Barrington Stage Company's Playwright Mentoring Project may contain dark themes


Photo Gallery: Barrington Stage Co.'s Playwright Mentoring Project performs at BART

ADAMS -- This week's Barrington Stage Company's Playwright Mentoring Project performances may contain strong language, adult themes, and may not always have happy endings.

But that's life, and it's what's happening in the lives of teenagers which inspires the scenes and plays the students of PMP create.

Last week, PMP groups from Pittsfield and North Adams performed for area schools, including the staff and students of Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School.

One BART audience member commended a show titled, "Here for You," produced by a North Adams group, and said, "I think it resonates a little bit with anybody who's ever been through high school."

Over the past six months, PMP has convened six groups of students, three each based in Pittsfield and North Adams, to spend an evening each week sharing their life experiences and learning how to translate them into scripts and performances. Each group has paired with it a professional playwright, an artistic mentor, and one or two peer mentors, as well as a mental health counselor.

PMP also runs an additional group for students required to participate through Berkshire Juvenile Court. About 60 youths, ages 13 to 19, are currently involved in PMP.

"Maybe you write from your own life, or something your friends are going through, or something you just see going on," said Kim Stauffer. She and Corinne Miller joined Barrington Stage Company back in the fall as the new director of playwright mentoring and director of education, respectively.

"They've explored a range of issues in their work: suicide, depression, anxiety, cutting. There are a few pieces about absentee dads, absentee parents. One group of girls addresses the female body image and perceptions in the media. Other plays explore the issues with rumors and bullying," Stauffer said of this year's PMP groups.

In one scene, Alexis Lesure, 16, a student from BART, portrays a girl who is approached in the hallway by a boy who calls her a "bitch." He says it over and over again. Next comes along a girl who tells her she smells bad, also on repeat. Other people with other negative comments stand behind Lesure, creating an echoing chorus of torment, mounting until Lesure pulls her hair in screams to break out of it.

Afterward, several audience members asked the cast members how they were able to overcome their most difficult moments, as seen on stage.

One female cast member said she still has a hard time standing up for herself. Others have been able to see change.

"I just remember I finally stood up for myself, and after I did that, others kind of helped me stand up for myself, and that's helped," said Evan Gardzina, 18, a student at Drury High School. "Now I feel like I can pretty much stand up against anything."

If you go ...

What: Barrington Stage Company's Playwright Mentoring Project (PMP) presents three public performances. All shows are free of charge.

When and where: The Pittsfield groups will perform three consecutive shows, "#PerfectlyImperfect," "Lost and Found" and "On the Brink" at 7 tonight on the St. Germain Stage at the Blatt Center, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield.

The North Adams groups will perform three consecutive shows, "Under Pressure," "Here for You," and "Realistic Expectations" at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Mill City Theatre, located at 115 State St., Building 4N at Western Gateway Heritage State Park, North Adams.

All six groups will perform all six shows at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Blatt Center.

Admission: Admission is free but tickets to Saturday's performance must be reserved in advance by calling the Barrington Stage Company Box Office at (413) 236-8888.



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