seeing their old commercial districts endure long, depressing
declines, the three largest cities in the Capital Region
have been doing their best to lure people back downtown—to
play. In the development equivalent to dangling carrots
in front of bunnies, arts centers, brew pubs, nightclubs,
restaurants and performance venues have been restored or
constructed, polished and promoted to lure suburbanites
downtown. (With regard to their former vibrant shopping
districts, the cities have accepted defeat.) In the old
days, when most people lived in the cities—B.S., aka Before
Suburbia—downtown was the only place to go.
WMHT-TV brings back these days when Albany, Schenectady
and Troy bustled with activity nearly every night in the
new documentary Remembering Downtown. Premiering
Sunday night, the locally produced special focuses on the
period in the middle of the last century when Frear’s, Barney’s
and Myer’s were the places to shop, and the Palace and Proctor’s
were first-run movie houses. (If you don’t recognize those
names, you need to watch this special.) You might also have
bumped into Mr. Peanut in front of the old Grant’s on a
busy State Street in Schenectady (photo courtesy Schenectady
County Historical Society). According to host Bob Cudmore,
“In the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, downtown was where you shopped,
met your friends and let the hustle and bustle banish loneliness.
Shopping was a social event then. There was a feeling of
Coproduced by Cudmore and award-winning producer Steve Dunn—the
pair also collaborated on The Iron Horse in Schenectady:
Locomotives for the World—Remembering Downtown mixes
movie clips of the “good old days” with personal reminisces
by a number of local folks.
Downtown will premiere Sunday (Dec. 1) on WMHT-TV, channel
17, at 8 PM.
is not the circus that you remember attending as a child.
You’ll find no huge tents, no smelly elephants, no overzealous
ringleaders. And you probably will not get stuck to your
seat, your gooey cotton candy having morphed into superglue.
In a sense, you might say that this is a circus for the
grown-ups, although children are just as likely to be awed
by the seemingly magical feats that the performers carry
Nine years ago, seven graduates of Montreal’s National Circus
School created an animal-free, European-style circus and
called it Cirque Éloize. The performers, who are all originally
from the Magdalen Islands off the coast of Quebec, chose
the term éloize because it refers to sightings of
heat lightning on the horizon on hot days. The troupe liken
their show to the same kind of brilliance and energy that
heat lightning gives off.
Cirque Éloize, which has been referred to by The New
York Times as the younger sibling of the famous Cirque
du Soleil, is essentially a traveling circus consisting
of singers, dancers, acrobats and other entertainers. They
have put on numerous productions, including Excentricus,
a circus of comedy and live music centered around the inner
workings of relationships, and Cirque Orchestra,
in which the circus shared the stage with an orchestra,
blending the arts of circus and contemporary music and dance.
The group’s latest production, Nomade, explores the
similarities between the lives of nomads and the lives of
circus performers. Both types of people live the majority
of their lives as travelers, and both can tell stories of
glamour and extravagance, but also of sadness and loneliness.
The show tells the story of two groups of drifters who cross
paths and initially quarrel, but eventually they get along,
meanwhile displaying to the audience the “rituals of vagabond
life.” The show will consist of both modern and traditional
circus performers: Clowns, jugglers and trapeze artists
will combine their talents with the singers, dancers and
Cirque Éloize Nomade will come to Proctor’s Theatre
(432 State St., Schenectady) on Tuesday (Dec. 3) at 7 PM.
Tickets are $25, $22 and $18, and are available at 346-6204,
online at www.proctors.org, and at all TicketMaster locations.
the season for decorations of all kinds. And the most decorated
item of the season, the tree, will be celebrated in a variety
of festivals in our area.
The first one to mention has been open for about two weeks
at the Berkshire Museum (39 South St., Pittsfield, Mass.).
The museum’s galleries are filled with 200 trees decorated
by local businesses and organizations. In addition to the
trees, the museum also features a railroad exhibit cocurated
by local model-train enthusiasts Tom Wells and Joe Ryan.
There will also be an old-time G-scale train, which will
wind its way through miniature trees decorated by local
schoolchildren, on its way to Santa’s workshop. The museum
is open daily 10 AM to 5 PM; admission is $8, $6.50 students
and seniors, $5 members and children 3-18, $4 student and
senior members, $3 members’ children 3-18, and free children
3 and under. For more information, call (413) 443-7171.
Another festival began this past Saturday at the Bennington
Museum (West Main Street, Bennington, Vt.) and will run
through Dec. 8. There are more than 80 holiday trees, wreaths
and other seasonal decorations in a variety of styles on
display throughout the museum. The festival is open daily
9 AM to 5 PM, and regular museum admission is charged. On
Sunday (Dec. 1), the museum hosts the Festival of Trees
Sugar Plum Day from 1 to 3 PM, which includes storytelling,
crafts and activities geared toward the kiddies. Santa Claus
will be on hand for photos, and the Sugar Plum Fairy will
also visit. Admission is $4, $10 per family. On Dec. 8,
the festival concludes with a Grande Finale Gala featuring
a silent auction of the trees, wreaths, arrangements and
gift-certificate trees. There will also be hors d’oeuvres,
libations and live music. Tickets are $22, $18 members.
For more information, call (802) 447-1571.
The Albany Institute of History & Art (125 Washington
Ave., Albany) hosts its 19th annual Festival of Trees tomorrow
(Friday) through Sunday (pictured). This year’s theme is
Holiday Traditions—A Matter of Taste, inspired by the Dutch-heritage
theme of Albany’s 350th Beverwijck celebration and the institute’s
fall exhibitions. The festival will also include holiday
decorations, Gingerbread Lane, the Holiday Express train
display, an expanded holiday shop, raffle prizes, Holiday
Café, face painting, Dutch tile making, arts and crafts
workshops and a visit from Sinter Klaas. The festival is
open Friday and Saturday (Nov. 29-30) from 10 AM to 8 PM,
and Sunday (Dec. 1) from 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission is $8,
$6 members, $3 children 5-12, children 4 and under free.
For more information, call 463-4478.
Proctor’s Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady) will also
feature their third annual Holiday Showcase. Although not
a festival of trees per se, it does feature 70 trees decorated
in the spirit of the season, entertainment on stage, refreshments
in the Holiday Café and Santa will be available for photos
(fee charged). The showcase runs 11/27-12/1 Wed, Sat-Sun
10 AM-4 PM; closed on Thu; and open Fri 10 AM-6 PM. Admission
is $6, $3 children 6-12, children 5 and under free. For
more information, call 346-6204.