The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 19, 2013
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
· Stephanie Cutter – Member, President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
· Caroline “Kim” Taylor – Member, President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
· Margaret Russell – General Trustee, Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
· Mary Menell Zients – Chair, President’s Commission on White House Fellowships
President Obama said, “I am honored that these talented individuals have decided to join this Administration and serve our country. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:
Stephanie Cutter, Appointee for Member, President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
Stephanie Cutter is a Partner and co-founder of Precision Strategies and a host of CNN’s Crossfire. Previously, she was Deputy Campaign Manager for Obama for America. Ms. Cutter worked at the White House from 2010 to 2012, first as Assistant to the President for Special Projects and then as Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor. She was Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama during the 2008 Obama for America campaign. Ms. Cutter founded the Cutter Media Group in 2006, and previously served as a senior advisor to Senators Harry Reid and Edward M. Kennedy, and as Communications Director for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign. She serves on the boards of Organizing for Action, the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Ms. Cutter received a B.A. from Smith College and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.
Caroline “Kim” Taylor, Appointee for Member, President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
Caroline “Kim” Taylor is currently a Trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which encompasses the Tanglewood Music Center and the Boston Pops. During her 30-year tenure with the organization, she has held various positions including Senior Manager and Director of Public Relations and Marketing. She has performed as a singer with her husband, James Taylor, at venues around the world and acted in regional theater, television, and film. Earlier in her career, she was a freelance writer for the Boston Globe and Boston Magazine. Ms. Taylor received a B.A. in English Literature from Smith College.
Margaret Russell, Appointee for General Trustee, Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Margaret Russell is Editor in Chief of Architectural Digest magazine, a position she has held since 2010. Prior to joining Architectural Digest, she served as Vice President and Editor in Chief of Elle Decor, a publication that she helped launch in 1989. Ms. Russell is a frequent lecturer on architecture and interior design, and has been featured on numerous television shows including Bravo’s Top Design. She is a Trustee of God's Love We Deliver and the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club. She also serves on the Advisory Council of the Philip Johnson Glass House. Ms. Russell received a B.A. from Brown University.
Mary Menell Zients, Appointee for Chair, President’s Commission on White House Fellowships
Mary Menell Zients is a founder and Board Chair of the Urban Alliance Foundation in Washington, D.C. Previously, Ms. Zients was Chair of the Women for Women International board from 2005 to 2012, and currently serves on the board’s Executive Committee. Earlier in her career, she spent four years in strategic management consulting for Fortune 500 companies at Bain & Company. She is currently President of the Board of Trustees of the Maret School in Washington, D.C., was a founding board member of City Year South Africa, and serves as Chair of the U.S. Committee supporting the establishment of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. Ms. Zients received a B.A. from Harvard College and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
FALL 2013 SEASON
Tickets on sale to members/passholders August 20 and to general public on August 22
CALENDAR OF FALL SEASON 2013:
The Full Catastrophe: The Unicorn, Saturday, August 31 at 8pm, Sunday, September 1 at 2pm
Heather Maloney: The Garage, Friday, September 6 at 8pm
Mary and Edith: The Unicorn, See listing for performance dates and times
Dave Mason: The Colonial Theatre, Wednesday, October 9 at 7:30pm
Made in the Berkshires: See listing for locations and times, October 11-13
Wanda Houston Band: The Garage, Saturday, October 12 at 9pm
Pittsfield CityJazz Festival: The Colonial Theatre, Saturday, October 19 at 8pm
Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt: The Colonial Theatre, Wednesday, October 23 at 7:30pm
Romance, Soul and Rock ‘n Roll: The Colonial, Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26 at 7:30pm
LoFi Sundays (RBIT): TBD
Gordon Lightfoot: The Colonial Theatre, Friday, November 8 at 8pm
Three Dog Night: The Colonial Theatre, Thursday, November 21 at 8pm
Mary Verdi: The Colonial Theatre, Saturday, November 30 at 7pm, Sunday, December 1 at 2pm
A Christmas Carol: The Colonial Theatre, See listing for performance dates and times
DETAILED 2013 FALL SEASON LISTING
A New Staged Reading Comedy by Michael Weller
The Full Catastrophe
Saturday, August 31 at 8pm
Sunday, September 1 at 2pm
at The Unicorn Theatre
In The Full Catastrophe, Michael Weller has deftly captured the daily cut and thrust of married life—that pressure cooker of intimacy that can raise anger to a fever pitch in seconds, or bring two people suddenly and miraculously to a state of perfect bliss. His play is rich in comedy, intimacy, and truth.
