PITTSFIELD — This summer, Barrington Stage Company is moving theater back indoors.
Taking advantage of Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 safety guidelines permitting the reopening of theaters and performance venues in Massachusetts, Barrington Stage Company will be the first — and, as of this date, only — Berkshires-area theater to produce indoors this summer.
Four of the seven productions scheduled by BSC for its 2021 season will be staged at the theater’s Boyd-Quinson Stage on Union Street. Three other shows will be presented outdoors, under a tent at BSC’s Production Center at 34 Laurel St., just off Merrill Road.
The Boyd-Quinson Stage opens June 18 with Joseph Dougherty’s “Chester Bailey,” starring Reed Birney and his son, Ephraim Birney, as, respectively, a doctor in a Long Island hospital at the end of World War II and his patient, a young man recovering from a crippling assault who denies that what has happened to him has actually happened.
“Chester Bailey,” which runs through July 3, will be followed by Mark St. Germain’s “Eleanor” (July 16-Aug. 1), a one-character play starring Harriet Harris as Eleanor Roosevelt; “Sister Sorry” (Aug. 12-29), a new two-character play by New Yorker writer Alec Wilkinson based on his 1993 New Yorker article about a conceptual artist who encouraged callers to confess their crimes on his answering machine; and “A Crossing” (Sept. 23-Oct. 17), a world premiere musical created in association with Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, directed and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse and co-conceived by Bergasse and playwright Mark St. Germain.
BSC’s season begins outdoors June 10, with “Who Could Ask for Anything More? The Songs of George Gershwin,” conceived by BSC Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, who also directs, and Darren R. Cohen. The Gershwin show runs through July 3. It will be followed July 9-24 by a show to be announced, and July 30-Aug. 22 by the world premiere of “Boca” by Jessica Provenz, an evening of short comedies about the senior lifestyle in Boca Raton, Fla.
In addition to the productions, BSC has planned several special events, most notable a concert performance June 28 in the outdoor tent by Tony Award nominee Elizabeth Stanley (“Jagged Little Pill”).
With the exception of ”A Crossing,” Boyd characterized the Boyd-Quinson shows as the kind of small, psychological dramas that typically turn up in BSC’s intimate St. Germain Stage.
“For the tents,” she said, “I wanted material that is upbeat and lots of fun. I want people to come out, laugh, smile.”
Seating capacity in the tent will be 200; “probably 180 by the time all the groupings are in place,” according to Boyd.
The Boyd-Quinson will be at one-third capacity — 160 seats; most likely, Boyd said, 140 to 150 by the time groupings are in place.
“We’re actually permitted 50 percent under the reopening guidelines, but we felt that keeping admission to about one-third capacity would make us better prepared if we need to make changes,” Boyd said.
The theater was reconfigured last year to accommodate audiences safely in anticipation of being able to support live, in-person shows, but strict state, local and Actors’ Equity Association guidelines in the face of a raging pandemic kept theaters and performance venues closed.
In reconfiguring the Boyd-Quinson, the distance between rows and seats has been increased, Boyd said. The theater will be deep-cleaned after every performance, and the HVAC air purification system is at maximum effect.
Boyd acknowledged that the biggest challenge “is the unknown; not being sure what the governor or Actors’ Equity might allow; not being sure about COVID.”
PITTSFIELD — It was the summer of canceled culture.
She is hedging her bets. There is one week between each show in the Boyd-Quinson to allow time to film a production for streaming. “That way,” Boyd said, “we can accommodate audience members who might be wary about coming to the theater.”
The open week also will permit a brief extension of a show’s run if audience demand warrants.
Boyd said it was strong audience interest that bolstered her decision to go ahead with indoor performances. When the question was put forward in an informal poll of BSC audiences, “we got an overwhelming ‘yes,’” Boyd said.
Boyd senses an overall groundswell. “Most of our audience has been vaccinated,” Boyd said.
“I think people are ready to come out. I think this summer in the Berkshires is going to be very exciting.”