Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

The Price of a Berkshire Summer

By Shera Cohen
Just when you thought there was no such thing as free or inexpensive things to do in the Berkshires, I prove you wrong. 

Lions Gate, Tanglewood, Photo by Stu Rosner
Jacob’s Pillow, Becket – during off hours, walk the grounds and view the visual art exhibit in Blake’s Barn; during “on hours” the Inside/Out dance program is free
Tanglewood, Lenox – the pristine grounds are there for the walking, weekend tours are free, and oftentimes you can pop in on a weekday rehearsal. Saturday morning rehearsals are quite reasonable. I hope nothing keeps me away from Ravel’s “Bolero” and Orff’s “Carmina Burana.”
Shakespeare in the Park, Pittsfield – in its second year, “R&J” kicked off the outdoor, free play, ans this summer don’t miss “The Tempest”

Stonebarn Farm, Lenox – this house & barn & ducks, directly across the street from Tanglewood, doubles as an art gallery for the locals
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown – close to Clark is the college’s year-round museum that can certainly hold a candle to any museum of its size anywhere
Good Purpose Gallery, Lee – young adults with special needs are given the opportunity to showcase and sell their various genres of art

Joe’s Diner, Lee – straight out of the 1950s with breakfast & lunch menu of comfort foods at comfortable prices, always crowded
Tanglewood, Lee – bring your own noshes, full course, paper plates, or fine china, and make sure you eat on the grounds
The Mount, Lenox – iced tea and scones, lemonade and tiny cookies follow each of the Monday lectures…so sophisticated
At home – nothing wrong with eating at home (in our case, a timeshare condo)

Many homes of the rich and famous are open to the public. Most are free or charge small admission.
Lenox includes: The Mount, Frelinghuysen Morris House, Ventfort Hall
Stockbridge: Chesterwood, Naumkeg, Bidwell House, Mission House
Also: Susan B. Anthony House in Adams, Arrowhead in Pittsfield
I have yet to see all of these homes; i.e. William Cullen Bryant Homestead, John Ashley House, and W.E.B. Du Bois National Historic Site.


Red Lion Inn Porch
, Stockbridge – if it’s dusk or evening, relax in one of the many rocking chairs
Antiquing, Great Barrington especially – miles of road, bordered on each side with antique shops, stretching from Stockbridge to Sheffield to shop or “window shop”
Art Galleries, throughout the Berkshires – items small and large, items under a $5 and over 10K.
Outlets, Lee – this is a must, lots of shoes & clothes; if you know retail prices before you go, you will find lots of bargains
The Mount, Lenox – Wharton on Wednesdays are only $5 to spend an afternoon listening to actors’ readings of Edith Wharton stories
Shrine of Divine Mercy, Stockbridge –up the road from Red Lion Inn is a beautiful expanse of land and large, historic, white church where tourists are welcome


S&C, Photo by Rob Jones
Four primary theatre venues in the Berkshires offer more than any theatre lover or novice could possibly see. However, I do quite a good job in my efforts to attend the majority of the presentations at: Barrington Stage Company (BSC), Berkshire Theatre Group (BTG), Shakespeare & Company (S&C) and Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF).
Last summer’s array of categories included: premiers, old chestnuts, Shakespeare, comedies, dramas, musicals, adaptations, and experimentation. Some titles are familiar, some are new; the same for names of playwrights. I often wonder how it must feel to be among the creative team, deep in the process of choosing a season. The end results have been a consistent balance, excellence, and many surprises.
BSC’s “Shining City” shocked, although star Mark H. Dold’s talent was far from surprising. Yet, what do you know – he was a master of comedy in “His Girl Friday”? In addition, BSC’s annual musical, somehow amazingly, tops that of the prior year. Since this is the case, the current season’s “Pirates of Penzance” might very well top “Man of La Mancha.” Special kudos to BSC for numerous premiers, including a musical. Schedule to see in 2016: “Peerless” and “American Son.”
BTG's "Bells", Photo by Michelle McGrady
I hate to be repetitive. However, I could very well substitute BTG’s 2015 summer successes on a par with BSC; premiers, a shining musical (“Bells Are Ringing”), creative spins to tried ‘n true (“Deathtrap”) and a new musical. To soon see: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Fiorello.”
WTF took a huge risk a year ago with seven premiers! All of the accolades attributed to the venues above apply to WTF as well. Yet, this theatre has the benefit of attracting many movie, television, and Broadway stars to its stages; i.e. Marisa Tomei, Kate Walsh, and Alfred Molina. On my calendar: “And No More Shall We Part.”
S&C is not for Shakespeare lover only, that’s why the “& Company” in its title.  Admittedly, the best of The Bard fills my calendar space first. “The Comedy of Errors,” (saw it twice in a matter of a few weeks) updated with 1950s Mafioso set, costumes, and nuances, was shamelessly uproarious. If you don’t like Shakespeare or have never tried it, please do! I won’t make a list for 2016, as I see every play there.
In addition to the foursome above, the performing arts (particularly theatre) are also staged at Mahaiwe, Colonial Theatre (part of BTG), Berkshire Fringe, The Mount, Ventfort Hall, MASS MoCA, and surely many other museums and historic homes.

