Stockbridge, MA – Berkshire Theatre Festival’s 2008 season schedule was announced by Artistic Director Kate Maguire at a press luncheon at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge on January 31.
“The 80th anniversary gives us the opportunity to celebrate some of the greatest writing of western theatre. Over the past dozen years, we have developed a company of remarkable artists. I am thrilled and confident that they have the talent and vision to take on these powerhouse plays,” said Ms. Maguire.
The season will open on June 20 with George Bernard Shaw’s Candida under the magic baton of director Anders Cato. The choice of play is a significant one. Eighty years ago was the inaugural season of this wonderful theatre in Stockbridge; that performance of Shaw’s play, was the first play of that season. Set in Victorian England, the plot revolves around the domestic turmoil that flares up when a sensitive young poet enters the lives of a socially liberal minister and his wife. Shaw delighted in raising turmoil and the issues he raises in the play still vibrate in our modern world. And Cato, who last summer gave us Mrs. Warren’s Profession will see to it that all the nuances in the script resonate.
For a change of pace, The Book Club Play by Karen Zacarias will follow. The plot centers, hilariously, on the popularity of book clubs, attended by people who read books, those who say they read books, and those who have intricate rules about the refreshments. It’s a fresh, young new play that opened last summer at the O’Neill Festival and promises a refreshing evening away from the world’s more significant woes.
As for the Unicorn, that little gem up the hill where a new parking lot is in the making, the season is as heady as that planned for the main stage.
Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, with Jonathan Epstein and James Barry playing the sinister struggle for power between two brothers, will open on May 24. This play won Pinter a Nobel in Literature and is considered as a landmark in the development of 20th century theatre. The intimacy of the Unicorn should be perfect setting for it.
And following on its heels is one of the most important plays in the lifetime of many who will be in the audience. The play is Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot which opened in Paris in 1953. Beckett broke new theatrical ground, giving us vaudeville and farce interwoven with heartbreaking questions of existence, loss, and meaning. It is a play in which tramps hats get hilariously mixed up, and one in which a tramp’s painful boots are left waiting for other sore feet.
The play, first written in French was translated into English by Beckett himself. It concerns communicating what can’t be communicated. In this production director Anders Cato is in charge putting Beckett into capable and loving hands. Incidentally, Beckett too received a Nobel as did Shaw and Pinter. For a chance to see several of the greatest plays of the 20th century, the BTF seems to be the place to go.
The final play at the Unicorn is Eleanor:Her Secret Journey by Rhona Lerman, a one woman play opening on August 27th for a long run until Nov. 9th. The Eleanor is FDR’s wife. The content should prove interesting in this election year with the mantra of “change” ringing in everyone’s ears.
Berkshire Theatre Festival Main Stage performances are Monday through Saturday evenings at 8pm with 2pm matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays. Tickets range from $23 to $68.
Candida by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Anders Cato
with Jayne Atkinson, Michel Gill, David Schramm, Samantha Soule, Jeremiah Wiggins, and Finn Wittrock
Previews: June 17, 18, 19
Opens: June 20 – Closes: July 5
The Main Stage opens with a revival of George Bernard Shaw’s fast-paced, thought-provoking 1894 comedy, Candida, which was first performed in Stockbridge 80 years ago during the Berkshire Playhouse’s inaugural season. Set in London’s East End during the Victorian era, Candida is about the domestic turmoil that ensues when a dashing and sensitive young poet comes between a socially progressive minister and his charismatic wife. Though the play revolves around a classic romantic triangle, the questions it raises about love, fidelity, and the imagination of the artist are as relevant today as ever.
The Book Club Play by Karen Zacarías
Directed by Nick Olcott
with Cherise Booth, Sarah Marshall, Keira Naughton, Bhavesh Patel, Tom Story, C.J. Wilson, and Anne Louise Zachry
Previews: July 8, 9, 10
Opens: July 11 – Closes: July 19
The Book Club Play is a sparkling new comedy about people who read books, people who say they read books, and people who prefer books to other people. The play examines the popular phenomena of book clubs: the intricate rules, the intricate friendships, and the intricate need for food. Hilarious and heartbreaking, it reveals the impact of literature on our lives and friendships.
