From Casino to Stage: The Story of the Playhouse

By: Scout Swonger (They/Them/Theirs)

The grounds Berkshire Theatre Group operate on were once inhabited by the  Stockbridge-Munsee Community of the Mohican Nation. The Munsee people were gradually driven from this land by European colonizers and currently reside in northeastern Wisconsin. We honor the traditions and the peoples indigenous to these lands now known as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; the Pennacook, Mahican, Pocumtuk, Massachuset, Nipmuc, Wampanoag, Nauset, and Chappaquiddick. Indigenous people are not relics of the past. They are still here, and they continue to demonstrate talents and gifts amidst a backdrop of ongoing colonialism and oppression. We celebrate their community and seek to honor the rich tradition of storytelling that we share.


In a recent wander through our treasured archives, Executive Director Nick Paleologos came across a gem of an article written about our cherished Stockbridge institution that gives a glimpse into Berkshire society at the time of it’s inception in the 1800’s. This beloved building is referred to as The Casino, the Main Stage and by most, and for the purposes of this article: The Playhouse. While we join the many who are missing the activity at The Playhouse this summer, we are looking forward to giving the historic Stockbridge space the love and care that is needed to ensure that it may be with us for many years to come. Not only does this pause give us the chance to revisit and tend to some of the building’s physical aspects, but it gives us the chance to rediscover some of the gems it has left throughout its history.

The Fitzpatrick Main Stage, Stockbridge MA.

Before the Playhouse was home to theatre’s classic works, evenings were spent around the billiards table, playing cards, and even on the tennis courts. This was not a casino in the specific modern sense, but a center of leisure and “social amusement” that, yes, included games of a gambling nature.


Some found it to be “an awful innovation” and a sign of “sadly degenerate days.” Such a center of social merriment was but a sign of the degradation of the current generation who, unlike previous generations who “found amusements themselves”, “must have their amusements provided for them.” Such language brings to mind the faux-fear-mongering words of one Professor Harold Hill warning the townspeople of the sins found in the pocket of a pool table. Think of that! Ye Gods! 


Despite such moral alarmism, the Playhouse bloomed forth as a place of leisure for the more debaucherous of Stockbridge society. And, in defiance of many other institutions of the time, it was a “pleasant place of resort for both ladies and men” (though there was a separate “special room for ladies” on the first floor). What ho! Such liberalism! And together the sexes mixed in their pursuit of frivolity. More than a hub for gambling, it was a space for people to partake in any and all leisurely pursuits one might imagine from lounging in the reading room to holding conversation and even sporting outdoors.



But most pertinent to our modern interests was the theatrical space. Noted as “one of the coziest of its time,” the two-story space was the centerpiece of the Playhouse and came equipped with dressing rooms and a kitchen. And while the other activities that the building gave space to have long since fallen by the wayside – the casino-related activities had ceased by the 1920s – the stage had become a mainstay of Stockbridge society. So much so that when Mabel Choate bought the building and sold it for a whole $1 with the intention of moving it in favor of centralizing the Mission House, a space built by John Sergeant to westernize and “assimilate” the First Nation peoples of the area, it was transported by horse-drawn carriage, and rebuilt on its current site. Here the building continued its theatrical life as the Berkshire Playhouse managed by the Three Arts Society, a group banded for the specific purpose of stewarding the space in its transition from former casino to the Playhouse we know today. While it underwent continual renovations over the years and changed managerial hands many a time, its place in the hearts of theatrically inclined Berkshire residents remained.  

The Playhouse has lived many lives since its inception: a place for conversation, games, new American works, old European classics, and the highlights of a varied theatrical season. And while its current phase is one of repose, this piece of the past offers us a chance to remember the many possibilities the space holds. And while the nature of its future is still under consideration, it will certainly be one of community and joy.

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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

On this day in 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show made its American premiere at the Westwood Theater in Los Angeles. After initially being deemed a failure, the film vastly exceeded expectations and now has the longest theatrical run for a film.

Visit or do the time warp towards our box office to get your tickets today to experience the queen of all cult films, including a thrilling after party and drag queen Nancy Nogood, at the Colonial on October 28!
It is almost here! Copenhagen, the Tony Award-winning play that explores the ethical dilemma of when science and politics collide, begins previews at the Unicorn Theatre this Thursday, September 28!

Get your tickets at today 💥🧪
Western Massachusetts-based band Harvest & Rust is hitting the Colonial stage on September 29! Representing the wide-array of Neil Young’s influential material in one show, Harvest & Rust captivates audiences with chart-topping hits including “Old Man,” and “Heart of Gold,” to the more electric explorations of Rust Never Sleeps like “Hey Hey, My My.” 

