Monday, August 21, 2017

West Point and Arnold at Boscobel

After the traditional Murray Biggs lecture, YWAA alumni and guests watched The General from America under the tent at Boscobel. (HSVF, YWAA photos)
YWAA returned to Boscobel in Garrison, Aug. 20, in its annual outing with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.  The line-up was familiar.  YWAA invited Westchester alumni, families and friends for a Sunday affair that included a glowing performance under the tent along the Hudson River shoreline, a pre-performance lecture from Yale drama professor Murray Biggs, and a picnic on Boscobel's lush, scenic grounds.

Shakespeare, however, wasn't on the docket this year.  HVSF's 2017 summer schedule squeezed in a performance of The General from America, Richard Nelson's account of Benedict Arnold's defection to the British Army during the Revolutionary War. Penny Metropulos, affiliated with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, directed the play.

For more than 15 summers, Biggs has launched the day with an exuberant lecture about the evening's performance.  The Shakespeare expert this year detoured beyond Shakespeare and provided insights on how the audience should observe a performance about a notorious traitor.  The play, written in the 21st century, features a central character, a general in the U.S. Army, who spends much of the show agonizing over criminal charges from the U.S. side and rationalizing a decision to defect--until he finally crosses over.

Benedict Arnold (played by Chris Thorn, who has otherwise performed in many Shakespeare productions Off-Broadway) limps across the Boscobel stage, fusses with his sister, and barks at his wife.

He debates George Washington (played by long-time HSVF actor Kurt Rhoads) and arranges a meeting at West Point with British Major John Andre--with the hills and greenery of the real West Point looming in the background.

The hushed, dark background of the real Hudson River becomes the setting for the 18th-century fateful meeting between Andre and Arnold--despite the occasional commuter train roaring faintly every 20 minutes or so.

Earlier that day, Biggs lectured to over 40 YWAA guests, refreshing them on the old history lesson and hinting at Davis' humanized portrayal of Arnold. 

Rich Fabbro '76 and Dan Leonard '77 helped organize the day's events, carrying on a YWAA tradition led for many years by Merrell Clark '57 and Bruce Jennings '71.
YWAA's Sunday at Boscobel always includes a picnic on the grounds and moments to absorb the Hudson River scenery. (YWAA photos)

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