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2011 Berkshire Theater and Stage Overview

  
  
  

berkshire-theaterThe Boston Globe has proclaimed the Berkshires "an aggregation of performing arts unmatched anywhere in the country."

So I would be irresponsible if I did not spend considerable energy letting you know the details.

Yesterday I covered the summer plans for Shakespeare and Company.   But in doing my research, I ran into a website called "Berkshire on Stage" which essentially does much of my work for me.  In that particular post, blogger Larry Murray was touting the line-up at Barrington Stage Company this summer.  

But I noticed his blog several days ago which presents an overview of the summer.   Since "going viral" is the dream of every blog, I am sure Larry will not mind if I lift directly from his post and share his research and opinions:

A Berkshire First-Timer Primer

berkshire-theaterYou don’t need a theatre ticket to soak up the food, natural beauty, history, night life and fabulousness of the Berkshires during the summer. The Berkshires have plenty to offer, and are not only family friendly, but also nature friendly, gay friendly, pet friendly, vegan friendly and meditation friendly. In fact, the rural diversity of the area is surprisingly welcoming to all – both urbane and down to earth at the same time, a winning combination. There is no app for it. You have to come here to experience it.

Many who visit remark on the less frantic change of pace, one which lends itself for the one thing that distinguishes the area above all others, its wealth of arts offerings. Mention the Berkshires and most people automatically think of Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, when they think of this area. Or Jacob’s Pillow, the magnet for dance in America. And lately the Solid Sound Festival and Chicago’s Wilco at the mammoth Mass MoCA museum.

But quietly the Berkshires has become a buzz word among a new crowd, the serious theatre-goer. Not that theatre is new to the Berkshires, all of our companies have distinguished histories. But lately they have been creeping into the national news as the companies have been flourishing, expanding, and drawing ever-bigger crowds.

Once the theaters were thought to be for the summer crowd, but then , the locals discovered them too. These days you’ll find more residents than ever in the lines to get tickets for the really hot shows.

And local audiences can be tough audiences to please. They set the bar pretty high. Perhaps that is because the year-rounders, who endure the bitter cold winters, are hardy old souls, but once engaged by a play or musical, their hearts can melt like snowflakes under the spring sun. It happens a lot, and it is wonderful to see their smiles and hear their laughter. Makes living here year round even more enjoyable.

The Four Major Theatres and their Ten Stages

Located on the hilly and mountainous Western edge of Massachusetts, Berkshire County has a modest population of 130,000 hardy souls who benefit from being just a few hours from the bright lights of Broadway. In fact, many New Yorkers consider the Berkshires their summer hideaway, including dozens of performers, directors and playwrights. Even Bostonians, with their nearby siren call of Cape Cod are heading West to revisit the sometimes forgotten treasures of their own home state. I would gladly sign a petition to change the nickname from the Bay State to the Cultural State.

The four resident professional theatre companies contribute ten of the Berkshires’s two dozen stages to the culture count, with the balance at Tanglewood, the Pillow and three “presenting” organizations talked about below. And just behind this lineup are many more organizations who keep the Berkshires hopping from January to December.

Berkshire Theatre Festival (BTF) of Stockbridge and Pittsfield

berkshire-theatreThe BTF is the granddaddy of the theatre companies, having been founded in 1928 and operating continuously since then, with the exception of 1942-45 which were the years when America fought WWII. Their main stage is a repurposed old casino which was dragged by oxen from Main Street Stockbridge, MA and has seen America’s greatest actors on its stage. It holds about 400 people. It is just a short drive from the famed Norman Rockwell Museum.

This summer the Fitzpatrick Main Stage will host Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, Period of Adjustment by Tennessee Williams, and the world premiere of In the Mood by Kathleen Clark.

The smaller Unicorn theatre only holds about 120, so every seat is close to the stage and because of its stadium seating angles, has excellent sight lines. Moonchildren will open the season there, followed by Dutch Masters and Finian’s Rainbow. Two plays will get world premieres at the Unicorn – the aforementioned Dutch Masters by Greg Keller and Birthday Boy by Chris Newbound.