Heather Maloney with Opening Act Ryan Hommel
at The Garage
Friday, September 6 at 8pm
Tickets: Advance: $10, Day of Show: $12
Heather Maloney is the acclaimed singer-songwriter's self-titled debut for Signature Sounds. The Western Massachusetts based artist has received numerous accolades for her startlingly soulful voice and literate songwriting exploring themes of spirituality, transformation, and impermanence. Maloney marks life lessons on this album, penning tuneful reminders to herself about the little triumphs of love on "Flutter,” the solace of redemption on "Turn Yourself Around,” and her firm belief that nothing's colder than trying too hard to be cool, an idea that inspired "Fire for You.”
Although Maloney's influences are largely rooted in what she calls "adventurous folk,” she pushes outward on these 11 songs, digging deeper, and roaming wider, than she has before on songs populated by vivid characters that ultimately trace their way back to her. Critics are quickly discovering Maloney's talent with No Depression raving "Her music is riveting, her voice adventurous, her lyrics thought-provoking...Maloney's expansive range can handle Ella Fitzgerald-style jazz scat and adapt to Beatlesque pop or Joni Mitchell folk...” while Blurt Magazine wrote "Heather Maloney is one of the most talented tradition-based singer-songwriters I've heard in some time...the writing is stunning."
Mary and Edith: Musings by Women a Century Apart
With Kate Maguire, Mary Mott, and Kim Taylor in Stories by Mary Mott and Pulitzer Prize Winning Author, Edith Wharton
From Where I Sit
by and with Mary Mott
directed by Robert Moss
by Edith Wharton
adapted by Eric Hill
directed by Kiera Naughton
with Kate Maguire and Kim Taylor
at The Unicorn Theatre
Friday, October 4 at 7pm
Saturday, October 5 at 2pm
Sunday, October 6 at 2pm
Friday, October 11 at 7pm
Saturday, October 12 at 7pm
Sunday, October 13 at 2pm
Monday, October 14 at 2pm
Friday, October 18 at 7pm
Saturday, October 19 at 7pm
Sunday, October 20 at 2pm
Celebrate Berkshire women writers with an evening of stories old and new. Mary Mott will share stories of her life in the Berkshires, and Kate Maguire and Kim Taylor will perform a stage adaptation of a short story by one of the Berkshires' most well known authors, Edith Wharton. Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade are old friends vacationing in Rome with their daughters. As the two reminisce, they begin to realize that the secrets they each hold about the past may not be as hidden as they thought. Based on the short story by Edith Wharton, Roman Fever explores the power of love and deception, all the while set on a beautiful Italian terrace.
at The Colonial Theatre
Wednesday, October 9 at 7:30pm
Tickets: A: $45 B: $35 C: $25
Dave Mason is a living rock legend who had a profound effect on the genre of rock and roll. He penned the Traffic hit "Feelin' Alright.” The song became a global rock anthem and has been recorded by dozens of artists.
Dave Mason's career spans several important rock eras, and encompasses his work as a producer, performer, songwriter, and consummate guitarist. In 2004, Mason was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work with the groundbreaking group Traffic.
Made in the Berkshires Festival
Friday, October 11 through Sunday, October 13
Tickets: $15 Single Event (On Sale September 11) • $50 Opening Night
$100 Festival Pass (On Sale Now through September 10)
at The Colonial, The Unicorn, and The Garage
The 3rd Annual Made in the Berkshires Festival is a locally-grown event of new works featuring original theatre, live music, film, short stories and dance.
This year's festival hosts a weekend of talented artists featuring an opening night performance premiering the original composition from Gerard Burney, "Cherry Cottage.” A new play from acclaimed playwright Chris Newbound, a short story from local author Kevin O'Hara, a dance performance from CATA with contributions by Dawn Lane and additional new works from talented area artists fill the weekend with an array of artistic talent.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11 AT THE COLONIAL THEATRE:
Opening Night Celebration and Presentations starting at 6:30pm:
Film: The View from Hurlburt's Hill by Ben Hillman
Dance: Common Ground by Dawn Lane and CATA
Poetry: Dragon Breath by CD Nelsen
Film: Fat Boy Needs Energy by Patrick Toole
Short Story: A Night in the Heavens by Kevin O'Hara
Film: The River by Sam Handel
Dance: Berkshire Pulse
Music: "Cherry Cottage Opus: Five Variants for Piano on an Old Congregational Hymn” The Premiere of Gerard McBurney's original composition with music inspired by Cherry Cottage: The Story of an American House by director Dave Simonds and writer Hans Morris. The film tells the story about the history of Cherry Cottage, built in 1782.
