Eli Wallach: Remembering a storyteller


PITTSFIELD -- What Berkshire Theater Group CEO and artistic director Kate Maguire remembers most about actor Eli Wallach is sitting on the porch of the Red Lion Inn listening to him tell stories.

It was the summer of 1996. Maguire was managing director then of Berkshire Theatre Festival. Wallach was in Stockbridge to star in a pre-New York run of "Visiting Mr. Green" -- he would return to BTF in 1997 in "Over the River and Through the Trees."

"We’d sit there on the porch and he would tell the most incredible stories about all the personalities he knew in New York, in Hollywood," Maguire recalled by telephone from her office at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District.

Wallach, who died earlier this week at the age of 98, had long and close ties with BTF. As a younger actor, he had been on its stage often. He was friends, from their Actors Studio days in New York, with Maguire’s boss, BTF artistic director Arthur Storch.

"He also knew a lot of actors and actresses from New York and he and his wife (of 66 years, actress Anne Jackson, who survives her husband and with whom he did a benefit for BTF in 2004) came here often to see them perform," Maguire said.

"Anne was the love of his life."

Maguire said that despite his "star" status, Wallach was "so generous, completely accessible."

She also remembers Wallach in rehearsal.

"He was very precise," Maguire said. "He knew his way. He was demanding and he was right in his demands."

But it’s those storytelling moments on the Red Lion Inn porch that linger.

"He could tell stories like no other," Maguire said.


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