Shakespeare & Company: Common ground on Kemble Street



70 Kemble St., Lenox.


A year-round not-for-profit professional theater company offering training workshops for actors, programs in schools, and fully mounted productions of plays by William Shakespeare, new plays, and established contemporary and classical plays by European and American playwrights.

The 2013 summer season runs May 24 to Sept. 15 in the Tina Packer Playhouse and the smaller Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre; fall/winter season runs mid-September through early March.

Ticket prices: $5-$95


• Josie's Place -- cafe in the Tina Packer Playhouse lobby, serving hot and cold beverages, beer, wine, hot and cold foods and snacks.

 Bernstein Theatre lobby cafe -- serving hot and cold foods, snacks and beverages; beer and wine

 Gift counters at Josie's Place and Bernstein lobby -- souvenirs, clothing, books

 Picnicking and hiking

Low or free admission highlights:

 Riotous Youth. Two-week program of creative workshops designed to introduce children of all ages to Shakespeare, culminating in a performance. Free.

 Shakespeare and Young Company. A troupe of youths in two performances in the Rose Footprint Theatre in August. $15 adults; students free

 Author! Author! Series of talks with best-selling and award-winning authors. $15

 Studio Series. Company actors appear in a series of staged readings of plays that may or may not be under consideration for full productions. $15 adults; $5 students

 Fourth of July Celebration. Public reading of Declaration of Independence. Free.

 Rose Footprint Theatre The company's non-Equity actors perform an adaptation of Moliere's "Les Faux Pas, or, The Counter Plots" in the tented theater in the field below the Tina Packer Playhouse. $15 adults; students free

 Tuesday Talks. Actors, directors, designers, Shakespeare scholars discuss the processes behind creating this season's productions. $8 adults; $5 students.

 Behind the scenes tours. Two-hour tours of the company's scene and costume shops, weapons storage room and other backstage areas. $10 adults; $5 students


1. Shakespeare & Company's property originally was the site of Lenox School for Boys.

2. Grounds are open to the public for hiking and picnicking.

3. "The Dog House" is the aptly nicknamed on-site residence for actors and their canine companions.

Tony Simotes is always looking to promote Shakespeare & Company beyond its summer productions of William Shakespeare's plays.

The company's artistic director won't hesitate to espouse about the backstage tours, outdoor art exhibits and summer programs such as The Studio Series. For six consecutive Wednesdays, staged readings of contemporary plays are tested before local audiences to see if a full-fledged production would be well received in a subsequent season.

"Shakespeare & Company is not just about traditional theater but [also staging] new works," Simotes said.

The Studio Series also exemplifies how the 35-year-old performing arts organization engages the community throughout the season.

Among the off-stage offerings Simotes pointed to were the Bankside Festival, geared toward families and youth, and Author! Author!, a series of talks with local and national writers.

"It showcases authors of the Berkshires and/or [those] who are relevant to our season," he said.

Even Shakespeare & Company's sprawling campus is inviting, Simotes says; drawing regulars and newcomers seeking a place to relax.

"It's nice to see a family having a picnic on the grounds which are open to the public," Simotes noted.

Stephanie Schamess' granddaughter is hooked on Shakespeare & Company thanks to its Riotous Youth.

In 2010, Janie Schamess, now 11, first participated in a two-week session of the summer program designed to introduce youngsters to playwright William Shakespeare through creative workshops, ending with students performing a scene from one of his plays.

"At age 8, Janie learned a long monologue [from ‘Romeo & Juliet']," said Stephanie Schamess of Northampton. "I really appreciated how the language was kept intact as it respected her intelligence."

Janie and her family have since moved from Lenox to Ohio, but she plans a return visit just to take part in another two-week session of the program, according to the girl's grandmother.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Schamess anxiously awaits her fifth Fourth of July Celebration at Shakespeare & Company highlighted by the public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The nine-season patron of the company's main stage productions finds the family-friendly event "very moving, very powerful."

"This pulls together everything I love about Shakespeare & Company -- a sense of community," she said. "It's plain folk and wealthy folk sharing the experience."


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