If you’re a true Star Wars fanatic, you’ve probably chosen a side in the ongoing debate: What order should you view the films to maximally appreciate their complex, intertwining plots? For me, good old chronological order (by production date, not plotline) is the way to go. I watched A New Hope on DVD with my family in the mid-2000s and quickly devoured The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi over the next two nights. Having watched each of the franchise’s films thus far, I’m grateful that I began my Star Wars experience with the older installments instead of the newly-released prequel trilogy (except for any scene involving Jabba the Hutt in all his gruesome glory, which I still refuse to revisit). Knowing Darth Vader’s cruel and power-hungry nature before meeting him as young Anakin makes his downfall in Revenge of the Sith exponentially more disturbing—and there are similarities between this plotline and the one featuring Kylo Ren, Rey and all the newest characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the most recent installment, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
As you can see, I know my Star Wars—something that’ll come in handy this summer in Saratoga Springs and the Capital Region. Fortunately for Star Wars lovers searching for warm-weather entertainment, a pair of theatrical and multimedia events should pique your interest. From July 21-27, the Adirondack Theatre Festival will host performances of Stephen Massicotte’s The Jedi Handbook at the Charles R. Wood Theatre in Glens Falls. Each performance will begin at 7:30pm, with a 2pm matinee on July 25, and a preview on July 20. The Jedi Handbook is a coming-of-age story framed by the Star Wars timeline, and is geared towards nostalgic adults. “[Whether] you’re a huge Star Wars fan or you’ve never seen the movies, it still works,” says Chad Rabinovitz, the play’s Director. “It’s about a boy who grows up with the original trilogy, and we check in on his life as each of the original films are released.” As such, the play features original characters independent from the Star Wars franchise alongside references to the films. For example, the main character makes friends at his new school with assistance from “The Force”—and partakes in an imitation lightsaber battle, complete with a fog-filled stage and flashlights. While The Jedi Handbook is intended to be universally relatable, Star Wars fans should be able to catch its numerous allusions to the original trilogy.
But that’s only half of the intergalactic fun. Next month, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) will be unveiling its “Out of This World Festival,” from August 2-16, featuring a variety of outer space-related activities and exhibitions, including The Philadelphia Orchestra’s rendition of the original John Williams score from Star Wars: A New Hope on August 11. Eight days beforehand, the orchestra will also perform a unique, multimedia version of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, a seven-movement suite whose parts each represent a different planet in the solar system. The music will accompany a captivating series of outer space images (such as rovers, satellites and radar photographs) compiled into a film that gives viewers the sensation of flying through the galaxy, produced by Duncan Copp.
In addition to The Planets and Star Wars concerts, an impressive lineup of astronauts and writers will participate in an ongoing speaker series throughout the SPAC festival. One of them is retired astronaut Nicole Stott—the first person to ever paint in space—who was the (ahem) force behind a recent mission that sent Death Wish Coffee into orbit. Death Wish teamed up with NASA Food Labs (with Stott as the conduit), and successfully formulated a freeze-dried version of the coffee that could travel and store well throughout a space mission. Stott’s lecture is scheduled for 8pm on August 2.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll be making this a Star Wars summer in Saratoga. May the Force be with all of you.