Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 10, 2019

Summer 2019 in the Berkshires: A Little Bit of This & That

by Shera Cohen

Usually our Berkshires’ articles have been written in the past tense, reason being that our initial media format was a newspaper. Although, I am one of those who enjoy leafing through newspapers and magazines, I’ve been told to move into the 21st century. And so we have internet, website, Facebook, and probably other apparatus that I have not yet learned.

Every summer, I create a spreadsheet listing my selections for this summer’s Berkshires arts and culture to attend. One conscience element is to find something different, even if slight.

Some of my additions are quirky, first -time events, and/or designed for children. I take in everything possible that is offered; there’s only 24 hours to squeeze in much more, or at least more that is novel to me.

"Taming of the Shrew" in rehearsal
Shakespeare & Company: For several years, I’ve avoided outdoor plays. My reason does not relate to the high qualify of S&Co. talent and productions. The reason: mosquitoes. Recently, I discovered this colorful little plastic wristband that looks like a hair scrunchy. For one buck, I can enjoy the play. I bought 4 bracelets, one for each appendage. I look strange, but I don’t care. I’ll be seeing “Taming of the Shrew” outdoors.

St. Ann’s Summer Festival: Not everything in the Berkshires costs money. This is an ol’ town festival arranged by a group of ol’ town folk to delight their neighbors and tourists. I’ve never been, but I attend this year on July 13th.

Talks: Jacob’s Pillow, WTF, Shakes & Co., Barrington Stage, Tanglewood, Aston Magna, Tanglewood, and other venues offer free talks before or after performances. I used to attend a few of these when there was time to kill. Now, I purposely make time for talks; they’re far more interesting than killing time. Google each venue’s site for dates.

Sell Out: Oh no, you missed purchasing the last four seats for your long-awaited play? Do you have to sit together? Not really. No one talks (or shouldn’t) during performances. See your friends during intermission and after the show.

Sculpture by Andrew DeVries
Sculpture: Sculpture Andrew DeVries’ name is synonymous with the Berkshires. His are the many works throughout the region of elongated women’s bodies standing, blown in the wind. He’s a chatty fellow who’s always out and about in Stockbridge and Lenox. I rarely approach famous artists, but I did. You know, artists are people. You might want to get out of the “but why would they talk to me” thoughts. DeVries is a fun guy.

Berkshire Theatre Group: Occasionally, on Friday afternoon, BTG offers professional play readings. The audience asks questions and comments; it makes for a wonderful “test” for the writer. Whether this is new to BTG or not, it is new to me. In fact, most theatre venues offer readings. You might be watching the next “All My Sons”?

BTG Repeats: Again, something I’ve never done; see the same play twice in two weeks. Actors and directors repeatedly claim that no two performances are ever the same. Maybe I will agree with them? Maybe not. I have selected “The Skin of Our Teeth.”

Tanglewood Music: The smaller facility, Osawa Hall, hosts music, conductors, musicians, and genres oftentimes new to me. I’ve scheduled a guitar duo concert with Beatles’ songs on the menu. I think of Tanglewood as “The Shed.” It’s about time that I experience this other performing arts venue more. Then there’s the new, giant education/performance building, open year-round.

Happy Anniversary: Numerous venues are celebrating significant anniversaries of some sort this summer, each hosting special programs, and many for kids. I’m not sure if I’ll “party,” but you can.

The Mount, photograph by Christina Lane,
 Courtesy of Berkshire Magazine
The Mount: You don’t know about Edith Wharton? Never read her books? No worries. Tours of her Lenox mansion, carriage house, and grounds, along with weekly author talks give the Berkshires just a tad bit of upper crust culture that you would imagine was the norm a century ago.

How to schedule 2 Berkshire weeks: On any given summer day there can be as many as a dozen cultural opportunities to choose from. When we started our journeys 25 years ago, we thought nothing of scheduling 4 programs each day; i.e. the Boston Ballet at Jacob’s Pillow, “A Doll’s House” at Williamstown Theatre, a freaky and fun frog exhibit at Berkshire Museum, and the annual sculpture show at Chesterwood. Years passed; we aged. Surprise. Our decision was to cut four venues to three; enough to satisfy our bodies and brains. We learned what we wanted to do vs. what we were able to do.

Jacob’s Pillow: I will admit that most dance troupes are extraordinary, over the years a few were quite strange and much too odd for me. You can’t win them all, whatever the genre is. However, in lieu of seeing the second half of the afternoon’s dance, roaming the Pillow’s beautiful campus, small buildings, photography barn, and snazzy gift shop was enough for me to enjoy. I had never taken the time to do that. I’ll be seeing Mark Morris and Paul Taylor this summer.

A New Art…for you: You hate modern art. You haven’t been to an historic museum in decades. Musicals are so artificial. I dare you – give every art form a chance. You may appreciate the art through your “new” eyes of an adult than many years ago when your teacher dragged the entire third grade class to the symphony, for example.

Speaking of musicals: I already know the ones on my Top 10 List, and they will stay steadfast forever. There is absolutely no room for anything new. But, I just “discovered” Mac-Haydn Theatre, in the New York state portion of the Berkshires. Who knows what wonderful productions they might do? I’ve got my tickets for “Ragtime.”

What to wear? I was under the old assumption that when you go to the theatre, especially in the evening, you dress up. Wrong. The fine duds are unnecessary especially in the Berkshires.

Shakespeare with a newbie: While I’m rather astute at “getting” Shakespeare [majored in 
English, took Shakes college courses], I should be. Yet, I do miss a few meanings of the text and confuse one character for another, because Shakespeare & Co. triple role every actor. This summer, without my friend – a retired Shakespeare professor – I’m a bit nervous that it’s now my turn to “teach” a newbie the ropes. At least it’s a comedy; they are far easier “to get.” “Twelfth Night” is on my schedule.

Hancock Shaker Village
Hancock Shaker Village: Visiting HSV has been on my bucket list for 10 years. As you can see, my list is not exotic, but more on the educational side. Animals are not my thing. They belong in one place, and humans belong in another. This is true history; not the fake stuff. HSV is back on my list this summer.

New Horizon: This is a must-see – a first time ever, both on and above the planet. Appearing in Stockbridge and Williamstown will be a gigantic, glass, floating balloon-like art sculpture. Accompanying concerts, art parties, and children’s events are popping up throughout the Berkshires and Massachusetts. This is truly one of those unique, elaborate, and fun things to do that you’ve never done before. This is a First. The balloon will embark and hover over Naumkaeg in Stockbridge.

Take time to read our summer reviews to know where In the Spotlight writers have been. and visit https://berkshires.orgThen decide where you might want to go.

Happy Summer!