Celebrating BTG PLAYS!

Cast of Disney’s Aladdin JR.; 2019; Photo by: Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware.

Berkshire Theatre Group’s education program, BTG PLAYS!, reaches 13,000 Berkshire County schoolchilren annually. The education program serves children of all ages and offers a variety of programs from summer camps, live shows, internships, and after-school programs. Education has been a fundamental part of Berkshire Theatre since its inception in 1928. Since that time, Berkshire Theatre’s Education resources have grown and shifted into a comprehensive program.

Beginnings of BTG’s Education Program

Class in front of The Unicorn Theatre. Acting interns are being led through a movement class.

Acting Interns in a movement class at the Berkshire Playhouse.

During the first summer season in 1928, students from Yale University (F. Cowles Strickland’s alma mater) worked in the scene and costume shops. Strickland wanted to give them the opportunity to put to use what they had spent the school year learning. In 1929, Strickland formed a formal acting apprentice program. These programs continued to grow and expand under each new artistic director.

Acting interns were offered the chance to learn from world-class artists and took classes in movement, voice, make up, and dance, just to name a few. The Berkshire Playhouse attracted college students and young professionals from across the country. The pre-professional training programs offered invaluable practical experience, and many of them continue to this day. After the Playhouse was incorporated in 1966 and became Berkshire Theatre Festival, new programs developed.

YAPP

An outdoor production. The shot shows the audience reaction to the actress on stage.

Children’s Theatre Production, 1982. Photo by Walter Scott.

Theatre for Youth was a new focus for BTF. Developing out of a desire to fully engage all members of the community, and make a positive impact on local youth, the Young Americans Playwright Program (YAPP) was established in 1984. Yapp partnered with local-schools to create a 14-week playwriting intensive. Students worked with BTF artists to create original plays. At the end of the 14 weeks, the artists would review the plays and select 2-4 to be fully staged as part of the Theatre Under the Tent Series.

YAPP was a unique program, and one of the first programs to partner arts and the local schools in the area. The program was a roaring success, and continued well into the 1990s. During this time, BTF underwent significant changes. Kate Maguire took the reins in 1998, and during her first year as Artistic Director she helped to overhaul and expand the education program with Allison Rachele Bayles.

BTG PLAYS! Today

Students participating in a BTG PLAYS! After-School program.

BTG PLAYS! Year-Round Education Program, officially formed in 1998, combines all the best aspects of previous programs with innovative new programs. It is a comprehensive educational experience for all students from Pre-K to College. Allison Rachele Bayles—who helped found the program—stated, “When Kate and I joined BTF the education programs served rural school districts and a few hundred students. Since that time our programs have grown to include our Touring Show, After School Programming, Field Trip Opportunities, Summer Classes for Kids, and more.”

More than 20 years later, the program has become a fundamental core of BTG according to Kate Maguire, “Each of the children who participates in our program, becomes part of our BTG family, and will often continue on from the camps or after-school programs to the community shows or working as interns as they get older.” One such student, Hanna Koczela, has been with Berkshire Theatre Group since 2009 and is now an Summer 2019 Acting Intern, “One of my favorite memories every summer has been meeting the acting interns. I have always looked up to them and wanted to be one—I cannot believe it is actually happening!” she said. The Summer 2019 Acting Interns can be seen this summer in The Skin of Our Teeth and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (Revised).

Tim Jones and Hanna Koczela in Disney’s Tarzan®, 2018. Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware.

Each year, thousands of students are given the opportunity to learn, grow, meet new people, and experience art in a hands-on environment. The impact to each individual student is clearly seen every year. In the past few years, BTG has expanded its education program by adding in two new shows: Elementary and Middle School Spring Production and the Pre-K to Elementary Fall Production. Disney’s Aladdin Jr., welcomed more than 2,000 patrons in 2019. Part of MA ArtWeek, this show featured Elementary and Middle School students in all roles. Beyond the stage the students and their families helped in the creation of props, scenery, and costumes. The Fall show for 2019 will be Willy Wonka Kids, and will offer similar community-focused opportunities. These shows allow families from across Berkshire County to come together and create art. Many of the students performing in Willy Wonka Kids can also be seen in the 2019 Annual Community Theatre Production of Shrek The Musical in August!

BTG PLAYS! Impact

The cast of BTG Plays! Showtime with Shakespeare© A Magic Tree House Adventure. Photo by Katie Watts.

BTG PLAYS! Year-Round Education Program serves 13,000 school children in over 26 schools across 15 towns. There are approximately 5,429 students in Pittsfield, of which we serve 3,467. Of the students in Berkshire County, 51% are economically disadvantaged. Through careful planning and programming, BTG provides free and reduced ticket prices, camps, and apprenticeship fees for these programs. BTG PLAYS! Touring Performances reaches 28 schools and over 6,000 children.

