PERFECT LIVES Gets Site-Specific Production in the Catskills Today

Mount Tremper Arts has quickly established itself as an innovative arts center that supports and presents leading contemporary artists in the remarkable setting of the Catskill Mountains. Its 6th annual Summer Festival not only showcases risk-taking work, but also fosters an environment where audiences and artists can come together to form a community that values dialogue and experimentation. Inspired in part by the locavore movement, Mount Tremper Arts is itself an experiment-one rooted in the idea that place and context matter.

Today, August 17, Mount Tremper Arts will present a daylong, site-specific performance of Robert Ashley's 1983 landmark opera Perfect Lives. Adapted by composer-performer collective Varispeed, the performance consists of seven half-hour episodes staged throughout the Catskills. Performances are free and begin at 11am at Woodstock Village Green, a local park in Woodstock, NY. The final episode will take place at Sportsman's Alamo Cantina, a bar on Main Street in Phoenicia, NY. A detailed program schedule and location of all seven episodes, plus an optional $20 Art-B-Q, can be found below.

Perfect Lives takes the events of a day in an imaginary Midwestern town and remaps them so that each episode takes place in a different location. As performers and audience members journey from place to place, participants imagine a folksy, Midwestern town where the bank tellers know the captain of the football team and everyone drinks together at the end of the night. Its seven episodes weave together stories of a mysterious crime, an elopement, and the mischief of two itinerant musicians. Both lofty and quotidian, Perfect Lives brings together musicians, performers, fans and community members alike in a celebration of American opera.

Robert Ashley, a major figure in American contemporary music, holds an international reputation for his work in new forms of opera and multi-disciplinary projects. His recorded works are acknowledged classics of language in a musical setting. First broadcast in Great Britain in 1984, Perfect Lives is widely considered to be the precursor of "music-television."

Varispeed's performance of Perfect Lives will feature fresh takes on instrumentation, amplification and melodic content, while still maintaining the formal, metric and choral frameworks of the originals. It is not an imitative interpretation of Ashley's Perfect Lives, but instead, seeks to reanimate Ashley's material in new ways, stemming from the Varispeed members' own individual relationships with the piece.

From 7:30-9pm and in between episode 5 and 6, the Perfect Lives Art-B-Q will take place on the grounds of Mount Tremper Arts. The community dinner costs $20 and includes produce harvested from the Mount Tremper Arts garden along with meats provided courtesy of Fleisher's Grass-fed & Organic Meats. Dinner is prepared by Mount Tremper Arts Artistic Director and Co-Founder Mathew Pokoik.

Mount Tremper Arts is located at 647 South Plank Rd in Mount Tremper, NY near the towns of Phoenicia and Woodstock, approximately two hours from New York City. Visit or call 845-688-9893 for more information.

Perfect Lives Program Schedule:

11am - The Park: Woodstock Village Green, 6 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY
1pm - The Bank: Mama's Boy Market front yard, next to Key Bank, 7 Church Street, Phoenicia, NY
3pm - The Supermarket: Boiceville IGA Supermarket, 4105 Route 28, Boiceville, NY
5pm - The Church: Phoenicia United Methodist Church, 29 Church Street, Phoenicia, NY
7pm - The Backyard: Mount Tremper Arts, 647 South Plank Road, Mt. Tremper, NY
7:30-9pm - Perfect Lives Art-B-Q: Community dinner at Mount Tremper Arts, $20
9pm - The Living Room: Mount Tremper Arts
11pm - The Bar: Sportsman's Alamo Cantina, 70 Main Street, Phoenicia, NY

