The First Era: The Berkshire Playhouse

(L to R): Alexander Kirkland, Donald Meek, and F. Cowles Strickland in rehearsal for Rip Van Winkle, 1929.

(L to R): Alexander Kirkland, Donald Meek, and F. Cowles Strickland in rehearsal for Rip Van Winkle, 1929.

The first directors of The Berkshire Playhouse were recruited by Walter L. Clark, who bought the Playhouse (formerly known as the Stockbridge Casino) for $1.00 and instituted the Three Arts Society in order to create a new theatre in Stockbridge. During his search for a Director, Mr. Clark was told of Alexander Kirkland, a young actor who had recently been a part of Eva Le Galliene’s Civic Repertory Company.

Alexander Kirkland and Edith Barrett in Romeo and Juliet, 1930, Berkshire Playhouse.

According to a 1930 article in Heart of the Berkshires, “Kirkland immediately fell in with the plans, on the condition that he could find a partner who would share the executive responsibility and direct the productions.” This partner would be F. Cowles Strickland, a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama. (Pictured to the right: Alexander Kirkland and Edith Barrett in Romeo and Juliet, 1930, Berkshire Playhouse.)

Alexander Kirkland and F. Cowles Strickland co-directed the theatre from 1928—1930, at which point Kirkland left to pursue other opportunities, both on stage and screen. Kirkland and Strickland were keystones to the early success and longevity of the theatre.

Alexander Kirkland

Alexander KirklandAlexander Kirkland (pictured to the left) was born in Mexico City in 1901. He attended the Taft School in Connecticut and the University of Virginia. His theatre career began at the Hedgerow Theatre in Pennsylvania. He would eventually join Eva Le Galliene’s Repertory Company, and toured with their production of The Cradle Song. Civic Repertory Company, and toured with their production of The Cradle Song.

It was shortly after this that Kirkland began his time with the Berkshire Playhouse. Though he left his role as Co-Director in 1930, he would come back in later seasons to appear in plays. His journey after the Playhouse led him to Hollywood and New York, where he starred with Tallulah Bankhead in the 1931 film Tarnished Lady. He would go on to appear numerous times on Broadway.

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

Though a prolific actor, Kirkland was also a writer who had short stories published in national magazines throughout his early acting career. In the 1950s, he embraced his literary talent and became a writer and lecturer, as well as the proprietor of an art gallery. He moved back to Guernavaca, Mexico, where he lived until his death in 1986.(Pictured to the right: Alexander Kirkland and Zita Johann in The Lake, 1930, Berkshire Playhouse.)

F. Cowles Strickland

F. Cowles StricklandF. Cowles Strickland worked as the Co-Director, and then Director of the Playhouse until 1934. During his tenure he founded the Berkshire Playhouse Drama School and undertook ambitious plays by such playwrights as George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O’Neill, and Shakespeare. During his final season with the theatre, he introduced a repertory style to the theatre’s summer offerings. style to the theatre’s summer offerings.

After he left the Playhouse in the capable hands of William Miles, he went on to an illustrious academic career. He was the Drama Director of the Gilbert and Sullivan Club at Wesleyan until 1938. He then went on to an impressive 17-year career at Stanford University. He instituted Stanford’s Artists in Residence program and in 1956 he wrote The Technique of Acting, in which he explored the various techniques used in the craft of acting. Later, He went on to become the first American director of the Finnish National Theater. He was a Professor of Drama at American University until his death in 1971.

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

Queering Dracula

By: Scout Swonger (They/Them/Theirs) While vampires typically have their time in the spotlight (certainly not the sunlight) during Spooktober or in Twilight-related fan circles, Dracula has persisted as an evergreen … Read On

✨WIN✨ a special Meet & Greet with country music star Eddie Montgomery! Every ticket purchased to the show will be entered to win! 30 winners will be picked at random and contacted for more details. Ticket link in bio!
20 0
The Last Waltz Live is a recreation of the Band’s classic concert film featuring The Rev For Band along with a cast of special guests! Take a load off with us and jam, this November 18 at 7:30pm!
26 0
This week, a new adventure began! 🏰 Our students are back, now rehearsing Magic Tree House: The Knight at Dawn, our 2022-2023 Touring Production! ✨
47 0
Happy First Day of Fall! 🍂🍄✨ 

We've got a variety events coming up at the Colonial, along with the Pulitzer Prize-Winning play SEASCAPE at the Unicorn Theatre! Ticket link in bio!
22 0
Shoutout from Eddie Montgomery of Montogomery Gentry! Party on with this country music star at the Colonial on October 7! Ticket link in bio!!
22 0
Country Music and Grammy Award-Winning EDDIE MONTGOMERY of Montgomery Gentry hits the Colonial stage October 7!
15 1
Happy National Arts in Education Week! The arts are an essential part of a complete education–students of all ages benefit from artistic learning, innovative thinking, and creativity. 

Our BTG PLAYS! Year-Round Education Program serves 10,000 school children in over 25 schools across 15 towns. We believe the arts enriches and  transforms our young artists and audiences ❤️
25 0
We all remember this day, where we were, how awful it was... and we still search for peace.  May the memory of those lost be eternal.
71 0
#repost from @fionascruggs 
✨ Two days away! ✨

Get your tickets for the Dancers of the Berkshires: The Moment, this Sunday at 2pm at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.

Tickets at the 🔗 in bio 

Choreography and performances by: 

Veronica Bone
@vee_ronica06 

Sarah Daunt
@skdauntless 

Katie Harding
@ladykk2

Fiona Scruggs/Qualia Dance Collective @qualiadancecollective 

#intheberkshires #berkshiretheatregroup #pittsfield #downtownpittsfield #berkshiresma #berkshireartist
29 0
THIS SUNDAY 💃🏽 Support emerging choreographers and dancers in this special dance performance!
36 0
Take it eeee-zay tonight at The Eagles Experience! 🎶✨ 
.
.
.
#livemusic #theeagles #btg2022 #intheberkshires #lovepittsfield
20 1
Gary Backstrom Band Performs Frampton Comes Alive! pays tribute to superstar singer and guitarist Peter Frampton and one of the all-time best live albums of the 1970s. The double live album, Frampton Comes Alive! includes the hits “Show Me The Way,” “Baby I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do.”
19 2
“Of all Mr. Albee’s plays, Seascape is the most exquisitely written.” —The New Yorker

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Seascape brings true eloquence to its compelling yet subtle examination of the very meaning and significance of life itself. Told with Edward Albee’s signature ironic wit and razor sharp perception, Seascape finds Nancy and Charlie, a middle-aged couple, on a deserted stretch of beach, relaxing after a picnic lunch, talking idly about home, family and their life together. Suddenly, they are joined by two lizards who have decided to leave the ocean depths and come ashore… 

SEASCAPE runs September 29-October 23 at the Unicorn Theatre!
31 0
🌿DANCERS OF THE BERKSHIRES: THE MOMENT 

Join these dancers on a journey through movement on September 11 at 2pm onstage at the Colonial! 

Dancers of The Berkshires is a local dance collective made up of emerging choreographers and dancers who strive to connect the community with dance through interactive and engaging work.
36 1
Follow Us