Berkshire Theatre’s Place in History

Front view of the Berkshire Playhouse during the daytime.

Postcard of The Berkshire Playhouse c. 1930s.

American Theatre at the start of the 20th century was characterized by a dichotomy between commercialized theatre (best exemplified by Broadway) and experimental theatre (best exemplified by the Little Theatre Movement). Most theatres in existence at that time could be classified as one or the other. The Berkshire Playhouse’s artistic vision sought to blend these two extremes together and create a theatre that entertained, inspired, and challenged audiences.

Headshot of F. Cowles Strickland looking off to the side.

F. Cowles Strickland Photo by Vandamn Studio, NY

Artistic Directors F. Cowles Strickland (recent Yale graduate) and Alexander Kirkland (member of Eva Le Galliene’s acting company) produced both conventional and atypical works. Eva Le Galliene’s company performed The Cradle Song on the opening night of The Berkshire Playhouse in June 1928. A Little Theatre play was the first ever to be performed at this new venue, but only after it had been performed on Broadway.

The Little Theatre Movement of the early 20th century was a rejection of commercialism that gave rise to local, independent theatres across the country. Focusing on new American voices, avant-garde works, and anything other than melodrama, Little Theatres helped produce some of America’s great 20th century writers.

Kirkland and Jones laying on their stomachs, smiling as he points at something in the distance.

Alexander Kirkland and Zita Johnn in The Lake at The Berkshire Playhouse, 1930.

Eugene O’Neill was one such writer, and quickly became a staple for The Berkshire Playhouse, along with Broadway-tested shows and classical works. Kirkland once said that he felt no season was complete without a Shaw piece. George Bernard Shaw used his plays to tackle the philosophical and social issues of his time, but stayed within the conventional realm of Realism. Shaw’s use of an established form to pursue contemporary issues mirrors The Playhouse’s use of established works to allow room for exploration. (Pictured to the right: Alexander Kirkland and Zita Johann in The Lake at The Berkshire Playhouse, 1930.)

The audience of The Berkshire Playhouse was largely a New York crowd that escaped to the country in the summers. Bringing in well-known Broadway actors and plays ensured that the theatre would be well-respected and attended. It also allowed the theatre to produce works that were more for artistic value than commercial value.

Eva Le Gallienne dressed in costume as a nun, looking contemplative.

Eva Le Gallienne in The Cradle Song at The Berkshire Playhouse, 1928.

While not strictly classified as a Little Theatre, it is clear to see the movement’s influence on The Berkshire Playhouse. Eva Le Gallienne, affectionately termed the “First Lady of the Playhouse,” would later go on to be a champion of the Regional Theatre Movement in America, which grew from the Little Theatre Movement. (Pictured to the left: Eva Le Gallienne in The Cradle Song at The Berkshire Playhouse, 1928.)  

Many of these original Little Theatres or independent regional theatres have been relegated to the history books as summer stock. Summer stock theatre is often affiliated with a negative connotation, and yet many theatres that fit the literal definition of summer stock provided the foundation for Regional and Repertory theatres throughout the country.

The Berkshire Playhouse fit the literal definition of a summer stock theatre when first established. As many summer stock theatres have, The Playhouse went on to provide a beginning to countless actors, directors, designers, stagehands, carpenters, and other theatre practitioners. With a blend of stars of stage and screen, and up-and-coming summer workers, Berkshire Theatre has always provided an educational space where high quality theatre is produced.

The four stages of Berkshire Theatre Group: The Colonial Theatre, The Unicorn Theatre, The Fitzpatrick Main Stage, and The Garage.

Much of the Playhouse’s original vision is reflected in Berkshire Theatre Group today. No longer fitting the bill of summer stock, Berkshire Theatre Group produces and presents shows year-round. Variety is still abundant, and each of the four stages at BTG is unique and houses distinct works. Just as when it first opened, Berkshire Theatre’s summer season seeks to create theatre that entertains, inspires, and challenges audiences.

