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Barrington Stage Company and Williamstown Theatre Festival join forces to present 'A New Brain' in August

Collaboration is first between any of the Berkshires' theaters with national profiles


PITTSFIELD — Two of the Berkshires’ nationally recognized theaters — Barrington Stage Company and the Tony Award-winning Williamstown Theatre Festival — will collaborate this summer on a revival of William Finn and James Lapine’s 1998 musical, “A New Brain,” Aug. 16 through Sept. 9 in the Boyd-Quinson Stage. Opening night is Aug. 20.

Joe Calarco is directing this first ever collaboration between two of the Berkshires’ four theaters with national profiles: Barrington Stage Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Berkshire Theatre Group and Shakespeare & Company.

“I came to the Berkshires with a desire to collaborate, and I am so happy that our two organizations are joining forces on ‘A New Brain’,” BSC artistic director Alan Paul said via email. “The Berkshires is an amazing place for theater, and I'm excited by what we can create together."

“Alan and I have been in conversation since he came to BSC,” WTF’s interim artistic director Jenny Gersten said in a separate email. “He and I were hoping from the start that we might find some ways for our organizations to collaborate. (We) share a lot of admiration for similar artists.”

In terms of the collaboration, Gersten explained that the Festival will have what she characterized as “meaningful consultation on all artistic decisions for the production.” The Festival also will provide marketing support.

Originally presented in 1998 at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, “A New Brain” is a largely autobiographical musical about Finn’s life-threatening experience surviving a neurological brain condition. Its central character, Gordon, can’t get past his writer’s block when a medical emergency forces him to reassess if his work is more important than his family, his friends or his partner.

The Lincoln Center production won the 1999 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical. The show was revived in 2015 at New York City Center’s Encores! Off-Center series.

Finn’s collaborator on “A New Brain,” stage director and playwright James Lapine, counts among his credits his work with Stephen Sondheim on “Into the Woods” and “Sunday in the Park With George.”

“‘A New Brain’ has long been deserving of rediscovery, so it is a wonderful opportunity for our theaters to join forces for the first time to present it for our audiences this summer,” Paul and Gersten said in a joint statement. “We are especially pleased to celebrate one of the most distinct voices in the American theater, who makes his home here in the Berkshires.”

Finn’s association with Barrington Stage Company includes the world premieres of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “The Royal Family of Broadway,” both of which were collaborations with playwright Rachel Sheinkin. The composer-lyricist also is an artistic associate at BSC and artistic producer of its Musical Theatre Lab. He lives in Williamstown and is a graduate of Williams College. 

Barrington Stage Company is an award-winning theater that performs in two theaters in Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District — 520-seat Boyd-Quinson Stage on Union Street and the 132-seat St. Germain Stage. The theater company was co-founded in Sheffield in 1995 by Julianne Boyd, who stepped down as artistic director at the end of the 2022 season. Paul is her successor.

The company began gaining national recognition in 1997 with a production of “Cabaret” that moved to Boston in 1997 for an extended run. The theater’s prominence grew with “Spelling Bee” (BSC 2004; Broadway 2005-2008, winner of two Tony Awards). Other notable productions include the world premiere of Christopher Demos-Brown’s “American Son” (BSC 2016; Broadway 2018); Mark St. Germain’s “Freud’s Last Session” (BSC 2009; Off-Broadway 2010-2012); Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s “On the Town” (BSC 2013; Broadway 2014, four Tony Award nominations); Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s “Company” starring Aaron Tveit (2017); and “West Side Story” in honor of Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins’ centenaries (2018).

BSC develops and commissions new work with two programs: PlayWorks, which supports the creation of new plays, and the Musical Theatre Lab, which develops new musicals. Since 1995, BSC has produced 45 new works, 22 of which have moved to New York and major US regional theaters. Following the industry-wide shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, BSC was the first Equity theater in the U.S. to return to live performance with its production of “Harry Clarke,” starring Mark H. Dold and directed by Boyd.

Barrington Stage Company’s season begins June 18 on the Boyd-Quinson Stage with Paul’s production of “Cabaret” and runs through the final performance of “A New Brain” on Sept. 9. Plans for a fall production are expected to be announced at a future date.

Founded in 1954, Williamstown Theatre Festival is housed in Williams College’s ‘62 Center for Theater and Dance, formerly Adams Memorial Theatre. Among theater luminaries who have been drawn to the Festival's stages are Matthew Broderick, Audra McDonald, Bradley Cooper, Dominique Morisseau, Mary-Louise Parker, Susan Stroman, Uma Thurman, Blair Underwood, Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christopher Walken, Mary Tyler Moore, Arthur Miller, Olympia Dukakis, Edward Herrmann, Kate Burton, James Naughton, and Christopher Reeve. Many others — among them, Sterling K. Brown, Ty Burrell, Charlie Day, Paul Giamatti, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Brie Larson, Chris Pine, and George C. Wolfe — began their careers at the Festival.

In 2002, the Festival received the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater.

Productions developed at the Festival and artists shaped there have moved on to theaters in New York, across the United States and around the world. Recently, the Festival was represented on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regionally by, among other shows, “The Sound Inside,” “Grand Horizons,” “The Rose Tattoo,” “The Visit,” “Fool for Love,” “The Elephant Man,” “Seared,” “Selling Kabul,” “Unknown Soldier,” and “Lempicka.” Martyna Majok’s “Cost of Living, which was developed and premiered at Williamstown Theatre Festival during the 2016 season, had an Off-Broadway run in 2017; was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; and made its Broadway debut last fall.

Gersten is expected to announce the balance of the Festival's 2023 season shortly.

Berkshire Eagle theater critic and writer Jefrrey Borak contributed to this article.

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