Festival mixes comedy, dance, social satire and puppets

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SAXTONS RIVER — Main Street Arts is pulling out all the stops for its third annual Great River Theater Festival, with a mix of the traditional, edgy, comic, dance, social satire and puppets, plus an opening Great Tent Event with a Bake Your Art Out dessert contest thrown into the mix.

The festival opens Friday, July 5, for a two-weekend run with performances of the landmark musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and Loom Dance Ensemble's "What the Jellyfish Knows," both at 7:30 p.m., and continues Saturday, July 6, with the Great Tent Event at 11 a.m., featuring the dessert contest, a Sandglass Theater rod puppet workshop, music by Christy Wendlandt and Brendon Thomas, a community jam session and food for sale by Jamaican Jewelz.

That evening, a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore" opens at 7:30 p.m. on the stage at the Horowitz Performance Center at Vermont Academy. It continues Sunday, July 7, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 11, 12 and 13, at 7:30 p.m.

"Hedwig" has additional performances on Saturdays, July 6 and 13, at 7 and 9 p.m.; Sunday, July 7, at 7 p.m.; and Friday, July 12, at 7:30 p.m. The funny landmark musical tells the story of a searching transgender punk-rock singer whose sex change operation went wrong. Viewer discretion is advised.

"Jellyfish," a tale of the natural world and the urgency of protecting the oceans, will also be performed Saturday, July 6, at 1:30 p.m. Loom's production of Prime will be showcased the second week, with performances Saturday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 14 at 2 p.m. After performing in Dubai and other parts of the world, the Loom Ensemble has recently decided to make Vermont its home base.

An adaptation of Moliere, the satirically funny "L'Odeur De Moliere - The Doctor and the Dowry" will be performed by the homegrown Vermont Suitcase Company on Sunday, July 14, at 2 and 7 p.m. at Main Street Arts, while over at Horowitz at 7:30 p.m., Happenstance Theater will be creating a comedic uproar with "BrouHaHa," a devised clown-esque escapade.

Saturday, July 6, at 4 p.m. Sandglass is hosting a "Tape Guy" rod puppet workshop under the tent at MSA for a $5 fee to cover set-up and materials. Other events under the tent Saturday, July 13, are free and include a Fairy Tales and Fairy Houses workshop with Tracy Girdich from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and a Teen Storytelling session from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Ticket prices vary for the performances, with a festival pass at $50 ($40 seniors) and youth prices for all shows except "Hedwig," to which those under 16 are not admitted.

A full schedule of Festival events and ticket prices can be found at www.greatriverfestival.org. Additional information can also be found by contacting Main Street Arts at 802-869-2960 or at info@mainstreetarts.org.

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