From the moment that two of the Berkshire’s most venerable institutions announced their fusion into one new entity, most everyone has wondered what that would mean in terms of Berkshire arts and entertainment. The answer is now in, and it is a good one. The formal merger is still in the works from a legal standpoint, but the synergy has begun.
Artistic Director/CEO Kate Maguire (seen in photo above) unveiled the 2011 plans which revealed a strong focus on excellence and affordability, and a dizzying array of local and world class attractions. The new programming begins in May and covers the remainder of 2011. The extensive announcement included both the Berkshire Theatre Festival (BTF) and Colonial Theatre.
Combined, the two institutions will present over 25 different live arts events both independently as well as in collaboration with each other and with other Berkshire organizations, large and small.The 2011 schedule includes three world premiere theatre performances produced by BTF, three separate BTF musical productions on the Colonial stage, a rare appearance by noted columnist Frank Rich and live performances of some of the leading artists in the worlds of theatre, jazz and comedy. Among the organizations that will be co-promoting events will be Lift Ev’ry Voice, the Pittsfield 250th anniversary committee, Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, Word x Word Festival, and ZipStohr Comedy.
In Kate Maguire’s book, local and world class acts deserve equal billing. The Colonial is for everyone she says.
Says Maguire: “It has been a tremendous experience putting together our first season with the combination of BTF and the Colonial. I feel like this season really responds to the needs of our community by being artistically stimulating and connected to the people of Berkshire County.”
At the Colonial, the offerings will range from the home grown to the legendary, including programs with David Sedaris, Tommy Tune, Natalie McMaster and Arlo Guthrie. “Being able to utilize the Colonial has opened up wonderful opportunities for us at BTF,” Maguire continued, “allowing us to present a wonderful musical like The Who’s Tommy in a truly beautiful venue. We are able to maintain an 83 year tradition of presenting great theatre in Stockbridge with three world premieres and four great American classics. Working with our programmer, Simon Shaw, we are presenting some old favorites as well as some exciting new acts that Berkshire audiences will adore. This season really begins to show the potential of our partnership.”
Simon agreed, adding: “What we really want to do is put on stage high caliber artists that speak to the people of the county. We want to also keep the prices reasonable and allow everyone to come be a part of what we are creating here. This is only the beginning as we will be adding new shows throughout the summer and fall to flesh out one of the most inclusive presenting seasons ever seen.”
Two of the ways they will be doing that is to keep prices for the second balcony seats in the same range as the cost of a movie and popcorn, about $15 for most events. A second is to reconfigure the lobby space for more informal events, some free, some paid. And it appears that even the more expensive seats have been scaled back in cost. The imperative to make the arts available to everyone has to reconcile the importance of meeting the budget. In the live performing arts it is rare for ticket sales to cover all the costs involved.BTF and The Colonial Theatre are two of the oldest cultural institutions in Berkshire County. The Colonial, founded in 1903, is a gilded age treasure of a theatre, once the home of some of the leading actors, speakers and musicians in the country.
Recently restored to its full glory, it is now Pittsfield’s community theatre, once again presenting the finest live arts in Berkshire County. BTF, founded in 1928, was one of the first regional theatres in the country and has produced theatre that matters for 82 years in Stockbridge, MA. In 2010, BTF and the Colonial agreed to an ongoing partnership, creating a unique organization that both produces and presents world-class performers on their three stages.
The details of each venues offerings are in Parts II (Berkshire Theatre Festival) and III (Colonial Theatre), as well as a detailed look at the first Berkshire Theatre Festival production to grace the Colonial Stage, a fully staged production of the rock opera, The Who’s Tommy coming in July.
In a nutshell, here is the breakdown of events for the 2011 season, with more to follow as bookings and negotiations are completed for other attractions.
2011 Season at a Glance (Stage/Theatre in parenthesis)
1 – Tanglewood Music Center Fellows Concert 2pm (Colonial) (addition to 2010-2011 season)
2 – Sherri Buxton and Friends: Songs from the Great American Songbook with Special Guest Matt Cusson 7pm (Colonial)
18 – Bobby Sweet 8pm (Colonial)
19 – God’s Trombone’s part of Lift Ev’ry Voice TBD (Colonial)
28-30 – Moonchildren (Unicorn)
1-16 – Moonchildren continues (Unicorn)
6-16 – Hansel and Gretel’s Grimm Tale (Berkshire Museum)
7-16 – The Who’s Tommy (Colonial)
12-30 – Sylvia (Fitzpatrick Main Stage)
19-30 – Dutch Masters (Unicorn)
1-6 – Dutch Masters continues (Unicorn)
2-13 – In The Mood (Fitzpatrick Main Stage)
9-27 – Finian’s Rainbow (Unicorn)
11 – Tommy Tune in Steps in Time: A Broadway Biography. . . 7:30pm (Colonial)
13 – Bakin’ with the Boss Tour starring Buddy Valastro: The Cake Boss (Colonial)
16-31 – Period of Adjustment (Fitzpatrick Main Stage)
20 – Word x Word Festival (Colonial)
30-31 – Birthday Boy (Unicorn)
1-3 – Period of Adjustment continues (Fitzpatrick Main Stage)
1-3 – Birthday Boy continues (Unicorn)
9-11 – The Wizard of Oz (Colonial)
24 – Berkshire Comedy Spotlight II (Colonial)
29-30 – Birthday Boy re-opens (Unicorn)
1-16 – Birthday Boy continues (Unicorn)
8-10; 15-17 – Made in the Berkshires New Works Festival (Unicorn & Colonial)
9 – Frank Rich 2pm (Colonial)
15 – The Grace Kelly Quartet with special guest Phil Woods in association with the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival (Colonial)
19 – David Sedaris 7:30pm (Colonial)
12 – Christopher O’Riley 8pm (Colonial)
19 – Arlo Guthrie 8pm (Colonial)
30 – Natalie MacMaster 7:30pm (Colonial)
17-30 – A Christmas Carol (Colonial)