Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 4, 2017

The Berkshires Are Open in the Winter

by Shera Cohen

As I write this piece, it’s technically spring on my calendar, but my porch is full of snow, albeit melting. So, for the sake of clarity, here is my recollection of my two-day late winter/early spring Berkshires cultural experience in my effort to prove that the Berkshires are not for summer stays only.
The Ten Tenors
Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield: The Colonial is one of four venues in the Berkshire Theatre Group – the oldest (1903), the largest, and the most charming. PBS programs have aired numerous 3-men tenor groups whose music is semi-opera, classical, and contemporary. Some singers are from Ireland or Italy or USA. They are wonderful. In the case of The Ten Tenors, multiply any of these fabulous trios x 3 + 1 for a perfect evening of glorious music. The Ten hail from Australia as they bring some popular “down under” songs to the stage. Their Four Seasons’ medley complete with choreography was a hoot. The tribute to Prince and Leonard Cohen gave both artists due praise. Every song included all 10 singers, sometimes focusing on a “lead,” sometimes not. Imagine ten, good-looking, young-ish men in tuxes singing “Unchained Melody.” That was the show-stopper. The highly anticipated “Nessum Dorma” (the finale to most of the trio concerts) seemed to set the lush Colonial interior aglow.

Curiosity Incubator
Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield: You’ve seen the ads - children and adults wear goggle-like apparatus on their heads, walk around a room like zombies, and shout “wow, cool, look at this!” Maybe I was the only person on the planet who didn’t know about this high-tech toy. Anyway, Berkshire Museum’s exhibit “Curiosity Incubator” featured these odd things. Many activities at the museum are hands-on; it is highly encouraged. I donned the goggles. “Wow, cool, look at this!” You see what wasn’t there 30-seconds ago. Magic?

The “Tell Me More” Exhibit brought the visitor for the first time to the North Pole. “The Science of Color” offered a bright spectrum on how colors change what you see. Of course, the museum has its standard collections on display; my favorite being the pristine aquarium. A bravo to the staff – whether employees or volunteers, all are there to make the visitor enjoy. It wasn’t so many years ago when I went to the museum basically to kill time before the next play, concert, etc. I have done a 180degree turn-around, as this venue has become one of my favorite destination points.

Mahaiwe Theatre, Great Barrington: The venue has seen many changes in design, performing arts, economy, and its place in downtown Great Barrington, all the while never closing its doors. Silent films and vaudeville show names fit the marquee in the early days. Now, Mahaiwe presents concerts (all genres), dance, theatre, comedy, lectures, and films (primarily Live in HD from the Metropolitan Opera).

Steep Canyon Rangers
Just this week, Steep Canyon Rangers took the stage with their B&B&B – banjo, blues, and bluegrass, mixed it up with country sounds, deep porch music, wildfire finger-pickin’ and humor. The Rangers, known for their performances with actor/banjo player Steve Martin, have received numerous national awards (Grammy) in their field for the past eight years. Along with their instruments and vocal music came a huge supply of hillbilly hand-clapping, and a surprise harmonica.

Joe’s Diner, Lee: It’s tiny with 1950’s décor and as many chairs and stools that can possibly fit. The patrons dress “down.” Sometimes, table sharing is encouraged. With no offense, it seems as if the waitresses have worked at Joe’s since its opening; maybe they have, since it’s a family-owned business. Get the best and least expensive breakfast in the Berkshire. A plus for me was pudding…7 different puddings, in fact, for each day of the week.

The District Kitchen & Bar, Pittsfield: Located in downtown Pittsfield is a charming, rustic eating spot. The bar and dining tables are surrounded by metal, tin polls, etc. The District is mid-scale, with a small list of food choices, but just enough, in each category; i.e. appetizer, entrée. If you weren’t specifically looking for it, you might pass it by. The clientele are the locals of all ages. I usually skip dessert, but the lemongrass & vanilla crème brulee was very special.

Lee Premium Outlets, Lee: This is definitely not cultural, so I list it last. But, when you’re staying a mere three miles from a major, inexpensive shopping experience, of course, I had to go. I guess that I also just had to buy that pair of boots.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do in two days. I recommend a longer stay for next year. What we missed were:

Barrington Stage, Pittsfield: 10 x 10, that’s 10 original plays, each 10-minute long at a fast and furious pace

Town Players, Pittsfield: 96 years of community theatre – wow! Missed the production of “The Whale,” but more shows to come

WAM, Lenox – professional theatre of relatively small unknown plays in Shakespeare & Company’s theatres

The Mount, Lenox – its annual retreat of training, networking, and commiserating for writers at all levels of skills and interests

Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge – the whimsical work of Hanna-Barbera; i.e. Yogi Bear, the Jetsons, et al; some readers might not know who I am referring to, but I remember them well

For more information on the Berkshires visit