Barrington Stage Company wants to spread a little joy this summer

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PITTSFIELD — A dance musical set within the framework of Latin American migration across the U.S. border will have its world premiere in late August at Barrington Stage Company.

Co-conceived by choreographer Joshua Bergasse and playwright Mark St. Germain, "A Crossing," will premiere Aug. 20 through Sept. 6 at BSC's St. Germain Stage in the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center on Linden Street. Press opening is Aug. 25.

"We've been working on this piece for 3 years," Barrington Stage Company founding artistic director Julianne Boyd said by phone from her office in BSC's Wolfson Center on North Street, only hours before discussing the upcoming season at a luncheon gathering at the Wolfson Center of media representatives, board members, staff, members of the community. Also at the Wolfson were author Ty Allan Jackson, whose novel, "The Supadupa Kid," is the source of a musical that will have its world premiere at Barrington Stage this summer; and playwright Melvin Tunstall III, who wrote the text for the musical. Tunstall also sang a song from the show, "Fly Under the Radar," which introduces its 13-year-old superhero, Javon.

"The Supadupa Kid" will be performed for free July 30 through Aug. 9 at The Common on First Street. It will be the first time Barrington Stage has presented its Youth Theatre production outdoors.

The musical by Tunstall III (book), Joel Waggoner (music) and Sukari Jones (lyrics), is based on Jackson's novel about a normal 13-year-old African American boy from a "solid, happy family," Boyd said, who acquires superpowers as the result of a freak accident and takes on the neighborhood bully, who also has superpowers which he is using to terrorize the city.

While most of the free performances of the 75-minute musical will be at 5 or 6 p.m., other performances, Boyd said, will be scheduled for 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. The schedule, Boyd said, will not conflict with Shakespeare in the Park performances.

In her phone conversation and later at the gathering, Boyd said she was inspired to produce "Supadupa Kid" outdoors by having seen an outdoor production of a youth theater presentation of "Hercules" last summer at the Public Theatre in New York. She began thinking that the best way to reach out to the community that BSC's Youth Theatre intends to serve is to break out of the enclosed atmosphere at the museum.

Tunstall and Boyd said they intend to cast the leading roles with boys from the Berkshires community and beyond, reaching as far as Springfield and Longmeadow

Created in association with Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, "A Crossing" traces a group of migrants as they attempt to reach and cross the Mexico-United States border. Bergasse will choreograph and direct. St. Germain is developing the scenario in which Bergasse is transforming into dance and movement in a show whose story will be told entirely through song, dance and movement by a company of four dancers, two band singers and a four-piece band.

"We're trying to create a form that hasn't been done in years," Boyd said. "It's a very complicated, long process."

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Thanks to a grant from the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, a 25-minute workshop of the 75-minute show was presented in New York in December. The response, Boyd said, convinced her and the show's creative team that the project was worth continuing.

"The St. Germain's stage is actually bigger than our main stage," Boyd said. In addition, even though the production is billed as a world premiere, Boyd said that mounting the show there rather than in the Boyd-Quinson Main Stage would give the show's creators "a chance to still explore and develop [the material]."

The St. Germain Stage begins its schedule May 27 with Lauren Yee's "The Great Leap," set in the 1980s within the framework of an American college basketball team's visit in Beijing for an exhibition game. The production is scheduled to run through June 13 (press opening is May 30). Also on tap is Joseph Dougherty's "Chester Bailey" (July 16-Aug. 7; press opening, July 19) featuring Ephraim Birney as a young World War II soldier whose recovery in a Long Island hospital from catastrophic wounds sends him on a journey between reality and his own imagination, and Birney's real-life father, actor Reed Birney, as the doctor assigned to his case.

The previously announced production of Nilo Cruz's 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning "Anna in the Tropics" begins performances June 18. The show runs through July 11. Press opening is June 21.

The previously announced Boyd-Quinson Mainstage schedule begins June 24 with Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," directed by BSC founding artistic director Julianne Boyd, and continues with Richard Greenberg's "The Assembled Parties" (July 24-Aug. 8; press opening, July 29) and "Ain't Misbehavin' — The Fats Waller Musical" (Aug. 13-Sept. 6; press opening Aug. 16), a co-production with Westport Country Playhouse, choreographed and directed by Camille A. Brown.

"I was looking for something joyful, something Americana," Boyd said with particular regard to her choices of "South Pacific" and "Ain't Misbehavin'."

"To be sure, 'South Pacific' does make its point [about racial prejudice, tolerance and understanding] but it brings back to a time when we could celebrate the best in us as a nation. And 'Ain't Misbehavin'" also gives us that same joyful feeling."

"We want to produce plays that deal with substantive issues. We will always do them," Boyd said at the luncheon. "But this summer, at a time when I think we need it, I wanted to push a little more joy to the forefront."

A fall production and casting for the season will be announced shortly.

Season tickets are now on sale at BarringtonStageCo.org


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