A new home for Barrington Stage; theater company buys building in downtown Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD — The Barrington Stage Company has been located in Pittsfield for 11 years, but its operations have been scattered all over the city.
The costume shop has been located in six classrooms at the Zion Lutheran Church on First Street. A recent rehearsal for "The Pirates of Penzance" was held in a gymnasium that had no air conditioning.
"That is really difficult for artists to do," said Artistic Director Julianne Boyd.
Those vagabond days are finally over. On Tuesday, the company formally announced that it had purchased a 28,000-square-foot former office building at 122 North St., where it intends to centralize the majority of its entire operation. Only the company's set shop on Fourth Street will remain separate.
"We can finally put the entire operation under one roof," Boyd said at a news conference held on the first floor of the new headquarters, which was built in 1884 by Moses England, founder of the England Brothers department store.
"It's tremendously important," Boyd said, referring to the consolidation. "Right now we have some offices at the Octagon House, we have some in the basement of the Main Stage, we have some in the basement of the Blatt Center. When you have a meeting it's hard to get everyone together.
"I think if we're under one roof the creative energy of this organization will be even more fantastic than it is now," she said.
The building will be known as The Wolfson Theater Center, after donors and longtime supporters Jessie and Bernard Wolfson, whose gift to the company made possible the $628,500 acquisition from 122 North Street LLC.
Bernard Wolfson said the couple, who live in South Florida but own a second home in the Berkshires, had volunteered their services to the theater company two years ago.
"We are all fortunate to have them as supporters of Barrington Stage because they understand the importance of art in the community," Boyd said.
Robert Proskin, owner of BBE Office Interiors, which formerly occupied the space, also is consolidating operations at its new location at 1595 East St.
Rehearsals for the upcoming world-premiere production of "Broadway Bounty Hunter" began Tuesday in one of the new structure's two second-floor rehearsal spaces, but the company hopes to fully occupy its new headquarters by November, Boyd said.
Renovations are expected to begin next month. BSC's current offices at the Octagon House on Union Street will be converted into company housing after the move.
Wolfson, a retired attorney who has been involved in several real estate ventures, said the renovations are expected to cost around $200,000. The Wolfson's gift also covers the cost of the renovations, he said.
The company's new headquarters contains three floors and a basement for storage. Props will be kept in the basement, Boyd said.
The top floor will house BSC's costume shop, which will share space with the law offices of Pittsfield attorney Andrew Hochberg, the building's lone remaining tenant.
"He told us he loves music," Boyd said. "We love that he loves music."
The second-floor also contains a music room, education offices and classrooms for both musical theater conservators and the company's Playwright Mentoring Project.
The first floor will house administrative offices, the box office and a gift shop, Boyd said. A reception area will be located by the main entrance.
BSC currently has 19 year-round, full-time employees, said Managing Director Tristan Wilson.
"At our peak next summer, we will have 75 to 100 people in this building," Wilson said.
"There's going to be a lot more foot traffic here," Boyd said. "We are going to have people here at all hours of the day."
Mayor Linda M. Tyer said Barrington Stage's decision to move its headquarters to North Street is "what makes our city a special place."
Referring to a grant from the city's economic development fund that allowed BSC to move from Sheffield to Pittsfield in 2006, Tyer said, "This is how we do it in Pittsfield.
"We bring together all the enthusiasts, the private donors, financial institutions and public funding, then we make it happen," she said. "Those investments and others like them have changed the nature of our downtown."
Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.
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