Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 3, 2022

Preview: Barrington Stage , “Mr. Finn's Cabaret”

Barrington Stage, Pittsfield, MA
Sept. 30 through Oct. 8, 2022

Mr. Finn's Cabaret features a variety of music genres in a fun, casual mix of primarily local
talent.

Billy Keane and the Waking Dream with Billy Keane and Friends
Friday, October 7, 7 p.m.
No stranger to Barrington Stage, Billy Keane is a well known band member of Whiskey Treaty Roadshow. Ranging from psychedelic indie rock, to acoustic singer/songwriter folk, Billy Keane and The Waking Dream create unique musical experiences, wide ranging and dynamic, blurring the line between prearranged and improvised.


Gospel Night
Saturday, October 8, 7 p.m.
What: Back by popular demand! After being a big hit at this year's Celebration of Black Voices Festival, Music Director Gary Mitchell, Jr. has assembled the singers once again, but this time to shake the rafters of Mr. Finn's with their soaring voices!


Preview: Paradise City Arts Festival, “Talking to the Creators”

Fair Grounds, Northampton, MA
October 8, 9, 10, 2022

Twenty-five years ago, two artists had a vision – to create a world-class arts festival at the
historic, but admittedly rustic, fairgrounds in Northampton. “When we first walked the Northampton Fairgrounds in 1994, puzzling over the pieces that would come to be known as the Paradise City Arts Festival, we took a giant leap of faith,” say Founding Directors Linda and Geoffrey Post. “We pictured the Arena, a cavernous horse barn, transformed into a venue to showcase museum quality master craft and fine art. We worried whether we could draw serious art and craft lovers from across the country to the small New England town of Northampton.”

Currently, the Festival fills three newly erected buildings, an outdoor Sculpture Promenade, and a 12,000sq-ft Festival Dining Tent. The latter features on-going live music by local talent. The 1940's big band and jazz music of the O'Tones is just one of many groups performing over the course of three days. 


Visitors travel from all 50 states to experience an environment that features a collection of the nation’s finest craft makers and independent artists. In 1998, the Posts took their show on the road. They now hold a Paradise City Arts Festival in Boston’s western suburbs twice a year. 

Geoffrey & Linda Post
Both Geoffrey and Linda Post are practicing artists. “Making a living as a practicing artist is no easy thing,” Geoff explains, “being creative in your studio, coming up with a body of work that excites you, hoping that customers will respond, then packing it all up and bringing it to a show. But you’re still not done. You need to put on your marketing hat and connect with your customers and display your work in a way that people will respond to.” Their lives as artists lay the foundation for the guiding principles of Paradise City: respect artists in all ways possible, make shows easy, fun and profitable, and help artists reach an ever-growing audience at these shows and beyond.

“Our passion for art, sculpture and craft collecting has exposed us to a world of interesting ideas, fascinating and talented people and extraordinary experiences,” Geoff and Linda say. “Our travels have taken us to galleries in big cities and out-of-the-way places, art museums, alternative spaces, sculpture parks and artists’ studios. The one-of-a-kind world of Paradise City grows daily, filled with a community of like-minded individuals.

September 22, 2022

PREVIEW: Shakespeare & Company, "Golden Leaf Ragtime Blues"

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
September 26 - October 30, 2022

"Golden Leaf" Cast and Crew
With a script that’s been revisited and deepened by the playwright 30 years after it was first published, Shakespeare & Company presents Golden Leaf Ragtime Blues by Charles Smith. Directed by Raz Golden, the play takes place over the course of one afternoon in the early 1990's, post-LA Riots, and explores the unusual connection between a Black teenager and an aging Jewish vaudevillian through comedy and music.

It was originally written in 1992, developed by the American Blues Theatre Company of Chicago, and the HBO New Writers Workshop. However, Smith has reworked the script just this year, and Golden Leaf Ragtime Blues will be presented in its current form for the first time at Shakespeare & Company.

A Distinguished Professor of Theatre at Ohio University, Smith said he began to treat himself like his own pupil. “I’ve worked with a number of young writers, so I gave myself the notes I would give to a young writer. The result is something I’m delighted with – and what I consider a new play.”

Golden agreed, calling the production “more of an ensemble piece.”
“There is more reflection on the psyche, and more examination of how the political world can affect how we connect with others,” he said. “In the background is the political reality of that time, but purposefully foregrounded are the smaller scale experiences of four people.”

Among the cast is Kevin G. Coleman, a founding member of Shakespeare & Company and its Director of Education. He works in the Performance and Training departments as an actor, teacher, and director, 

In 2016, he was Runner-up for the Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre Education. Along with Patrick Toole, Coleman recently produced the film Speak What We Feel, documenting the Fall Festival of Shakespeare.

