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Entertainment and Culture

  Here we outline some of the entertainment opportunities available to people in the Valley. For lack of expertise, no discussion of bars and other watering holes is included, focusing instead on movies, theater, music, fine arts.

Film and Video

The most reliable place in the Valley for intelligent, interesting films is Pleasant Street Theater in downtown Northampton. Its offerings tend towards the picks of the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, plus the occasional revival. Sometimes a director will put in an appearance to speak about their work.

Two other good places, holdouts against the national trend towards sanitized multiplex theaters in malls, are The Academy of Music, a beautiful converted opera house in downtown Northampton, and The Amherst Cinema in downtown Amherst, which has not yet followed through on its repeated threat to close. They carry some of the better Hollywood films.

Along the same lines is the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, Vermont. Its interior design is a quirky vision of classical Greek Arcadia. Though it's 40 miles up the Interstate, combining a movie with a visit to one of the nice local restaurants or cafes makes the drive worthwhile.

For more mainstream Hollywood fare, drive to the Mountain Farms Mall (aka the Dead Mall) in Hadley. When its four screens go dark this autumn, they will be replaced by the enormous new multiplex with stadium seating opening next door at the Hampshire Mall (aka the Live Mall).

Listings for these and other area cinemas can be found in the Valley Advocate You can also see movies at the Five Colleges. The best way to find out what is showing is from the Five College Calendar. Closest to home is ``Something Every Friday'' in the UMass Campus Center: typically a live show show and a movie for free. You will see posters for this on campus.

Films that are shown for courses might or might not get listed in the Five College Calendar. So be alert to offerings from the language departments and film studies programs. Many of these are open to the public.

A couple of special events: Keep an eye out in late autumn for the Northampton Film Festival, which features independent films and videos. And in the summer you can enjoy outdoor films in the evenings on the Amherst Common.

Finally, if you wish to stay at home, there are video stores galore. Of particular note in Northampton is Pleasant Street Video, next door to the theater, which offers an outstanding selection and very knowledgeable staff. In Amherst, Video To Go on University Drive is also excellent.

Music, Theater, Dance

We are fortunate to have one of the nation's great jazz clubs nearby in Northampton. Major acts often make a tour stop between Boston and New York City to play the Iron Horse Music Hall. In addition to jazz, booker Jordi Herrold brings in styles ranging from folk to Tuvan throat singing.

Herrold also books acts into two larger Northampton venues: the Pearl Street Nightclub and the elegantly restored Calvin Theater. All three venues run a combined advertisement in the weekly Valley Advocate. We haven't mentioned numerous smaller clubs. You may wish to check the Advocate, or listings online at www.masslive.com . The University receives touring companies and orchestras at The Fine Arts Center. Student tickets are very inexpensive, at $5 - $9 for most performances. Season tickets are also available.

There are also frequent live performances elsewhere in the Five Colleges. You can find out about these in the Five College Calendar. The biggest acts come to The Mullins Center (watch out for terrible traffic jams on campus and along Route 9 on those days). On the other end of the spectrum is alternative performance space of The Red Barn at Hampshire College.

A welcome addition to the Valley in the past few years is the Massachusetts International Festival for the Arts, or MIFA. Festival is a misnomer, as there is no concentrated flurry of events and there is no clear theme. Rather this is an organization that books acts into a number of area venues. However, much of what they bring is excellent (the plays that MIFA books into City Stage in Springfield are much more provocative than those that City Stage programs itself.)

During the summer, be sure to head an hour west along the Mass Pike or Route 2 to the Berkshires. The Boston Symphony Orchestra makes its summer home at Tanglewood, where you can enjoy a concert while picnicking on the lawn. The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival attracts the best in modern dance. Shakespeare is performed at The Mount, former home of famous American writer Edith Wharton. And innovative new theater can be found at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Locally, in the summer, there are outdoor concerts on the campus pond during the Bright Moments Festival. Shakespeare Under The Stars can be seen at The Lord Jeffrey Inn in Amherst. And there is excellent summer theater under a tent at Mount Holyoke College.

Fine Arts

The art museums at the colleges, especially the Smith College Museum of Art but also the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and Amherst College's Mead Art Museum have impressive collections. Galleries at UMass exhibit innovative works by UMass graduate art students.

A trip an hour west on Route 2 will be well rewarded by two excellent art museums. The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown is internationally respected for its Impressionist collection. And, just opened, with enormous exhibition spaces to accommodate contemporary installation art, is MASS MoCA in North Adams. Note that the Route 2 drive goes over hills and winding roads that cautious drivers might wish to avoid at night and in bad weather (especially in winter).

Boston of course offers excellent museums that rival those of New York City.

Participatory Arts

The Five College environment offers many possibilities for direct participation in the arts. Members of the Computer Science Department have sung in university choirs and given instrumental and dance performances on campus.

We will draw your particular attention to the active social dance scene in the Valley. The Hooked on Swing Society of Western Massachusetts (HOSS ) has been sponsoring area swing dances long before the nationwide resurgence of interest in this 1930's-50's dance style. It sponsors monthly dances, usually with a live band, in the glorious space at the top of the Northampton Center for the Arts. There are also weekly dances on Wednesday nights in this space, organized by impresario Bill Tenanes. And, from our own department, Stephen Siegel organizes dances in Hadley that are dedicated to the Lindy style of swing. Beginners are welcome at all of these events, and lessons are offered.

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