Berkshire Fringe coming former Notre Dame Church in Pittsfield


PITTSFIELD -- After nine years at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Berkshire Fringe is moving to Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District.

The Fringe will mark its 10th anniversary this summer with its first season at Shire City Sanctuary, the former Notre Dame Church at 40 Melville St., owned and operated by textile artist Crispina ffrench and her husband, Chris Swindlehurst.

The cutting-edge theater and performance art festival will kick off Aug. 2 with Retro Spectacle, a 10-year anniversary celebration, and then run through Aug. 18.

In a news release, Megan Whilden, director of cultural development for Pittsfield, said, "I have been a fan of the Berkshire Fringe Festival since it launched 10 years ago and love the creative and innovative energy and performers they bring to the Berkshires each year. The Fringe festival will be an exciting new addition to the Upstreet Cultural District."

In the same news release Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi joined Whilden in welcoming Berkshire Fringe to Pittsfield, adding "the economic impact of dozens of performers from around the world and hundreds of audience members heading upstreet this August will benefit local businesses and residents."

"Simon’s Rock provided a very safe nest for us to hatch the Fringe for our first nine seasons," Berkshire Fringe co-artistic director Sara Katzoff said in the news release. "As alumni of the college, we are deeply grateful for the support they have given us over the years.

"We are excited to join forces with the city of Pittsfield and the diverse cultural momentum taking place there.

"The Š availability of Crispina’s Shire City Sanctuary for public events and the support of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development have combined to make this big move an easy transition for us."

"We are very excited to showcase our building with this wonderful group of creative entrepreneurs and look forward to growing our mission with like-minded people and organizations," ffrench commented in the news release.

Two Fringe favorites will be returning to headline the 2014 festival in its new home.

The Wardrobe Ensemble from Bristol, UK will present the U.S. premiere of their newest work, "33" -- a show rexamining the media frenzy surrounding the Chilean miners crisis -- in addition to remounting their 2012 Fringe hit "RIOT."

Under The Table Theater Ensemble from Brooklyn, N.Y. will present two productions: "The HunchbackS" of Notre Dame, and "Solo: A Two Person Show."

In addition to over 30 main performances at Shire City Sanctuary, Katzoff says the Fringe intends to schedule smaller events, including its 30 Live! free concert series and a free Community Performance Laboratory, at smaller venues like the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts. A complete schedule of performances, family programs, free concerts, workshops, pick-your-own-price nights and open rehearsals will be announced in May.

Founded in 2005, Berkshire Fringe has presented over 130 original works of theater, dance and new music by 550 artists and ensembles from around the world, the United States, and the Berkshires.

Berkshire Fringe is funded through the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Office of Cultural Development for the City of Pittsfield, The Tadd Gero Fund for Emerging Artists, and a network of donors and supporters throughout the Berkshires and beyond.

"We are big fans of WordxWord, the 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival and other collaborative events held here," said Katzoff. "Having colleagues and collaborators in the arts is so essential and everyone we have spoken to in Pittsfield has welcomed the Fringe with open arms. We are looking forward to sparking new partnerships with the numerous organizations, artists and businesses who are bringing so much creative energy to this city."


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