Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 18, 2017

Shakespeare & Company’s Spectacular Quartet

Shakespeare & Company’s Spectacular Quartet
by Shera Cohen

Photos by Christopher Duggan
Take four actors from Shakespeare & Company’s (S&Co) cadre of performers. Add up the sum years of their talents at this venue. The total equals exactly 100 years of creating characters, stimulating audiences, and helping to bring some of the best of what theatre can be to New England.

Let’s do the math on the stars of Yasmina Reza’s play “G-d of Carnage.” Elizabeth Aspenlieder (22 years), Allyn Burrows (19 years), Jonathan Croy (31 years) + Kristin Wold (28 years) = 100 years of acting credits. What a wonderful way to top off the company’s 2017 season.

And some more math, this time about myself. I have attended S&Co for exactly 25 years. Of course, I have seen each of these actors onstage – although I can’t quickly name any single production when I have seen all at the same time. A quarter-century is a lot of theatre, even for me.

I must unapologetically admit that I stole my way to S&Co. Bravo Newspaper (aka In the Spotlight) was in its second year when one of our writers approached me asking if she could review S&Co performances. I responded with, “If they would like us to come, sure.” After reading and editing the many reviews that our critic wrote, I wondered what I was missing. Her writing compelled me to visit the place. It’s unfortunate for the young writer, but from that point on I assigned S&Co to myself. While I gave her many other sites to review, I did kidnap S&Co. Here’s a little bit about my connection with each actor in “G-d of Carnage.”

Elizabeth Aspenlieder, whose day-job at the time was assistant public relations director, was among the first S&Co people who I met, over the phone (no email then), then in person. Here was a young actress who probably spent more time behind her computer than onstage.

In my first few years, Elizabeth and I chatted a lot. One topic was toilets. This was not necessarily as odd a conversation as you might think. Sani-cans were the norm at S&Co in the early 90’s. Each audience member pretty much couldn’t get through the day without using these “facilities.”

I made my first donation, specifically earmarked to help pay for real, indoor toilets. In fact, I purchased a magnet shaped like a toilet (lid went up and down) as a gift to Elizabeth. I am thrilled to think that my small contribution launched the effort to rid sani-cans forever.

My primary interaction with Allyn Burrows was as one of his “groupie” audience members, never missing a single performance – Shakespeare or anything else. Admittedly, I found difficulty in understanding the plots of many of the History plays, particularly when double or triple roled. Not that I am an expert now, but I owe a lot of my lessons to observing Allyn in those Henry plays.

Oftentimes, actors directly interacted with the audience. At one outdoor performance (I forgot which comedy), Allyn ran up the grass aisle to snatch my oversized canvas purse, brought it onto the stage, proceeding (while in character) to remove the contents. Good thing that nothing was embarrassing, and all was fun.

Jonathan Croy, the old-timer of the troupe at 31 years, was one of those actors equally skilled at Elizabethan English as contemporary, drama and comedy, featured roles and small. In fact, S&Co is known for distribution of credit. While an actor may portray Hamlet, the next play could feature him as a clown. I mention clowns, because that was a special talent of Jonathan.

My limited encounters with Jonathan were two. The first, when I was one of several at a mini-tailgate picnic – only one car; ours. The second time was one of the rare occasions when I walked up to an actor to congratulate him. I am so intimidated. But, I did approach this big, tall man with a larger than life booming voice. He seemed so shy and surprised that a person (any person, in this case me) would talk to him.

A few years later, I managed to assert myself again, this time approaching Kristin Wold. Her role was Timothea in “Sea Marks.” In stature and voice, she is the exact opposite of Jonathan. However, she had the same sweet response and approachability. Here is an actress whose forte is drama. Her characters are often killed, put upon, or just plain unhappy. Because she is so petite and waif-like, the audience wants to protect her. Ariel in “The Tempest” (perhaps my favorite play) was the personification of Kristin’s talents. No toilets, thievery, or tailgating incidents arose in meeting Kristin. I would, however, look forward to talking to her.

“G-d of Carnage” takes place 9/14 – 10/8 in the Bernstein Theatre on the Shakespeare & Company campus, Lenox. For information on the play and tickets check the website at