Taste of The Berkshires (immediately following the opening night presentations)
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12 AT THE UNICORN THEATRE:
Readings of Short Stories and Short Plays from 1pm to 3pm:
Short Play: Spatial Counterpoint by Frances Benn Hall
Short Play: Spread My Ashes Near the Rental House by Jane Denitz Smith
Short Story: Spaghetti With Beans by Jim Bracken
Short Play: Haunted by Andy Reynolds, directed by Hilary Deely
Short Story: One Big One by Albert Stern
Short Play: The Kite Tale by Tom Gladwell
4pm to 6pm
Full Length Play: Old Family Friends by Chris Newbound, directed by Barbara Sims
Theatre: Mary and Edith: Musings by Women a Century Apart with Kate Maguire, Mary Mott, Kim Taylor, and Tara Franklin in stories by Mary Mott and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author, Edith Wharton
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12 AT THE GARAGE
9pm Vocalist, Wanda Houston
The Wanda Houston Band plays favorite hits from the '20s through the '90s and brings a highly versatile and exuberant experience to the stage. This talented group includes: Peter Putnam (drummer and vocalist), Jeff Stevens (horns and vocalist), Robert Kelly (keys and vocalist) and Wanda Houston (vocalist).
With the adept arrangements of music director Robert Kelly, the song stylings of Houston and Putnam and the trumpet improvisations of Stevens, the band winds through an evening of music that has audiences recounting memories and dancing to new ones. But, this is not your typical cover band. You will hear your favorites with a "twist" as they bring their own flavor to Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Ray Charles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Beetles, Amy Winehouse and so much more. Come, listen, and enjoy the music of The Wanda Houston Band.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13 AT THE COLONIAL THEATRE:
Short Films from 5pm to 6pm:
Priorities by Patrick Toole
Imaginarium by Ben Tobin
The Fall of Jack Morgans by Keith Winthrop
Dance from 7pm to 8pm:
Berkshire Dance Theatre Contributing Artist: Chuck Paquette, Choreographer
Berkshire Pulse Dance Company Contributing Artist: Bettina Montano, Artistic Director
"Common Ground” Contributing Artist: Dawn Lane and CATA
8pm to 9pm
Improvisational music with projections by Vikki True
Pittsfield CityJazz Festival: The Brubeck Brothers Quartet, plus the Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble
at The Colonial Theatre
Saturday, October 19 at 8pm
Tickets: A: $30 B: $18
The Brubeck Brothers Quartet is an exciting jazz group featuring two members of one of America's most accomplished musical families, drummer Dan Brubeck and bassist/trombonist Chris Brubeck, guitarist Mike DeMicco, and pianist Chuck Lamb, complete this dynamic quartet.
An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt
at The Colonial Theatre
Wednesday, October 23 at 7:30pm
Tickets: A: $111.50 B: $96.50 C: $76.50 D: $56.50
($1.50 of the ticket price will be donated to the Oklahoma City Tornado Victims fund)
Lovett and Hiatt have been touring together periodically since 1989, delivering one of the most compelling and spontaneous concerts on the road.
Lyle Lovett has four GRAMMY Awards to his credit which include Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1989 and Best Country Album for "The Road to Ensenada” in 1996. Lovett's newest album, Natural Forces, was released in 2009. He's known for his hits "If I Had a Boat,” "She's No Lady,” and "Long Tall Texan.”
John Hiatt, a prolific songwriter and talented singer/guitarist, has 11 GRAMMY nominations and his numerous awards include induction into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame and the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting from the American Music Association. Hiatt has released 19 studio albums. His latest release, Dirty Jeans & Mudslide Hymns was released in 2011. He's known for his hit songs, "Have a Little Faith In Me” and "Bring the Family.”
Romance, Soul & Rock 'n Roll: Musical Flashback
Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26 at 7:30pm
at The Colonial Theatre
Romance, Soul & Rock 'n Roll, invites you to Musical Flashback with band director David Pickard. Now in their 12th year, RSRR performs a musical scrapbook that will have audiences singing along. Join RSSR on this nostalgic journey of familiar songs and popular hits that span decades of America's greatest tunes. With a live band and multi-talented cast, the show will be just as exciting and entertaining as ever! Tickets sell fast, so don't wait—you won't want to miss it! Proceeds benefit Berkshire Theatre Group.
