Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 2, 2018

INTERVIEW: Allyn Burrows, Artistic Director, Shakespeare & Company

by Shera Cohen

Photo by Olivia Winslow
In the Spotlight had the pleasure of interviewing Allyn Burrows, new Artistic Director of Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA.

If Allyn Burrows’ face looks familiar to theatre enthusiasts, especially to those who visit the Berkshires in the summer, it is. For many years, Burrows worked as an Artistic Associate and acted in countless Shakespeare & Company (S&Co) productions – comedies, tragedies, and history plays.

He is particularly remembered for his roles in King John, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Henry IV, Part 1.

Burrows served as Artistic Director of Actors’ Shakespeare Project in Boston where he directed and acted. Burrows’ talents have also been seen on many stages in New England; i.e. Huntington Theatre, Lyric Stage, Merrimack Repertory Theater.

He has been a busy man, performing in prestigious theatres throughout the country. If you haven’t seen Burrows on a stage, he may be familiar from roles on TV or film.

For the company, for audiences, and for me, it is wonderful that Allyn Burrows has returned home.

In the Spotlight (ITS): I had the privilege of watching you perform a few decades ago at Shakespeare & Company. What it is like for you to return many years later, now wearing the “hat” of Executive Director?

Burrows: Well, it's not a lot different from my last job as Artistic Director of Actors' Shakespeare Project in Boston. It's great to be back at Shakespeare & Company, though, and there are a lot of moving parts. Very exciting in that regard.

ITS: In addition to being the man in charge, will you be directing and/or acting? Is it fair to ask which of these three jobs you enjoy best?

Burrows: They all require different types of brainpower, so it's a tossup which I enjoy the best. I won't be acting this summer, just acting and producing.

ITS: What goals do you intend to keep from the troupe’s many years of existence? What about your personal goals?

Burrows: I intend to preserve and honor the legacy of what's been created over these past four decades, and to transform the unique qualities of this amazing company into something that resonates in the community and hearts of people who experience this place. Personally? I'm hoping to be the best father I can be. And I'll strive to be a better artist.

ITS: How is a season formed? Is there conscious effort to balance Shakespeare’s with other playwrights? New writers? New works?

Burrows: Season formation comes out of a lot of discussion, about makes good theatre, what's important for us to be saying, what's fun, what's gratifying, what will draw people here, and what has impact. Contemporary plays are an important part of what we do.

ITS: What would you say to potential audience members who “fear” Shakespeare?

Burrows: Come along for the ride, it really won't hurt, and you'll be surprised how much the material affects you.

ITS: Are there any anecdotes that you would like to tell our readers? While you think about that, I have my own anecdote about you. It was years ago when outdoor performances took place at the Mount. During a particular comedy, you ran down to the stage (which was grass) and snatched my purse, which was on the ground, en route. You proceeded to look through the bag. While laughing, I also hoped, “Please don’t take anything out of the purse to show the audience.” Who knows what was in there?! You were a gentleman, my bag returned intact, and the show went on.

Burrows: Holy smokes, the audacity! Who was that guy? I'm guessing it may have been “Midsummer Night's Dream” and I was playing Oberon (king of the mischievous fairies). Let me apologize these many years later for the intrusion. Can't really top that one. All the kooky antics make up the fabric of what we do.

Shakespeare & Company starts its summer season on May 24, 2018 and runs through October 2018. For ticket and other information check their website at