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News & Articles

From the Archives: Two Dead Crows

By: Scout Swonger (They/Them/Theirs) As the spookiest of days approaches and everyone is getting into the Halloween spirit with jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, and graves about the yard, we at BTG are … Read On

Have you heard about #GivingTuesday? Giving Tuesday reimagines a world built upon shared humanity and generosity. 🌍 Over the next couple of weeks we will share some of our favorite ways to participate in the movement and how you can be a part of Giving Tuesday by donating to Berkshire Theatre Group! How will you join the movement?
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Voting is open for Broadway World’s 2022 Regional Awards! Follow the link and drop your vote for Berkshire Theatre Group! 📩
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link in bio!
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Our very own Kate Maguire hosted Governor-Elect Maura Healey as she met with Berkshire County Lawmakers at BTG's Colonial Theatre on Thursday!
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link in bio for the full story!
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On behalf of everyone at Berkshire Theatre Group, we want to say thank you to everyone, past and present, who has served our nation.
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When the audience asks for it, you give an encore! 👏 Due to popular demand, we are extending our Theatre Pass deadline for ONE week! Hurry- this offer now ends November 18th!
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link in bio!
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Don’t forget to vote for Berkshire Theatre Group! ✔ BTG has been nominated for Awards in the categories of Live Music Venue, Live Theatre, and Performance Space. You can vote every day until November 14
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link in bio!
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🎵There is no doubt that this show will have you strolling down memory lane and tapping your toes to some of your favorite tunes! Grab your tickets today and join us for the final performance of the show, back where it all began at Berkshire Theatre Group’s Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA.
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Link in bio!
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🎸Whoooa! We’re halfway there! 🤘Don’t forget to grab your tickets to BonJourney for November 12th! This high-energy show has sold out the last two times it’s been in town and we can’t wait for another night of rock! 
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Check the link in our bio for tickets!
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⏰There are 6 days left to purchase your passes! Visit the link in our bio and grab yours today! 🙌🏼
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⛷We are back with Warren Miller’s 73rd annual ski and snowboard film, “Daymaker”! Whether you’re joining us for the first time or coming back for a yearly tradition, the fun is guaranteed to be extreme! 🏂 How many Warren Miller films have you seen? Comment below!

Ticket link in bio!
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BTG has won Best of the Berkshires for Best Live Theatre! 🎉
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We are so excited to announce The Things I Cannot Change: A Staged Reading in Collaboration with the Roundabout Theatre Company! 

This staged reading will take place at the Unicorn on November 6 at 2pm. Tickets are free; a $10-$20 donation is suggested.
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The holidays will be here before you know it! 👀🎄🎁

Back by popular demand after this summer’s hit “Smokey and Me: A Celebration of Smokey Robinson”, Charl Brown returns to the Colonial with The Doo Wop Project featuring stars from Broadway hits Jersey Boys, Motown: The Musical and A Bronx Tale! Ticket link in bio! 
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#theatre #broadway #doowop #holiday #intheberkshires #charlbrown
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Your favorite annual film tradition is back, this November 3 at the Colonial! ❄️ Warren Miller's 73rd annual ski and snowboard film DAYMAKER will take you on a journey to peaks that replace the mountains in your mind with ones that free your mind. 

Ticket link in bio!
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It's Time To Vote! ✨The Rural Intelligence Voting Round is now LIVE! BTG has been nominated for Awards in Arts Organization, Live Music Venue, Live Theatre and Performance Space.

 You can vote every day until November 14! Link in bio 🗳
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Join us for the annual celebration that crosses generations and connects us to the comforting constant of snow with Warren Miller’s 73rd annual ski and snowboard film, Daymaker, November 3 at the Colonial! ❄️☀️⛷🏂

More info and ticket link in bio!
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Announcing a limited time offer: A Three Show Theatre Pass for $120! Hurry– this offer ends November 11!link in bio! 

📷: @ekrwcreative
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