Visit to purchase tickets today 🎵
REMINDER! ✨ Voting ends soon, so make sure to vote Berkshire Theatre Group as Berkshire Eagle's Best of the Berkshires 2023 in "Live Theatre" and "Concert Venue" at the link in our bio! Thank you all for your support ❤️
Calling all Pink Ladies and T-Birds! 🦩🦅

Coming to the Colonial on October 15, The Olivia Show Tribute is an exciting musical journey filled with all of the late Olivia Newton-John’s award-winning hits and an exciting Grease sing-along where everyone can join in on the excitement!

Get your tickets today at!
The Tony award-winning Copenhagen, running September 28-October 29 at the Unicorn, is a must-see for anyone interested in history, science or politics. Exploring how one secret meeting broke the friendship between two physicists involved in the race to create the first atomic bomb in WWII, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, Copenhagen forces us to confront the difficult questions that arise when science and politics collide. 

Don't miss this stunning production by getting your tickets today at!
Did you tap your toes to Million Dollar Quartet? Laugh along with On Cedar Street? Ponder long after What the Constitution Means to Me, Photograph 51, and The Smile of Her? If so, let us know by voting Berkshire Theatre Group #1 again in Berkshire Eagle's 2023 Best of the Berkshires Poll for "Live Theatre" and "Concert Venue" in the Entertainment category!

To vote, visit the link in our bio. Voting ends on September 24 at 5pm.
On Thursday, October 5, at 5:30 p.m., Berkshire Magazine (@berkshiremagazine) will celebrate this year’s Berkshire 25 by inviting all past honorees to mark this milestone—and everyone is invited to join the celebration! 

To purchase tickets, visit Ticket sales will go towards our education programs at BTG ✨
Sing until you lose your voice, dance like nobody’s watching, and relive your glory days at The Olivia Show, an exciting musical journey honoring the memory of Olivia Newton-John! Audiences will be treated to Olivia's greatest hits with live vocals, powerful musicianship, amazing costumes and chart topping hits and an exciting Grease sing-along! 

Get your tickets at today 🎵🎶
BTG is celebrating National Arts in Education Week by kicking off rehearsals for this year's touring show production, Magic Tree House Merlin Missions: Winter of the Ice Wizard, which features two casts from various middle and high schools across Berkshire County ✏️📚🎭

(Photo by Caelan Carlough)
For every new gift made before midnight on November 10, our generous donors will match gifts up to $250,000!

Your support now in meeting a goal to raise $500,000 will provide the investment needed to keep this theatre moving forward with strength, so donate today at the link in our bio ⭐
Did Oppenheimer (2023) leave you even more curious about the history surrounding the creation of the atomic bomb? BTG's production of Copenhagen, running September 28–October 29, explores the moral struggles of two Nobel laureate physicists: Niels Bohr, one of Oppenheimer's heroes; and Werner Heisenberg, his direct competition in the Manhattan Project.

Get your tickets today at to experience this a fascinating exploration of the ethics of science that will leave audiences pondering its themes long after the final curtain call.
It's that time of the year again! Support us by voting Berkshire Theatre Group #1 again in Berkshire Eagle's 2023 Best of the Berkshires Poll for "Live Theatre" and "Concert Venue" in the Entertainment category. We appreciate your help!

To vote, visit the link in our bio. Voting ends on September 24.
From the same members of BonJourney, Don Jovi, the ultimate Bon Jovi tribute band, is bringing Jon Bon Jovi's greatest hits to life on the Colonial stage September 22 🎸

Get your tickets today at berkshiretheatre,org to rock on to legendary songs including "It's My Life" and "Never Say Goodbye!"
In Berkshire Magazine's Fall issue, read about Felipe Salles, "The New Immigrant Experience," and his upcoming performance at the Colonial on October 21 at the link in our bio🎷 To get tickets, visit!
From the same members that brought BonJourney to the Colonial last November, Don Jovi (@donjoviband) is bringing Jon Bon Jovi's greatest hits to life on September 22! Get your tickets today at berkshiretheatre,org to enjoy memorable hits such as "Livin' On a Prayer" and "You Give Love a Bad Name"
Listen to Black Opry (@black.opry), a joyful, supportive celebration of Black artists, songwriters, and fans, on NPR before they take the Colonial stage on November 4, then get your tickets at! 🎵 (Link to NPR session in bio)

(Photo by Gabriel Baretto)
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