Sunday May 27, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The Barrington Stage Company just got a little bigger.

The powerhouse performance/production troupe took possession of their second city property Saturday during a ceremony in which the VFW post turned over keys of their former post to Julieanne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington Stage Company (BSC).

Barrington Stage had been leasing the second floor of the VFW Post 448 at 36 Linden St. as their Stage 2 performance space for nearly five years. The bottom floor bar has been transformed into a cabaret, with a rehearsal studio and office space nearby.

It was an emotional moment for Arnie Perras, incoming commander of the post, and other members of the VFW.

"It’s a sad event for us, but we’re happy we found a buyer like this," Perras said.

The purchase was made possible by a donation in excess of $340,000 from Sydell and Lee Blatt, for whom the new performance center is named.

During the purchasing process, Lee Blatt, a veteran himself, joined the VFW post.

"We built a relationship I intend to continue," Blatt said.

Perras noted that the Blatts’ contribution helped both the VFW post and the stage company move on to their next level.

"They helped both nonprofits with one donation," Perras said, "It was a very generous contribution."

He noted that the VFW Post, which has been declining in membership, have reached an agreement with the American Legion to share their hall in Pittsfield.

Tristan Wilson, managing director of the Barrington Stage Company, said the 1972 structure will serve as a community performance space as well, providing another space for community groups to perform and professional and business groups to meet.

The building has a wine and beer license, and the cabaret will provide cabaret style entertainment on the first floor following performances on Stage 2 -- now known as the St. Germain Stage -- upstairs.

The legal capacity for the renamed Mr. Finn’s Cabaret is 49 people, but with some planned upgrades, that capacity will be higher in a year or two, Wilson said.

Already, Debra Jo Rupp who played Kitty Foreman in "That 70s Show," is rehearsing in the new rehearsal studio for her role in "Dr. Ruth, All The Way" which debuts on the St. Germain Stage on June 19.

Now that the stage group has taken possession of the whole structure, Wilson noted, they will be considering new ways to coordinate use of the space in ways that enhance both quality performances and convenience for audiences.

The 12,602 square-foot building, formerly known as Lt. John L. Truden V.F.W. Post, has been renamed as the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Per forming Arts Center.

The upper level houses a café and the 110-seat St. Germain Stage, named after Barrington Stage Company associate artist and resident playwright Mark St. Germain, author of "Freud’s Last Session" and "The Best of Enemies." The cabaret space is named after Tony-winner William Finn, artistic producer of BSC’s Musical Theatre Lab.

Finn was on hand for the dedication.

"They’re closing cabarets all over the world, even in New York, so I think it’s appropriate we’re opening one here," he said. "I just hope we write some great musicals and great plays and really infuse this place with greatness."

Programming at the St. Germain Stage began Wed nesday with the New England premiere of Duncan Mac millan’s drama "Lungs."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
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On Twitter: @BE_SStafford