Kids’ Almanac (October 11-18)

Rondout Valley Common Ground Celebration

As soon as I heard about the Rondout Valley Common Ground Celebration, I got so excited and knew I wanted to help spread the word. I love how much food is grown right here in our area; I value the many places where we’re able to go out and connect with nature; and I appreciate the work of local organizations dedicated to protecting all of these assets. Here’s a day where it all comes together, with dynamic performances, workshops on bike repair, clay pizza-oven-building, pumpkin-carving, tool repair, solar food cooking, kombucha- and yogurt-making, the Hudson Valley Seed Library’s art exhibit and design-your-own-seed-packet activity and so much more. Wild Earth will be offering an outdoor skills and nature connection workshop for kids and adults, including bow-drill firemaking and cordage/ropemaking.

The Common Ground Celebration takes place on Sunday, October 14 at High Meadow School and throughout Stone Ridge from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine. Admission costs $5 – cash only, no checks or credit cards. If you ride your bike to the High Meadow campus admission table, you can get in free. To help keep this a zero-waste event, remember to bring mess kits for eating (reusable utensils, mug and plate).

High Meadow School is located at 3643 Main Street in Stone Ridge. For more information, visit or e-mail



Morgan Lake storytime

October 13 is Universal Music Day, which also happens to be Morgan Lake’s final storytime of the season. Have you discovered this Poughkeepsie treasure yet? Bring a blanket to sit on and gather round for this free children’s story, song and activity hour centered around the theme “Fall Is Here.” All ages are welcome at Storytime by the Lake, which takes place on Saturday, October 13 from 11 a.m. to 12 noon.

Morgan Lake is located at 17 Creek Road in Poughkeepsie. For more information or to volunteer your time in support of this lake, call (845) 418-0016 or visit


Hudson River Playback Theatre’s Promises

Here’s the thing about Hudson River Playback Theatre (HRPT): I went from having no real interest in ever seeing a performance to becoming a wildly enthusiastic fan. I didn’t actually mean to catch a performance of theirs; they just happened to be at an event in which I was participating. I’m telling you, they opened my eyes to how truly transformative their work can be. Here’s how they define what they do: “Each performance is based on true personal stories told by audience members and enacted on the spot by a team of actors and a musician.”

I’ll be honest: I was skeptical, looking for any excuse to dismiss them because I was suspicious that they were trying to push some sort of agenda. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s someone trying to “fix” or “solve” me. I studied them very carefully up on the stage to see if they were really listening to the contributions of the audience members; they were. I observed closely, wondering if they might change people’s personal sharings to suit the troupe’s own needs of how it “should have been”; they didn’t.

At every turn, they did something that felt magical to me: They held the space, as well as moved forward through it. I felt some sort of release with every contribution that was acted out. I felt like they were telling some aspect of my story, without my having said a word. I felt connected to the rest of the audience in a way that I hadn’t in other live performances. The music that accompanied the sounds and words enhanced the mood and helped advance the improvised storytelling in a way that only true presence with another human being can create.

When I heard about their upcoming performance at Deyo Hall in New Paltz, I wanted to encourage every single person I know – and even those I don’t know – to come check them out. Hudson River Playback says, “It’s election season, and the airwaves are full of promises which may inspire our excitement – or our skepticism. Promises, an improvisational performance by Hudson River Playback Theatre, will feature audience members’ true stories about promises –political or personal – fulfilled, broken or contemplated. HRPT’s team of facilitator, actors and musician listen and then transform the stories on the spot into dynamic, memorable theatre.”

My emotions felt heightened during their last performance – I laughed, I wept. I kept relating on all different levels to what I was seeing and hearing onstage. I was able to move through those feelings easily, though. I didn’t have to take care of someone else in the process. I could be in the moment but not feel overwhelmed. That was such a gift.

They’re so good at what they do, and it’s no wonder. Founder Jo Salas started HRPT in 1990, and she was a co-founder of the original Playback Theatre company in 1975, which pioneered this artform. Playback has since spread worldwide, with performances, workshops, trainings, festivals and conferences. Troupe member Matteo explains it like this: “Each performance is fully spontaneous and improvised. There’s no script and no rehearsal. Actors and musicians listen deeply to embody the teller’s story and then bring it to life with music, movement, imagery and spoken word.”

Promises takes place on Thursday, October 18 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. and is appropriate for older elementary students and up: ages 9 to 10 years and older. Matteo said that they often have kids sitting in the front row, excited to see their stories played back on the spot. The suggested donation for general admission is $10, $8 for students and seniors.

Deyo Hall is located on Broadhead Avenue in New Paltz. For more information about Promises, HRPT’s No More Bullying programs, their Immigrant Stories work and more, call (845) 255-7716 or visit But like I said, I could have read all about them forever. Seeing them is what changed me. Go. And let me know what you think!

Erica Chase-Salerno lives, loves and laughs in New Paltz with her husband Mike and their two children: the inspirations behind She can be reached at