Barrington Stage gifted $1 million for new performances

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PITTSFIELD A couple who are longtime supporters of Barrington Stage Company have provided a $1 million gift that will allow the performing arts company to commission and produce new performances.

The gift from board members Sydelle and Lee Blatt will create the Sydelle Blatt New Works Commission Program, which will commission new work and support its production and development. The money will be provided to Barrington Stage in annual $100,000 increments over a 10-year period. It is the largest gift that Barrington Stage has received solely dedicated to new work over the performing arts company's 25-year history.

"Half of it will be used to commission new plays, and half of it will be used for production," said Julianne Boyd, Barrington Stage's artistic director. "You can commission plays, but you need the money to put on new plays, and that can be difficult.

"It gives us a safety net to move ahead and do the best possible new plays and work that we can."

In a statement, Lee Blatt said the couple decided to provide the money after seeing the new play "American Underground" at Barrington Stage last fall.

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"Syd and I knew we had to support Barrington's new work," Lee Blatt said. "It's the best work we've seen in the Berkshires."

The Blatts, who have homes in Becket and the state of Florida, gifted the former VFW Post 448 building on Linden Street to Barrington Stage in 2012. That allowed the performing arts company to purchase the 12,602-square-foot structure for $340,843, after renting it from the VFW for four years.

The facility, renamed the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, houses the newly renovated 136-seat St. Germain Stage on the upper level and the 99-seat Mr. Finn's Cabaret on the lower level. Sydelle Blatt joined the Barrington Stage board in 2002 and serves as its secretary.

"I am so gratified by their generosity," Boyd said. "I met them many, many years ago when our theater was down at Mount Everett High School, and they were going to see new plays at our Stage 2. In our first conversation, they told me how much they love new plays. The creation of new work is very exciting to them. It's sort of continued all these years."

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


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