Sometimes, I find that shopping in gift stores can be as enjoyable an experience as the play, concert, or museum. I am a glutton for these tiny shops. My fetish are mugs.
Tanglewood Glass House, Lenox – 2 huge shops (literally made of glass), situated on opposite ends of the grounds, sell everything imaginable related to Tanglewood or music
Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge – probably the smallest gift shop in the Berkshires, also the quaintest with garden and non-garden brick-a-brack
Clark Art Institute, Williamstown – for the educated artist/art lover or tourist who enjoyed their museum visit are books, reprints, cards, and fine jewelry
Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge – eclectic, charming, and jam-packed with wearable art, Berkshire memorabilia, and the best insect-repellant I’ve ever purchased.

Today’s museums aren’t what they used to be, and that’s a good thing. Yes, there are “things” to look at. Each museum offers a new special exhibit which runs all summer. Equally important, however, is that there are numerous ways for all ages to participate.
Museum Freebies: music concerts, cooking classes, family tours, book readings, dance, films, puppet shows, guest artists, an array of kid activities.
Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield – Little Cinema hosts indies, foreign, and small films. I could watch the aquarium fish for hours. The upcoming “Finding Raven” exhibit looks fascinating.
MASS MoCA, North Adams – It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a strange (contemporary) exhibit (last summer’s “It’s Super, Man”); it’s also BIG, everything there is BIG.
Photo Courtesy of Berkshire Visitors Bureau
Clark Art Institute, Williamstown – Clark’s new wing, obviously, offers more space for its impressive collections. Last summer’s Van Gogh show was haunting. This summer brings Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge – NRW is my perfect example of re-appreciating (is that a word) The Four Freedoms and the hundreds of Post Magazine covers. Rockwell and Realism in an Abstract World is the museum’s upcoming exhibit.

Cranwell, Capitol Steps, Lenox – 5 super comedians & pianist take a musical romp through contemporary politics, an annual treat, and this presidential year is sure be hilarious.
The Whit (Whitney Center for the Arts), Pittsfield – a newly discovered (by me) venue, not fancy, with a smorgasbord of music highlighting jazz
Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge – art in nature through acres of landscaped beauty, with a fun kids’ garden, and painters and canvases strewn about
Berkshire Comedy Festival, Mahaiwe
Mahaiwe, Great Barrington –a lovely, old, renovated multi-purpose relic bringing dance (Paul Taylor Dancers) music, comedy, and theatre to the center of town: Viva Momix, Aston Magna, and Kelli O’Hara
Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield – see Mahaiwe, but in Pittsfield. Colonial is part of Berkshire Theatre Group. Upcoming: “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Sevenars, Worthington – this family of three generations of musicians keep going strong as they bring their love of music to area audiences.
Jewish Film Festival, Lenox – an annual event featuring contemporary stories and documentaries for anyone with interest
Berkshire Choral Festival, Great Barrington – couple the Springfield Symphony with hundreds of singers from throughout the word, making wonderful music together
Jacob's Pillow
Jacob’s Pillow, Becket – two stages host the best of modern, classical, and ethnic dance from throughout the world
Tanglewood – the BSO plus a who’s who of classical musicians and vocalists in the pastoral setting mountaintop; see above as Tanglewood falls into numerous wonderful categories.

For more information on these and other attractions visit