GREAT BARRINGTON — This summer, The Guthrie Center is going to party like it's 1969!
Recently completed upgrades to the center have the old church looking just like it did when a camera crew was there shooting "Alice's Restaurant." The film was inspired by Arlo Guthrie's well-known song of the same title, which was released in 1967.
Some of the upgrades were exact — glass artisans at Guarducci Stained Glass Studio watched "Alice's Restaurant" and took video stills to re-create pieces that were damaged or lost from the large, circular stained-glass window at the front entrance. Guarducci donated work on the window, which has an estimated value of $42,000.
And some were just better — the old popping, plaster ceiling in the great room has been replaced with a bright, white drop ceiling.
"The old ceiling, it looks awful; it looked 150 years old, like it was," said Guthrie Artistic Director and Manager George Laye. Now, "it's all painted white, like it was originally."
What guests are most likely to notice, though, is how hot and cool the space is — a $93,000 grant from The Jane & Jack Fitzpatrick Trust, a local charitable foundation, allowed The Guthrie Center to insulate the entire circa-1860s church.
"Everything is so new and lovely," Laye said. "We're going to have shows here on Columbus Day weekend, like we usually do, but, yeah, it will be wonderful. I'm so excited."
After being closed for six to eight weeks for insulation and glass repairs, The Guthrie Center, a Great Barrington nonprofit that promotes spiritual and community connections and the arts, is reopening Saturday with a memorial for late Berkshire Eagle reporter Derek Gentile, who was a supporter of the center and enjoyed spending time there. The event is from 7 to 10 p.m. The BTUs band is playing, and people will be able to share stories and tributes to Gentile.
Wednesday community lunches, tutoring, group meetings, hootenannies and spiritual services will resume next week, Laye said.
"The community lunch people — it's like their second home here, they love it," Laye said. "Wednesday, everything is starting back up."
Laye said The Guthrie Center will have its kitchen up and running and the bar restocked to celebrate the improvements at its first concert of the year: Arlo Guthrie on Memorial Day weekend.
The Guthrie Center hosts many musical and spiritual events throughout the year, but it might be best known for the summertime Troubadour Series. This year's series will include a tribute to Doc Pomus (1925-1991), a songwriter behind many hits in the 1940s through the '70s including: "I'll Save the Last Dance for You," "(A) Teenager in Love," "This Magic Moment," "Viva Las Vegas" and "Turn Me Loose."
For more information about The Guthrie Center and events, visit guthriecenter.org.
Kristin Palpini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @kristinpalpini on Twitter, and 413-629-4621.