The Catskill Mountain Foundation (CMF) is teaming up with leading organizations in the Northern Catskills to bring the region’s lesser-known history of Anti-Rent Wars to life. In collaboration with Mainly Greene, Greene County Council on the Arts, Prattsville Art Center and the Zadock Pratt Museum, American Masquerade is a festival of exhibitions, performances, lectures, community dialogues and workshops exploring masked identities inspired by the Catskills’ Colonial Anti-Rent Wars’ overthrow of the old-world feudal system.
Disguised in calico costumes and sheepskin masks, the Catskill farmers of the mid-nineteenth century protested the rent collectors until 1845 when New York changed the discriminatory land ownership laws. The Anti-Rent movement’s dedication to individual rights lead directly to the Civil War and paved the way for today’s campaigns addressing economic and social justice. This was a major movement in the creation of America, in line with the more famous Boston Tea Party demonstrations to protest the British tax on tea.
Today, the Catskill Mountain Foundation in conjunction with the 2015 Mainly Greene Partnership creates an exciting multi-media celebration of the history of the masquerade motif in American Masquerade. CMF will host several of the main events including a “Down with the Rent” concert of authentic stories and songs from the period of protests, an exhibition of locally made masks, and the opera “Acis and Galatea.”
Anti-Rent Songs: “Down with the Rent” – August 9
“Down with the Rent” will showcase New York State’s hidden history in a performance of authentic songs and stories written and sung by Anti-Rent protestors during the 1840’s. This concert is a unique look at the Anti-Rent rebellion through song lyrics and historical narrative. Presented by the Catskill Mountain Foundation, this concert will be held on Saturday, August 9 at 2:00 pm at the Doctorow Center for the Arts in Hunter, NY
European Masquerade: “Acis and Galatea” – September 6
The Catskill Mountain Foundation will also offer a performance of Handel’s historic opera “Acis and Galatea” which includes seven musicians, five singers and four dancers. This “little” opera is considered by some to be the greatest pastoral opera ever composed. It was written as a courtly entertainment piece about the simplicity of rural life and contains a significant amount of wit and self-parody. The opera will be performed at the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s Orpheum Film and Performing Arts Center in Tannersville, NY on Saturday, September 6, 2015 at 7:30 pm by harpsichordist Andrew Appel and the Four Nations Ensemble. The performance will include masks created by artist Joyce Kozloff and is recommended for children from fifth grade and higher.
The Four Nations Ensemble consists of musicians who are leading soloists in period performance from the Renaissance through the present. The ensemble features Andrew Appel who has toured internationally and is currently the harpsichordist for Opera Lafayette as well as violinist Olivier Brault, master of both Baroque and Classical pieces. Joining them is internationally acclaimed violinist Tatiana Chulochnikova and cellist Loretta O’Sullivan who has been featured in prestigious ensembles like the Florida Grand Opera, the New York Collegium, the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, the Grand Tour, Artek, and The Washington Bach Consort. Charles Brink on traverso (flute) joins the ensemble with extensive experience and critical acclaim for his performance of classical pieces like the Leclair flute sonatas. Renowned singers Thomas Cooley, Laura Heimes, Philip Cutlip, Aaron Sheehan, and Marc Molomot, along with Carlos Fittante and others from BALAM Dance Theatre will add both vocal and physical grace to this distinctive historical performance.
American Masquerade Today: Contemporary Exhibit, August 29-October 4
Leading up to these events, the foundation-owned Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery in Hunter, NY invites visual artists in all media to submit their work featuring the masquerade motif for a juried contemporary art exhibit. The exhibition will be held from Saturday, August 29 through Sunday, October 4.
Mainly Greene Events:
The American Masquerade celebration will also include other community activities open to the public, including a screening of Bruce Kennedy’s recently completed documentary film on the Anti-Rent Wars and an Old Songs festival at the Doctorow Center for the Arts. Other events like Calico dancing, Zadock Pratt Museum’s Anti-Rent War exhibition and a flash-mob style celebration will be featured throughout the region from now until October. Additionally a series of exhibits at the Prattsville Art Center including Native American Traditions by artist and American Indian scholar Tlisza Jaurique, and Michael Adno’s installation investigating the Anti Rent Wars murder of Osmon Steele will be showcased. Calico Indian dance showdowns in Haines Falls on August 15th and Prattsville on August 29th will celebrate the rebellion with interaction and participation from the community.
American Masquerade is funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts REDC initiative with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York State Legislature and private donations. For more information on the collective initiative, please visit www.mainlygreene.org.
For tickets to upcoming American Masquerade performances at the Catskill Mountain Foundation, or for more information on 2015 events, please visit http://www.catskillmtn.org/.