For not being directly involved in theater, I’m surrounded by it. And there’s a strong reason -- I love it.
It’s a lost form of entertainment. When I think reality television writing can’t further insult our intelligence, I turn the TV off and instead opt to see some of the amazing theater I’m surrounded by, knowing my faith in human creativity and writing will be restored.
It also helps that the majority of my closest friends are actors, directors and writers. My oldest childhood friend, Travis, is the Berkshire Theater Group’s Associate Artist and has successfully directed some great shows at Berkshire Theater Group, including last year’s "Peter Pan" where Pan, suspended from the Colonial Theater’s ceiling, flew over me. His upcoming show "Seussical," opens in August. Then there is my soul-sista best friend, Justina, who’s starred in Berkshire Theater Festival shows and is the new Pittsfield High School theater teacher who brought the sold-out production of "Cats" to another level of high school theater.
But wanting to see every show can throw your budget out of whack, so when I saw the posters promoting a free outdoor production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," in Springside Park, I was through the roof.
I love the idea that art and theater can be accessible to everyone, whether they can afford it or not. So, last Friday night, my friends Sara, Tim, Peter -- all from the newly relocated Pittsfield Berkshire Fringe -- my friend Casey and I all decided to have a group date night, and the only place to go, in our minds, was to see this show.
I haven’t been to Springside Park in a long time. There’s really no excuse. They have some of the nicest tulip gardens there, beautiful old buildings and great pictures of all things historical Pittsfield.
I dragged a bag full of food, a chair and blanket from my car and passed through the vast lawn at Springside to the designated area where I found people gathering. Once I found my friends, we spread out blankets and got to the all-important business of eating. Bellies full, we noticed the stage in front of us.
The set is constructed of wood pallets faceted to one another, covered in ivy and Christmas lights. We watched as more and more people crossed the lawn until the space could seem to fit no more. Luckily, it wasn’t over packed and I was still able to slowly stretch out my legs.
As the show went on, I found myself surrounded by people, especially children, who were laughing as hard as I was. I would guess not many 7-year-olds would be able to enjoy Shakespeare, but I was wrong. This cast was energetic, engaging and even threw in some iPhone jokes to make this well-produced show fresh and relevant. I was so into the production, I didn’t even notice the sun fading until it was dark.
Luckily, there is a lot of free, or at least discounted, entertainment in the Berkshires.
Several times each summer I’ve headed to Jacob’s Pillow on a Wednesday evening or Sunday afternoon to catch one of their amazing free dance performances, and Williamstown Theater Festival offers free theater days, which you need to go to. Seriously, their theater is amazing and they pack their cast full of famous-faced actors.
Places like Barrington Stage and Berkshire Theater Festival offer discounted tickets for those of us under 35 on certain nights. And places like The Berkshire Fringe are offering amazing new, emerging playwright’s shows and the price for the tickets online are only $18.
There are affordable choices out there. All these artistic features are why people come and sometimes make their home in the Berkshires. Theater is a driving force behind our economy and now these institutions are making themselves accessible to all audiences. Please go and venture with your friends and families and move on from the reality television to actual entertainment.
Want to know which theater I’m really hyped up about? I’m totally going to The Berkshire Fringe’s 10 Year/Kickoff Party this Saturday, Aug. 2. The tickets are pay-your-age (up to $50) and even though there is no dress code, I’m throwing a fancy dress on. Come on down for some tasty treats, libations, music and dancing.
I also couldn’t possibly miss my oldest friend Travis’ show, "Seussical" opening at The Colonial Theater on Aug. 7.