The BTF recently merged with the Colonial Theatre and will share programming back and forth with it for the first time this summer. Thus three stages will be lit by this company.

The Colonial Theatre has its own extensive calendar of events and provides state of the art technical and production support for musicals and large dramas, like A Christmas Carol, while the Unicorn is being viewed as an ideal location for cabaret and jazz offerings, as well as solo performers.

Shakespeare & Company in Lenox

berkshire-theatreAlso with three theaters, ShakesCo offers its usual mix of classics and contemporary plays in its 33rd Season. When not bringing Shakespeare back to life, they offer hilarious comedy and farce. So the Founder’s Theatre is where you will find the doomed lovers Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It, but their main house will also welcome the return of The Hound of the Baskervilles, a hilarious sendup of all things Conan Doyle with breakneck costume changes and cross-dressing spoofery.

The Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre is a smaller “flex space” where crowds will flock to see Red Hot Patriot: the Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivans alternating with two other shows. The outdoor Rose Footprint Theatre is a destination for families, and this year the commedia dell’arte includes The Venetian Twins and the brand new Everyman/EveryActor.

Also on their bill of fare are The 39 Steps, The Learned Ladies and Women of Will with Tina Packer.

Barrington Stage Company (BSC)

berkshire-theatreThe ingenue in our cast of great theaters is the Barrington Stage Company, founded just fifteen years ago by Julianne Boyd, and attracting nationwide attention for its excellent work. It has already sent several shows to Broadway, including William Finn’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Whipping Man and Freud’s Last Session. With a special knack for musicals, this summer includes the evergreen Guys and Dolls and The Game on the Main Stage. Also on the main stage is the premiere of Mark St. Germain’s The Best of Enemies. Stage 2 will host the premiere of the musical Mormons, Mothers and Monsters as well as Going to St. Ives, My Name is Asher Lev and Zero Hour, a one man show about Zero Mostel.

Their youth company also attracts numerous fans, this year presenting All Shook Up, a celebration of Elvis Presley at St. Joseph High School plus another location TBA.

At several points during the summer they will have three stages lit at the same time. And in October they will present a staged version of Lord of the Flies.

berkshire-theaterWilliamstown Theatre Festival (WTF)

While the first three companies are year-round residents and offer programming in the September-May slot, the WTF is only able to perform during the summer when it avails itself of two new theaters at Williams College. In essence it was a company begun 56 years ago by the college, and its friends, and it has grown and prospered as a visionary company with impeccable quality.

Two classic plays will light the Main Stage at the 62 Center this year: George S. Kaufman’s You Can’t Take it With You and Oliver Goldsmith’s rowdy comedy, She Stoops to Conquer. Closing the main stage season will be the Revue-sical Ten Cents A Dance, celebrating the music of Rodgers and Hart.

The recently announced Nikos Theatre season is one in which two classics, A Streetcar Named Desire and A Doll’s House can be seen in the intimate confines of this smaller theatre, as well as several new works, Lewis Black’s One Slight Hitch, the East Coast Premiere of Bess Wohl’s Touch(ed), and The Civilians’ production of You Better Sit Down: tales from my parents’ divorce.

Other Berkshire Venues

You will find a trio of “presenting” theaters in the Berkshires as well. Down south, in Great Barrington is another glorious restored theatre, The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, whose marquee will feature names like Joan Rivers, Paul Taylor Dance Company, The Wailers, Peter Yarrow and soprano Deborah Voigt.

berkshire-theaterAt Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre there is not only The Who’s Tommy, but Tommy Tune and Tom Paxton plus far too many others to detail here.

In North Adams the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts has more than visual appeal, it has the Hunter Center performing space and Club B-10 for cabaret sized offerings. During the summer it also schedules things outdoors, from their walk-in open-air cinema to the multiple stages and excitement of the Solid Sound Festival featuring Chicago rockers Wilco. They also play host to the Bang on a Can week long contemporary music festival.

Jacob’s Pillow

berkshire-theatreWith three stages, Jacob’s Pillow is the place to be if you love dance. The array of dance offerings is breathtaking. The Ted Shawn Theatre is their main stage, where dance companies from around the world show off their latest works. In the Doris Duke Studio Theatre, emerging companies, and those who are working on complicated new pieces allow audiences a preview of what will soon be hot, and what might not.

