Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 8, 2017

Storytellers and Songwriters

A celebration for Shakespeare & Company’s 40th season
By Shera Cohen

TS Eliot and His Love of Shakespeare with Allyn Burrows
As Shakespeare & Company’s last summer season came to an end, in many ways it was a beginning. Allyn Burrows, was named new Artistic Director. His first huge task was to oversee the planning for the 2017 season of plays and programs.

It is a bit of a misnomer to title Burrows as the “new” Artistic Director. Yes, he has taken the helm, but Burrows is no stranger to S&Co. Burrows was with the troupe for many years, serving as Company member (actor and director) Artistic Associate, and Board member. He certainly knows his Shakespeare very well. Burrows presence is ideal, since this summer marks the company’s 40th season – a time to celebrate.

Allyn Burrows, an Eliot Norton Award Winner, is a graduate of Boston University. He has performed in film, television, Off-Broadway, and regionally. Most recently, he was the Artistic Director of Actors’ Shakespeare Project in Boston since 2010.

Why is this new series important?
The Storytellers and Songwriters series is important to S & Co. because it allows us to reach out to a wider audience with music and song while staying true to our mission of being a language and relationship driven company.

Bad Dates with Elizabeth Aspenlieder
As the new artistic director, was this series on your immediate “to do” list?
The series idea came up when we found we had space for it in the Tina Packer Playhouse. You see, by moving one of our Shakespeare plays (“The Tempest”) outside into our Roman Garden Theatre this summer, we freed up the indoor space in August inside. I've long been a fan of acoustic songwriters and this seemed like great opportunity to combine them with one person shows that many senior company members have been working on.

Why these particular plays?
All the plays resonate on a global socio-political scale, although some do that in a quieter way. 

Did you select the series?
I spoke with many actors and company members about what might be of interest to them and the world at large, and then we produced them as a series that seemed like a good mix. It's a whole festival!

Door of No Return with Nehassaiu deGannes
What type of audience would this attract?
I'm hoping our regular devotees will be intrigued, but I'm also looking to attract folks to the property who might not otherwise land here, folks who are coming for the music but then get interested in all the other great programming we have to offer.

None are written by Shakespeare. Are these new plays?
There are a number of new plays, yes, but all of them can trace their influences in one way or another back to Shakespeare.

Please explain the partnership of play-writing and musical composition.
Originally, I imagined a symbiotic relationship, where the musician would be inspired by what they heard on stage in terms of text and story and would fold their music into the language. I lined it up so that that relationship could be organic and the actor and musician can decide between themselves how intertwining of text and music would have the most resonance and effect. I see the text pieces starting the evening with the music finishing and varying degrees of overlap in between.

Women of Will
Following the plays, will there be talk-backs?
Not formally, but there will likely be opportunities to meet the performers and have a chat afterwards.

Has this been done before at S&Co.?
Nothing exactly like this has ever been done here. We'll see how it goes this summer, especially as it's designed this summer as a celebration of our 40th Season, but hopefully it will have some traction and we can bring it back! It should be a lot of fun!

The plays run from August 11 – 26, each features one or two S&Co. actors, and all will be presented in the Tina Packer Playhouse:

8/11 Via Dolorosa with Jonathan Epstein
8/12 T.S. Eliot and His Love of Shakespeare with Allyn Burrows and musician Michi Wiancko
8/18 Door of No Return with Nehassaiu deGannes
8/19 In Light of Jane with Tod Randolph followed by music of Kris Delmhorst
8/20 Bad Dates with Elizabeth Aspenlieder
8/25 Women of Will featuring Tina Packer and Nigel Gore
8/26 Travels with the Masked Man with John Hadden and musician Bobby Sweet

For information check the website at or call 413-637-3353.