Judd Hirsch in new play highlights BTG summer season

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PITTSFIELD >> Golden Globe and two-time Tony- and Emmy Award-winning actor Judd Hirsch is coming to Stockbridge this summer in a world premiere.

The actor — who won his Tonys in 1986 for "I'm Not Rappaport" and again in 1992 for "Conversations With My Father"; his Emmys in 1981 and 1983 for his role as Alex Reiger in the TV sitcom "Taxi"; and his Golden Globe in 1989 for another sitcom, "Dear John"— will play a reclusive award-winning children's book writer and illustrator in Shem Bitterman's "The Stone Witch" at Berkshire Theatre Group's Fitzpatrick Main Stage, July 20 through Aug. 20. Press opening is scheduled for July 23. Steve Zuckerman is directing this drama about the interaction between the older writer, Simon, and a struggling young writer named Peter, who has been assigned by an important book editor to go to Simon's remote cabin and help him complete his first manuscript in well over a decade — a book that also may well be Simon's last.

"It's a play that talks about what it means to be an artistic success in America," BTG artistic director/CEO Kate Maguire said in an interview. "I am so delighted that Judd Hirsch is attracted to this piece and wants to do it. It's an honor to have him here."

"The Stone Witch" highlights a Berkshire Theatre Group summer/fall season that includes productions of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," directed by David Auburn (Fitzpatrick Main Stage, June 22-July 16; press opening, June 25); "Constellations," directed by Gregg Edelman, a love story by Nick Payne co-starring real-life wife and husband Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowatt in their third consecutive BTG appearance together, this time as, respectively, a quantum physicist and a beekeeper (Unicorn Theatre, Aug. 3-27; press opening, Aug. 8); and, in the fall, the American premiere of Kate Cayley's "The Bakelite Masterpiece," a co-production with WAM Theatre, directed by WAM co-founder and artistic director Kristin van Ginhoven and co-starring David Adkins and Corinna May in a drama about an artist who finds himself in a life-threatening predicament in Holland at the end of World War II. Performances begin Sept. 29. The show is scheduled to run through Oct. 23. Press opening is Oct. 1.

In addition to the annual community production — this year it's "Beauty and the Beast," Aug. 11-19 at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield — BTG is producing two major musicals, one at the Colonial, the other at the Unicorn in Stockbridge.

The Colonial musical is "Little Shop of Horrors" (July 6-23; press opening, July 9) directed by Ethan Heard, who directed BTG's 2014 production of "A Little Night Music" and last summer's "Bells Are Ringing," both at the Colonial, and, in 2013, "The Cat and the Canary" at the Unicorn.

The Unicorn musical is the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning "Fiorello!" with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, the duo responsible for, among other shows, "Fiddler on the Roof" and "She Loves Me."

"Fiorello!" chronicles the rise to political power of one of New York City's most colorful mayors, Fiorello LaGuardia, who took on the corrupt Tammany Hall leadership.

The show opened on Broadway in November 1959 and ran for nearly 800 performances.

Maguire says she finds parallels between the era of the musical — post-World War I into the early 1930s — and now in its focus on "a political figure who is trying to set forward a progressive path."

In addition, Maguire said, "the score is great. We also have director (Bob Moss) who understands the material and respects it."

"Little Shop of Horrors" represents a change of directorial pace for Heard at BTG. "When I mentioned it, he said 'yes' enthusiastically and without hesitation," Maguire said. "It's not been done professionally in the Berkshires. It will be different. Ethan wants to take his shot at making it fun and fresh and bold."

The fall show, "The Bakelite Masterpiece," is the first co-production between BTG and Berkshires-based WAM Theatre, which will announce its 2016 season next week.

"I think it's important for us to support local groups," Maguire said, "and I have long admired Kristin's work at WAM."

Overall, Maguire said, "I've handed the season over to (artists) who have done well for us. I think it all fits in to what we do best."

SEASON AT A GLANCE

THE COLONIAL THEATRE. Pittsfield campus. 111 South St.

• "Little Shop of Horrors" Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman. Music by Alan Menken: Directed by Ethan Heard; choreography, Parker Esse; music direction, Joel Fran. July 6-23. Press opening — July 9

• 11th annual community production — "Beauty and the Beast." Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Book by Linda Woolverton: Directed by Travis G. Daly; choreography, Kathy Jo Grover; music dircetion, Mark Gionfriddo; x. Aug. 11-19

FITZPATRICK MAIN STAGE. Stockbridge campus. 83 E. Main St.

• "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" by Tennessee Williams: Directed by David Auburn. June 22-July 15. Press opening — June 25

• "The Stone Witch" by Shem Bitterman (world premiere): With Judd Hirsch. Directed by Steve Zuckerman. July 20-Aug. 20. Press opening — July 23

UNICORN THEATRE. Stockbridge campus. 6 East St.

• "Fiorello!" Book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott. Music by Jerry Bock. Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick: Directed by Bob Moss; choreography, Michael Callahan; music direction, June 16-23. Press opening — June 18

• "Constellations" by Nick Payne: With Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowatt. Directed by Greg Edelman. Aug. 3-27. Press opening — Aug. 6

• "The Bakelite Masterpiece" by Kate Cayley (American premiere): With David Adkins and Corinna May. Directed by Kristin van Ginhoven. Co-production with WAM Theatre. Sept. 29-Oct. 23. Press opening — Oct. 1

TICKETS

• Single tickets and various ticket packages are on sale now — in person at Colonial Theatre box office, 111 South St., Pittsfield; by phone at (413) 997-4444; or online at BerkshireTheatreGroup.org

• Colonial box office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; performance days, 10 a.m. until curtain

• Complete season schedule and ticket information available online at BerkshireTheatreGroup.org


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