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The Gods are Coming to Sag Harbor This Weekend

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Zima character (photo by Tom Kochie).

Zima character (photo by Tom Kochie).

By Tessa Raebeck

It was the dead of winter—snowstorms followed by extreme cold followed by icy roads—and Kate Mueth was sick of hearing people complain.

“I was getting annoyed with it,” said Mueth, founder of the Neo-Political Cowgirls, a local dance theater company that explores the female voice. Mueth, who lives in Springs, started looking for a way to help people see the cold months differently.

Determined to help the local community find the “magic” in winter, Mueth came up with the idea for ZIMA!, based on the Polish word, zima, for “winter.” ZIMA! is a fantasy scavenger hunt in which participants, guided by mythical creatures played by the troupe, solve riddles that lead them through an over-arching story to arrive at an answer.

The creatures will again gather in Sag Harbor this weekend for ZIMA’s third appearance at HarborFrost. On Saturday at noon and again at 12:30 p.m., groups can gather at the Civil War Monument, at the point of Main Street near the Corcoran building, where Madison and Main streets split. Groups will receive the overall riddle and a map, then listen to a storyteller who will set the tale for their forthcoming adventure.

Following the introduction, the guests will venture out in search of six vignettes, short scenes performed by characters that give hints to the riddle. The theme for the treasure hunt changes with each performance. This year, gods and goddesses will fill the stores and sidewalks of Sag Harbor, sharing their mythical stories in elaborate costume and full character. Athena could be hidden in a shop window or Zeus could be entertaining in an alleyway; the actors will be split about half and half between indoor and outdoor locations.

By the time the guests have gone through all six vignettes, not only have they seen performances and met a variety of characters, they also will, with some luck, have an answer to the overall riddle. The route leads guests from the tip of Main Street toward the harbor.

Zima character (photo by Tom Kochie).

Zima character (photo by Tom Kochie).

Neither too challenging nor too easy, according to Mueth, ZIMA is fun for all ages and families are encouraged to attend. Patrons usually work through the riddle in groups.

After the first ZIMA, Mueth was delighted to see how the hunt brought people together who didn’t otherwise know each other in a common quest for a solution to the riddle.

“That just thrilled me,” she said, “because I really believe in theater as a way to bring people together—the humanity.”

“And I thought,” she added, “this is a really pure way of that happening without it being $150 seat or $350 seat on Broadway. It’s people interacting—and hopefully getting a magical experience.”

That dedication to magical experiences is helping the Neo-Political Cowgirls grow from a small, local troupe to a recognized theater company. The company is entering its sixth year producing and creating new work and is looking to expand.

In “Eve,” another of the troupe’s productions, the performers move through 13 different rooms and involve the audience in the performance.

Just as she doesn’t like to hear complaints about winter, Mueth isn’t a big fan of the fourth wall—she prefers to challenge traditional notions of theater and the roles of performers versus audience members.

Having performed primarily on the East End for the past six years, the Neo-Political Cowgirls are in the process of taking “Eve” to New York City.

“We have to expand,” said Meuth. “I’m so committed to this community and where we live, but at the same time, financially we have to keep moving, we have to keep expanding because it’s costly.”

Manhattan is the first step, but Mueth has her sights on bringing the show to Berlin, Boston and around the world.

“Our audiences aren’t necessarily just in the Hamptons,” she said. “We’re grateful to our audiences in the Hamptons and we’re so happy we’ve reached a really wide group of people, a lot of different ages, and we will continue to do that. We’re not fleeing the Hamptons.”

In March, the troupe will host “a backward audition” for “Eve” in the city, for which it will invite influential theater players and producers and anyone else who may want to support the show.

Although Mueth has her core set of actors (many of whom will be in Sag Harbor Saturday) she is always looking for more talent.

“I often go to the same people,” she said, “but I’m also casting a wide net as well, because you never know what you need or what you’re looking for … I’m always looking for really good actors, really good movers.”

As part of Harbor Frost, ZIMA! will start at the Civil War Monument at the intersection of Main Street and Madison streets at noon and again at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, February 8. The walk lasts approximately 35 minutes. A donation of $5 is suggested.