BTG PLAYS! includes 12 different initiatives within three distinct categories: School Partnership Programs, Performing Arts for Young People, and Pre-Professional Internship Programs. The BTG PLAYS! Year-Round Education Program allows children from all backgrounds to come together and collaborate with their families, their communities, and each other.

Parents, students, and community members benefit from BTG PLAYS! see their stories below:

“BTG has taught me that the best actors and show makers are honest and true to themselves. Sure, we “act” and pretend we are something that we are not, but Berkshire Theatre Group trains and motivates their actors to do that in a thoughtful way. Each character that steps on any of the three stages at BTG has a full story- they are honest characters that the directors and creative team have put a lot of thought into. I’m not quite sure there is another place that teaches young actors this in an effective and creative way. I am so grateful this has been my foundation as I continue on to being a performer.”— Hanna Koczela, Summer 2019 Acting Intern

“Thank you for giving me such a ‘proud momma moment’ today! We are asked all the time, ‘Why BTG? What is it about BTG?’ BTG takes every opportunity to showcase their artists and give back to the community. They support and empower children to be confident performers, public speakers, and advocates in their community. BTG takes care of every actor, and…with seemingly little things like this…every FAMILY. Parents are educated, informed, included, and valued along with their children as part of the theater. It’s not ‘Why BTG?’, it just IS BTG! The line from Tarzan said it best, ‘Two worlds, one family!’ THANK YOU FOR THIS SMILE!”— Michelle Colvin, Parent

“What I liked about the BTG Program was when we started to write our stories we all encouraged each other.”— Madysen, Student

“I learned to be brave and tell our lines to other people and perform in front of little kids.”— Sabrina, Student

“In theatre, we take on tough topics. We bring understanding to the audience, and we teach kids to take positive risks in a creative and artistic way. It’s about accepting differences and celebrating each other as we are…no matter who we are.” –Lillian Colvin, age 12, Jasmine in BTG’s Aladdin Jr., 2019.

“I love acting! I love it all, the memorizing, the faces, the becoming of your character, and most of all, the fun! And while I was performing I could feel the excitement of my peers and the crowd.”— Stella, Student

Plan Your Visit

Read our suggestions on where to dine, and where to hang your hat.

Get Started
Did You Know?
Just like NPR, Berkshire Theatre Group depends on the generous giving of its members!
Join Today!
We believe the performing arts can transform a community.
Learn More
Of the 16,000 Berkshire County school children, we serve 13,000 through our BTG PLAYS! Year-Round Educational Programs.
Learn More
Theatre is the place where we go to understand what lies in the human heart.
About Us
BTG's buildings, on two campuses in Stockbridge and Pittsfield, are historic treasures.
Theatre Info
Berkshire Theatre Group believes that the creative arts encourage freedom of speech and debate.
Get Involved
"Out of need will come the way. Once the pandemic ebbs, whenever that is, there will be an incredible need to gather again." - Artistic Director, Kate Maguire
Join Today!
The theatre has existed from the time of the Greeks. We will go on.
Learn More
Join Our Mailing List

Receive the latest BTG News, Updates, Special Offers, and more right to your inbox.

Subscribe

News & Articles

From the Archive: Eva LeGallienne

By: Katie Birenboim (She/Her/Hers)   Devoted fans of BTG may gasp to discover that until doing a first round of research in the amazing BTG archives, I had never heard … Read On

If you liked our 80s/90s Dance Party, come join us again TONIGHT at The Colonial Theatre for our Dawn of the Divas Dance Party with the legendary DJ BFG (Gabby Squailia) at the Colonial Theatre! ✨

To purchase tickets visit berkshiretheatre.org.
For the last day of Black History Month, we would like to highlight Felicia Curry (@thefeliciacurry), who starred as Nina Simone in BTG's 2021 production of Nina Simone: Four Women. 

An award-winning, DC-based actor and singer and Emmy-nominated host of PBS's WETA Arts, Felicia has won numerous awards, including being named one of "DC's Biggest Theatre Stars" by Washington Magazine and named one of "12 DC Stage Dynamos" by The Washington Post.
TOMORROW, March 1, dance like nobody is watching to iconic diva anthems at the Dawn of the Divas Dance Party at The Colonial Theatre!

If you enjoyed our 80s/90s Dancy Party and our other dance parties in the past, come join us again, as the legendary DJ BFG is BACK to spin the beats that will make you move and groove all night long! ✨

Limited tickets are available, so get yours today at berkshiretheatre.org.
LAST FEW DAYS to buy tickets for Zep & Co THIS SATURDAY, March 2, at The Colonial Theatre!

Combining the power of not one, but TWO legendary rock bands, prepare for an electrifying rock experience with Zep & Co as they merge the best of Led Zeppelin and Bad Company into an epic performance not to be missed!