A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt
Directed by Richard Corley
with Andrew Belcher, David Chandler, Tara Franklin, Douglas Friedman, Eric Hill, Walter Hudson, Greg Keller, Peter Kybart, Diane Prusha, James Lloyd Reynolds, Thom Rivera, Gareth Sax, Tommy Schrider, and Allison Vanouse
Previews: July 22, 23, 24
Opens: July 25 – Closes: August 9
Robert Bolt’s stirring drama, A Man for All Seasons, explores the uneasy interplay of church and state during the reign of King Henry VIII. The play is based on the true story of Sir Thomas More, a revered scholar, lawyer, and churchman, whose eloquence and endurance in the face of escalating threats to his beliefs and family make him one of modern drama’s greatest tragic heroes. The play won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1962 and went on to garner multiple Academy Awards when it was adapted to film in 1966.
Director Richard Corley says: “A Man for All Seasons is a deeply personal story that is also powerfully political. The soul of the play is Thomas More’s struggle to live an authentic life in a society that de-values human selfhood in favor of power. More is a hero for our time – and his epic story must be witnessed afresh as we move toward electing a new leader this coming fall. We all can learn so much from his journey to remain loyal to his inner voice and values, even to the point of losing everything else.”
Noël Coward in Two Keys by Sir Noël Coward
Directed by Vivian Matalon
Previews: August 12, 13, 14
Opens: August 15 – Closes: August 30
Noël Coward in Two Keys (1966) was British playwright Sir Noël Coward’s final stage work. It is composed of a pair of intriguing one-act comedies, Come into the Garden, Maud and A Song at Twilight, both of which are set in a Swiss hotel suite. Living life dishonestly takes its toll on Coward’s witty, sophisticated characters. Vivian Matalon directed the esteemed author himself in the work’s London premiere, as well as the 1974 Broadway version that featured BTF alums Thom Christopher, Hume Cronyn, and Jessica Tandy.
Berkshire Theatre Festival Unicorn performances are Monday through Saturday evenings at 8pm, with 2pm matinees on Saturdays for most shows. The opening and closing productions have slightly different schedules — please see details below. Prices range from $19.50 to $44.
The Caretaker by Harold Pinter
Directed by Eric Hill
with James Barry, Jonathan Epstein, and Tommy Schrider
Previews: May 22, 23
Opens: May 24 – Closes: June 28
Playing Thursday through Saturday at 8pm. In addition there will be 2pm matinees on May 25, June 1, June 8, June 21, and June 28; Monday through Wednesday performances at 8pm on June 16 – 18 and June 23 – 25. Note: No evening performance on June 21.
Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker is an enigmatic and sinister comedy about the struggle for power. The fragile relationship of two brothers, Aston and Mick, is turned upside down when Davies, a homeless man, enters their lives. Since its premiere in 1960, this play has been recognized as a landmark in 20th century drama.
Director Eric Hill comments: “I’m excited to examine the dramatic tension and mystery of Pinter – always a study in trying to get behind the words and underlying causes of the relationships.”
Pageant Play by Matthew Wilkas and Mark Setlock
Directed by Martha Banta
with Daiva Deupree, Jenn Harris, Mark Setlock, and Matthew Wilkas
Previews: July 1, 2, 3, 4
Opens: July 5 – Closes: July 26
Pageant Play is an outrageous new satiric comedy by actor-playwrights Matthew Wilkas and Mark Setlock about the twisted world of child pageants. Two ruthless stage mothers with rival pageant coaches go on a desperate quest to turn their daughters into beauty queens.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Anders Cato
with David Adkins, Stephen DeRosa, Randy Harrison, David Schramm, and Cooper Stanton
Previews: July 29, 30, 31, August 1
Opens: August 2 – Closes: August 23
Samuel Beckett’s tragicomedy, Waiting for Godot, changed the course of modern theatre when it opened in Paris in 1953. The play is at once a vaudevillian farce and a heartrending expression of our very existence. Upon seeing the innovative production for the first time, playwright William Saroyan commented, “It will make it easier for me and everyone else to write freely in the theatre.”
Director Anders Cato remarks: “I was thrilled when Kate Maguire approached me about doing Waiting for Godot. To step inside Beckett’s world is, of course, very challenging. You have to step inside yourself and listen very closely. It’s a form of cleansing. Beckett’s rhythmical language helps block out all the distracting noise and clutter that we’re surrounded by, and guides you back to the essential. It is about communicating what can’t be communicated – something absolutely private and universal in the same moment.”
Eleanor: Her Secret Journey by Rhoda Lerman
Directed by Stephen Temperley
Previews: August 26
Opens: August 27 – Closes: November 9
Playing August 26 – 30, September 25 – 27, October 2 – 4, October 9 – 11, October 16 – 18, October 23 – 25, October 30 – November 1, and November 6 – 8 at 8pm. 2pm Matinees August 30, September 28, October 5, October 19, October 26, November 2, and November 9.
