Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 8, 2018

Talking in the Berkshires 2018

by Shera Cohen

Certainly, the number of performing art venues are plentiful in the Berkshires. Having spent two weeks there in July, I was fortunate to see theatre, music, and dance presentations nearly round-the-clock. However, filling many afternoons (and a few evenings) was time well spent participating in numerous talks on subjects known and unknown to me.

Ventfort Hall Lectures, Lenox, MA
Ventfort Hall Tea & Talks brings authors, educators, and lectures to speak on a wide range of subjects. The parlor room is always packed with patrons. The subjects are fascinating or fun or both. Hour-long talks are followed by Q&A. Last week’s guest was Paul Freedman discussing “10 Restaurants that Changed America”. The “tea” portion of the series’ name is an elegant English-style tea settling located in the Ventfort dining room. Tiers of scones, cucumber sandwiches, cookies, and (of course) special teas are the array. The event offers a lovely elegance in the Berkshires.

Tanglewood Rehearsals, Lenox, MA
Every Saturday morning, professional staff of Tanglewood inform the audience about aspects of the pieces to be rehearsed that day. Usually, talks focus on the composer, background of the music to be heard, and intricacies of composition; i.e. specific sections of the orchestra. These talks are a free bonus for concert goers seated in the tent or on the lawn.

Jacob’s Pillow Pre-performance Lectures, Becket, MA
A large barn is situated equidistant between the two main Pillow theatres. Each summer marks the premiere of a new art exhibit focusing on dance – past or present. Videos often accompany the display. Before each performance, a large group of audience members gather in the barn to hear the half-hour “course” on the dance troupe and its history, choreographers, and nuances of the upcoming performance.

Theatre Talk-backs, numerous locations
Oftentimes following a play or musical, the director and most members of the cast will take chairs onstage. The director leads the discussion, taking questions from those audience members who choose to stay in the theatre. The talk-backs last approximately 15-minutes, or if the audience is responsive. This was the case at the end of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” at Barrington Stage Company. The Q & A are quite profound. Suggest checking the websites for all of the theatres in the Berkshires or starting HERE

The Mount Lectures, Lenox, MA
How apropos for the Mount (the home of Edith Wharton) to be the center of author lectures in the Berkshires. On any given week, two or three talks take place in the large Stables. The main series presents writers of fiction or non-fiction giving the always full-house a perspective on his/her book. Talks have taken place each Monday at 4pm. Due to the series’ popularity, the talk is repeated on Tuesday at 11am. One writer was Jacqueline Jones discussing the riveting story of “Goddess of Anarchy, Lucy Parsons”.

In addition to the series, the Mount hosts educators, writers, scientists, architects, and others, each lecturing about his/her subject matter. Martin Puchner, a Harvard professor with a wonderful sense of humor, spoke about his book, “The Written World: The Power or Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization”.

The Mount talks are, by no means, geared to the learned scholar. Each is educational but not didactic, personal, and fun.

Museum Tours, numerous locations
Even though you may have visited the Norman Rockwell Museum (Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell and the Narrative Tradition), Chesterwood (Contemporary Sculpture Exhibit), Clark Art Institute (Women artists in Paris 1850-1900) or other docent tours, if there is time to go again, do so. No two visits are ever alike. First, exhibits change (usually biannually) or others are added. Needless to say, there are new subjects to learn about. Second and even if the exhibit is the same, the docent speaking can make the world of difference. All docents are extensively trained, yet each may choose to focus on one aspect over another. Note, that most of these wonderful people are volunteers. Suggest visiting information on the many museums located in the Berkshires by going to their individual websites or