LoFi Sundays at The Garage featuring: Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe
at The Garage
Dates and Times TBD
The Royal Berkshire Improvisational Troupe (RBIT) is a comedy improv group based in Western Massachusetts. Founded by Berkshire County native and actress Alexia Trainor, RBIT has been delighting audiences with its own brand of unscripted comedic mayhem since June of 2001. Performing a mix of theater games reminiscent of the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyways?, the group models its work on the teachings of renowned theater games/improvisation instructor Keith Johnstone. Through audience participation, RBIT's mission is to create entertaining scenes which explore the boundaries of theater improvisation (impressive, huh?).
at The Colonial Theatre
Friday, November 8 at 8pm
Tickets: A: $75 B: $60 C: $45
After 50 active years of hit song making and international album sales well into the multi-millions, it's safe to say that esteemed singer-songwriter and musician Gordon Lightfoot resides with some very exclusive company atop the list of all-time greats.
Gordon Lightfoot has recorded 20 albums and received five GRAMMY nominations.
His songs have been aired regularly for 50 years, earning him Radio Singles Chart Positions in North America achieved by few others. Lightfoot's radio hits in the USA have earned Five #1s, Five Top 10s and Thirteen Top 40 hits.
His song catalog is incredibly vast and includes such immortals as "Early Morning Rain,” "If You Could Read My Mind,” "Carefree Highway,” "Sundown,” "(That's What You Get) For Lovin Me,” "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald," "Cold On The Shoulder," "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," "Ribbon Of Darkness," "Beautiful," "Song For A Winter's Night," "Shadows," "Rainy Day People," "Did She Mention My Name," and "Summertime Dream” to name a few.
Three Dog Night
at The Colonial Theatre
Thursday, November 21 at 8pm
Tickets: A: $125 B: $95 C: $75 D: $50
Legendary music icons, Three Dog Night, celebrate their 4th decade bringing with them some of the most astonishing statistics in popular music. In the years 1969 through 1974, no other group achieved more top 10 hits, moved more records or sold more concert tickets than Three Dog Night. This iconic band's hits wind through the fabric of pop culture today, whether on the radio where they are heard day in and day out, in TV commercials or in major motion pictures—songs like "Mama Told Me (Not To Come),” "Joy to the World,” "Black and White,” "Shambala,” and "One” serve to heighten our emotions and crystallize Three Dog Night's continuing popularity.
This Grammy-nominated band is not content resting on their legacy alone. Always working to expand their audience, Three Dog Night have embraced 21st century music technology. New fans buy Three Dog Night's music on iTunes as well as at record stores. In fact, their releases from this decade alone have sold well over a million copies and the band's continued popularity has landed "The Best of Three Dog Night: 20th Century Masters” on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart for 9 of the last 12 months.
Mary Verdi: Christmas at the Colonial
at The Colonial Theatre
Saturday, November 30 at 7pm
Sunday, December 1 at 2pm
Tickets: Adults: $20 Children 16 and under: $10
Every year, Mary Verdi's Christmas at the Colonial show invites families from across the Berkshires to a very special night of nostalgia and holiday celebration. Mary created this show for all to enjoy an unforgettable performance that includes a sing-along of old favorites, dancing, a children's choir, bell choir, and a full band with strings and horns featuring area performers.
A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens • adapted by Eric Hill • directed by Eric Hill
at The Colonial Theatre
Saturday, December 14 at 7pm
Sunday, December 15 at 2pm
Friday, December 20 at 7pm
Saturday, December 21 at 7pm
Sunday, December 22 at 2pm
Friday, December 27 at 7pm
Saturday, December 28 at 7pm
Sunday, December 29 at 2pm
Revel in the joy and redemptive power of Christmas as told in the timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, the infamous miser who is reformed and shown the error of his ways by four spirits. Journey back to Victorian England and experience the classic story filled with terrific turns and infused with holiday music.
How three visionaries rewrote the script for Berkshires theater, a story in 15 scenes.
Tina Packer, founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company; Julianne Boyd, cofounder and artistic director of Barrington Stage Company; and Kate Maguire, artistic director and CEO of Berkshire Theatre Group.
by Jeremy D. Goodwin
IT’S OPENING NIGHT for On the Town at Barrington Stage Company, and theatergoers mill about in downtown Pittsfield on this mild June evening. Most of the men wear sport coats or suits, ladies look casually elegant in cocktail dresses, teenagers take photos of one another with their iPhones. There’s a buzz in the air.
