River’s Edge Reaches to Stow
By Ann Needle
It offers entertainment all summer and beyond, a vibrant organization that brings a variety of opportunities to act, sing, draw, play an instrument, or simply soak in a show.
Formerly the Hudson Arts Alliance, the non-profit River’s Edge Arts Alliance changed its name to reflect that it is open to anyone wanting to participate, with about 30 surrounding towns now enjoying its work, according to River’s Edge Executive Director Lynne Johnson. “We changed the name to be more encompassing of the surrounding communities,” Johnson said. “I don’t think people understood it was one big organization.”
That is easy to see, given the large size and scope of River’s Edge. With Johnson estimating audience members for its programs number in the thousands in a year, River’s Edge offers something for just about anyone wanting to hone their arts skills. A short list includes the River’s Edge Players (audition theater group), Youth Chorus (ages 8 through 17), Community Band, Chorale (high school through adult), after-school theater programs, and Visual Arts Exhibits.
Summer means a host of special programs. One of the most popular Johnson pointed to is the Summer Drama Workshop. Coming up is the Youth Theater’s performance of “Legally Blonde” next weekend, July 26 and 27, at 7:30 p.m. Though this group is for high schoolers, the Alliance also offers different summer theater groups for children as young as first grade. Johnson commented that tickets to the performances are priced below $15, “And when you think of movie prices, that’s pretty good.”
Another popular program is Broadway by the River’s Edge, presented the third Wednesday of every month. For readers looking for low-cost entertainment — along with a helping of air conditioning on the side — this is an Open Mike Night at Hudson’s Harvest Cafe, 40 Washington St. (Route 62), from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. For $5 guests can perform their inner Sondheim, or simply watch for free. (There is a two-song minimum per performer, who should bring any sheet music for the pianist. Food is charged separately.)
All Levels Welcome
Though all ages now participate in and enjoy River’s Edge, it originally was children that fueled the organization’s start. Johnson explained that she and her husband joined with other Hudson residents in the late 1980s to form the Hudson Summer Workshop for drama students, believing that the Hudson schools were not offering enough artistic opportunities at the time. The formerly named Hudson Arts Alliance was formed in 1991, spreading to participants and spectators of all ages and abilities in the surrounding community.
Those who have not played, acted, or painted since their school days should not be shy about signing up with the Alliance, insisted Stow’s Rebecca Stadolnik. Active in the Alliance’s Community Band as a French horn player for the past four years, Stadolnik said she had not played her instrument for about 23 years when she joined. “I had such performance anxiety; it had been so long,” she recalled. “They were incredibly supportive.”
The Band was so supportive, in fact, that fellow Community Band member and former State Rep. Pat Walrath switched to French horn from trumpet, just so Stadolnik wouldn’t be the sole player on that instrument after so many years. And, Stadolnik noted that the Community Band also counts composers and music teachers among its members. “And I talked Paul Trunfio into it,” she laughed.
As for Stow’s Trunfio, “I had not played my trumpet since I was probably 12 or 13, and initially was hesitant, thinking I would not measure up. But found that playing an instrument is like riding a bike and if you practice a bit you can do well and get the satisfaction of making music in a very supportive group environment.”
Trunfio added that his daughters now sing in the Youth Chorus, along with a number of other Stow children. “They get to perform with other children with a range of abilities and ages, as well as sing music that they would not normally sing in school chorus,” he said.
Each year, River’s Edge tries to build its programs around a theme, with this year’s being Ghosts, Spirits and Past Lives. Johnson noted that next year’s theme likely will be “Home Town,” a topic that will hopefully bring River’s Edge into community schools. “One of the things I feel strongly about is social awareness, and I would like to work with surrounding schools on that,” Johnson stressed.
To find out more about upcoming River’s Edge events — and to check out tax-deductible membership and advertising rates, along with volunteer opportunities — go to upwitharts.org. As Trunfio offered, “It’s a wonderful organization and a great glue for the community — recognizing that we are not just a “Stow” community, but a wider community of towns around us.”