Touring Shakespeare Theater – with Company!

By Victoria@celebratetheweekend
In Arts, Dance and Theater
Nov 9th, 2017
8 Comments
675 Views

Fall means so many beautiful things in my beloved Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.  Among them – an Annual Fall Festival of Shakespeare – which is coming to Shakespeare & Company on November 16-19, 2017. I hear the house is going to be packed during this “rock concert of Shakespeare” (according to WBUR Radio Boston) – as high-school students from MA and NY showcase full-scale Shakespeare plays produced with the help of the Company’s directing teams.

With acclaimed theater productions, actor training and educational initiatives such as the Annual Fall Festival, Shakespeare & Company is one of the largest Shakespearean festivals in the country.

This last summer we have added a backstage tour of the theater’s grounds in Lenox, MA into our traditional Berkshires summer family weekend.  Follow us along and start planning your own Berkshires weekend!

Touring Shakespeare & Co with the Company’s manager Brittany during our trip last summer

It is a working theater company, so summer afternoons are busy with productions (the show season lasts roughly from April through November, with the summer months being the busiest). But on this summer weekend morning – the entire 3-stage theater is ours! We start at the Tina Packer Playhouse where Shakespeare’s Cymbeline is in production, directed by Tina Packer herself.   (Tina Packer is the company’s founding artistic director -since 1978- when she came from her native England with an idea to create a theater that would merge the best attributes of the two countries’ theatrical heritage (language and movement).

Tina Parker Playhouse is a flexible Shakespearean-style space with audience close to the action on all sides of the stage and on two levels.

Main Stage of the Tina Packer Playhouse

Kids sit quietly for a few minutes before they find the stage trap to explore.

Exploring what’s underneath the stage trap

 

The stage is set for Cymbeline: “Why are there costumes on stage?”

Kids won’t stop ask questions and it is a while before we are ready to move on to the Green Room (an actor’s lounge in “theater speak”) just outside of stage.

Shakespearean theater has always been closely linked with the outdoors, and the grounds of Shakespeare & Co. are lovely!  I breath in that special “Berkshires” air and smell the flowers. The plants in the garden include the many plants that are mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and they are each marked with the names of plays and scenes!

New outdoor stage called The Roman Garden is being constructed right in front of us for the Tempest (the play opened later in the summer of 2017).

We pass by another outdoor stage – the tented Rose Footprint – which is actually a reconstruction of the first level of Shakespeare’s first London theatre, the Rose Playhouse.

Back indoors, we find ourselves in the very intimate  Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre where the stage is set for 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog, in its last production weekend. It is an acclaimed comic drama about “growing up, growing old—and discovering the moments in between”. (Pulitzer Prize finalist and Winner of the 2012 Obie Award for Best New Play.)

Set of 4000 Miles. Shakespeare and Company.

Why this play?

-It’s modern of course, but it feels Shakespearean to us, – explains Brittany. (Company mission is built on “exploring the universal themes of human experience”.  I  also later read in the brochure that a scene in 4000 Miles reminded its director Nicole Ricciardi of the famous “balcony” scene in Romeo and Juliet.)

We try to get the last minute tickets (the play is in its last performance weekend), but it is sold out – so start planning early for next season!

We “console” ourselves in the Costume shop (it’s a hit with the kids!), and then, at the the Shoe shop, the Prop Shop and the Armory room.

 

Our group is so well behaved that they let us peek into a real rehearsal space where a new play Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage is being rehearsed to open the following weekend.
Before we say our goodbyes, Brittany tells us about the Company’s amazing education initiatives teaching resiliency at local schools and about the summer’s  2-week sessions for 7-17 year olds culminating in play productions.

We leave yarning to return – next time, to see a show, with or without the kids.

The tour is typically offered in the summer and early fall. Check the calendar and call ahead to reserve.  We thank the Company for their generous time with us.

We are linking up with the #CulturedKids November collection of culture travel stories from around the world!

8 Comments to “Touring Shakespeare Theater – with Company!”

  1. I love the fact that the children were so engaged in the Tina Packer playhouse they wouldn’t stop asking questions. Shakespeare really does grab them – I was surprised recently, when we visited Shakespeare’s birthplace, to see even my five-year-old completely engrossed by the short performances being held in the garden. She wasn’t at all fazed by the unfamiliar language. Thanks ever so much for linking with #CulturedKids – this is a really interesting post, and I’d love to visit the festival one day.
    Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) recently posted…QHotels Chesford Grange, a family friendly hotel in the heart of Shakespeare’s EnglandMy Profile

  2. What a fascinating tour. My children were also transfixed by a short performance in the garden at Shakespeare’s birthday place and since then we have taken them to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet both of which had them on the edge of their seats. This festival looks fantastic, I would love to go one day. Thank you for linking up to #CulturedKids
    Catherine’s Cultural Wednesdays recently posted…ARMISTICE DAY BELL PEALMy Profile

  3. Sol Solntze says:

    My daughter used to do a kids club which took place next to a hall which, two or three times a year, was taken over by actors preparing for a show. I used to go and sit and listen, and, to be honest, the process of watching them put a performance together over a week or so was even more fascinating than going to a theatre and watching the performance itself. This tour sounds great! What a wonderful way to get kids interested in live theatre and Shakespeare.

    • Victoria@celebratetheweekend says:

      I agree with you Solntze! I sometimes get to go watch Boston Ballet rehearsals and I enjoy it even more than the actual show. It is magical watching an artistic creation being born:)

  4. Jody Robbins says:

    I always thought of this as something to do with older kids, but I see it’s relevant for the younger set, too!

    • Victoria@celebratetheweekend says:

      Yes, they all will relate to different aspects of the tour! Backstage tours are truly for everyone!

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