Acting on a need: Barrington Stage expands set-production capabilities

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PITTSFIELD Barrington Stage Company has made another move to upgrade its facilities by purchasing a 22,100-square-foot facility on Laurel Street that it plans to turn into a production center.

The performing arts company plans to set up such a facility at Petricca Construction Co.'s former metal fabrication plant at 34 Laurel St., which BSC recently bought for $1.1 million, according to documents filed at the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds. BSC helped finance the purchase by obtaining a $700,000 mortgage from Berkshire Bank.

"We'll be building and painting all of our sets" on Laurel Street, said Artistic Director Julianne Boyd. "Our other facility was absolutely not big enough for us."

Barrington Stage, marking its 25th anniversary in Pittsfield this year, has been using a former warehouse at Fenn and Fourth streets to build sets for its theatrical productions. But that site has several drawbacks.

"Right now, the space that we have is a smaller space, so we don't have the room to actually assemble a [full] set. We build it in pieces," said Barrington Stage General Manager Margaret Lemee. "Once we have all the pieces of the set, we take it to the theater, where we assemble it for the first time."

Sometimes the pieces of a set that looked like they would fit together in a warehouse don't go together in the theater, which means extra work is required, Lemee said.

"Often, when you do it and assemble it at the theater, you have to make changes," she said. "Now, you can do all the preassembly work [in the same place] so all those things will be done and it saves us time."

Barrington Stage has two performing arts spaces in Pittsfield, and during the summer months they often operate at the same time. In the new space, two sets will be able to be built at the same time.

"We're often building two sets at the same time for our bigger and smaller theater, so now we'll be able to do that simultaneously," Lemee said.

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The new site contains 20,900 square feet that Petricca subsidiary Unistress Corp. formerly used for light manufacturing, according to documents filed at the city assessor's office. The remaining 1,200 square feet is office space.

Plans call for the site to be divided so that carpentry and painting can take place in separate areas. Barrington Stage already is moving some of its set pieces to Laurel Street, but it doesn't expect to fully use the new facility until next spring, according to Boyd.

"It's much more efficient," she said. "It makes a big, big difference, believe me."

Petricca built the cavernous facility in 2007 to manufacture metal components after receiving $4.5 million in tax-exempt bond financing to construct it. The plant originally was scheduled to be built at the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires, but that plan fell through in summer 2006, when soil tests revealed that a structure on that site would require an expensive underground support structure. Unistress, which manufactures prestressed concrete products for parking garages, roads, bridges and other structures, previously had purchased metal fabrication materials from an outside supplier.

But the metal fabrication plant became expendable after Unistress expanded its facility on Cheshire Road to make and store materials needed for use in the $70 million rebuild of the Tappan Zee Bridge over New York's Hudson River, the biggest contract in the company's 51-year history. Its work on that project ended in 2017.

"Post-Tappan Zee, we have plenty of room" on Cheshire Road, said Unistress President and CEO Perri Petricca. "It's really not the most efficient way to operate in two locations."

By purchasing the new facility, Barrington Stage has upgraded another section of its physical plant. The performing arts company moved most of its facilities, including offices, rehearsal space and its costume shop, from Union Street to the three-story Wolfson Theater Center on 122 North St. last year, after renovating a building that it originally had purchased in 2016.

"I feel like this is the last piece," Lemee said. "Prior from moving from Union Street to North Street, we had our costume-building shop in little places all over the city. Now, we have that right here with us on North Street. We also have a storage area there. It really felt like the final step was to find a place to service our scenery building."

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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