Designing for the Fitzpatrick Main Stage

The Fitzpatrick Main Stage covered in snow. The angle is from the front, with the BTF sign visible. A wreath is hanging on one of the distinctive arches.

The Fitzpatrick Main Stage

Historic buildings are beautiful, storied, and often filled with unique traits or unusual design. This can certainly be said of Berkshire Theatre Group’s Fitzpatrick Main Stage (formerly the Berkshire Playhouse) located in the equally historic and picturesque town of Stockbridge, MA. Famous actors and actresses of both stage and screen have tread the boards during the past 90 years of production history. Everything from comedies and classics, musicals and murder mysteries have graced the stage. Each world created by a team of designers.

The Fitzpatrick Main Stage is more than a theatre. Originally designed as the Stockbridge Casino, it was a place for family entertainment complete with tennis courts, a library, a billiard room, parlor rooms, and a small stage for theatricals and variety performances. Eventually, the Casino closed due to a lack of members and was sold to the Three Arts Society. Plank by plank it was moved from Main Street to its current home at the bottom of Yale Hill Road. Thus the Berkshire Playhouse was born.

Blueprints of the first floor of the Stockbridge Casino show the theatre, stage, locker rooms, a library, water closets, a ladie's parlor room, and the veranda.

Plans for the First Floor Layout of the Stockbridge Casino

It was renovated in 1927 into a full working theatre. While there have been numerous renovations throughout the years, much of the original architecture designed by McKim, Mead & White remains. Ann G. Wrightson, lighting designer for Heartbreak House and myriad other plays with Berkshire Theatre says, “I love how the architecture looks, it has a beautiful silhouette, but interiorly it can be somewhat challenging. But that just forces you as a designer to be even more thoughtful about how you tell your story.”

The photo depicts a scene from Heartbreak House, the stage is lit as if it is night, with the lighting instruments showing and arranged looking like trees. One woman is lounging on a sofa, three more sit in various chairs and loveseats, one woman is leaning against the column, which is part of the set, and another man stands and looks up and out.

Cast of Heartbreak House, 2004. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

Both in the auditorium and onstage there are many quirks that distinguish The Fitzpatrick Main Stage from a typical proscenium theatre. Wilson Chin, scenic designer for BTG’s 2018 production of The Petrified Forest noted:

The Main Stage definitely has some unusual features that are challenging as well as inspiring. Most noticeably, there are two big columns in the middle of the stage…I wanted to incorporate the columns into the design, but in a way that was unexpectedly asymmetrical…The end result was a set design that felt very off-center and dynamic. In fact, standing on that set was a little disorienting because it was hard to tell where the center was, or the edge of the stage or the proscenium.

Photo depicts a scene from The Petrified Forest with nearly the full cast on stage, all are sitting or leaning, except for one woman. The columns are visible, and you can see the roof and neon sign.

Cast of The Petrified Forest, 2018. Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware.

The columns onstage have a 1’ x 1’ footprint and rest approximately 12’ from the center of the proscenium arch on both stage left and stage right. The decision to hide or incorporate the columns is one every designer must make, and has led to some stunning and creative sets throughout the years.

Another challenge facing designers is the height of the audience relative to the height of the stage. This offers a unique challenge to lighting designers, as described by Matthew Adelson, a lighting designer who has worked with BTG on over 27 shows, including Amadeus (2006) and Talley’s Folly (2003), “Unless you’re sitting in the balcony, you don’t really see the stage floor directly. The height of the stage is quite high and the audience in the orchestra doesn’t have a strong rake to the floor. You’re looking up at the actor and not directly at them or down on them.”

Photo depicts a scene from Amadeus with the cast center stage, intense red lighting on the set to the sides, and a deep blue onto the center create a unique lighting dynamic.