September 14, 2022

REVIEW: South Mountain Concerts, "Calidore String Quartet"

South Mountain Concerts, Pittsfield, MA 
September 11, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

Changeable Berkshire weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of the enthusiastic audience that welcomed the Calidore String Quartet – violinists Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan, violist Jeremy Berry, and cellist Estelle Choi – to their triumphant fourth appearance at this storied venue. Formed in 2010 at the Colburn School in Los Angeles and named after the “golden state” of their roots (“dore” is French for “golden”), the ensemble has since won worldwide acclaim. 

Their program began with Mozart’s 17th quartet, in B-flat Major, K. 458. Written in 1784 as the fourth of six quartets that Mozart dedicated to Haydn, it was nicknamed “The Hunt” because its fanfare-like start reminded early listeners of a hunting call. The Calidore’s lively account featured an energetic opening “Allegro vivace assai,” a stately “Menuetto: Moderato,” a ravishing “Adagio,” and a thrilling “Allegro assai” finale. 

In a spoken introduction to Bartok’s 1909 first string quartet, Meehan described it as the
composer “finding his voice,” from the early influence of Richard Strauss to his mature mix of modernism with the folk music of his native Hungary. The foursome played this technically demanding score with awesome intensity, capturing the mournful angst of the opening “Lento” movement (which Bartok called a “funeral dirge” for his unrequited love of Hungarian violinist Stefi Geyer), the more playful mood of the following “Allegretto,” and the fast and furious humor of the folk-flavored closing “Allegro vivace.” 

These high spirits continued in the program’s closing work, the 1876 third string quartet by Brahms, who cheerfully called it a “useless trifle,” especially when compared to his contemporaneous first symphony. In the same B-flat Major key as Mozart’s “Hunt” quartet, its opening “Vivace” movement also begins with a hunting call, which the Calidores played with exuberant gusto. This was followed by a somber “Andante,” a tender “Agitato (Allegretto non troppo),” with a lovely solo turn by violist Berry, and a kaleidoscopic final “Poco Allegretto con Variazione,” in which Brahms recalls themes from earlier movements with typically resourceful bravado.

South Mountain requires masking inside the concert hall. The venerable 2022 Sunday afternoon concert series of chamber music performed by world-class musicians runs through October 9, with upcoming performances by the Emerson and St. Lawrence String Quartets.

September 12, 2022

REVIEW: Majestic Theater, "Mamma Mia!"

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through Oct. 16, 2022 (run extended, call to check)
by Shera Cohen

I doubt if there is anyone who could leave the 
production of "Mamma Mia!" at The Majestic Theater without singing or humming one of the many songs aloud, or at least has an ear- worm stuck in their head. "Dancing Queen," "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme", and the musical's title "Mamma Mia!" instantly come to mind. All of the music are ABBA hits wrapped around a sweet, mundane story line. Some songs fit the plot quite well, others do not. But who cares? 

For those who have not seen MM on a stage or at the movies: Set on a Greek island, 20-year-old Sophie is about to marry cute guy Sky. Sophie wants her dad to walk her down the aisle, but she doesn't know which of mom's 3 past boyfriends was the sperm donor. All are nice guys who want to step up. Mom has loyal but somewhat whacko lady friends for additional comic relief. All works out, although not quite as expected.

The "serious" relationship, which calls for serious acting is that of Donna, our heroine (Cate Damon) and Sam, the assumed father (Ben Ashley). Each has acted numerous times on The Majestic's stage and each are proven entities in their vocal ability, acting skills, and nuances, which are so important in making a character a real human. The full cast numbers 20. They know who they are, and the space for all those names to credit goes beyond this review. I'll just say, that except for two actors who didn't sing in unison, I find no flaws.

The Majestic and its founder Danny Eaton celebrate the theatre's 25th Anniversary with a literal bang as resident music director Mitch Chakour conducts his five-piece band (only 5?) to perform the prelude compilation of hits. Eaton's director's note states his hope to make this take on MM somehow unique to all of the thousands of MMs throughout the world. That's a tough challenge. Eaton especially credits the backstage crew in making this Greek island a place of freedom, joy, and separation from any mainland worries.

There are also too many names on the list of people who shine backstage: designers of lights, sound, set, costumes, and all those who the audience never sees. The Majestic's program book, as opposed to all other programs that I have seen in local and regional theatre, gives headshots and written bio credit to all these talented individuals. If adding the cast and crew together, the bottom line is that the Majestic's season opener is BIG.

I have never seen a full house at a Sunday matinee. I have also never seen such an enthusiastic audience. Not to worry, masks are required. A helpful side benefit, at least for me, is to muffle the audience members who insist on singing along. Sure, I'd like to join them, but don't. However, the end of MM is a surprise to newbies, when singing is definitely encouraged.

Special kudos to Russell Garrett who did double duty as one of the potential dads, but more importantly as choreographer. Two show-stopping numbers with all onstage, coupled with the musical's ancillary finale, prompt audience members to bounce up to give a deserved standing ovation.

