A new arts center, The Foundry, gets ready for its debut in West Stockbridge

A former art gallery at 2 Harris St. in West Stockbridge is being transformed into a new visual and performing arts venue, The Foundry, which will be home to Bazaar Productions/Berkshire Fringe. While Bazaar's signature Berkshire Fringe Festival won't resurface until 2020, the company will present a production of "Particularly in the Heartland" beginning on Aug. 7, running through Aug. 18.

WEST STOCKBRIDGE — A familiar Berkshire company will return to the county's theater scene this summer in a new West Stockbridge venue.

After a two-plus-year hiatus from the stage, Bazaar Productions has taken up residence at The Foundry, a visual and performing arts center on Harris Street that local teaching artist Amy Brentano now owns and manages. While Bazaar's signature project, The Berkshire Fringe festival, won't resurface until 2020, the company will present a production of "Particularly in the Heartland" beginning on Aug. 7. The show originally developed by Brooklyn-based ensemble, The Team, will run through Aug. 18. The company will also be collaborating with Pittsfield's Manos Unidas Multicultural Educational Cooperative to devise a piece about 19th century Mexican singer-performer Julia Pastrana during a 10-day residency program this summer. Both projects mesh with Bazaar's stated mission to "radicalize the cultural landscape of the Berkshires by commissioning, developing and presenting original and groundbreaking new works of theater, dance and multi-media performance by the most vital and revolutionary contemporary voices."

"We are bringing the voices of those who are not typically heard here in the Berkshires, and we're putting them front and center on our stage," Chris Tucci said.

The Bazaar Productions co-artistic director was speaking with fellow artistic director Peter Wise and Brentano during a Tuesday morning press gathering at The Foundry. At one point, a video with Academy Award-winning actress Allison Janney started playing. The "I, Tonya" star was wearing a "Berkshire Fringe" shirt and pledging to match $15,000 of donations to Bazaar Productions/Berkshire Fringe during its fundraising campaign to support its programming.

"Did you know that you have exceptional community theater in your backyard?" the Williamstown Theatre Festival alum says during the clip.

"Particularly in the Heartland" explores three orphaned children's encounters with an alien, a plane crash passenger and a ghost of Robert F. Kennedy in Kansas. The play is about "losing sight of America and trying to fall back in love with it," according to Bazaar's website. The company's last production was "Passage" at Shire City Sanctuary in 2016. Before that, the Berkshire Fringe festival ran from 2005 to 2014, presenting "nearly 100 full-length original productions, staged readings, visual art exhibitions, free concerts and workshops" with more than 600 artists from around the globe, according to Bazaar's website. Recently, the company's leaders have been involved in other projects. Original co-artistic director Sara Katzoff, for example, has been pursuing an MFA from Boston University.

"We're really excited to be back here this summer," Tucci said.

Brentano is similarly thrilled to be bringing a new arts venue to West Stockbridge. An old art studio is still being transformed into a theater space, but Brentano expects a black box setup seating no more than 99 to be done by July 1. Before then, The Foundry will house The Rig's production of "Pericles" on April 25, and a touring show, "Gasping Whiteness," on May 19 that "explores how white supremacy impacts parenting in progressive, middle class communities as it raises funds for [person of color]-led arts, organizing, and youth development work," according to a Facebook event description. Art exhibits will also live in the building's front lobby, and morning raves, in which people congregate for a rowdy dance session before work and school, may be added to the schedule, too.

"You go out into the day, and you look at your normal routine with a slightly different lens. Maybe you'll be more generous. Maybe you'll feel more joy. Maybe you will have twisted your ankle. I don't know," Brentano said.

Ultimately, Brentano wants The Foundry to host music, comedy, spoken-word, educational and community events. The building's name is a nod to "a place where materials can meld together to create something new," Brentano said, "so that's what we're going to do here."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.