Cast of Amadeus, 2006. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

Designers must also factor in the height of the grid (an open floor above the stage which allows for equipment to be rigged, reached, maintained, and inspected) relative to the floor actually changes depending on if you are upstage or downstage. Adelson states:

The grid is relatively low…so the height between the actors and the actual lights is relatively low…it’s just a unique relationship…Even if borders are put in to mask the instruments, you always see some of it. So you have to be aware that the physical equipment is in the same world as the sets and the actors.

Each set and lighting design must find a way to incorporate, hide, or harmonize with the lights. Of his Petrified Forest design, Wilson Chin states,I love the ceiling we made for The Petrified Forest…It compressed the room as low as possible to create a mounting dramatic tension, and it created a sense of flat, desert landscape that felt like Edward Hopper meets Arizona highway.”

Distinctive and inspired designs have adorned the Fitzpatrick Main Stage for 90 years. Each designer has enriched the legacy of the theatre, and embraced the challenges presented. Exhilarating, innovative, and inspired works are sure to continue throughout the next 90 years of productions at Berkshire Theatre Group’s Fitzpatrick Main Stage.

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

Just announced! Max Creek will be live at The Colonial Theatre Friday, April 7 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $29 in advance and $39 day of! Visit our website to purchase!
.
link in bio!
Georgia Douglas Johnson was a well-known figure in the National Black Theatre movement in the early twentieth century, assembling and inspiring the intellectuals and artists who generated the next group of Black Theatre and rising education. Johnson wrote about 28 plays that were published under the pen name John Temple due to the fact that most of her writings were denied publication because of gender and race. By the end of her time, Johnson had written 200 poems, 28 plays and 31 short stories. She published her last poetry book, entitled Share My World, in 1962.
Are you and the kids feeling the February blues? Get out of the house and join us for “Magic Tree House: The Knight At Dawn” February 18th at 2pm! Author Mary Pope Osborne will be signing books from 1pm to 1:45pm in The Colonial Theatre lobby prior to the performance. Books will be available for purchase provided by The Bookloft in Great Barrington! Tickets on sale now!
There are still a few days to grab your tickets for “Draw The Line: A Tribute To Aerosmith!”
.
link in bio!
It’s almost time to jam! Join us TONIGHT at 7:30 for “Rev Tor’s 11th Annual Dead of Winter Jam!” There is still time to purchase your ticket! 
.
link in bio!
Berkshire Theatre Group celebrates Black History Month! For the rest of the month we will be highlighting Black Voices in Theatre through the years!
We sat down and had a fun chat with Rev Tor himself! Learn some fun facts about Tor and his band before catching the show this Friday!
.
Tickets through the link in our bio!
You won’t want to miss “Hyprov” on March 25! From the brilliant minds of Improv and Comedy Legend Colin Mochrie and Master Hypnotist Asad Mecci comes a brand new, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, side-splitting show! Twenty random volunteers from the audience will be put under hypnosis, their inhibitions evaporated and their minds no longer their own. The contestants will be methodically and hysterically whittled down until the five best are left on stage when one of the world’s leading improvisers enters! Colin Mochrie will take the stage to improvise with the top five while they are still under hypnosis, which will turn the show into an improv extravaganza!
.
link in bio!
Join us March 24 for “Song and Dance.” Highlighting Berkshire women in the Arts, this show features performances by Gina Coleman, Olga Dunn Dance Co., Wanda Houston, Mary Ann Palermo and The All-Star Women’s Band, along with more of our extraordinary region’s unsung female heroes in the art, business, social and medical communities. Join us for an evening of celebrating women of the Berkshires!
Proceeds will be donated in part to several local non-profit organizations, including The Elizabeth Freeman Center that helps women and children in need.
Katie Birenboim is back on the blog this week highlighting some more of the rich history found in BTG's archives! A recent trip uncovered this essay from long-time president of the board and fixture of the Berkshires, Jane Fitzpatrick, outlining the formative years of what we now call the Playhouse on our Stockbridge campus! Read more from both Katie and Jane through the link in our bio!
Want to change things up this year for St. Patrick’s Day? Join us March 17 at 7:30 for The Young Dubliners! This American rock band have been recording albums and touring since 1993. Their style of music has come to be called Celtic Rock for the fusion of Irish traditional music with modern rock ‘n’ roll!
We are so honored to have been a part of such amazing theatre over the past year! Congratulations Kimille and DeAnna!
Buckle up and hold on tight as Berkshire Theatre Group presents The 2023 Berkshire Mountain Guitar Summit on Saturday, March 11! Enjoy workshops, demos and a luthier’s expo in The Colonial Theatre Lobby followed by a concert on the Colonial stage hosted by BTG’s very own Rev Tor and featuring performances by a handful of the region’s most beloved guitar heroes.
This year’s line-up includes: Fuzz of Deep Banana Blackout, Rob Sanzone of The Picky Bastards, Garrett Lechowski of Harvest, and RustSeth Fleischmann of Misty Blues! More announced soon so stay tuned!
.
link in bio!
Join us Friday, March 3rd for “Ivy League Stand Up!” Known for their elite brand of clever comedy, the members of The Ivy League of Comedy can be seen on late-night TV, Comedy Central and now on stage at the Colonial. This hilarious comedy show features original, well-written comedy that doesn’t resort to playing on stereotypes or picking on the audience. This is stand-up comedy’s funniest and brightest!
Today we remember a magnificent man. His words were extremely important then and they are still extremely important now.
"Photograph 51" is an intriguing portrait of British scientist Rosalind Franklin and her often overlooked role in the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure. A balance of the historical, romantic and scientific, it is a touching play about ambition, isolation and the race for greatness. The show first opened in the West End in 2015 and starred Nicole Kidman as Rosalind Franklin. We are excited to bring this show to The Berkshires June 15th-July 1st. Tickets on sale now via the link in our bio!
February 25th we’ve got “Tapestry, The Carole King Songbook Featuring Suzanne O. Davis.” In addition to featuring all the music from Tapestry, the show will also feature many songs that Carole King and her husband, Gerry Goffin, wrote in the 1960s as one of the most successful songwriting teams in pop music history. The more than 400 songs were recorded by over 1,000 artists, including The Drifters, The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Donnie Osmond, Aretha Franklin, The Shirelles, Bobby Vee and many more.

