SKOP is a Russian theater-based festival, held annually in Cuddebackville, NY. This weekend-long festival - the unofficial start of summer for those who attend - kicks off a series of festivals in this pocket of Upstate, NY; all thematically different, yet all geared toward, and attended by, those of the Russian diaspora.

Participants of SKOP, now in its tenth year, belong to self-assigned and formed groups. These groups put on original plays for a rapt audience, largely comprised of friends and family members, both young and old. The short-form plays are farcical in nature, with references to Russian history and pop culture, although American culture and the immigrant experience play in heavily, as well, lending this festival something of a Borscht Belt quality. In between the dozen or so sets, a genial master of ceremonies entertains the audience by telling jokes, spinning his own tales, and generally keeping a lively atmosphere as afternoon spills into evening and the early morning hours of the third and last day. The day prior and the one after the main event seem to be just as important to these revelers - one long weekend of communal outdoor living; raucous, diy, camp-like and multi-generational, with live music (largely in the form of jam sessions) permeating everything.

This was the first year that I was invited to attend, and I was very quickly struck by the camaraderie, generosity, and joie de vivre that I encountered. People sharing food and homemade spirits, their personal stories and collective histories.

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