THAW Fest Unites East End Arts World

The Cast of "Romeo and Juliet" at the John Drew Theater in Guild Hall. Tom Kochie photo

Hamptons Art Network’s 19 member organizations are teaming up for this weekend’s THAW Fest to bring a cultural awareness that transcends the luxurious lifestyle often associated with the Hamptons. With more than 50 events taking place from Friday, March 23 through Sunday, March 25, culture seekers can navigate through various events including an exploration of the East End’s maritime heritage with the Southampton History Museum, a master class that studies various film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, followed by a modern performance at Guild Hall, a screening of LarsenWorld, and an artist-curated exhibition with Hiroyuki Hamada and Alice Hope. Delving deeper into these events, each offers their own unique perspective into shining a light on the cultural importance of the South Fork.

In partnership with Hamptons International Film Festival, Guild Hall will host a local Master Class on the film versions of “Romeo and Juliet” with Shakespeare expert and Columbia University professor James Shapiro on Saturday at 4 p.m. Shapiro, who has authored several books on the subject, will be joined by Hamptons International Film Festival executive director Anne Chaisson as the class compares various interpretations of the classic tale, including Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 classic film and Baz Luhrmann’s modern adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Following the master class there will be a live contemporary performance of “Romeo and Juliet” at the John Drew Theater directed by Guild Hall’s Josh Gladstone.

“Revisiting a play that celebrates love’s power to transform hate, to break down barriers and to unite a community in bonds of shared humanity seems as fresh and necessary an exercise today as when Shakespeare first performed Romeo and Juliet four hundred years ago,” explains Gladstone, who also stars as Capulet.

An exhibit of work by Alice Hope at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

Calling the language of the performance “beautiful,” Gladstone says that it was important to bring generations of artists together to bring this version of “Romeo and Juliet to life. The cast includes veteran artists, recent graduates of New York conservatories, and select East Hampton and Sag Harbor high school students. “We have sought during our two-month rehearsal process to understand the beauty of this language – to explore its sacred poetry, its visceral and dynamic energy, its revelatory sexiness and ultimately, the gorgeous and heartbreaking truthfulness at the play’s beating heart — the brief, bright light of passion shining bravely against the darkness of forever,” he said. “It’s a comedy…until it’s not.”

The Artist Curated Collection, also at Guild Hall, organized by sculptor Bryan Hunt, will feature works by multimedia artists Hiroyuki Hamada and Alice Hope that will be on view throughout the weekend. The exhibition will showcase Hope’s site-specific works featuring minimalist materials like can tabs, ball chain, magnets, and more that have been formed together to create large scale works. Hamada will feature select sculptures and prints, the latter of which combines the aspects of his other works.

Southampton Historical Museum executive director Tom Edmonds stresses the importance of local history for THAW Fest with ongoing self-guided tours, lectures, and educational programs at the Rogers Mansion Museum, which was once home to wealthy summer resident and founder of the Parrish Art Museum, Samuel L. Parrish, in an effort to highlight the maritime history of the East End. From the exhibit Hunting the Whale: The Rise and Fall of a Southampton Industry to education program Scrimshaw Art, visitors can partake in local history.

Jack Lenor Larsen. Shonna Valeska photo

Sharing that the Hamptons Art Council was formed to create special events in the off-season, Edmonds says that THAW Fest is vital to raising awareness of the South Fork’s other draws. “As the Hamptons continues to grow as a summer resort the need for year-round tourism has become essential,” he says. “The Village of Southampton declines 1-percent each year in year-round population as lavish, second homes are being raised on the lots of what used to be two middle-class homes. Local businesses, cultural organizations and residents need year-round tourism to support incomes and services. Hopefully, THAW Fest taking place on March 23 to 25 will help us all.”

Textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen has long been a patron of the arts. His multi-faceted career has lead him down many paths, including the creation of East Hampton’s LongHouse Reserve. The nonprofit exemplifies his vision and love for the arts on the 16-acre reserve and sculpture garden that features pieces from renowned artists including Buckminster Fuller, Yoko Ono, and Willem de Kooning, among others. Bay Street Theater will show the short film, “LarsenWorld,” followed by a Q&A on Sunday at 3 p.m. The documentary, directed by Susan Wald and Edgar Howard, chronicles Larsen’s work and philanthropy that has made him a South Fork staple, further highlighting the cultural significance of the Hamptons year-round.

The arts weekend festival organized by Hamptons Arts Network presents THAW Fest this weekend to unite local organizations to work together for arts and culture in the Hamptons. Learn more and find all free and ticketed events online at