2016 is a bridge-building year for WAM Theatre

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LENOX — WAM Theatre began its seventh year earlier this month with a performance at the Colonial Theatre in collaboration with Multicultural BRIDGE.

"Bridge" may well be the operative word for the Berkshires-based professional theater that is devoted to "creating opportunity for women and girls through our mission of theater as philanthropy," WAM artistic director Kristin van Ginhoven says in a news release announcing plans for WAM's seventh year of programming.

The company's 2016 schedule is highlighted by a series of bridge-building education and performance events in collaborations with IS183 Art School, OLLI (Osher Institute for Lifetime Learning) and Berkshire Theatre Group.

Among those collaborations is a new WAM Theatre April vacation camp — April 18-22 — at IS183 Art School in Stockbridge for girls ages 8-12 using theater games, improvisation and writing to create a performance piece exploring issues of importance to young women.

WAM's production programming is highlighted by a work-in-development/workshop presentation, and a fully-mounted production of a new play, late September through late October, starring Corinna May and David Adkins, also at the Unicorn.

Directed by Jayne Atkinson, the workshop presentation — "Special!" (March 18-20 at the Unicorn) — has been created and will be performed by Rachel Siegel.

"Special!" is based on Siegel's own experience raising a Down syndrome child and interviews with mothers of special needs children.

"This has been a labor of love," Siegel told a breakfast gathering of WAM artists, supporters, collaborators and members of the press Tuesday at Garden Gables Inn.

"This has been cooking in my head for some time. I interviewed a lot of mothers with special needs children and, finally, last summer, sat down with all my notes. It felt like there was a play in all this."

WAM's production programming continues April 2 with The 24 Hour Theatre Project at The University at Albany Performing Arts Center. Nearly 50 or so playwrights, directors, actors and designers will be thrown together randomly to write, rehearse, design and perform, with scripts in hand, a full program of original short plays within 24 hours.

This year's fully mounted production is the American premiere of Kate Cayley's "The Bakelite Masterpiece," Sept.29-Oct. 23 in the Unicorn Theatre (press opening is Oct. 1). Set in post-World War II Holland, the drama deals with a master art forger, a long-lost painting by Vermeer, and a prosecutor — an art historian and resistance fighter.

"(As soon as I began reading the script) I was in," Adkins told the gathering.

"It's a play about love, revenge, patriotism. It is about authenticity — what is art, who is an artist, who gets to make that determination, who defines the parameters, what happens when something you deeply connect to emotionally is revealed to be a fraud?"

Van Ginhoven said she felt the play was a natural for the Unicorn and for May and Adkins as soon as she was given the script from a colleague in Canada who had performed in the original production.

"To have (Berkshire Theatre Group artistic director and CEO) Kate (Maguire) step up to have BTG co-produce this with us is truly amazing. We are only in our seventh year. This kind of thing just doesn't happen."

A portion of the proceeds from this production will be donated to a beneficiary-to-be-named that works with and for women.

"Being in the Unicorn for a long run means we will have more audience exposure and that means we will be able to make a larger gift than usual to the beneficiary. This means a lot to us," van Ginhoven said.

"I feel we are working with a truly talented company that (like BTG) is committed to the community," Maguire said. "We live in a time of extremes. This play is about how people live in a time of extremes."

"The play is only 35 pages," van Ginhoven said, "but it is so full. There is so much in it."

WAM's popular Fresh Takes Readings Series returns in mid-April with Kate Hennig's "The Last Wife." The series continues with Anna Zieger's "Photograph 51," May 15; "The Oregon Trail" by Bekah Brunstetter, June 19; "Samsara" by Lauren Yee, Aug. 21; and "Grand Concourse" by Heidi Shreck, Sept. 11.

New this year is a companion to Fresh Takes called "Your Take," a series of follow-up discussions on the Monday evenings immediately following the Sunday afternoon readings. This series at Berkshire Community College is a collaboration with OLLI. It is designed, van Ginhoven explained, to provide a deeper discussion about the issues in the plays.

"We always have a talkback after each reading but a lot of people told us they wanted more so we came up with this idea," van Ginhoven explained.

Overall. she said of Fresh Takes, "these plays will give you an idea of what a five-production season at WAM would look like if we could do a five-production season.

"More than that, among other things, WAM is about sharing enthusiasm for the joy of being by opening our doors to new collaborations. This is an example."

SEASON AT A GLANCE

• Workshop presentation/play in development — "Special:" Created and performed by Rachel Siegel. Directed by Jayne Atkinson. 7 p.m. March 18; 8 p.m. March 19; 2 p.m. March 20. Unicorn Theatre, 6 East St., Stockbridge

• 24 Hour Theatre Project: The University at Albany (N.Y.) Performing Arts Center. 7:30 p.m. April 2

• Fresh Takes Reading Series — "The Last Wife" by Kate Hennig: No. 6 Depot Roastery and Cafe, West Stockbridge. 3 p.m. April 17

• Fresh Takes — "Photograph 51" by Anna Zeigler: No. 6 Depot Roastery and Cafe. 3 p.m. May 15

• Fresh Takes — "The Oregon Trail" by Bekah Brunstetter: No. 6 Depot Roastery and Cafe. 3 p.m. June 19.

• Second Annual Stars in the Orchard Benefit: Cocktail party with food, entertainment, wine by Furnace Brook Winery. Hilltop Orchards, 508 Canaan Road (Route 295), Richmond. July 14

• Fresh Takes — "Samsara" by Lauren Yee: No. 6 Roastery and Cafe. 3 p.m. Aug. 21

• Fresh Takes — "Grand Concourse" by Heidi Shreck: No. 6 Roastery and Cafe. 3 p.m. Sept. 11

•"The Bakelite Masterpiece" by Kate Cayley: Co-production with Berkshire Theatre Group. Directed by Kristin van Ginhoven. With Corinna May and David Adkins. Sept. 29 through Oct. 23 (press night – Oct. 1). Unicorn Theatre, 6 East St., Stockbridge

Complete ticket and program information available online at WAMTheatre.com


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