LENOX — Shakespeare & Company has a green light to add a second outdoor stage for live performances with audiences this summer and beyond.
The newly approved 300-seat stage, called the Roman Garden Theatre, measures 110 feet by 80 feet. It will replace a simple slab that hosted small-scale performances and actor training sessions.
Like the New Spruce Theatre, a 500-seat outdoor amphitheater that gained a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals in December, the Roman Garden will operate during daytime hours from Memorial Day weekend through the Columbus Day weekend.
At the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting April 7, attorney Lori Robbins, representing the theater company based at the 33-acre 70 Kemble St. site, noted that the troupe had to cancel its entire season last summer, and is set to stage ticketed performances outdoors only during the upcoming season.
The Roman Garden stage, between the St. Martin’s Hall rear wing and the Tina Packer Playhouse, will conclude its performances by 9 p.m., same as the New Spruce.
It will be a flexible performance space, depending on COVID requirements, as well as the scheduled productions, Robbins said. Eventually, once attendance limitations are lifted, both new stages could accommodate their maximum seating, with ample parking and concessions as well as restrooms at the Tina Packer Playhouse.
No additional lighting, sound, other facilities or changes are proposed for the Roman Garden location, the attorney noted. Performances will not be scheduled at the same time at the two outdoor stages.
Bringing back outdoor theater to Lenox will serve community needs, Robbins said. In the future, performances will not be offered at the existing indoor Tina Packer Playhouse and Elayne Bernstein Theatre at the same time as the outdoor stages.
Conceivably, an indoor performance at the 190-seat Bernstein venue and the new outdoor Roman Garden site could be scheduled simultaneously. But, there would be no Roman Garden and Tina Packer Playhouse shows at the same time.
Two direct neighbors sent in letters of support for the project, Robbins said.
The special permit was approved unanimously by the ZBA with a minimum of discussion.
“The project has been very well explained in the past; this seems to be a continuation, and I think it’s a great idea,” said board member Albert Harper.
“It’s a wonderful proposal, since COVID has moved many of our entertainment venues outside,” member Shawn Leary Considine said. “It’s also great that this will continue into the future.” Board members Ned Douglas and Clayton Hambrick concurred.
The New Spruce will host a run of “King Lear” with Christopher Lloyd in the starring role. The show is scheduled from July 2 through Aug. 29, according to the theater company’s recently announced summer season plans.
A production of “Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey,” written and performed by Debra Ann Byrd and directed by the troupe’s founder, Tina Packer, is scheduled for July 16-25 in the Roman Garden Theatre. A workshop production of “Measure for Measure” is planned for the new stage Sept. 1-5.