Inside the 520-seat theater, The Wall Street Journal’s critic occupies a seat on the aisle. At the other end of the row sits Ben Brantley, chief theater critic for The New York Times. His enthusiastic review of the Leonard Bernstein revival will run on the front of the Arts & Leisure section a few days later. This is not the Berkshires theater scene of old.
Although summer theater has been part of the Berkshires for nearly a century, most of that history was dominated by two companies: Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge and, about an hour’s drive north, Williamstown Theatre Festival. The two forged a popular if genteel summer tradition, trafficking mainly in imported stars and familiar plays.
But over the years those storied theaters were joined by two newcomers, Shakespeare & Company in Lenox and Barrington Stage Company. The four cooperated occasionally, competed often, and together raised the profile of the region, which today is a place where the work onstage feels part of a conversation with the rest of the theater world — not an artistic cul-de-sac.
Williamstown Theatre has been a force in its own right, but much of the region’s evolution can be traced to three uncommonly connected women: Tina Packer, Julianne Boyd, and Kate Maguire. Two of them founded groundbreaking theater companies; the third took the most tradition-bound company of all and gently coaxed it to new artistic heights. They’ve premiered important new plays and put fresh spins on old ones. They’ve planted roots, then yanked them from the ground, crossed bridges, then sometimes burned them. And along the way they’ve taken Berkshires theater from the backwoods to the front row.
The shift started with Tina Packer and her Shakespeare & Company back in 1978. That year, the charismatic British actress turned director gathered a cadre of young actors and master teachers in New York and led them to the Berkshires for an experiment in communal living and theater-making.
Packer’s troupe moved into The Mount, the Edith Wharton estate in Lenox that had fallen into disrepair. After each performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that first summer, Packer came out to solicit donations from the crowd. (For the record, I worked in the press office of Shakespeare & Company between 2007 and 2010.)
The excitement around Packer’s work was a magnet for actors and audiences alike. “In the Berkshires I felt like a creative artist, living with other artists, finding new ways to think about the language,” one actor told The New York Times about that first summer. Adds actor John Douglas Thompson, who has worked with Packer in more recent years: “I found her vision for the plays and her passion for the plays to be extraordinary, and I think everybody else who works with her feeds off of that.”
In the mid-’80s, Kate Maguire, a Lowell native and single mom of twin daughters, was working at the now-defunct Boston Shakespeare Company. A stage actress herself, Maguire more often paid the bills with a job in the company’s box office. When she met Packer, who was serving a stint as the company’s interim artistic director, the two hit it off.
Packer invited Maguire to move west to join Shakespeare & Company. She accepted, doing some acting and working a variety of administrative jobs, eventually managing “vast areas” of the company, as Packer puts it.
Maguire learned about the nuts and bolts of running a theater enterprise, but also knew she’d one day return to the artistic side of things. Her mentor did, too. “She wasn’t going to disappear down the moors of management,” Packer says. “She’s an artistic soul.”
Ahead of the 1993 season, a stage director from Manhattan named Julianne Boyd arrived in Stockbridge to take over the Berkshire Theatre Festival.
Founded nearly seven decades earlier, Berkshire Theatre had helped invent summer stock. Its stage had been graced by Lunts and Barrymores, and later by film-greats-in-the-making — Katharine Hepburn, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, among them — on break from their Hollywood duties. Specializing as it did in light, uncontroversial fare, summer stock was a kind of break for audiences, too.
But Boyd wanted to sharpen the theater’s edges. She pressed its dormant second stage into service as a showcase for edgy, experimental work. On the main stage, she programmed one politically charged drama that struck some as a tad too sympathetic to an IRA bomber.
Board members overseeing Boyd began to harbor doubts about their new hire.
Meanwhile, after nearly eight years, Maguire had left Shakespeare & Company to become managing director at Stage West in Springfield. But that move wasn’t working out, either. “It just didn’t feel like home,” Maguire says. “The Berkshires felt like home.”
Julianne Boyd lasted just two seasons with Berkshire Theatre. “I wanted not to be so bound by tradition,” she says. “If I was going to make a permanent contribution to theater, it would be really great if I could find a way to do it in a new environment with people who agreed.”
She’d have to. After departing in 1994, she cofounded Barrington Stage Company with Susan Sperber, who’d been her number two.
The shake-up at Berkshire Theatre offered Kate Maguire the route back home she was looking for. She replaced Sperber and, three years later, was named artistic director.
