Tuesday, February 12
WILLIAMSTOWN — Five days after the curtain comes down on Nicholas Martin's production of "She Loves Me" at the Huntington Theatre in Boston, another curtain will rise on the very same production just over 150 miles away on the Williamstown Theatre Festival's Main Stage.

And so will begin the next act in the 54-year history of this Tony Award-winning regional theater.

Martin, who has been artistic director of the Huntington since 2000, will begin his tenure as artistic director of Williamstown Theatre Festival with his production of Joe Masteroff, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's much-beloved 1963 musical confection.

"She Loves Me," which runs June 28 to July 13, kicks off a Main Stage season that includes plays by Anton Chekhov ("Three Sisters," July 16 to 27), French farceur George Feydeau ("A Flea in Her Ear" in an adaptation by David Ives, July 30 to Aug. 10), and British playwright David Storey ("Home," Aug. 13 to 24).

The smaller Nikos Stage opens June 11 with a play to be announced and ends in late August with another play to be announced. Between the two, the Nikos Stage will house Campbell Scott in Ronan Noone's "The Atheist," about an ethics-challenged journalist (June 25 to July 6); Lydia Diamond's "Harriet Jacobs," based on this Southern slave's autobiography (July 9 to 20); and the world premiere of Theresa Rebeck's "The Understudy," about the backstage dynamics of a hit Broadway production of a lost Franz Kafka play (July 23 to Aug. 3).

Information about tickets and other programs at WTF will be announced in a few weeks.

Meeting with a small select group of reporters yesterday in Williamstown, Martin said he had approached Roger Rees, his predecessor at WTF, with the idea of bringing "She Loves Me" to Williamstown from Boston, where it closes June 22.

With a cast of actors who are familiar to Williamstown and others "who have wanted to come here," Martin said, "it seemed like the right thing to do. Once I got this job, it seemed the only thing to do."

Martin said he has wanted to do "Home," which starred John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson in the 1971 Broadway production, "for years, but I could do it only if the right two actors were available. Now I have them."

Those actors are festival veterans Richard Easton and Paxton Whitehead, who will be joined by another WTF veteran, Dana Ivey.

With the exceptions of Easton, Whitehead, Ivey and Scott, casting for Williamstown's 2008 season is far from complete, said Martin, who was joined by Matt Harris, president of WTF's board of trustees, and Gilbert Medina, WTF's new general manager. Medina also comes to Williamstown from the Huntington, where he has been associate general manager.

Martin said he will keep the Free Theatre indoors this season. Rees moved the traditionally outdoor event indoors shortly after becoming WTF's artistic director four years ago.

"I have a plan," Martin said of the Free Theatre with a gleam in his eye. "I want to preserve the magic of the Free Theatre. This is Williamstown's event, and I may ask the community's help."

Martin, who has an 11-year history with Williamstown, also said he wanted to get the festival's popular cabaret out of the Nikos Stage, where it was placed by Rees when the its previous venue, Goodall Hall, was condemned.

"We're committed to getting back to the spirit of the cabaret," Harris remarked. "We are looking at a variety of possibilities."

"We're going to do something very sexy with the cabaret," Martin said.

Harris said the June 11 start of WTF's season is a response to concerns by Williamstown merchants who, Harris said, see a direct relationship between activity at the festival and activity in the town's commercial district along Spring, Water and Main streets.

"Midweek ticket sales are tough in mid-June," Harris acknowledged, "but (the festival) is enough of an inducement for people to come here on weekends, particularly from the Albany area."

Martin comes to Williamstown with a full plate that will keep him busy from now through next winter, with projects in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, where he will remount last summer's Williamstown production of "The Corn is Green" at the Huntington.

Martin, who has been on the job since Nov. 1, already is looking well beyond this season. He said he has begun reaching out to a number of artists he is keen on wooing back to the festival or on bringing here for the first time.

"Putting on plays at Williamstown is not for the faint of heart. There is such a thing as a Williamstown spirit," he said brightly. "It's something l've not encountered anywhere else."

To reach Jeffrey Borak: jborak@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6212

MAIN STAGE

June 29-July 3: "She Loves Me." Music by Jerry Bock. Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Book by Joe Masteroff. Directed by Nicholas Martin

July 16-27: "Three Sisters" by Anton Chekov. Translation by Paul Schmidt. Directed by Michael Greif

July 30-Aug.10: "A Flea in Her Ear" by George Feydeau. Adapted by David Ives. Directed by John Rando

Aug. 13-24: "Home" by David Storey. Directed by Joseph Hardy

NIKOS STAGE

June 11-22: TBA

June 25-July 6: "The Atheist" by Ronan Noone. Directed by Justin Waldman

July 9-20: "Harriet Jacobs" by Linda Diamond. Director TBA

July 23-Aug. 3: "The Understudy" by Theresa Rebeck. Directed by Scott Ellis

Aug. 6-17: TBA