Sunday May 27, 2012

LENOX -- Shakespeare & Com pany opened its season Friday with "Cassandra Speaks," starring Tod Randolph as famed World War II-era journalist Dorothy Thompson.

Ousted by Adolf Hitler's regime in Nazi Germany for her hard-hitting reporting during the 1930s, Thompson was cited by Time magazine in 1939 as the nation's second-most-influential American woman, behind Eleanor Roosevelt.

For Shakespeare & Company's 35th anniversary season, Artistic Director Tony Simotes is building on the company's star power: founding Artistic Director and noted actress and director Tina Packer, actors Olympia Dukakis, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Jonathan Epstein and An nette Miller, and recent big marquee name John Douglas Thompson.

Dukakis, who was born in Lowell and graduated from Bos ton University, won an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1987's "Moonstruck."

As Simotes tells it, he's whipping up the season "much like a chef -- you have all these available ingredients and somehow you put to gether to night's meal."

He adjusts his playhouse schedule to do everything possible to accommodate performers' schedules and to cooperate with other theaters, befitting his own origins as an actor.

"We're like migrant workers -- when the tomatoes are ready, you pick them. ... You take the jobs as they come, and when there's bounty, you've got to go for it," he said.

"He's got a head for retail," Man aging Director Nick Puma said.

Simotes, 61, grew up above his family's grocery store in Joliet, Ill., and came to Shakespeare & Company as a young actor 30 years ago.

After leaving for other opportunities, including a stint as a fight choreographer and director at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theater and acting roles in films such as "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," he returned to Lenox three years ago to become artistic director.

"It's the sense of how the art, the retail, the business and the creativity all work together," Simotes said. "We are doing something that we hope people will buy because we have a great time putting it together."