PITTSFIELD — Wizardry and romance take center stage for the third season of Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park.
The outdoor theatrical troupe and city officials Tuesday announced "The Tempest" will be performed at the pavilion of The Common on First Street this summer.
Opening night, July 21, coincides with Pittsfield's Third Thursday celebration and runs three consecutive Thursday through Sunday stretches, closing on Aug. 7. The curtain goes up on all 12 shows at 8 p.m. — with Mother Nature's cooperation.
"If the weather gods don't provide us with an actual tempest, we'll get in all 12 shows," said Enrico Spada, founder/director of Pittsfield Shakespeare in the park.
The shows are free courtesy of several area businesses, philanthropic foundations, the city and an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.
After staging a comedy, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and a tragedy, "Romeo and Juliet," the first two seasons, Spada chose a romance for 2016.
"The Tempest takes place on a magical island inhabited by spirits, monsters and a wizard and his daughter castoff from society," Spada said. "William Shakespeare's final play is one of and old man's revenge or forgiveness."
Already cast as the wizard, Prospero, is Glenn Barrett, a veteran Stockbridge actor who has performed the sorcerer role before, but never outdoors. While the production has many magical elements via special effects, the human element remains central to the play, Barrett said.
"Shakespeare is always character-driven and about the words that are free flowing," he said.
Except for Prospero, Spada has yet to cast the play, with open auditions scheduled for March 5 and 6 at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts on Renne Avenue. The director is seeking actors of all ability, from ages 8 and up, continuing his philosophy of Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park as truly community theater.
"One reason I started [this] was to give all actors in the Berkshires a chance to do Shakespeare in a great setting," he said.
Since its inception two years ago, Shakespeare in the Park has drawn some 5,000 people for 19 of 20 scheduled shows.
Last summer's featured production, "Romeo and Juliet," drew more than 3,500 people to 11 shows (one was rained out) compared with the 1,500 patrons who watched "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Springside Park during the debut season of 2014, according to Spada.
Once the renovation of The Common was completed, Shakespeare in the Park, a nonprofit in coordination with the city's Office of Cultural Development, decided to relocate and expand its nightly schedule from eight to 12 shows over three, four-day weekend stretches, instead of the two-week gig at Springside.
Last year's decision to have opening night on the July Third Thursday took advantage of the large midsummer crowd that packed North Street for the three-hour block party that winds down at 8 p.m.
Mayor Linda Tyer believes Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park has become an anchor for future, sustainable cultural activities at The Common.
"I think we have exciting, emerging conversations going on of how to use the park creatively in the summer," she said. "So stay tuned."
Casting call ...
What: Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park auditions for the summer production of "The Tempest"
When: 2 to 6 p.m. March 5; 11 to 3 p.m. March 6.
Where: Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, 28 Renne Ave., Pittsfield. The center is off Fenn Street behind the First United Methodist Church.
Who: Local actors and students ages 8 and up are encouraged to try out; all roles are open (except Prospero) to all experience levels.