Larry Murray: Does it feel a bit schizophrenic having two offices, two sets of responsibilities?
Kate Maguire: At the beginning I thought i might be somewhat schizophrenic, but it hasn’t happened. It’s been ok so far. The coming summer is an unknown but I think it is going to be good. I’ve never done this before. But there has not been a single moment where I thought “this is a mistake.” I find that interesting.
LM: I imagine the complexities are many. You have to work with two different boards, produce two different seasons, and raise funds for two different potential shortfalls.KM: Yes, and I think I’ve discovered a lot about who I am. I knew that the world had changed so fundamentally that we had to change too. I recognized that I loved the theatre, that’s a given, but…I actually love serving the public and being a public servant more. That may sound a little funny, but this merger taking on the Colonial Theatre feels in large part that I am really serving the community.
LM: A theatre like the Colonial can become one of Pittsfield’s most treasured assets.
KM: Some of the most exciting aspects of this have been my meetings with those who live and work here,especially the young people. For example, I have been impressed with the kids who connect through the JVC (Juvenile Resource Center). When I went over there, it was one of the most exciting days I have had in Pittsfield. I sat in a classroom with them, mostly teens, and asked who they would book into the Colonial. They immediately responded with names of bands and singers, and I immediately saw that music was a major part of their lives.
It was an instant reminder of just how important music was to me too when I was their age. Music connects us. Especially in our earlier years.
LM: And it remains with us all our lives.
KM: For the young set, it’s a universal language. It isn’t just for some kids, it’s for all of them. My son is sixteen, and the dances at Monument Mountain are the same dances that are in Pittsfield: hip hop, pop, and rap.After talking with them, we decided to program someone in from their set of interests. When Barefoot Truth, a local band is here, it’s packed. That’s exciting to me, so one of the things I am doing is putting together a youth board from the different high schools who want to help with this. They’ll provide some valuable input and then we will mentor them so they can follow the event and learn about the music industry by becoming part of it.
LM: Their involvement will help create the buzz, the audience.
KM: And become an integral part of the Colonial’s offerings, becoming part of the larger institution. When this broader view, with its the north-south connection, and the younger-older diversity melds together, our mutual vision of the future becomes quite bright.
As the Boards of the Colonial and Berkshire Theatre Festival have worked on the merger documents it no longer feels like we are dealing with two different organizations, but with one entity that has three stages in the larger community.
LM: Isn’t it often the case that when two organizations merge, sometimes they raise less money than when they operated independently?KM: That may be true for some, but I haven’t found that yet. In fact many local businesses see it as giving them much more reach and exposure. When they sponsor a local production at the Colonial, they are sponsoring it at BTF as well because they are going to reach both audiences. The impact for businesses is much greater.
LM: Tell us about using the larger Colonial stage for BTF productions.
KM: Well you remember that we had 150 orphans on the Main Stage of BTF for Annie last Fall. Well imagine how many munchkins and puppies we can have on stage for our Wizard of Oz here. The stage is enormous. So it is just logical that the impact is higher with the merger than before.
In fact, we are not finding any reduction of interest, we’re finding more.
Then in terms of systems, there are advantages too. Bringing the BTF staff here in the winter reduces our heating and electric bills. We can share some of the technical equipment and such. And the staffs are working well together as well.
The changes are a lot of work, but it is feeling ok to me. Especially in these challenging times.
LM: All the cultural organizations are hard pressed financially. The financial difficulties of institutions like The Mount and Shakespeare and Company have been well publicized.
KM: Bottom line, it has not been easy for any of us. It often is, as it always has been, a matter of will.
LM: Not just of the creative team, but of the board leadership as well. But I wonder, is there a bigger risk taker in the Berkshires than yourself?
KM: We’re all risk takers. I don’t have fears about the risks because once the decisions are made, I feel confident. For example I feel that I understand what this theatre is (Kate sweeps her arm to embrace all of the Colonial’s spaces) and what it can be, that the community will fully wrap its arms around it. It’s an extraordinary theatre, and when they restored it, they really did it right. It’s a dream come true.
LM: You mentioned the munchkins coming to the Colonial Stage but even before that you have announced Tommy, the Who’s rock musical. One of the highlights of the Broadway production was when Tommy‘s father, Captain Walker parachutes out of a plane and falls through a trap door on the stage.KM: We have a trap door. And we have Randy Harrison to play Tommy. It’s going to be good. Really good. He’s perfect.
LM: The first year I interviewed him he said he wasn’t much interested in musicals.
KM: And when I called him he said “yes.” It’s such a perfect production for this theatre, and I just love the musical, it’s The Who, and it’s a great transitional piece. When I told my sixteen year-old we were doing Tommy, he simply said: “Yes.” So with Randy to play Tommy, we also have James Barry who just finished Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson on Broadway. They both love working with Eric (Hill, the director) and Gerry McIntryre is choreographing.
LM: It’s almost a historic piece of theatre by now.
KM: I know, that’s so true, it’s just a classic. And it’s so perfect. The story looks at someone who’s under the bright lights, and we are looking at that situation all the time. (Click here for a full story on the forthcoming Tommy.)