Eleanor: Her Secret Journey is a poignant and thoughtful one-woman play about Eleanor Roosevelt. This intimate portrait of the First Lady reveals her private struggles and offers a distinctly feminine look at politics, power, and war. She and her husband changed America forever. They lifted our society at a time when all appeared hopeless. It seems fitting to add her voice to the conversation during election season.
Theatre for Young Audiences
Note: The following productions are not part of the subscription series.
Hercules by E. Gray Simons III
Directed by E. Gray Simons III
June 25 – July 26 at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield
$7 children, $10 adult (discount for museum members)
For ticket information, call the Berkshire Museum at 413-443-7171
Playing Wednesday through Saturday 11am, with no show on July 4th
Stories of heroes have been told for as long as people could give voice to thought, but none has ever matched the excitement and inspiration of the Greek myth of Hercules. In this play, the hero undertakes twelve impossible tasks, including battling beastly boars and bulls, rerouting rivers, slaying multi-headed monsters, and traveling into the Underworld.
Around the World in 80 Days adapted by E. Gray Simons III from the Jules Verne novel
Directed by Amy Brentano
August 6 – August 23 at the Unicorn Theatre
Playing Monday through Saturday 11am
$7 child/student, $15 adult
Phileas Fogg (a very English gentleman) takes a bet that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. The ensuing whirlwind escapade involves galloping horses, runaway trains, and a lumbering elephant, moving from sacred Hindu temples in Bombay to the American Wild West, and meeting Japanese acrobats, an Indian princess, and Mormon wives along the way, but will he beat the clock? Not if a relentless Scotland Yard detective has anything to say about it.
Book, Music and Lyrics by Lionel Bart Based on Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist
Directed by E. Gray Simons III
With a cast of children and adults drawn from the local Berkshire community
September 11– 13 at 7:30pm, with 2pm matinees on September 13 – 14 at the Main Stage
$10 students, $25 adults
Proceeds to benefit Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s Berkshire County Educational Enrichment Initiative and BTF PLAYS!, Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Year-Round Education Program.
One of the favorite musicals of all time, Oliver! tells the rough and tumble tale of a sweet orphan boy who falls in with a gang of pickpockets in London’s underworld. This musical treat for the whole family features classics such as “Food, Glorious Food,” “I’d Do Anything,” and “Consider Yourself.”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Eric Hill
Directed by Eric Hill and E. Gray Simons III
December 11 – December 30 at the Unicorn Theatre
Playing December 11 – 15, December 17 – 22, and December 26 – 30 at 7pm. There will be 2pm matinee performances on December 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, and 28. A 10am matinee will be held on December 18. There will be no performances on December 24 and 25.
$20 child/student, $36 – $39 adult
BTF’s third annual production of the classic story about the redemptive power of kindness and generosity.
BTF 80th Birthday Party Celebration
Saturday, June 21
A festive Main Stage opening weekend celebration for BTF alumnae and friends, featuring pre-show dinners at private homes, pre-show cocktails and hors d’oeuvres under the Main Stage tent, and birthday cake and champagne after the performance, followed by dancing in the Paint Shop. Please call the Development Department for details: 413-298-5536 ext. 13.
BTF Community Festival Day
Friday, August 15th 11am – 3pm
On Community Festival Day, the BTF grounds will abound with actors, clowns, magicians, musicians, children’s games, and a kid-friendly auction. There will also be a costume shop tag sale, an 11am performance of Around the World in 80 Days, and a 2pm lecture about the history of BTF.
A Very Special Evening with Judy Kaye and David Green
Sunday, October 12th
This elegant evening will begin with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the Unicorn Theatre. Husband and wife Judy Kaye and David Green will sing their favorite Broadway songs. BTF audiences will be familiar with Ms. Kay from her performance in Souvenir and with Mr. Green from last season’s Mornings at Seven. Dinner at Wheatleigh in Lenox will follow the performance. Please call the Development Department for details: 413-298-5536 ext. 13.
Tickets – New in 2008
Full-time Berkshire Residents receive half-price tickets to Saturday matinee performances during the subscription series. (Copy of local driver’s license or winter heating bill required.)
Half-price tickets are available to students to all regular performances during the subscription series. (Copy of high school or college ID required.)
Contact the BTF Box Office at 413-298-5536 ext. 33 or visit www.berkshiretheatre.org.
All plays, schedules, and prices are subject to change.