link in bio!
Are you looking for something fun to do with the whole family but don’t want to brave the cold days of winter? Join us February 18th for “Magic Tree House: The Knight At Dawn.” Based off of Mary Pope Osborne’s Award Winning book series, this show is wonderful for all ages! Mary Pope Osborne will be signing books from 1pm to 1:45pm in The Colonial Theatre lobby prior to the performance. Books will be available for purchase provided by The Bookloft in Great Barrington!

link in bio!
Mark your calendars for February 10th! We’ve got Draw The Line: A Tribute To Aerosmith! Combining the same blues-based, hard rock sounds of Aerosmith, Draw The Line performs  classic hits like “Walk this Way,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “Dream On” and many others with stunning accuracy. Tickets on sale now via the link in our bio!
Join us February 3rd at 7:30pm for Rev Tor’s 11th Annual Dead of Winter Jam. Interweaving the classic songs and jams of The Grateful Dead, Dead Man’s Waltz is an all-star collective from the Northeast festival scene. Dead Man’s Waltz features top-notch musicianship and offers a refreshing twist to the music of The Grateful Dead. While staying true to the spirit of the music, the band members put their own dynamic spin on a vast catalog of beloved songs that are now part of the new American songbook. This show will feature some of your local favorites like Mark Mercier (Max Creek), Jen Durkin (Deep Banana Blackout), Mark Paradis (The Marks Brothers/Lobsters From Mars), Mike “Woody” Wood (Rebel Alliance) and Them Bastards (Chris Merenda & Dave Brown). 
Tickets on sale now via the link in our bio!
Follow Us