Seemingly unaware of the resistance to change Boyd had encountered, Maguire was eager to get to work. Let’s change it all,she thought. Let’s do theater that is challenging and provocative.
After a performance that included some adult language, Maguire was milling around the audience when she felt a firm grip on her forearm. It was a longtime subscriber. “This stage is sacred,” the woman intoned. “I don’t expect to hear foul language on this stage.”
Board member Bobbie Hallig saw her fellow members lining up against Maguire. History was repeating itself. “I’d already gone through that experience with Julianne Boyd,” Hallig recalls, “so when Kate came along, and again we hit the wall, I said, ‘We can’t keep doing this.’ ” Someone needed to talk to her.
Diane Phelan and Jarid Faubel in Berkshire Theatre Group’s “Oklahoma!” this summer at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.
Around the same time, things at Shakespeare & Company were reaching crisis level. A series of nasty court disputes in the mid-’90s finally culminated with the troupe’s ejection from The Mount after more than two decades.
Packer was heartbroken. “The Mount is not just a playing space; it has been our home,” she said. “We’ve had people married there, babies born there.”
Packer and her colleagues set out on a fund-raising blitz, amassing $5 million in just a year. In 2000, they bought 63 acres of property about a mile away, then set out retrofitting a gymnasium into a theater for about 400 people.
With a reprimand from longtime board president Jane Fitzpatrick still ringing in her ears, Kate Maguire opened Berkshire Theatre Festival’s 2000 season with a work neither challenging nor provocative. She chose Camelot, the polite, perennial crowd pleaser.
But it was a course correction, not a capitulation — unlike Boyd, Maguire would learn to bend. “I had taken the audience to a place too abruptly,” Maguire explains. “One needs to be patient, to walk alongside the audience — maybe a couple steps ahead.”
Within a few years, she’d bring in a foulmouthed play by David Mamet and another by Terrence McNally that flaunted full nudity. Afterward, nobody grabbed her arm to complain.
At Barrington Stage, Boyd was finding her own kind of balance. She staged plays that touched on teenage cutting and the Holocaust but had an ear for lighter musicals, too. In 2004, she and composer/lyricist William Finn would debut The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a show that would go on to win two Tonys on Broadway.
Following this unprecedented success, Boyd announced the company would pull up stakes in bucolic Sheffield — where it performed in a high school auditorium — and move north to Pittsfield, a city still gasping for a second wind long after the departure of its biggest employer, General Electric.
At a dinner party, one longtime donor argued so vehemently about the plan with Boyd that another guest had to intervene. “People loved us down there and they were very loyal to us,” Boyd says now. “So in a way they felt a little left behind.”
Barrington Stage bought and renovated a run-down theater downtown, opening it in August 2006. Doubling down on their Pittsfield bet, Boyd and her husband bought a house in the city. Finn, the composer, moved in across the street.
In 2007, then 68-year-old Tina Packer raised eyebrows and divided critics by casting herself as the sex-symbol lead in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. The Globe called Packer “absolutely magnificent,” while Variety’s tough review called her “queen of denial.” But the show was a big hit. And the fact Variety weighed in at all was evidence of how much the region mattered.
Then, in late July 2008, founding member Tony Simotes directed John Douglas Thompson as the lead in Othello. The show became a phenomenon. Theater producers from New York made pilgrimages to the Berkshires to scout the suddenly red-hot lead. Thompson landed a series of key roles in New York directly from the run, going on to earn an Obie award and, later, an approving profile in The New Yorker.
In Berkshires summer theater, stars had long parachuted in, wowed the locals, then returned to the big city. Now it was clear that a remarkable performance in the Berkshires could turn an actor into a superstar.
Tina Packer in her critically acclaimed “Women of Will.”
A month after Othello closed in August 2008, the US economy began its worst plunge since the Great Depression. As the market dropped, so did attendance and corporate donations.
In the months ahead, Kate Maguire would cut Berkshire Theatre Festival’s budget by 25 percent.
Shakespeare & Company sometimes seemed in danger of sinking beneath the weight of its mortgage and loans — a feeling familiar to homeowners the country over — and just as Packer was handing off her leadership duties to Tony Simotes and polishing her show Women of Will, a tour de force devoted to Shakespeare’s female characters.
Barrington Stage started a pay-what-you-can program for audience members under 35.
In 2009, the three companies — plus Williamstown Theatre Festival, the fourth player in the region — decided to cooperate on a discount-ticket marketing partnership. They might usually compete, but in times like this, everyone needed to pull together.
