GHENT, N.Y. -- Happy spring, dear readers!
The cultural season of the region is upon us -- meaning there are plenty of reasons to hit the road to drive to a theater, concert hall, or other performance venue.
On Friday night, I did exactly this. I picked up my friend Michelle in Lee, Mass. and drove over to The Ghent Playhouse to see my friend and fellow Berkshire County resident, Monica Bliss, in their production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," by Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn.
Before I go any further, I have to disclose the fact that, unbeknownst to me until I arrived there, we caught the tail end of The Ghent Playhouse season. I did learn, however, that it's still worth a ride out that way in terms of finding nightlife, so bear with me.
According to Google Maps, Ghent is an approximately 36-minute ride from Lee, via the Mass Pike and part of the Taconic State Parkway.
I have never been, and getting there was somewhat of an adventure. Parts of the ride included some very rural areas, making us question whether we were headed in the right direction.
We also got a bit side-tracked. We had made a turn in Chatham, instead of Ghent, that landed us in the parking lot of The Mac-Hadyn Theatre -- another place I've never been to, but seems like one worth visiting. The driveway was packed for a performance of "The Fantasticks." I'll definitely be back.
Michelle and I also learned that we weren't that off track. It only took about six minutes to turn around, drive into Ghent and find the playhouse.
Parking is limited. There are a few spaces in front of the theater, but you can park up the road at the Bible Baptist Church or across the street from the firehouse, free of charge.
The playhouse itself is a white building that looks like a church or a meeting hall, complete with some stained glass accents.
I looked up its history on The Ghent Playhouse website and learned the site is the former Ghent town hall. In 1987, it was leased by the Columbia Civic Players and renamed The Ghent Playhouse.
Some building upgrades and renovations have been made since, and The Ghent Playhouse has been in business for 38
We had reserved tickets at will call, a ticket window to the right of the entrance.
The lobby is small but has enough space for a table and a bulletin board of actors' head shots.
The theater's size is comparable to the Barrington Stage Company's Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center in Pittsfield, but The Ghent Playhouse has more depth to its aisles.
I was surprised and happy to see several people in the audience from Pittsfield, including members of the Town Players, and also Berkshire County-based cast members.
The show itself was funny, sweet and well-organized, with a great cast and crew of technicians and volunteers. We sat toward the back but could hear and see everything in the intimate space.
I only have one issue with the space. I now understand why The Ghent Playhouse season ends in early June -- there is not much ventilation, and definitely no air conditioning, so be prepared and mindful of the weather when you go, and have a cool drink beforehand.
Afterward, people gathered on the front lawn to socialize. We met my friends Monica and Paul and then headed back to the Berkshires.
As we did, we passed some other venues I'd be curious to visit in the future like the White Stone Café in Ghent, the Blue Plate bistro in Chatham, and a couple of other bars whose names I didn't get, but seemed to have a bit of a scene.
So while you might have to wait until the fall to enjoy the next theatrical production at The Ghent Playhouse, if you take a drive out that way this summer, you might find a few pleasant surprises to keep you entertained.