Berkshire high school students to debut on Colonial stage


PITTSFIELD -- Dozens of high school students will make their debut tonight on the stage of the Colonial Theatre.

Starting at 7 p.m., Berkshire Theatre Group will present "Encore! An Evening to Celebrate High School Musicals," created for and by high school students, and directed by Travis G. Daly.

Monument Mountain Regional High School seniors Isabel Costa and Caroline Mack came up with the idea while working as BTG interns this year.

"I thought it would be a great way to be able to see other high schools’ productions, since a lot of us were stuck in tech (rehearsals) for our own shows," Costa said of the non-competitive event.

"These kids just work so hard on their shows, we thought this was the least we can do, to create something where we could come out and support each other," Mack said.

More than 200 students from eight local high schools will perform musical numbers or scenes from their spring productions.

Wahconah Regional High School Director Thomas Towne and Assistant Director Pamela Fortlage-Gold have both been producing plays and musicals with the school’s Apollonian Players troupe for more than 25 years and said there’s never been an all-school showcase like this in Berkshire County. "I’ve been wanting this bond within schools and districts for years," Fortlage-Gold said.

"I think it’s always good for high school kids to see what other kids do outside of their school. It puts their own work into perspective," Towne said.

Ryan Dufour was sitting at rehearsal this week with his fellow seniors Shannon Steele and Amy Iwanowicz, and freshman Colette Basiliere. The four were buzzing about the idea of performing at a professional venue like the Colonial Theatre. "It’s a great venue and stage to be able to share our work on," Dufour said.

"And it will be a nice send off for us as seniors," Steele said.

For members of the Proteus theater group at Pittsfield High School, "Encore!" will be "more of a preview than an encore," said Justina Trova, who is directing the school’s production of the musical, "Cats." The show’s run begins on May 28.

One of their rehearsals was recently filmed for a regionally produced Time Warner Cable featurette on "Cats" composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, which will air Saturday at 1:30 and 8:30 p.m. on channel 1020. PHS senior Maggie Winslow and sophomore Dvorah Gitlitz said the exposure on television and at the Colonial Theatre can only help put the focus on local high school theater programs.

"People deserve good theater. It’s worth seeing." Gitlitz of area high schools’ productions.

Winslow said she hopes that more people will get involved with high school theater, whether it be younger students getting involved with productions or community members helping to preserve the programs, some which are struggling.

For example, Winslow and Gitlitz lamented the fact that the Pittsfield High School auditorium is aging and that the curtains are torn. At Wahconah, a theater workshop that was offered as part of the academic day won’t be on the roster next year. And at Taconic High School, a lack of funding is causing concern that students won’t be able to participate in Shakespeare & Company’s annual Fall Festival of Shakespeare.

Said Wahconah choreographer Vickie Hornstein, "The performing arts offer fabulous opportunities and foster important life skills in our students. We can’t let [these programs] disappear."

If you go ...

What: Berkshire Theatre Group presents "Encore! An Evening to Celebrate High School Musicals," directed by Travis G. Daly. Created by Monument Mountain Regional High School seniors Isabel Costa and Caroline Mack.

When: 7 tonight

Where: Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Pittsfield.

Tickets: $10 for students, $15 for adults. Purchases can be made in person at the box office, by calling (413) 997-4444, or visiting Ticket proceeds benefit BTG PLAYS!, BTG’s year-round education program which includes students of all ages from Berkshire County and beyond.

Details: This special showcase features 10-minute encore performances from eight Berkshire County high schools, including: Lenox Memorial High School’s "Pippin," directed by Ralph Petillo; "Oliver!" as directed by Jennifer Jordan for Miss Hall’s School; Monument Mountain Regional High School’s "Into the Woods," directed by Linnea Mace; "Grease!," as directed by Kathy Jo Grover for Mount Everett Regional High School; "Guys and Dolls" by Mount Greylock Regional High School as directed by Jeffrey Welch; Pittsfield High School’s production of "Cats" as directed by Justina Trova; "Dames at Sea," performed by Wahconah Regional High School, as directed by Thomas Towne and Pamela Fortlage-Gold, and "The Wedding Singer" as directed by Jessica Passetto. There will also be a sneak preview of BTG’s community production of "Seussical."


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