Among the hardest hit of organizations was the Colonial Theatre, just a few blocks from Barrington Stage Company’s own theater in Pittsfield. After a more than $20 million investment, the long shuttered landmark had reopened to great fanfare in 2006. But now, in late summer 2010, it struggled to make payroll and its executive director had abruptly quit.
As the Colonial’s president, Mike MacDonald, awaited a meeting with Maguire, who had expressed some interest in collaborating, he contacted Boyd. He wondered whether the Colonial and Barrington Stage might merge.
It was an alluring overture, but Boyd ultimately passed. It looked like too much risk, too fast. “I think Julie and the board decided rightly that it would kill us,” says Finn.
Two weeks later, MacDonald had his meeting with Kate Maguire and floated the idea of a merger. She was interested.
Soon, the Berkshire Theatre Festival and Colonial Theatre joined to become the Berkshire Theatre Group, a performing arts giant with well over 1,200 seats across five stages.
In the summer of 2011 the new organization put on The Who’s Tommy, its first big musical at the Colonial. It overlapped withGuys and Dolls just up the street at Boyd’s Barrington Stage. “I was surprised they did a big musical at the same time,” Boyd says diplomatically. Could Pittsfield support that much musical theater?
It turns out it could. Berkshire Theatre’s A Chorus Line played an extended run in the 2012 season, while Fiddler on the Roofbecame Barrington Stage’s highest-grossing musical ever.
Gretchen Egolf and Christopher Innvar star in “Much Ado About Nothing” at Barrington Stage Company this summer.
After nearly 35 years spent establishing herself as a world-class Shakespearean in Lenox, Packer finally made her debut on a New York stage in spring 2013 whenWomen of Will played off-Broadway. After the last Sunday matinee, she looked tired but ready for more. Audiences had been encouraged to scrawl bits of the Bard on the wall in markers, and someone had chosen a fitting line from Antony and Cleopatra, with which Packer had caused such a ruckus years earlier: “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale, / her infinite variety.”
Back in the Berkshires, at the company she founded, Packer was scheduled to star inThe Beauty Queen of Leenane opening with a preview on August 8. (It runs through September 15). That same night, 8 miles away, Boyd, now 68, was to unveil her production of Much Ado About Nothing at Barrington Stage (it runs through August 25). Shakespeare & Company had been considering building its season around the same play, but it was forced to shift gears when Barrington Stage announced its season first. In October, Berkshire Theatre’s Maguire, 57, will act in an Edith Wharton adaptation, one that might just stir memories of her days at The Mount with Shakespeare & Company. They are all as busy as they have ever been.
For much of the rise of the Berkshires’ grandes dames, Ben Brantley of The New York Times has had an aisle seat. “Those ladies’ tenacity is very impressive — especially in this climate, to keep those theaters going all this time,” he says. “They have to be very strong women.”
Jeremy D. Goodwin is a frequent Boston Globe contributor based in Great Barrington. Send comments to
From aprons and vacuums, to bellbottoms and The Pill: How the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s shaped modern American life
From the naïve innocence of the 1950s, to the turbulent movement for equality in the 1960s and 1970s, Same Time, Next Year takes its audience on a twenty-four year journey, examining the changes in a shifting culture through the lens of an intimate relationship between an unlikely couple. The play’s first scene takes place in 1951, a time when men were expected to work, and women were expected to run their households with finesse and frugality. Although fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar advertised high fashion, they also encouraged women to “make do and mend” by remaking dresses from a prior season, or purchasing sewing patterns to create homemade versions of the latest trends. However, in spite of the perceived present-day notion that the majority of women were confined to their homes raising the children and maintaining a spotless domain, during this decade more women began to hold jobs in the workforce—in addition to their demanding domestic duties. The veneer of the perfect housewife began to shift as women across America began to search for more meaning in both their marriages and their place in society, which paved the way for a cultural shift towards the feminism of the 1960s.