LM: You also have a delightful Gurney in there…
KM: Yes, we got the green light for Sylvia, it’s so sweet. I just love that play. You know David Adkins and Jurian Hughes really worked so well together last fall in No Wake so I wanted to find a piece for them.
And then I have a brand new play by Kathleen Clark called In the Mood, though we are still talking about who the right director for that piece will be. It’s a real contemporary farce about a woman who gives a surprise party that goes awry.
And a Tennessee Williams, Period of Adjustment, which hasn’t been done very often. David Auburn is directing and it will be interesting to see where he ends up with that. The script we may use is the one they used four years ago at the Almeida Theatre in London.
They pared the cast down to four people from eight. Williams described the play as a comedy, and it is funny. But in the middle of the play there is a discussion between two men that is pure WIlliams. So you might say it is a serious comedy.
LM: Is there a cameo in there for you? You were great in Glass Menagerie and it’s been a while.
KM: (laughing) No, no, no, there’s nothing there for me, thank you for saying that, but you are going to have to wait a while longer. I don’t think I will be acting for a while.But here’s a real treat: Karen Allen is going to be directing Moonchildren. She directed it at SImon’s Rock and asked if we could do it at BTF. Moonchildren is big, so I needed to wait a year to fit it into the budget. I’m really thrilled, I love her work, and we’ve known each other for a long time.
The next one at the Unicorn is Dutch Masters which is written by actor Greg Keller, who has done so much with us. He just finished the Julliard playwriting program. He gave me this play last June and as soon as I read it, I told him we would do it.
You know when we were talking about he next generation, and Dutch Masters is about that next generation talking about race. It’s another world premiere and I am very excited about it.
LM: I see there is Finian’s Rainbow, the musical at the Unicorn, which I take it is by the apprentices.
KM: Actually this year we will reassemble the Unicorn Company which will be supported by the apprentices, so it is still a pre-professional company, but these young people who we are looking at will be just coming out of their MFA programs. Slightly different, and to be directed by Kyle Fabel. He directed our production of No Wake last fall, and he goes back to the old Unicorn some 13 years ago or so. SInce then he has directed quite a few musicals, and he has a good sense of them.
Finally, Birthday Boy is written by one of our local playwrights, Chris Newbound. It’s a delightful fantasy of a piece about young people in love, mud season in Vermont, and Tara Franklin will be joining us for that.It has the initial opening early in September, takes a break during back to school and then reopens at the end of the month and runs into October. Following that we have the wonderful Made in the Berkshires Festival which celebrates our Berkshire theatre, music, dance creators and film makers. It will run two weekends in October at both the Colonial and the BTF. (Separate story here.)
As 2011 draws to a close we will stage A Christmas Carol here at the Colonial.
LM: That leaked out as a possibility last December, and the local members of the cast were really excited at the prospect.
KM: It’s going to make for a very festive holiday this year.
LM: In fact, it looks like 2011 will be remarkable. How do you keep the energy level up?
KM: It’s because of that core thought, that theatre matters. Not only to me, but to all the people from different walks of life who contribute to it through their work and support. Most of all I think that theatre matters to me because as I watch all the people walking through the Colonial lobby, or into one of our BTF playhouses, over time I see a whole community, and in the end, they are there because theatre matters to them, too.
The 2011 Schedule
The Berkshire Theatre Festival 2011 will feature three world premieres, three classic plays and another musical in addition to The Who’s Tommy. Here’s the rundown:
BTF/Colonial Season Kick-off
The Who’s Tommy music and lyrics by Pete Townshend, book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
Additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
Featuring James Barry (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and Randy Harrison (Boq in Wicked, TV’s Queer as Folk)
Produced by Berkshire Theatre Festival, Presented at The Colonial Theatre
Directed by Eric Hill
Previews July 7, 8, 9 @ 2pm
Opening Night/Press Night July 9 @ 8pm
Closes July 16
Tickets A: $49 • B: $40 • C: $20
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday at 7pm, Thursday and Saturday at 2pm
The original rock opera, The Who’s Tommy is at once a show-stopping rock concert and a cautionary tale of the power and perils of celebrity. We witness Tommy Walker from his birth, through the shocking episodes of his childhood that render him deaf, mute and blind, as he conquers the world with his stardom, and finally after the crowds have turned on him. Featuring legendary songs by the Who, including “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me” and “Tommy, Can You Hear Me?” and with a cast including James Barry of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson as Captain Walker and Randy Harrison from Wicked and Queer as Folk as Tommy, this promises to be the event of the summer in the Berkshires.
At the Fitzpatrick Main Stage (83 E. Main St, Stockbridge)
Ticket prices for all events $15-$49 unless otherwise noted.
Performance schedule is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday at 7pm, Thursday and Saturday at 2pm unless otherwise noted.
