In 1928, Mabel Choate, doyenne of the Berkshire landscape, decided that the casino designed by famous architect Stanford White, located in the heart of Stockbridge, was an eyesore, since it had fallen into neglect and abandonment. A team of horses was hired to move the building to its current location on Main Street, and the home of the Berkshire Theatre Festival was born. Situated on 5 acres, the property now houses the theatre festival, and its onsite barn, the Unicorn Theatre, is celebrating 10 years of emerging and alternative theater.
Now settling into her 12th season at Berkshire, nine of them as executive director, Kate Maguire said, while the Unicorn as dedicated to emerging ideas and emerging talents, the two stages have come to be mixed in their focus.
The festival is one of the oldest performing arts venues in the United States and the single oldest in Berkshire County.
The summer brings the arts to life in the Berkshires, and the theatre festival is one of the best examples of the life being breathed there. This year the calendar is an eclectic mix of theater. From Tennessee Williams’ `Night of the Iguana` to Wendy Wasserstein’s `Heidi Chronicles` and the current production of `Amadeus` on the main stage, to the Unicorn’s productions of the revival of Terrence McNally’s `Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone?` to the world premiere of `The Pilgrim Papers,` this season has something for everyone.
According to Maguire, the theater has `a good team on the main stage; a core group of actors, directors and designers all returning to work with BTF.`
Over the years, the complexion of the theater-going audience has changed in the Berkshires, from the day-trippers to a larger concentration of second-home owners, most of whom have chosen the Berkshires expressly for the culture the area has to offer. As a result, Maguire said, the populace has allowed, and in fact demanded, a more sophisticated retinue in terms of the arts.
That’s a bonus for those of us in the Capital District.
No more than a scant hour’s drive away, the Berkshires offer a magical array of artistic delights. We locals have known for years what treasure trove of artistic delights lay nestled in the Berkshires; the Berkshire Theatre Festival may well be one of the crown jewels in the treasure.
The theater has, in years past, played host to the likes of Lois Nettleton, Richard Chamberlain, `Sex and The City’s` Chris Noth and Judy Kaye, who last year, took her show, `Souvenir` to Broadway to great critical acclaim after a tryout run in BTF.
An affordable drive in these gas-cost conscious times, an opportunity for a wonderful getaway and the chance to experience world-class theater await this summer in the Berkshires. Jonathan Epstein stars in the not-to-be-missed current main stage production of `Amadeus` through July 8.
For a complete listing of theatrical offerings at The Berkshire Theatre Festival, call the box office at 413-298-5536, Ext. 33, or go online at berkshiretheatre.org. “