Barrington Stage Company: Offbeat love stories, social issues hold center stage for 20th season


PITTSFIELD -- Barrington Stage Company's family of artists is gathering in Pittsfield this summer for a 20th anniversary season of out-of-the-box love stories and plays wrestling with social issues.

The season begins May 21 in BSC's intimate St. Germain Stage with veteran BSC actor, director and artistic associate Christopher Innvar directing Sharr White's "The Other Place," in which truth and illusion cross lines as a successful neurologist finds her life falling apart, and ends on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage in October with Arthur Miller's adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" directed by BSC artistic director Julianne Boyd.

In between will be:

n Two world premieres -- "The Golem of Havana," a musical about a Hungarian Jewish family living in Cuba in the days before Fidel Castro's assumption of power, July 16-Aug. 9 in the St. Germain Stage; and Mark St. Germain's "Dancing Lessons" about a young man with Asperger's syndrome (played by John Cariani) and his relationship with a Broadway dancer sidelined by a leg injury, Aug. 7-24 in the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage.

n The New England premiere of "Working on a Special Day," an adaptation of an Italian film about the relationship between a housewife and mother of six and a bachelor who lives across the way, set on the day Hitler arrives in Rome to sign his pact with Mussolini. June 18-July 6 in the St. Germain Stage.

n A workshop presentation of a substantially revised version of "Romance in Hard Times." a 1989 musical by William Finn (music and lyrics) with a brand new book by Rachel Sheinkin, Finn's collaborator for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," Aug.14-31, St. Germain Stage.

n A much-admired classic musical, Cole Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate," which opens the Mainstage season June 11-July 12.

Also on the Mainstage will be Hugh Whitemore's "Breaking the Code," July 17-Aug. 2, starring Mark H. Dold as closeted British mathematician and computer science programmer Alan Turing, who solved Germany's Enigma code, paving the way for the Allied victory in World War II.

This year's Youth Theatre presentation will be the upbeat "Hairspray Jr." at Berkshire Museum, July 23-Aug.10.
Instead of a traditional gala, Barrington Stage will mark its 20th anniversary on July 7 with a 90-minute revue featuring songs from some of BSC's most successful musicals, followed by dinner and dancing in a big tent outside the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage.

"There will be no long speeches," Boyd said during a luncheon news conference Thursday on the stage of the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage on Union Street. "This will be the ungala gala."

Boyd characterized the 2014 season as one in which unusual love stories and plays about important social issues dominate. To that end, she said, Barrington Stage will be reaching out to various civic, social service, health and environmental groups with special performances and programs centering around some of the shows.

It also is a summer in which "our whole family of artists will be coming to play with us," Boyd said referring to Innvar, St. Germain, Dold, Cariani, Finn, choreographer Joshua Bergasse, music director Darren Cohen and production stage manager Renee Lutz.

Casting for the shows has yet to begin and no director has been signed for "Kiss Me, Kate."

It will be season of changes, Boyd said. General admission seating for the Youth Theatre production and cabaret presentations will give way to reserved seating. A lift for the physically disabled and an upgraded sprinkler system are being installed in the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center on Linden Street, home of the cabaret and the St. Germain Stage. Down the road, said BSC managing director Tristan Wilson, will be substantial renovations of the St. Germain auditorium, actor dressing rooms and audience rest rooms.

For the first time in the nine years Barrington Stage has been at 30 Union St., the Elks Lodge lot across the street will be available for parking for all Mainstage performances except Thursday nights, when the Lodge holds its bingo night. There will be a parking fee of $5 assessed by BSC, which will be turned over to the Lodge, Boyd said.

Theater officials are examining ways of moving audiences in and out of theater's small lobby efficiently. Boyd said the side doors that open onto an alleyway will used as an entry for people who already have their tickets. Tickets will be scanned by ushers instead of torn to help move people along. And advance ticketholders will be able to print their tickets out at home.

"We are learning how to do things better, to improve, to grow," Boyd said. "We are realizing our strengths and our weaknesses more."

"It's been a great ride, a long journey and we couldn't have done it without a strong staff and a strong, supportive board," Boyd said, reflecting on the 20 years since Barrington Stage debuted at the Consolati Performing Arts Center at Mount Everett High School in Sheffield.

"We had our infancy and puberty in Sheffield. We've made it to our adulthood in Pittsfield."


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