There should be plenty to do and see across the Berkshires on this busy Fourth of July weekend. Among the high-profile events:
In Williamstown, The Clark Art Institute will reopen its Stone Hill Center and original museum building on Friday, and for the first time, open the newly built Visitor Center. Admission is free all day.
From noon to 1 p.m. there will be musical entertainment and picnicking on the lawn. At 1 p.m. is the ribbon cutting with Clark director Michael Conforti officially reopening the Clark, Free admission to the galleries runs from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the Eagles Band will play outside beginning at 7:30 p.m. A fireworks show begins at 9:30 p.m.
At 10 a.m. on the Fourth of July, folks will gather at the Williams College Museum of Art to hear Williamstown Theatre Festival actors read the Declaration of Independence and the British reply before viewing the College's Founding Documents collection.
When first written between 1775 and 1787, the Founding Documents of the United States of America were drafted by men in search of a constructive, collective identity. Williams College owns a rare collection of these historic texts, all of which reveal their physical and philosophical origins as chronicles of the inception of a nation.
Williamstown's Independence Day parade then kicks off on Spring Street at 11 a.m. and ends at The Clark Art Institute for the grand opening of their newly expanded campus.
Meanwhile, a special 4 p.m. performance of the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of "June Moon," written by Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman and directed by Jessica Stone, on the WTF Main Stage at the ‘62 Center for Theatre and Dance on the Williams College campus. Performances of "June Moon" continue through July 13.
The 2014 Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade steps off at 10 a.m. Friday in Downtown Pittsfield. The Parade Theme is "Made in America." Mario DeMartino will be the Grand Marshal and that the late Joanne Hayes was named Honorary Grand Marshal.
On Independence Day, at 8 p.m., James Taylor will again perform to a sold-out crowd at Tanglewood's Koussevitzky Music Shed.
In Lenox, the Shakespeare & Company campus will host a free, family-friendly day of events in addition to their regularly ticketed performances. At 1 p.m., there will be music by The Eagles Brass Band. A community barbecue with a la carte pricing will start at 1:15. The Eagles Trombone Band performs at 2. At 2:45 there will be music performed by Alexander Sovronsky and other Company musicians.
A reading of the Declaration of Independence begins at 3. Artistic Director Tony Simotes welcomes back many special guests to join in on the readings including Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. Benjamin Downing, and Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli.
At 7 p.m., "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" will be performed in the Tina Packer Playhouse.
Opening at 8 p.m. in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre is Shakespeare's riveting and bloody story of "Julius Caesar." In this pared-down "bare Bard" production, seven actors play all the roles. This psychological drama follows the conspiracy against and assassination of the Roman dictator by his closest friends and peers and the brutal aftermath of his murder.
Also Friday night, a performance of "The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful," by Charles Ludlam and directed by Aaron Mark starts at 8 p.m. at Berkshire Theatre Group's Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge. Named one of the best plays of the 20th Century by the New York Times and Time magazine, Charles Ludlam's comedy tells the pell-mell tale of Lady Enid and Lord Edgar (Bowers) who arrive one stormy night at a haunted and dreary estate to investigate the sudden disappearance of Irma Vep. There will also be performances on Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.
At the Berkshire Theatre Group's Colonial Theatre on South Street in Pittsfield, a preview performance of "A Little Night Music" begins at 8 p.m. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, it is based on a book by Hugh Wheeler and directed by Ethan Heard. Sondheim's award-winning musical offers an amusing and farcical tale of unexpected liaisons, relentless desire, and ill-fated heartbreak in the life of acclaimed actress, Desiree Armfeldt. Opening night is Saturday at 8 p.m.
Tough choices will continue through the Fourth of July weekend in the Berkshires:
At The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Castle Street in Great Barrington, Natalie Merchant will perform on Saturday starting at 8 p.m. Over Merchant's 30-year career, she has earned a distinguished place among America's most respected recording artists with a reputation for being a prolific songwriter with a compelling artistic vision and a unique and captivating performance style.
The next day at The Mahaiwe features "Zappa Plays Zappa," on Sunday, starting at 7 p.m. Led by Dweezil Zappa, Zappa Plays Zappa is a Grammy-winning group that has made and recreated history performing the music of his father, Frank Zappa, celebrating the classic album "Roxy & Elsewhere."
Also on Saturday, comes opening night at Tanglewood with Soprano Renée Fleming starting at 8:30 p.m. in the Koussevitzky Music Shed. With the Boston Symphony, she will present great works of the American concert hall and opera stage, plus favorites from musical theater and popular genres.
At Mass MOCA on Saturday, at 8 p.m., Two Truths and a Lie will perform in Courtyard Café or Club B-10. A time-tested parlor game hits the stage for an evening of American history-themed tall tales and torqued realities. Led by a hilarious troupe of Brooklyn storytellers, the audience has to decipher truth from lies -- and the prize goes to the most successful tricksters.
The Rockwell Museum offers an "All American Weekend" with mom, apple pie, and Rockwell's models. Starting at 11 a.m., on Saturday, this special event is inspired by the art of Norman Rockwell featuring music, talks, performances, delicious American fare, and the opportunity to meet Rockwell's own models.