Varispeed is a collective of composer-performers that creates site-specific, sometimes-participatory, oftentimes-durational, forevermore-experimental events. Founded by Aliza Simons, Dave Ruder, Paul Pinto, Brian McCorkle, and Gelsey Bell, Varispeed came together in June 2011 to perform Perfect Lives Brooklyn, a 12-hour celebration of Robert Ashley's landmark opera. Subsequently, they were invited to perform an updated version across the river as part of Performa '11, and Perfect Lives Manhattan made Time Out New York and New York Times' critic Steve Smith's "Best of 2011" list. In August 2012, Varispeed presented their second full scale project, an over-night arrangement of John Cage's Empty Words, which was presented at Roulette, Exapno, and across the Brooklyn Bridge. Varispeed has also performed for Cage's centenary at The Stone (September 2012), presented their work on Perfect Lives at Performers Forum (December 2011), released a series of 1-minute opera recordings, and further championed rarely heard Robert Ashley pieces such asPublic Opinion Descends Upon the Demonstrators (March 2013) and That Morning Thing (November 2011). Varispeed's members regularly perform together as members of experimental theatre group Panoply Performance Laboratory, ensemble thingNY, and the band Why Lie?, as well as under their own names.

Since its founding in 2008, Mount Tremper Arts has quickly become recognized nationally for being an exciting and innovative new cultural arts center Nestled in the Catskill Mountains, Mount Tremper Arts supports contemporary artists in the creation and presentation of new works of art. The Mount Tremper Arts Summer Festival celebrates the contemporary arts through an integration of performances, exhibitions, artist residencies, and hybrid programming. In addition to creating a laboratory for contemporary artists, it is an increasingly popular destination venue for cultural tourism.

Hosting the Summer Festival is only part of Mount Tremper Arts' mission; for the rest of the year, the studio hosts performing art companies in Creative Development Residencies. These residencies include 24/7 dedicated studio space and housing for periods ranging from three days to one month. Mount Tremper Arts also operates a subsidized residency program that is open to all performing art companies making contemporary work and offers affordable, dedicated workspace for intensive residency experiences. More information about residencies can be found at

Co-founder and co-director Mathew Pokoik is a photographic artist, arts activist, and arts administrator. His photographic work has been featured by Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education on an ongoing basis since 2001, touring schools and universities as a focus for their art education curriculum. In 2009 he had a solo exhibition at the Center for Performance Research in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that included a yearlong light-box window installation. Throughout his career he has pursued alternative venues for the presentation of his work, and is currently working on two projects that create photographic installations in non-traditional public spaces.

Co-founder and co-director Aynsley Vandenbroucke is a choreographer, movement analyst, artistic director and educator. Called "gifted" by The New Yorker and "an elegant, sensitive thinker" by The New York Times, she has been creating dance in New York City since 2000. Her work has been performed throughout the city (at Baryshnikov Arts Center, Danspace Project, CPR (Center for Performance Research), The Chocolate Factory Theater, Dixon Place, Dance New Amsterdam, and Lincoln Center Institute's Clark Studio Theater, among others) as well as in San Francisco and Brazil.

Mount Tremper Arts is located within the Catskill Park, minutes from the villages of Phoenicia and Woodstock and a little over two hours from New York City. The Catskill Mountains are filled with many recreational activities such as hiking the High Peaks, tubing the Esopus Creek, or cycling our scenic mountain passes. More information about local activities can be found at Ulster County Tourism:

For overnight lodging, Mount Tremper Arts recommends the following Summer Festival Sponsors, all wonderful places to stay. A comprehensive list of local accommodations for any budget can be found at

• Catskill Rose: lodging and dining in the heart of the Catskill Mountains. Sleep natural, eat wild. Just one mile from Mount Tremper Arts. 845-688-7100, 5355 Route 212, Mt. Tremper, NY
• Four Corners Country Inn: comfortable country lodging located in the Catskill Park with casual yet elegant dining options. Right down the road from Mount Tremper Arts. 845-688-3054, 1564 Wittenberg Road, Mt. Tremper, NY
• Uncle Pete's Camping Ground: a 5 min. walk from Mount Tremper Arts and located on the Esopus Creek. Campgrounds, trailer sites, and a log cabin available. 845-688-5000, 570 Old Route 28, Phoenicia, NY

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