was 19 and in New York City, and this was a chance to be a part of something. A couple of years later, out of that the Weathermen emerged.

What I’ll be reading at Hudson Hall is a section about SDS and what it felt like living that every day. The reason I want to read that is because there’s so much newly aroused activism, which is partly why I wrote the book. I want to give people a sense that this has happened before, there are lessons to be drawn, and there are dimensions of the ‘60s that they don’t know about. The book is going to give me a sort of platform. Most people are surprised to discover this about me because I haven’t been much of an activist recently. They say, “Really? You?

I hadn’t been thinking about writing this book, but a publisher I know asked me to write it and to write it fast because people were craving a way to figure out how to act and what to do. At first I thought I’d said everything I had to say, but this is an important piece of history that’s not very well understood. I had a really, really fun time writing it. It’s been so long that I have no axes to grind. Others have written books — some are apologists for us, some are more critical — but I just tell it and it’s not ideological or political. Hopefully, that will make it accessible for people.

I have no idea what to tell people to do, but there are things I want to say about attitudes. Be careful, think about conserving your energy for the long haul, and think critically even though you feel swept up.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 05/30/17 at 04:06 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Lauren Letellier

Playwright, public relations consultant, voiceover artist and Hillsdale, New York resident Lauren Letellier will perform her one-woman show, “The Fiery Sword of Justice,” on Saturday, June 3 at 3 p.m. at the historic Ancram Opera House. Her critically acclaimed comedy about how one businesswoman’s compulsive truth-telling torpedoed her career, will be staged to benefit the Roeliff Jansen Community Library, and will be followed by a reception with Letellier and the show’s director, Martha Wollner. 

I born in Springfield, Mass. and lived there until I was 13, when my family moved to southern New Hampshire. Then I spent the rest of my teenage years trying to get out of New Hampshire. My husband, Chris, and I moved to Hillsdale full time on Dec. 29, 2014. I remember the date because it was the beginning of an epically snowy winter. After 34 years in Manhattan, we plunged into the polar darkness.

The Fiery Sword of Justice is a story about telling truth to power. I’d never written a play before, and I was looking to do something more along the lines of storytelling at the Moth, but my workshop teacher, Matt Hoverman, convinced me the story had a universal message. I worked in pharmaceutical PR, and thought it was so great, that they were the noblest form of capitalism in that they were helping people and curing diseases. But, over time, that changed and they started advertising directly to consumers and hiring celebrity spokespeople, and they became devoted to shareholders first. Basically, I got fired from a big PR agency for telling the truth.

With absolutely no experience, I submitted the play to The New York International Fringe Festival and they accepted it. It got some great reviews, it sold out and I’ve been performing it ever since. It’s a comedy. But it’s also about how I realized that I’d spent my life growing up with a mother addicted to alcohol, and then my last three years working for a woman who was a raging alcoholic. I had sort of recreated my family in the workplace and wound up being ejected from it in the same way. Recently, I read that 49 percent of people have a first-degree relationship with an alcoholic, usually parents or a spouse. No wonder work life is so crazy!

Photo by Michael Blase

I’ll be doing a Q&A after the performance with Martha Wollner. During the Q&A session, people will often say things like “That just happened to me at my job” or “I never put two and two together.” They’ve actually been recreating trauma in the workplace. What’s been so interesting is that I’ve watched people realize that they’re not alone; we just haven’t heard much, in the theater world, from people in corporate jobs. When I was going through it, I thought I was the only person who’d ever had this kind of failure.

I still do communication consulting, and I’ll be the world’s oldest intern at the Ancram Opera House this summer. Chris and I were recently named the town’s historians. Chris is chair of the Roe-Jan Library gala this year, which is on June 17, and I’m his deputy. There are some amazing auction items this year. Two of the live auction items are a lunch with Andy Borowitz and a lunch with Ruth Reichl.

The new play that I’m working on is about a woman with an urban soul who moves upstate. It’s a comedy, a fish-out-of-water story. It’s been a journey — from being a big-time PR person to finding ourselves in a town of 1,900 people. It actually requires tremendous energy from the townspeople to keep the town board, schools and other entities going. These issues are a lot more important than what I used to think was important in NYC. It requires people to read up a lot on so many things, and to cooperate with their neighbors.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 05/24/17 at 10:05 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Derek Delaney

Long Island native and Juilliard and Yale graduate Derek Delaney began his musical career as a horn player. But he has spent the bulk of his time as an arts administrator in the northeast, working at the Marlboro Music Festival, as development director at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and executive director of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival. In 2012, he became the artistic director of the Union College Concert Series in Schenectady, New York, and has lived in Old Chatham since 2015.

The Union College concert series had been going on for about 40 years before I took over. It had been run on a volunteer basis. The former director approached me about taking over the series. At the time I was running a music festival in the Hamptons and living in Manhattan. I decided to take it on, but worked remotely from New York. It was clear that they needed somebody here to raise money and promote the series, so the college created a position for me.

Our series presents about 14 to 17 concerts a year from October through April. We attract almost 10,000 people from all over, people as far away as Montreal and Rochester, and now we’re building up a Chatham contingent. What makes our series different is that it’s often used as a warmup venue for musicians who will be making appearances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

Delaney turning pages for pianist Mitsuko Uchida.

I had moved up to Schenectady but was looking for a more artistic community, and fell in love with Columbia County. I bought a house built in 1780 where Amos Eaton, the founder of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), was born. It’s a large property and I love working on it. Last summer I built a patio. I’m taking advantage of being a country boy and joined my first farm share.

I go to New York quite a lot, so the proximity to New York and the Berkshires is a draw for me, as is Tanglewood, of course. But really, it’s the people that make this place — the community has been wonderful. I love meeting the artists, writers and musicians here.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/12/17 at 09:38 AM • Permalink