Berkshire Theatre group hits a New York trifecta

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PITTSFIELD — Three productions that originated at Berkshire Theatre Group will be opening in New York over the next five weeks.

The most notable, and recent, Mark Medoff's "Children of a Lesser God," begins previews March 22 at Broadway's Studio 54, 254 W. 54 St., ahead of an April 11 opening. Directed by Kenny Leon and starring Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff, the production was presented this past summer at BTG's Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge. This will be the play's first Broadway revival since 1980.

Shem Bitterman's "The Stone Witch" begins previews Monday at Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd St., ahead of a March 25 opening. Rupak Ginn reprises his role as a promising young author who is hired by a growingly impatient editor to help a reclusive, curmudgeonly grand master of children's literature finish the book he has been working on for the better part of 12 years. Because of his starring role in the CBS sitcom, "Superior Donuts," Judd Hirsch, who played the elderly writer on the Fitzpatrick Main Stage in 2016, is being replaced in New York by Dan Lauria. Carolyn McCormack will play the editor, a role that was played in Stockbridge by Kristin Griffith. Steve Zuckerman again directs.

"Dutch Masters," a play by BTG alum Greg Keller that had its premiere at BTG's Unicorn Theatre in 2011 and a staged reading at BTG last summer, begins previews April 4 at The Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd St., where it is scheduled to open April 12. Andre Holland directs Ian Duff and Jake Horowitz.

Two of the three productions, "Children of a Lesser God" and "The Stone Witch," were brought to Berkshire Theatre Group CEO and artistic director Kate Maguire by their respective producing teams — Hal Lustig, Craig Haffner and Nyle DiMarco; and Darlene Kaplan, Laura Janik Vronan and Scott J. Newsome.

"We knew those shows already were heading for New York," Maguire said in a brief telephone interview.

"With 'Dutch Masters,' Greg had written this play and asked if I would read it. I don't think he ever realized I would produce it."

"Dutch Masters" is being produced in New York by Partial Comfort Productions. While it's taken seven years for "Dutch Masters" to move on from the Berkshires, Maguire says the play — about an encounter between two youths, one black, one white, on a New York subway train — has changed very little since its initial Berkshires run. Moreover, Maguire said, "I think the play is even more relevant now than it was then."

"Stone Witch" also has changed little since its 2016 world premiere in the Berkshires.

"None of the changes that have been made changes their integrity," Maguire said. "Each one of these projects is in support of the integrity of the play."

The New York productions come as Berkshire Theatre Group — originally Berkshire Theatre Festival before its merger with The Colonial Theatre in 2011 — marks its 90th anniversary.

"We get to say here and in New York that we are 90 years old," Maguire said.

While BTG has received some financial compensation for two of the three productions, the primary benefit for BTG, Maguire says, is the credit BTG will get in the shows' printed programs.

"People outside will know that this work began here," Maguire said. Moving work on, she says, whether to New York and/or beyond, "takes money, takes persistence, takes stamina and a sense that what you are working on is important."

EDITOR'S NOTE: In addition to these three productions from Berkshire Theatre Group, Berkshire Playwrights Lab's production of James Anthony Tyler's "Some Old Black Man," directed by BPL co-artistic director Joe Cacaci and starring Wendell Pierce and Roger Robinson, just completed a limited run at 59E59 Theaters in New York. The play had its world premiere last summer at St. James Place in Great Barrington with Leon Addison Brown in the role played in New York by Pierce.


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