Families love the Inside/Out stage and its free late afternoon performances most summer days. Set in the open air in the woods, the stage is being completely rebuild for 2011 and offers both samples of the companies performing there, and showcases the students at its school. The quality is high, the experience magical.

Tanglewood

berkshire-theaterThe BSO’s summer home is the place that began it all in the Berkshires. SInce 1936 the small orchestra encampment has grown, with the famous Shed also playing host to such well known artists as James Taylor, though this year he will be performing in the more intimate Ozawa Hall. There is also a theatre where opera and other staged works can be performed. It took us four articles to detail everything happening there.

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four

berkshire-theaterThe great lawn, meticulously maintained, offers concert-goers the delightful experience of a picnic with live classical music, overlooking the beautiful Stockbridge Bowl. The only question on some people’s minds is whether the BSO’s Music Director, James Levine, who has been struggling with back problems, will be able to fulfill his scheduled performances. Even so, the BSO has one of the most impressive rosters of alternate conductors I have ever seen, so while missing the maestro might be a disappointment, the joy of discovering a fresh and upcoming conductor makes the gamble irresistible.

Tanglewood remains the Berkshires best known attraction, but the crowds who are arriving for other events are – in aggregate – beginning to outnumber those of the reigning diva for the first time. These new audiences are younger, more adventurous and who knows, they may take a night off from theatre to take in a concert. Now that would be a switch to the conventional thinking, wouldn’t it.

With so much on the calendar, the Berkshires offer as much culture in the summer as you will find in most major cities, and in an idyllic setting that still is pretty tough to top.

What is Tanglewood and How Does It Work?

  
  
  

What is TanglewoodThere are many reasons to come to the Berkshires.  But the granddaddy of all is the Boston Symphony, which has been spending its summers here since 1937.

Tanglewood, a "great estate" between Lenox and Stockbridge, Massachusetts - was named that because Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote "The Tanglewood Tales" while a tenant in one of its What is Tanglewoodoutbuildings.  Concerts are held in the yard behind the mansion, but when rain soaked the patrons of the second concert, work began on a pavilion.  Several downward revisions in the budget caused the architect to call it a "shed," and the name has stuck since.   The venue is open-air, but the Shed roof covers 6,000 seats.  There is room for 12,000 more on the "Lawn."

Ozawa HallIn 1994, a second venue was built, Ozawa Hall.   More a concert hall than the Shed, Ozawa Hall holds 1,200 inside, but the rear can be opened, and on nice summer nights many more thousands can enjoy the music.

One of the unique features of Tanglewood is the "Lawn Nation."  Most venues check your bags to make sure you do not smuggle in a Coke....Tanglewood encourages its lawn patrons to bring blankets and chairs, picnics and libations....and some set-ups are quite over the top.

What is TanglewoodThe "Tanglewood Season" runs roughly from the last weekend in June through Labor Day.   Over the last decade or two, certain traditions have sprung up:  The season begins with Garrison Keillor broadcasting "A Prairie Home Companion" nationally, and the Mark Morris Dance Group premiering a new work.  At some point during July or August, James Taylor, a Lenox resident, performs between 2 and 4 shows.  Fourth of July features a popular artist show and fireworks.   John Williams has a "movie night."  Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops will come two or three times.   The first Tuesday in August is "Tanglewood on Parade," a combination of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, The Boston Pops AND the Boston Symphony in a single program, which always ends with the 1812 Overture.  The final concert is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and Labor Day Weekend is a Jazz Festival.

The BSO itself usually performs every Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30 and Sunday afternoons at 2:30.

But the venue is far from quiet otherwise.  Serge Koussevitzsky had the wisdom to recognize that BSO players could be great mentors and teachers, and the Tanglewood Institute was formed.  Young classical music performers of all types spend the summer at Tanglewood, where they have their own symphony, chorus and smaller ensembles.   The public can enjoy their performances almost daily, as well as world-renowned soloists and ensembles in Ozawa Hall several times per week.  SCHEDULE FOR ALL SHOWS

What is TanglewoodIn between classical music offerings, Tanglewood also offers a "Popular Artist Series" and 2011 includes Steely Dan, Train and Earth Wind & Fire.  

