Fall means so many beautiful things in my beloved Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. Among them – an Annual Fall Festival of Shakespeare – at the Shakespeare & Company where 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!
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.
Kids sit quietly for a few minutes before they find the stage trap to explore.
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.)
–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.
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.