Don't delay! Purchase tickets today by visiting berkshiretheatre.org.
BTG is remembers with a heavy heart the life of R. Michael Miller, a beloved scenic designer that worked with us for many shows, including Souvenir (2005), Sick (2009), A Delicate Balance (2010) and Babes in Arms (2010). His talents and bright light will be missed, and we are honored to have worked with him over the years.
Coming to the Colonial on Saturday, March 9, prepare to be spellbound and mesmerized by Andy Gross, who is not only a comedian, but also a magician and ventriloquist with over 1 billion views of his viral magic videos! ✨

Captivating audiences across the country, his live shows are hailed as some of the best touring comedy magic spectacles today that must be seen to be believed.

Grab your tickets today at berkshiretheatre.org and prepare for an unforgettable evening of laughter and intrigue!
Tomorrow, February 24 at the Colonial, discover the ultimate tribute to Jimmy Buffett, with Changes In Latitudes, fit for the Mayor of Margaritaville himself! 🌴🎵

Get ready to sway to beloved classics like “Margaritaville,” “Cheeseburger In Paradise” and “Volcano,” alongside Buffett’s iconic hits such as “Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes.”

Don't miss out! Grab your tickets today at berkshiretheatre.org today!
This week for Black History Month, BTG would like to highlight Lauren Ridloff (@laurenridloff), a deaf American actress who starred as Sarah Norman in BTG's 2017 production of Children of a Lesser God, which transferred in April 2018 to New York City's Studio 54 as the first Broadway revival of the play since 1980. 

Her exceptional, emotional performance earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play. Today, she is best known for her roles as Connie in the TV series The Walking Dead (2018-2022) and as Makkari, the first deaf superhero in the Marvel Comics Universe, in the film Eternals (2021).
Happy Presidents Day! All of BTG's offices will be closed today, February 19, but we will see you tomorrow!
Whether you’re a disco darling, a pop princess, or a soulful songstress, come join us at the Dawn of the Divas Dance Party on the Colonial stage on March 1! ✨

Bringing together divas from every era, DJ BFG will curate a playlist that spans the ages, blending everything from disco divas to pop queens with songs like Beyonce’s “Break My Soul,” Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” and Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”

Get your tickets today at berkshiretheatre.org and just dance like nobody’s watching!
Hailed as “The Next Best Thing to Def Leppard,” Leppard: The Def Leppard Experience, featuring Andrew Freeman and with special guest Randy Cormier’s “Best of the ’80s”, will hit the Colonial stage on March 16! 🎸🌟

Join Leppard as they faithfully recreate one of rock’s most iconic bands and their legendary songs, including “Rock of Ages,” “Photograph,” “Animal” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” 

Get your tickets today at berkshiretheatre.org!
This week for Black History Month, BTG would like to highlight Gerry McIntyre (@mayorgerrymac), a performer, director and choreographer who has won widespread acclaim for choreographing BTG's 2020 production of Godspell, the only Equity sanctioned show in the country at the start of Covid.

Gerry has worked on and off Broadway for a number of shows, including directing and choreographing Once On This Island and Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He also directed the regional premiere of The Cher Show at Ogunquit Playhouse. Currently he is the Associate Artistic Director of the York Theatre.

BTG has had the honor of working with Gerry over the years on many productions, including My Fair Lady (2001), Side by Side (2005), The Who's Tommy (2011), A Chorus Line (2012), Oklahoma! (2013), Godspell (2020), Nina Simone: Four Women (2021), Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (2021) and Songs for a New World (2022), and we are proud to welcome him back as the choreographer for our production of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein this summer at the Colonial.
Happy Valentine's Day from the bottom of our hearts! 💖💕
Looking for a band that combines the power of not one, but TWO legendary rock bands?

On Saturday, March 2, prepare for an electrifying rock experience with Zep & Co. as they merge the best of Led Zeppelin and Bad Company into an epic, powerhouse performance. This full-throttle rock show unleashes the monumental hits and cherished deep cuts that defined the era of these iconic arena rock legends.

To purchase tickets, visit berkshiretheatre.org!
TOMORROW, as well as the second Saturdays in March and April, join the drummer for folk legend Arlo Guthrie, Terry A La Berry, for a musical kids concert series that will sweep your family off their feet! Terry A La Berry’s shows are not just concerts; they are immersive experiences where kids become part of the music-making magic 🎵🥁🎸

Availability is limited, so get your FREE tickets today at berkshiretheatre.org!
A week into Black History Month, BTG has been reflecting on the talented individuals in the Black community that we have had the honor of working alongside over the years. 

Each Thursday for the rest of this month, we would like to shine a spotlight on a few of the many extraordinary Black creatives that continue to be a part of our story and have helped make BTG what it is today. 

Stay tuned for our first Black History Month spotlight post next week! ✨
Follow Us