Sylvia by A. R. Gurney
Directed by Anders Cato
Featuring David Adkins and Jurian Hughes
Previews July 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 @ 2pm
Opening Night/Press Night July 16 @ 8pm
Closes July 30
Kate and Greg, empty-nesters living in Manhattan, have a comfortable life. Their static world is turned upside down when Sylvia jumps in Greg’s lap one day in the park. Part-lab, part-poodle and 100% woman, Sylvia forces the pair to come to terms with who they are as individuals and as a couple. A. R. Gurney’s most improbable love-triangle will have you laughing out loud. The New York Times called it “so full of theatrical intelligence and writerly skill that it consistently pleases.”
In the Mood by Kathleen Clark
Previews August 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 @ 2pm
Opening Night/Press Night August 6 @ 8pm
Closes August 13
The World Premiere of a romantic comedy in which a couple rides the roller coaster of love and marriage. As Perri Rubin makes final preparations for the perfect surprise party in their penthouse apartment, the situation starts to spin out of control. In the best traditions of Wilde and Coward, In The Mood sings with sharp repartee and biting humor.
Period of Adjustment by Tennessee Williams
Directed by David Auburn
Previews August 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 @ 2pm
Opening Night/Press Night August 20 @ 8pm
Closes September 3
Ralph Bates is a Korean War hero facing problems with his in-laws. His former comrade George has just married the beautiful but naïve Isabel, but he’s suffering with “the shakes.” They meet up on a snowy Christmas Eve in Tennessee where all of their problems come to a head. A self-described “serious comedy,” Williams has once again filled the stage with compelling characters dealing with the most difficult of problems in real ways.
At the Unicorn Theatre (6 East St, Stockbridge)
Ticket prices for all events $15-$39 unless otherwise noted.
Performance schedule is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday at 7pm, Thursday and Saturday at 2pm unless otherwise noted.
Moonchildren by Michael Weller
Directed by Karen Allen
Previews June 28, 29, 30, July 1, 2 @ 2pm
Opening Night/Press Night July 2 @ 8pm
Closes July 16
Often cited as the definitive play about young adults of the 1960’s, Michael Weller’s show is a stunning picture of a turbulent time. Set over the course of the 1965-1966 school year in an unnamed college town, eight students embark on their final year of study against the backdrop of a world enmeshed in struggles over feminism, civil rights and the Vietnam war. As the pressures and pains of the “real world” touch upon the friends, their coming-of-age provides a mirror of the sea change occurring throughout the country. Gripping, funny, and fully realized, Moonchildren is an under-appreciated masterwork by one of our great writers.
Dutch Masters by Greg Keller
Directed by TBA
Previews July 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 @ 2pm
Opening Night/Press Night July 23 @ 8pm
Closes August 6
In the summer of 1992, two young adult men find themselves on the same subway car headed uptown. One white, one black, the two will discover over the course of one afternoon exactly what it is that unites and divides them. A dramatic comedy that continually surprises and defies expectation, Dutch Masters is a shocking examination of race relations in our time. This production is part of Lift Ev’ry Voice, Celebrating African-American Culture & Heritage in the Berkshires.
Finian’s Rainbow Book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Burton Lane
Directed by Kyle Fabel
Previews August 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 @ 2pm
Opening Night August 13 @ 8pm
Closes August 27
A production of the Unicorn Company (BTF’s pre-professional acting troupe)
BTF’s pre-professional Unicorn Company will once again be filling the Berkshires with song in this classic comedic tale. Finian and his daughter Sharon have come to Missitucky from Ireland with a stolen pot of gold which Finian believes he can make grow by burying it near Fort Knox. When the wronged leprechaun catches up with them, hijinks ensue. This musical, in a lovely two-piano arrangement, is full of comedy, political satire and some of the best tunes in the American Musical songbook. Following in the footsteps of Babes in Arms and Candide, this is an event you won’t want to miss.
Birthday Boy by Chris Newbound
Directed by Wes Grantom
Preview August 30
Opening Night/Press Night Wednesday, August 31 @ 7pm
Runs Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm
1st Closing September 3
Reopens September 29 (runs Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Saturday & Sunday at 2pm)
Final Closing October 16
Part of the Made in the Berkshires festival
As Matt nears his fortieth birthday, he finds himself at a crossroads in his life. His wife Arianne wants to take a mud season vacation to Vermont. His job is safe, though far from stimulating. When he begins a flirtation with a comely colleague he finds himself discovering just how absurd everyday life can be. This world premiere work provides a comic look at marriage, life and growing older.
Season passes to the full slate of BTF plays as well as to the Colonial are still available. Contact the BTF Box Office at (413) 298-5576 or visit www.berkshiretheatre.org for more information on a BTF Season Pass. Contact the Colonial Box Office at (413) 997-4444 or visit www.thecolonialtheatre.org for more information on a Colonial Season Pass
Member tickets for Colonial events are exclusively available from February 25-March 13. Contact the Colonial Box Office at (413) 997-4444 or visit www.thecolonialtheatre.org for more information.
Single tickets for all events go on sale March 14 to the general public. For BTF productions (including Tommy) contact the BTF Box Office at (413) 298-5576 or visit www.berkshiretheatre.org to purchase. For Colonial events contact the Colonial Box Office at (413) 997-4444 or visit www.thecolonialtheatre.org for more information.
All plays, schedules, casting, events and prices are subject to change.