According to journalist Kati Morton, author of Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History, “The sixties were an edgy time of transition, change, and confusion.” Indeed, this decade brought with it some of the most crucial inventions to the movement for equality, along with polarizing extremes in community beliefs and behaviors. The Pill offered women a newfound sexual freedom, enabling them to base their sexual activity on factors other than the hazard of unexpected pregnancy, and women across the country joined together in a fight for equal wages and job opportunities. Simultaneously, the theories of idealism and alienation, the contrast of rebellion and backlash, and the juxtaposing ideals of flower children and assassins began to divide the country. While the 1960s were an especially important time for females, these years also helped to define the United States as it stands today; along with the women, youth began to employ their voices, particularly those who were raised in privilege. Similarly, as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movements raged alongside the gender race, the Republican and Democratic parties established positions for themselves, which remain, in many ways, much the same today as they were fifty years ago. As the chaotic 1960s came to a close, leaving the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. in its wake, the United States found itself swirling in a river of innocence muddied by cynicism, promise ebbed by the bitterness of failure.
What the 1960s began, the 1970s reaffirmed and established. Minority groups across the United States, including Native Americans, African-Americans, and homosexuals, continued to forge a path for themselves as they took control of their education, their roles in government, and their socio-political rights. Mandatory bussing forced integration into schools, and cities such as Los Angeles and Detroit elected their first African-American mayors. Meanwhile, women surpassed men in college enrollment, and the number of women in state legislature positions tripled. Additionally, by 1979, women could legally have an abortion, refuse to have sex with her husband, and report sexual harassment in the workplace.
The 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s were three of the most important decades in American history. The 1950s honored what many modern Americans continue to remember as the portrait of ideal American life; the 1960s turned American ideals upon their heads; and the 1970s paved the way for the eclectic melting pot of society that Americans celebrate today. One of the most distinctive features of these time periods is that while tectonic shifts occurred across the globe, the massive changes taking place found their way into the daily lives of individual Americans, redefining independence and the power of a single voice.
Ask almost anyone who really knows musicals, and they will tell you: Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were responsible for shaping the modern musical. Shunning the practice of their time that dictated light, fluffy songs stitched poorly together, Rodgers and Hammerstein chose instead to weave the music and the plot intricately together, creating musicals that shifted from speech to song seamlessly. This, combined with a shift in casting—rather than casting actors who could sing, a common choice at the time, the team chose to cast singers who could act—ushered in a new era of musical-making, one carried on by such legends as Stephen Sondheim, and still felt in the modern musicals of today.
By the time Oscar and Richard teamed up on Oklahoma!, they had been planning a partnership for years; after meeting through a mutual collaborator, Lorenz Hart, the duo discussed working together should the opportunity ever arise. As Hart’s alcoholism escalated, and his interest in Rodgers’ ambition to adapt Lynn Riggs’ play Green Grow the Lilacs into a musical waned, Rodgers turned to Hammerstein to complete the project. Hammerstein readily accepted, thus beginning one of the most famous partnerships in musical theatre history. Following Oklahoma!, the two produced a string of successes, including: Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, Cinderella, and The Sound of Music, all of which quickly became beloved classics and continue to enjoy productions world-wide. Although they span multiple countries, decades, genres, and storylines, one element that all of these musicals have in common is a central thread of humanity, born from Oscar Hammerstein’s passion for people and the dedicated activism he practiced on behalf of people who, like many of his characters, found themselves in the margins of their community.
Oklahoma! provides the first glimpse into this zeal of Hammerstein’s: As we look back to a time when America was primarily a country of frontier land, a time when Oklahoma was still in the process of becoming a state, Hammerstein shows the danger of feuds within a community. Through the character of Jud, the consequences of ostracizing individuals, based on their differences, are exposed, and even in lighthearted musical numbers such as “The Farmer and the Cowman Should Be Friends,” we are reminded of both our human need for community and of the violence with which our country was settled.
While many of the subjects and events utilized in Hammerstein’s work are lifted from a global scale, the lyricist wrote about movements that affected him personally, lending his own experience to the stories and using his unique understanding to infuse his writing with the depth and richness that set the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein apart from their colleagues’. Hammerstein’s activism included creating the California branch of the Anti-Nazi League during World War II, and convincing his daughter Alice to adopt two “unadoptable” babies of mixed Japanese and American race following the war; these experiences would later influence his writing for The Sound of Music, and South Pacific. Additionally, Oscar provided constant support and assistance for artists who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era and dedicated a portion of each day to writing letters for publication on behalf of the causes he felt were important.
The musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein provide more than just a couple hours of entertainment, they pull the audience into lands and time periods that may at first seem foreign, but quickly become the viewers’ stories, reminding us of who we are as people. As the first Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration, Oklahoma! will always be remembered as the musical that set the tone for modern musical theatre, pioneering the marriage of story and song, but behind the stage is an even richer story of a man who lived his life in the service of others and chose to turn that service into art.