Town Players of Pittsfield: Everything is new again


PITTSFIELD -- The songs may be old -- by way of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley; the building may be old -- the former Women's Club on Wendell Avenue; the organization is old, 92-plus years. And yet, everything is new again at Town Players of Pittsfield.

The community theater moves into its new permanent home at the Whitney Center for the Arts this weekend with a revue "Sing! Sing! Sing!" starting tonight and running through Sunday afternoon.

There will be a reception immediately following Saturday's performance.

The show is being directed by Beverly Van Alstyne Krol assisted by Nancy Schaffer and pianist Rob Shepard.

PHOTO GALLERY | Town Players Cabaret group rehearses for upcoming performance

With nearly 30 sings, "Sing! Sing! Sing!" caters to a wide range of musical tastes, Krol says.

"There's some Broadway music, some country, some folk, some pop," Krol said during a recent pre-rehearsal interview at the Whitney. "You can sing about all kinds of things.

"The show really is about the gift and joy of music; what music does for you; how it fills your heart."

The community theater -- one of the oldest in the nation -- has been something of a gypsy since increased rental fees for use of its decades-long home in the Robert Boland Theatre at Berkshire Community College forced Town Players to leave. It has given up its big fully mounted productions for small-cast-one-set plays and staged readings at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts on Renne Avene; the second-floor banquet room at Spice Dragon on North Street; the Masonic Temple, Berkshire Athenaeum, K-111 (the small lecture hall across the lobby from the Boland Theatre in BCC's Koussevitzky Arts Center); Barrington Stage Company's St. Germain Stage, and St. Charles Church Parish Hall.

At one point, Town Players was planning to move into an abandoned store, The Cottage, on Park Square but the project fell through.

The coming together of the Whitney Center, the newest arts game in town, and Town Players, the oldest, couldn't have come at a better time for both organizations.

"We were in the process of buying this building," Whitney executive director Ghazi Kazmi said during an interview at the Whitney. He and Whitney founder, Lisa Whitney, knew Town Players was looking for a home. They were eager to bring Town Players into Pittsfield's Upstreet Cultural District. They made the initial approach to Town Players through an active Town Players volunteer who had gone to high school with Whitney.

"They are a (nearly) 93-year-old organization and they didn't have a home. We felt we could meet their needs here," Kazmi said.

"Giving back to the community is our mantra. Having Town Players here is one way of doing that."

Meanwhile, Town Players president Michael Murphy said during an interview at the Whitney that this new home is giving Town Players a chance to reinvent itself yet again -- behind the scenes, in terms of how the volunteer organzation functions, and in front of the scenes in terms of the kinds of shows the Whitney's centerpiece T-shaped room will permit.

The learning curve will be big for both Town Players and the Whitney, who each have lessons to be learned about a number of things, chiefly the flexibility of an all-purpose room that functions not only as an intimate theater but also a gallery, chamber music and recital hall, lecture room, reception space.

"I'm pushing for new faces, new people, new ideas," Murphy said. "We're changing 92 years of habits.

"Our door is open. We're walking the walk if we're going to talk the talk."

Murphy held out the prospect of Town Players getting back into the big Broadway musical business again through collaborations with Berkshire Community College's BCC Players.

He's also interested in collaboration with the county's high schools.

But everything is on the table, Murphy says.

"Perhaps we'll come across something we've never done before or perhaps something we've tried before but approach differently this time," Murphy said.

"We're getting back on solid ground. We're still playing Pittsfield."


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