'Duchess of Whimsy' and Duke of Carabas

Thursday, Nov. 26
Ghent Playhouse

The day after Thanksgiving doesn't just represent a shopping frenzy - it's also opening night for the PantoLoons, those crazy thespians over in nearby Ghent, N. Y., who tread the boards in bloomers and bustles (the men, that is) or beards and boots (for the gals), in what has become a much anticipated family holiday tradition.

Across Britain, no winter season would be complete without a trip to the Panto to see favorite fairy tales transformed into riotous musical comedies, with men playing women and vice versa. English actor, writer and erstwhile Fairy Godmother Judy Staber introduced local audiences to the art form when she launched The PantoLoons back in 2000, and now packs 'em in at Ghent Playhouse each year with original productions filled with popular song parodies, corny jokes, clever sets and colorful costumes.

For its 10th anniversary, the troupe is restaging "Puss in Boots (or a Tale of Two Kitties)" complete with enough topical jokes and slapstick to keep all ages entertained. The mostly genderbending cast includes a nasty pair of "sisters" played by the inimitable Rick Rowsell and Ron Harrington, a dashing "Principal Boy" (Sally McCarthy), and Cathy Lee-Visscher as the heroine, Flora. Director Tom Detwiler plays the " Dame," Pollutia von Schtunk, with Johnna Murray as her cat, and Paul Murphy leads the pack as the wily Puss in Boots.

Performances run through Sunday, Dec. 13, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., and this Saturday at 5 and 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children under 12. www.ghentplayhouse.org, (518) 392-6264.

Norman Rockwell Museum

After the leftover turkey has been packed away for sandwiches, the long weekend awaits for parents and children ( and any remaining house guests) to get out and about enjoying the holiday break. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge has put together three days of engaging fun activities from 1 to 4 p.m. that are sure to keep everyone happy.

Tomorrow the theme is "Create a Character," a hands-on look at how artists manage to give their characters such expressive faces. Michelle Lydon of Berkshire Caricatures will be in attendance to capture a family portrait fit for framing. On Saturday, it's time to " Set the Stage!" as Barrington Stage Company leads a theatrical afternoon complete with model set building.

Sunday will be extra busy with a chance to dress up and "Strike a Pose!" with the kinds of everyday props and costumes Rockwell used for his own models. At 2 p.m., boogie along to "Rockalicious," courtesy of New York City acoustic rock duo Ivy and Rick.

As a special treat, from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, artist and New Yorker cover illustrator Peter de Sève (also the creator of memorable characters for animated movies such as Finding Nemo, Mulan, and Ice Age) and his wife, author Randall de Sève will talk about, read and sign the new book they created together. "The Duchess of Whimsy: An Absolutely Delicious Fairy Tale" is the charming adventure of a fun-loving, vivacious King's daughter who connects with the plain, love struck Earl of Norm over a simple yet scrumptious grilled cheese sandwich. Original illustrations from the book with elaborate settings chock-full of fanciful detail and quirky characters - as well as two tiny, busy faeries modeled after the de Sèves' own young daughters - are on display at the museum through February.

All activities are free with museum admission, which is free for children and $15 for adults. www.nrm.org, (877) 861-2299.


There are some timeless movies that just beg to be seen on the big screen, over and over again, whenever there's an opportunity.

On Saturday, head to Great Barrington for perhaps one of the most famous family movies of all time, the incomparable "Wizard of Oz." The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center will screen a special anniversary edition of the 1939 classic at 1 and 4 p.m., continuing a long-standing Thanksgiving tradition.

It's hard to believe it has been 70 years since a twister first blew Kansas lass Dorothy and her faithful companion Toto over the rainbow.

Together with a trio of newfound friends, they trod the yellow brick road on their way to the Emerald City, braving danger and the Wicked Witch of the West in the fervent hope of realizing their dreams.

With the help of Glinda the Good Witch, the merry Munchkins and a kindly salesman, she learns the simple, lasting truth that there's no place like home. General admission tickets cost $6. www.mahaiwe.org, (413) 528-0100.


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