August 30, 2022

On the Road: Thoughts from the Tanglewood Lawn

Celebration of Stephen Sondheim Music
August 18, 2022
by Erica Schutz

Photo courtesy BSO.ORG/TANGLEWOOD
Upon arrival to Tanglewood's grounds, the parking attendants were warm and kind with big smiles. Getting out of my car, we observed many people serving a kind of tailgate picnic. Others were walking in quite early, as I was. It's rare to experience an all-Stephen Sondheim concert.

Walking straight to the tix booth for directions I observed the press porch. The young attendants pointed the way and made me, what I would call a “hall pass” to bring until I got the real thing. The porch was actually an old grey house surrounded by lovely little hills of grass. Also, the Pepperidge Farm cookies were welcome goodies.

I noticed a father and small son playing frisbee in a large section of the lawns that was unoccupied. They were in matching shirts and having a great time. This is not unusual, as generations mix in joyful activities, pre-concert.

Many parties had set up their lawn seating areas further away from the larger group at the front. Some had basic picnic blanket arrangements, others dined elegantly, defining their areas as if the lawn created small living rooms complete with coffee table, throw pillows, flowers, and candelabra. Everyone appeared well prepared to be comfortable in their own ways.

I chose a central spot on the green closer to the shed and set up my own space. The people around welcomed me and offered to share snacks and wine. I declined but was glad to feel part of the group. I've heard that Tanglewood audience members are a pleasant and generous group. It's true.

I settled in to enjoy my picnic that I had brought and review the lengthy playbill. I was about an hour early, but it seemed as if little time had passed before the bell rang to announce the concert was about to begin. The weather cooperated, and the camaraderie of concert goers was evident. The lights dimmed and the digital screens stopped looping the commercial ads. The live feed of the stage filled the screen, and the applause began for the entering musicians. Even though we couldn’t see the actual stage, the lawn audience, which included me, behaves as if we were in the shed.

Photo courtesy of BSO.ORG/TANGLEWOOD


The music began. It became clear that most people around me were huge fans of Sondheim. Many heads bobbed along to the rhythm and a few danced in their seats. Partway through the first section of the program, an older gent next to me commented to his group that he didn’t know any of the music that he just heard. However, when intermission came, he began humming and singing "A Weekend in the Country" over and over. Apparently, he had been caught by a Sondheim earworm for sure! This lasted through intermission. 

Children of all ages were snuggled on laps, had seats of their own, and I noticed a few had little camp beds set up in wagons, or strollers. There were a few small playpens, too. To my surprise, I never heard crying or fussing the entire night.

The concert was amazing, as to be expected. The audience on the lawn stayed to applaud until the last moment. I was right there with them. We made for the gates together, but there was room for all and only a short wait to cross the street to reach the parking lots.   The environs had a different feeling that night. It could be I was just paying more attention. It was a joyous energy. I found myself singing as I drove, thinking about all the friendly people I had met and the experience we shared together listening to Sondheim. 

August 29, 2022

ON THE ROAD: Berkshire Highlights, Summer 2022

by Shera Cohen

Jacob's Pillow, Becket, MA
We almost missed Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble due to an error on our clock. We made it from Lenox to Becket in record time, arriving just as a young intern musician happened to be parked in a white golf cart. We are finding more and more mini carts on the campuses of numerous performing art venues in the Berkshires. 

Cleo Parker Robinson brought her 14 or so young, accomplished, professional dancers to present modern, folk, ballet, and jazz footwork. Robinson narrated each piece prior to each to performance. In hiring dance troupes for its summer season, the Pillow has nothing but the best. Parker Robinson's company recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

For those in the dance field, the Pillow offered classes, community workshops, annual art exhibits in the barn, and Pillowtalk; the latter usually given by Pillow dancers or dance historians. Nearly all of these ancillary programs are free.

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
"Measure for Measure"
"Hymn" was a study in character of two men who, later in life, discover that they are half-brothers. That was not a spoiler, as this knowledge comes early in the play. Not surprisingly, the men first met at their father's funeral. They are complete opposites in beliefs, demeanor, family issues, and dreams. Director Regge Life, kept the play and the actors' bodies and minds working constantly. Dance and song spoke to camaraderie as well as feigned joy between the brothers. The audience could see the end coming. This was the only way to properly complete the play. 

Two important facts to know about Shakespeare & Company: the campus has many theatres, both indoors and outdoors. Check the location before you go. Also, the venue's title might be confusing since only 50% of the plays are Shakespearian; the balance are relatively new works. 

"Hymn" finished its run  on August 28th. "Measure for Measure" runs through September 18th, and "Golden Leaf Rag Time Blues" will be produced September 23-October 30, 2022.

