Barrington Stage rolls out a season of women's stories

PITTSFIELD — It's the year of women at Barrington Stage Company.

Running May 23 through Oct. 21, BSC's 24th season will include three world premieres; a production in the fall of Tennessee Williams' much beloved "The Glass Menagerie"; and an August revival of "West Side Story" that will serve as a centennial tribute not only to its composer, Leonard Bernstein, but also the musical's original choreographer and director, Jerome Robbins;

"It's a season that tells women's stories," says BSC's founding artistic director, Julianne Boyd. "It's a season of plays about women in difficult situations."

"I really don't consciously set out looking for a theme for the season," Boyd said during a phone interview, just before officially rolling out the 2018 season at a press luncheon at BSC's Wolfson Center on North Street. "I mean, usually I pick the plays first and then it seems a theme emerges. This year, I wanted to choose plays that had great roles for women.

"I remember a few years ago someone said to me 'You always tell men's stories.' Well, this year, we are telling women's stories."

The season begins May 23 in the St. Germain Stage with "Typhoid Mary," a play by Mark St. Germain about a woman's struggle between religion and science, directed by Matthew Penn (press opening is May 27), followed June 7 at the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage with the world premiere of "The Royal Family of Broadway" — a musical adaptation of a 1927 play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber and an original adaptation by Richard Greenberg — which reunites the "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" team of Tony Award winners Rachel Sheinkin (book) and William Finn (music and lyrics). Joshua Bergasse is choreographing; John Rando is directing. The show is .

"Typhoid Mary" runs through June 16; "The Royal Family ..." runs through July 7.

Also on tap:

— "The Cake" by Bekah Brunstetter, a comedy-drama about a conservative baker and a gay wedding, starring Debra Jo Rupp;

— Lucas Hnath's "A Doll's House, Part 2," which picks up Henrik Ibsen's Nora 15 years after she leaves her husband at the end of "A Doll's House";

— "The Chinese Lady," the world premiere of a play by Lloyd Suh about the first Chinese immigrant woman to the United States where, for 45 years, she performed as a side show attraction;

— "West Side Story," the iconic Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents musical about rival white and Hispanic gangs in New York;

— the world premiere of Rachel Lynett's "Well-Intentioned People," about an African-American woman who is pressured by well-meaning white friends and classmates to make an example of a racially motivated attack she would just as soon forget;

— and, Tennessee Williams' revered classic, "The Glass Menagerie."

The Youth Theatre production will be "Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach" with lyrics and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and book by Timothy Alan McDonald, based upon the book by Roald Dahl.

In addition to its productions, Boyd said Barrington Stage will be launching a community initiative aimed at working with gangs.

Beyond women's stories, Boyd says the 2018 season is marked by the tellers of those stories, particularly emerging playwrights.

"I want to work with young playwrights, playwrights who are on the verge," she said enthusiastically, noting in particular the plays by Lynett and Suh.

"Rachel is one of those. She is dynamite. Lloyd also is on the verge. He has a distinctive voice."

"West Side Story," which BSC first produced in 2007 on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, is being brought back, Boyd said, not only in honor of the Bernstein centennial year but also Robbins' centennial year.

"This year also is his centennial and no one is talking about it," said Boyd, who will be directing this production. Her choreographer will be Robert La Fosse, a renowned dancer in his own right, who was Robbins' assistant on the original "West Side Story." La Fosse was a principal dancer with American Ballet Theater for nine years and then left in 1986 to join New York City Ballet as a principal dancer at Robbins' invitation. He also appeared on Broadway in "Jerome Robbins' Broadway" and Bob Fosse's "Dancin'."

"We're planning a new take on the show," Boyd said. "There's a whole new generation out there."



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