Tickets for the Lawn are always affordable.   Usually less than $20 for classical shows and $30 for popular shows.   The Shed offers tickets graded from about $30 to about $100.   Information on purchasing tickets is AVAILABLE HERE.

AN INSIDER'S TIP:   Tanglewood and the BSO are not-for-profit entities, and ticket sales cover less than half their expenses.  Therefore fundraising is important, and special considerations....such as advance sales, parking, upscale dining options, etc. are available to contributors.  "Friends of Tanglewood" levels start at $75.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION. 

Tanglewood Popular Artist Series: Steely Dan, Earth Wind & Fire

  
  
  

Tanglewood Presents Steely DanTanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony, occasionally presents "popular artists," implying that somehow having one of the best symphonies in the world in residence is something else.

But leaving that behind, the BSO announced today that Grammy Award-Winning band, Steely Dan, will perform on Tuesday, July 26th.   Tickets are on sale February 6th for $25 to $150.

Tanglewood Presents Earth Wind & FireAnd iconic band Earth, Wind & Fire will appear Saturday, June 25th.  Tickets are available the same day and range from $22 to $75.

More information can be found in today's Berkshire Living, and ticket information is available at the BSO website.

Lenox resident and major Tanglewood supporter James Taylor is scheduled for June 30, and July 1 through 4th.   Rock band Train will appear on August 8th.   Tickets for those shows also go on sale February 6th.

James Taylor at Tanglewood"Friends of Tanglewood" receive an early opportunity for ticket purchases for all shows.   A Friend is someone who supports the symphony with contributions of $75 or more.   Information on this opportunity is available HERE.

Hampton Terrace is located approximately one mile from the Tanglewood gates.    Check us for availability during those dates. 

The Tanglewood "Shed" consists of 6,000 covered seats and up to 12,000 additional guests on the "Lawn."   Patrons are invited to bring their own food and libations...making the "Lawn Nation" one of the unique entertainment opportunities anywhere.  Those on the lawn enjoy large television screen viewing of the live concert.

 

 

James Taylor July 4th Weekend at Tanglewood

  
  
  

James Taylor It is a tradition. Not only because James Taylor lives in Lenox and always gives his Tanglewood shows a little something extra. And beyond the fact that he annually leaves the net profit from his multiple shows at the venue to support the Boston Symphony.

But because after more than a decade of annual shows, a James Taylor Tanglewood Nation has been created. In spite of hearing "Sweet Baby James" for the thousandth time, there are so many faithful fans that it does not matter whether there are 36,000 tickets (like this year) or 72,000 tickets (like last year)……..ultimately none will be left.

And it is fun here at Hampton Terrace during the James Taylor period. We host fans from all over the world. Last year, we had people who came in specifically for the shows from Australia, England and Canada. And it is a very genial crowd. So join us on the July 4th weekend, when his special guest is Carole King. A Friday night Boston Pops show featuring Keith Lockhart, and James on Saturday and Sunday.

Hampton Terrace has fourteen rooms, an outdoor heated pool, and we are located one mile from Tanglewood. We are walking distance to all restaurants and shops and are rated #1 on Trip Advisor in Lenox. At this point, we are still wide open for the James Taylor weekend, and until February 20th, we are sticking to the same rates we have charged since 2007. It is not that we HAVE to keep our prices low in this economy….we are up 30% in 2009 compared to a lodging industry nationwide that is down from 25% to 50%. But we want to keep our inn affordable for the hundreds of guests who call us their home away from home. We would like to add you to that list.

2010 Tanglewood Schedule Released, Find Lenox lodging

  
  
  

tanglewood Time to plan your summer! The Boston Symphony is announcing their 2010 schedule tonight, and a preview has been published in today’s Berkshire Eagle.

To see today’s HEADLINE ARTICLE.