TurnPark, West Stockbridge
TurnPark, perhaps the newest venue on my Berkshire journey, is a mecca for sculpture. Always on the lookout for new art venues in the Berkshires, two years ago I discovered TurnPark by chance. My Plus 1 friend and I traversed the uneven ground and rocks high and low. It's a hiker's dream location. TurnPark's indoor exhibitions of art and sculpture are often unique. A lovely Russian couple showed us the terrain and the many professional huge sculpture pieces throughout the park. It was happenstance that their 16-acre location was on Moscow Road, West Stockbridge. 

No longer in its infancy, TurnPark has coupled architecture studies, performances in numerous genres, and nature. What was once a marble quarry has been recreated into a sculpture park. A natural rock formation on several layers of the ground looks as if it was already designed as seats in an ancient Roman theatre. TurnPark has grown incredibly since my last visit, hosting performances such as modern dance, stand-up comedy, poetry readings, as well as a Ukraine Fundraiser Event.

TurnPark's current exhibit is "New Works - New Walls," through October 31, 2022.

Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA
Illustrating Race through October 22, 2022

"Love is Wise"
The exhibit examines the role of published images in shaping attitudes toward race and culture. Over 300 artworks and objects produced from the late-18th century to today fill five exhibition rooms. The mission of the exhibit is to show the impact on public perception about race in the U.S. The exhibition explores stereotypical racial representations that have been imprinted through mass publication. It culminates with the creative accomplishments of contemporary artists and publishers who have shifted perspectives through the creation of positive, inclusive works of art, emphasizing equity for all.

Divided into three segments, the first is Historical Perspectives, which examines the history of racial stereotypes in illustration. The power of the images shaped opinions of many White Americans not only against African-Americans, but also Native, Asian who did not fit into the norm of the 18th - early 20th centuries.

The second section looks at the Harlem Renaissance through WWII. The study from Jim Crow laws to Black Pride to The Great Depression to NAACP. Oftentimes specially published magazines printed minority issues for all to read. Women became a large and intelligent force to recon with. 

The final selections of art, posters, images, and cartoons focuses on the 1950's to the present, including Civil Rights, racial unrest, emphasis of mass media. Coupled with these derogatory visual statements is the effort of noted illustrators who have worked to push a sense of hope and cultural pride for the next generation.

Note: Some text excerpts from NRM promotional material.


Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA
Rodin in the U.S. through August 18, 2022

Who do you think is the most well-known sculptor of the ages? Probably Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), creator of his famous piece of art -- The Thinker. 

Rodin is considered the most innovative, influential, celebrated, and controversial sculptors of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. For 20 years, he worked for jewelers and masons. He honed his skill as a modeler of clay in other sculptors’ studios, taking evening art classes, and eventually setting up his own studio where he worked from live models. Rodin was interested in expressing human emotion, celebrating classical beauty of real human bodies. Some works expressed sexuality with an unapologetic frankness that was considered scandalous.

Rodin’s way of making sculpture was a blend of traditional and innovative techniques. He began by modeling clay, wax, or plaster to create three-dimensional works. Assistants then used the model to produce a mold, which would be cast in plaster. Rodin could produce multiples and even cut the plaster apart, recombining hands, legs, torsos, and heads to alter a composition, to form a completely new work. 

Surprisingly to me, Rodin never carved marble himself, but hired artisans who executed the carving.  He oversaw every aspect of the transition from clay model or plaster cast to stone. The copies in marble are not identical; the composition remains the same, but details differ, depending on the carver and on the shape of the marble block used.

Note: Some text excerpts from Clark promotion material.

Berkshire Quick-Takes

Artweek Berkshires, https://berkshires.org/artweek-berkshiresthroughout the Berkshires, Annual, free events show off works Berkshire artists from 9/15-25.

Berkshire libraries: offer discounted tix to just about everything in the arts; some for residents, some for visitors. 

Berkshire Scenic Railroad, Lenox, www.berkshiretrains.org, takes passengers on a short, fun ride in an antique RR car, starts in Lenox.

Chesterwood
Chesterwood, Stockbridge, www.chesterwood.org2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the
 Lincoln Memorial by Daniel Chester French.

HighLawn Dairy, Lee, www.highlawnfarm.comjust up the street from Big Y, are calves, cows & fresh milk. Demos are offered to groups.

The Pillow's Pillowtalk, Becket, www.jacobspillow.orgenjoy free lectures by dancers and dance historians in the rustic Art Gallery Barn.

Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, www.redlioninn.comreopened, the ground-floor Lion's Den musicians perform for the local & guests. 

Tanglewood, Lenox, www.bso.org/tanglewoodevening concerts are now essentially bugless. I don't know what changed, but I'm happy. 

Williams College Art Museum, Williamstown, https://artmuseum.williams.eduamazing college facility, free, open all year to the general public.