Sundance

I went to Jean-Claude van Itallie’s farm in Massachusetts with a group of friends for Christmas 1965 and wrote a column for The Voice about how much I loved being in the country but reflecting that theatre is a phenomenon of the city. A short time later I received a letter from Wolfgang Zuckermann, whom I had interviewed for The Voice: Zuckermann had a successful business making harpsichord kits, of all things, in a shop on Christopher Street two blocks down from The Voice. Responding to my column, he informed me that he had a theatre in the country, called Sundance, and offered to sell it to me. I had no money but my interest was piqued, we met to talk about it, and the upshot was that we decided to do a season together the following summer. He would arrange a series of chamber music concerts on Friday nights, as well as a program of experimental cinema, which he knew and fancied; I would book a New American Arts series on Saturday nights, with theatre, dance, music, and poetry. He would hire me to manage the festival season.

Zuckermann had done three summer seasons at Sundance with an English friend who had now moved to Paris. Deep in the woods in northern Bucks County, Pennsylvania, two hours west of New York, they had built a small covered stage and a wide amphitheatre for the audience that was open to the stars. It was extremely charming, and we presented a wondrous range of artists over the next three summers. Farther up the drive beyond the theatre, there were two houses, a barn, a tennis court, a big concrete swimming down in the woods, and a screened-in summer house. Wolfgang and I got to be good friends, playing chamber music together in the city and tennis at Sundance. The performers often came for the weekend and enjoyed the facilities. For our third season the great Catalan harpsichord Fernando Valenti was in residence, and Wolfgang fixed up the horse stalls as practice rooms for his students. But the following year, appalled by America’s political power, Wolfgang sold Sundance and moved abroad. He presently owns and operates Librairie Shakespeare, a bookshop in Avignon.

Sundance was my first taste of presenting, and I liked it.

Sundance 1966

June 24: Judson Chamber Ensemble: Bach Brandenburg Concerto Program, Nos. 4, 5, and 2, with soloists and ensemble directed by Edward Brewer

June 25: Beverly Schmidt and Roberts Blossom: Filmstage, a program of new theatre forms, combining film, dance, live action, and live and recorded sound

July 1: Judson Chamber Ensemble: Bach Cantata Program, Nos. 51 (“Jauchzet Gott”) and 211 (“Coffee”), as well as a Telemann Trio Sonata, with soloists and ensemble directed by Edward Brewer

July 2: The Open Theatre: “Viet Rock,” a new musical play by Megan Terry, created by improvisation and other experimental methods in collaboration with the actors

July 8: The Festival Winds directed by Melvin Kaplan, including works by Mozart, Boismortier, Haydn, and Handel

July 9: Judson Poets’ Theatre: “Pomegranada,” a new opera by H. M. Koutoukas, and “Patter for a Soft Shoe Dance,” by George Dennison, with music for both works by Al Carmines

July 15: Claremont String Quartet beginning a Beethoven cycle: String Quartets Op. 18 No. 4, Op. 59 (Rasoumovsky) No. 1, and Op. 132

July 16:New American Cinema: Some outstanding examples from the works of the independent filmmakers, sometimes called the “underground cinema”

July 22: Claremont String Quartet continuing the Beethoven cycle: String Quartets Op. 18 No. 5, Op. 59 No. 2, and Op. 135

July 23: La Mama Repertory: “Chicago” by Sam Shepard and the premiere of a new play by Paul Foster, off-off-Broadway theatre performed by the acting ensemble of La Mama Experimental Theatre Club

July 29: Claremont String Quartet concluding the Beethoven cycle: String Quartets Op. 18 No. 6, Op. 59 No. 3, and Op. 127

July 30: Allen Ginsberg and Peter Ganesh Orlovsky reading their own poems

August 5: New York Chamber Soloists in a program including works by Beethoven, Schubert, Britten, Kodaly, and Mozart

August 6: Katherine Litz and Aileen Passloff/Remy Charlip: A program of lyric, comic, and oblique solo dances and a eurythmy duet

August 12: Paul Jacobs, harpsichord, in a program of works by Bach and Haydn

August 13: Al Carmines Theatre Songs, with lyrics by Gertrude Stein, Maria Irene Fornes, Rosalyn Drexler, Ruth Krauss, and others, performed by the composer with singers and dancers

August 19: Josef Marx Baroque Ensemble, performing rarely heard Renaissance and Baroque music

August 20: La Monte Young: A leading avant-garde composer and his quartet perform his music for voices, violin, and electronic amplification

August 26: Cecil Taylor, jazz pianist, performing his own compositions and improvisations with his trio

August 27: Manhattan Festival Ballet: “Phantom of the Opera,” a new ballet by James Waring, “Surfzone” by Viola Farber, and “Rondo” by Ron Sequoio

Sundance 1967

Season included performances by Ralph Kirkpatrick (I turned pages), Ravi Shankar, and Terry Riley.

Sundance 1968

July 19: Fernando Valenti, harpsichord, in a recital of Spanish Baroque music including works by Scarlatti and Soler

July 20: Robert Schwartz: X-ing, a multiform dance work—assemblages, moments, improvisations—performed by the choreographer with Delila Zuck and others

July 26: Opera Bluestocking: “In a Garden,” by Meyer Kupferman and Gertrude Stein; “The Secular Mask” by William Boyce; and “The Fortress of Ares” by Bela Bartok

July 27: Princeton String Quartet: Haydn’s “Seven Last Words of Christ,” in mourning for all the victims of the war in Vietnam

August 2: James Oliver Buswell IV, violin, and Fernando Valenti, harpsichord, in a program of sonatas by Bach

August 3: “The Hawk,” by Murray Mednick and Tony Barsha, a radical experiment in improvisational ritual theatre, with the original off-off-Broadway cast

August 4: Student recital: works for one, two, and three harpsichords, performance by advanced students of Fernando Valenti’s Sundance master classes

August 9: New York Chamber Soloists: piano quartets and piano trios by Haydn, Mozart, and Schumann

August 10: New York Chamber Soloists: all-contemporary program including the Harpsichord Concerto by Manuel de Falla and the Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello, and Harpsichord by Elliott Carter

August 16: The Gift Rite: Ken Dewey Action Theatre in a jazz/medieval collision with the myth of fire—a happening

August 17-18: New American Cinema