For a summary of the season: CLICK HERE

Once you decide on a date, choose a Lenox inn, or Berkshire bed and breakfast like Hampton Terrace

Hampton Terrace – WCRB’s Official Summer Home

  
  
  

tanglewood I bet you dd not know that last summer Hampton Terrace was the Official Summer Home for Larry King, the voice of the Tanglewood radio broadcasts. If you live in the Boston area, you will know it soon, as the name Hampton Terrace floods the airwaves. In return for hosting Mr. King for the summer, we earned a schedule of advertising time on Classical 99.5 WCRB Boston, and we plan to use it over the next six weeks.

The campaign will promote our long weekend New Year’s Eve package, and the upcoming summer, as soon as the Tanglewood schedule is released.

WCRB also has a Classical Club Promotion, which will include a 2-night stay at Hampton Terrace, so tune in to the station for more details.

Hampton Terrace, the #1 rated Lenox inn according to Trip Advisor reviews, has been an inn since 1937. We have 14 rooms, an outdoor heated pool during the summer, and include full breakfast buffet. Currently, we are featuring a Romantic Weekend Special.

Tanglewood Mid-Week Lodging Discount at Hampton Terrace

  
  
  

tanglewood

Planning on sticking close to home this summer and want to save up to 30% as well? Stay multiple nights at Hampton Terrace Bed and Breakfast during the summer between Sunday through Thursday, and pay our off-season rate of $190/night per room. We include full breakfast and we have an outdoor heated pool. Hampton Terrace Inn is rated #1 by Trip Advisor, so a discounted stay does not mean a discounted experience.

During the week, you will have access to the same great attractions: Berkshire Theatre Festival, Williamstown Theater Festival, Shakespeare & Company, Jacob’s Pillow, Barrington Stage Company, The Mount, Ventfort Hall, The Clark Art Institute, Norman Rockwell Museum, Tanglewood shows in Ozawa Hall, Hancock Shaker Village, summer activities at Jiminy Peak, the Berkshire Museum, Mass MoCA., and all of the Berkshires’ great restaurants and shops. Call 800-203-0656 for availability.

Rooms Still Available for James Taylor Weekend at a Lenox inn

  
  
  

6cb191505af1a742.jpg James Taylor is playing at Tanglewood on August 26-30, 2009. His annual visits are popular and unique….since he lives full-time in Lenox he goes out of his way to provide a memorable experience. Tickets have been on sale for several weeks now and most of our rooms are full.

He is playing four nights, and we typically have a 3-night weekend minimum. There is only one room left that will be subject to this minimum. The rest of the rooms are taken, but this minimum night requirement has left gaps in our schedule which will allow you to stay one or two nights, depending on your need.

Taylor’s first concert is Thursday night, August 27th. We have two rooms left and can accept that one night.

For those with Friday night tickets, we are limited to that one room with a 3-night minimum.

But we do have some rooms that we can book for Saturday and Sunday….or just Sunday. There are concerts both of those days, so I am sure this will help many of you who are coming on the weekend and cannot get up here until Saturday.

Hampton Terrace is the top-rated Lenox inn by Trip Advisor and is located in Lenox, less than a 2-block walk to all restaurants and shops. Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony, and site of the James Taylor concerts is about one mile away. Many people walk, but parking is plentiful and traffic flow is organized.

You will need to call us at 800-203-0656 to lock in rooms, as our on-line reservation program will not allow less than a three night stay.

James Taylor at Tanglewood Tickets on Sale Today

  
  
  

James Taylor James Taylor, now a Lenox, Massachusetts resident, performs at Tanglewood every year. He always prepares a special show for his hometown crowd, and more often than not, proceeds of his performances remain at Tanglewood to benefit the Boston Symphony.

This year is different only in that he has put together four consecutive days of performances…each with a different twist. He plans to perform with Sheryl Crow, Yo Yo Ma, John Williams and the Boston Pops, and other notables.

Tickets went on sale this morning for the "Shed" and although the 6,000 seats available will sell out rather quickly, 12,000 "lawn tickets" per show are also on sale and they will take a while longer to run out….although they always do for James Taylor shows.

Hampton Terrace is a historic Lenox inn which has been hosting guests since 1937. It was originally built as a summer "cottage," if you can call a 6,000 square foot main house with 10 bedrooms, and a 3,000 square foot carriage house a "cottage."