Ring in the New Year Right – and at a Discount – During Hamptons Wellness Week

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The organizers of Hamptons Wellness Week enjoy a healthy sunset. (Jenna Raynell photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

While many fitness regimes focus on getting a toned butt, a flat stomach or losing an inordinate amount of pounds in an impossible amount of weeks, Kiley Sabatino and Anastasia Gavalas don’t want to help you simply ‘get thin,’ they want to empower you to change your life.

With New Year’s resolutions still ripe in our minds, many East End residents are striving to be healthier. This Sunday, Hamptons Wellness Week, organized by Sabatino and Gavalas, is offering dozens of heavily discounted fitness classes, lectures and other events to kick start a year of good health.

“It’s touching upon all the important aspects that we want,” said Gavalas of the event. “It’s not just a get-on-a-diet plan, not just a crash course on getting thin. It’s not about that, it’s really a holistic approach to mind, body and soul.”

Gavalas, who lives in Bridgehampton, is a family life teacher and the founder of the Wing It Project, a social arts project that benefits children’s organizations worldwide. After meeting Sabatino, the founder of OneHealthyHamptons.com, they came up with the idea for a full week devoted to the local wellness community.

“We basically looked at each other and said, ‘What can we do?’” said Gavalas.

Anastasia Gavalas with a pupil and the wing she made through the Wing It Project. (Photo provided by Gavalas).

Anastasia Gavalas with a pupil and the wing she made through the Wing It Project. (Photo provided by Gavalas).

“I just think it’s so unique out here,” said Sabatino. “The health and wellness community out here is so amazing, so I wanted to empower it.”

Dozens of local businesses are participating in the event, which kicks off with a sign-up Sunday at Hampton Coffee Company’s Experience Store in Southampton. People who sign up will receive a gift bag (for the first 50) and a program outlining the variety of things they can do during the week.

Participants can pay $25 for three vouchers or $35 for seven. The vouchers are good for classes throughout the East End at a variety of studios, gyms and fitness centers.

From Pilates to CrossFit, there is something for everyone. Men and women, children and seniors, fitness experts or beginners can all find a suitable class, attend a relevant lecture or at the very least, enjoy the pizza party at the week’s end.

“It’s for people that want to try new classes but are hesitant to go in there,” said Sabatino. “They can go with friends, feel more comfortable. People don’t want to spend $40 [on a fitness class]…this allows them to try it for $5.”

Eighteen local fitness centers from Montauk to Hampton Bays are participating, including five yoga studios, Studio 89 in Sag Harbor, Exceed in East Hampton, BodyTech and the Ed & Phyllis Davis Wellness Institute at Southampton Hospital, to name a few.

Hamptons Wellness Week takes ‘health’ a few steps further than working out; it incorporates lectures from life coaches and other wellness experts, as well as fun promotions like facials from White’s Pharmacy in East Hampton and consultations with local nutritionist Tapp Francke.

“By healthy,” said Sabatino, “I really mean balanced. So a good life, not very strict, having fun and taking advantage of the awesome activities and events and parties and everything going on in the community and kind of intertwining it into a balanced, good life.”

Each night, a different local expert will lecture on a topic of their choice, ranging from stress management to life coaching.

“Basically,” said Sabatino, “it’s what experts would like to communicate to the community. They’re all doing it for free and they’re all really excited about it.”

Hamptons Wellness Week co-founder Kiley Sabatino.

Hamptons Wellness Week co-founder Kiley Sabatino. (Jenna Raynell photo).

Gavalas, who has five children ranging in age from seven to 15, will present “Rebalance your Family in 2014” on Tuesday.

The wrap-up party Friday is at Fresh Hamptons, where kids and families can make pizzas with chef Todd Jacobs and cloth wings with Gavalas, as part of the Wing It Project. Cocktails and food tastings follow.

In addition to empowering locals to get healthy, Hamptons Wellness Week aims to give energy to local businesses that are slower this time of year.

“The whole point,” said Sabatino, “is to celebrate health and wellness in this community, to make it available to people who are here all year round.”

“It’s about making really good change — and realistic change — that will guide them throughout the year,” added Gavalas.

Hamptons Wellness Week is January 12 to 17. For more information and a full schedule of offerings, visit hamptonswellnessweek.com.