Get out the greasepaint; It's summer in the Berkshires

Categories: Stage, Travel

berkshireolympia.jpg
Photo courtesy of Shakespeare & Co.
Olympia Dukakis in Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA, from July 26 to August 5
When the temperature heads toward the three-digit mark, my thoughts turn to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, where the arts flourish each summer, as prevalent as dandelions. The Berkshire Mountains were formed more than half a billion years ago when Africa collided with North America, pushing up the Appalachian Mountains and forming the bedrock of the Berkshires. Erosion over hundreds of millions of years wore these mountains down to the hills that we see today, but the evenings are cool, and some of the theater offerings even cooler.

Most famous is the Williamstown Festival, now in its 58th year, which this year gives us three musicals. One is a revival, June 26 to July 14, of the 1928 Animal Crackers (you may know the 1930 movie), originally starring the Marx Brothers. The new musicals are on August 1-18: The Bridges of Madison County (you wept through the book and the 1995 movie), headed for Broadway in January, and on July 24 to August 3 Johnny Baseball about the curse on the Boston Red Sox. Also available is George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion on July 17 to 27 and Tom Stoppard's 1988 spy thriller Hapgood on July 10- 21. Plus much more - check the website.

The Berkshire Theatre Group consists of five stages which share promotion under the Berkshire Theatre Festival banner: in Pittsfield, the 780-seat Colonial, and The Garage, a new venue, and in Stockbridge the Fitzpatrick Main Stage, seating 408, the 122-seat Unicorn, and the outdoor Neil Ellenhoff Stage.

Offerings this summer tend to the tried-and-true: Oklahoma (July 1-20), The Lion in Winter (June 25 to July 13), Same Time, Next Year (July 23 to August 10), Extremities (July 11- 27), but also include Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie (August 20-31), and a workshop production of a comedy that sounds intriguing: The Full Catastrophe about a mysterious firm that sends linguists to live with dysfunctional couples, to teach them better ways to communicate. Only two performances - August 31 and September 1, at The Unicorn Theatre, where I saw the superb Nijinsky's Last Dance some years ago. There's a lot more, with a full brochure available.

Also in Pittsfield is the Great Barrington Theater Company, giving us the musical revival of On the Town (June 12 to July 13) and a new musical Southern Comfort (July 19 to August 10), as well as their first-ever Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (August 8 -25), and a new play about the rivalry between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah (August 15 to September 29). And more.

In nearby Lenox, is Shakespeare & Company, which gives us Love's Labour's Lost (June 22 to September 1), Richard III (July 5- 21), and, outdoors, A Midsummer Night's Dream (July 20 to August 17), but branches out with Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children (July 26 to August 25), with Olympia Dukakis in the challenging title role - I'd kill to see it. There's a lot more.

Also in Lenox for music lovers is the Tanglewood Music Center, with everything from the Boston Symphony to Joan Baez. The Tanglewood Center is famous, deservedly so.

Jacob's Pillow in nearby Becket has been called "the dance center of the nation" by the New York Times. Details of its many presentations, including the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Dance Theater of Harlem, and the U.S. debut of an Israeli dance company, among many others, are available at www.jacobspillow.org.

I'd like to see them all.


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