We have owned Hampton Terrace for ten years, and have always enjoyed hosting the James Taylor crowd each summer. I do not think he has ever played four consecutive nights here, so we’ll enjoy them all the more. Although we have a 3-night minimum typically on Tanglewood weekends, the bookings we have taken so far have left us some one and two night gaps during his 4-day run….so please call us for information on this. Trying to book single or double nights on the website will not be possible due to the 3-night minimum it will try to impose…but we can override those restrictions here at the inn, if we have availability.

2009 Tanglewood Season Announced

  
  
  

tanglewood.jpg The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced an 11-week 2009 summer season, longer than in past years, and featuring Lenox native James Taylor four successive nights.    Highlights also include two opera programs conducted by James Levine, two Mark Morris dance premieres, three birthday celebrations and the return of Michael Tilson Thomas, after a 20-year absence.

And keeping with recent tradition, the BSO season will be preceeded by Garrison Keillor’s "Prairie Home Companion" and ended with the Labor Day Weekend Jazz Festival.   IMPORTANTLY, all ticket prices are being frozen at last season’s rates ($18 for lawn seats and up to $99 for the Shed)….and free lawn tickets for children are being extended from age 12 up through age 17.   As the parents of twin 15-year-old boys, we are personally excited about that.

Public ticket sale begins February 15th, but most of you know that early purchases are available by being a "Friend of Tanglewood" at various donation levels.   Even for an annual donation of just $50, it is possible to purchase tickets in advance of the public sale date.   To get a brochure mailed, call 617-638-9467, or 617-266-1492.   Information about supporting Tanglewood and becoming a "friend" can be found on the website at www.tanglewood.org.

For a detailed listing of the 2009 schedule: CLICK BELOW

2009 TANGLEWOOD SCHEDULE

But in the interim, some highlights:

June 27     "A Prairie Home Companion" with Garrison Keillor

July 3        BSO Opening Concert:  Tchaikovsky Symphony #6 "Pathetique" and Piano Concerto #1 with Yefim Brofman

July 4        Jazz Singer and Pianist Diana Krall

July 11      Wagners "Die Meistersinger von Nurnburg, " Act III (concert presentation)

July 12   ` Joshua Bell, Bruch Violin Concerto #1

July 15    "Stage Music in the Play of William Shakespeare" with actor F. Murray Abraham and Le Concert des  Nations

July 18    Boston Pops Film Night with John Williams:  The Warner Brothers Legacy

July 25     Brahms "A German Requiem," James Levine conducting

July 26     Mozart’s "Don Giovanni" (fully staged)

July 28    Tanglewood on Parade

Aug 5,6   Mark Morris Dance Group with Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma

Aug 7      Boston Pops with Keith Lockhard, trumpeteer Chris Botti

Aug 7-11   Festival of Contemporary Music

Aug 9    Yo-Yo Ma, cello, Shostakovish Cello Concerto #1

Aug 14    Shostakovitch Symphony #1 and Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #3, Yefin Brafman, Michael Tilson Thomas conducting

Aug 19    Michael Tison Thomas presents "The Thomashefskys:  Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater"

Aug 23    Beethoven Symphony #9 with Michael Tilson Thomas

Aug 27-30    James Taylor

Sept 4-6    Tanglewood Jazz Festival

Hampton Terrace, the top-rated Lenox inn based on Trip Advisor reviews, has been hosting Tanglewood patrons since 1937…the very year that Tanglewood became the summer home of the Boston Symphony.  We are located one mile from the Tanglewood gate and less than two blocks from all Lenox restaurants and shops.   More than 50% of our summer guests are repeat, so if you are considering a stay with us, please contact us early.   For the 2007 and 2008 summers, we held our rates level, and plan to offer the same rates for the 2009 summer until February, 2009.   At that point, we will implement a 5% across the board increase, so we encourage our existing guests…and those of you who want to give us a try, to contact us as soon as you have chosen a weekend.

We will continue to offer our popular mid-week special, which brings a multiple-night stay down to $190/night, a 30% discount.

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