BTG cleared to stage 'Godspell' under tent outside Colonial Theatre

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PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Theatre Group will present a full production of "Godspell" under a tent in Pittsfield next month — the first musical in the country to be approved by the Actors' Equity Association in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally set for the Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge, the Stephen Schwartz musical is moving to a large open-air tent in a parking lot adjacent to the Colonial Theatre on South Street, where performances will run from Aug 6 and through Sept. 4.

BTG officials said in a statement released Monday that the move was made "after careful consideration with the local and state government, Mayor Linda Tyer of Pittsfield and Actors' Equity Association."

"We are so proud to be the first theater in the United States to be allowed by Actors' Equity to do a full production of a musical," said Kate Maguire, Berkshire Theatre Group's CEO and artistic director, in a brief telephone interview Monday.

The group's planned production of another musical, "They're Playing Our Song," has been moved to 2021 and "Letters to the President," scheduled for Labor Day weekend at the Colonial Theatre, has been canceled.

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In Monday's prepared statement, Maguire said, " 'Godspell' got the green light after establishing a strict protocol to protect the health and safety of the audience, the performers and others involved in the show. We have been working daily and in the true spirit of care and collaboration with Actors' Equity Association for the past several weeks."

Precautions will be in place in accordance with procedures and protocols consistent with union and state and local mandated health and safety guidelines, including temperature checks, no-contact ticket scanning and mandatory mask-wearing by patrons.

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Maguire told The Eagle she's been on the phone "daily since May," working with Equity "to bring theater back."

With Pittsfield's Barrington Stage Company also receiving a green light from AEA for its August production of "Harry Clarke," Maguire said the union's approvals demonstrate that the professional actors union "entrusts us to keep everyone safe. They have trust in Berkshires theaters."

"Equity staff around the country have been collaborating daily with producers on health and safety questions and now we can reveal the results of that work," association executive director Mary McColl said in Monday's statement. "Every production is different and will be evaluated on a case by case basis focusing on the safety of our members. We will continue to collaborate on safety plans where the epidemic is under control and where employers can maintain a safe work environment for their employees."

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"This is really big," Maguire said by phone. "Our times demand really big things, especially in a community that lives off the arts, not only economically but spiritually. I am so proud that our nearly 100-year-old theater again will not miss a summer."

Originally conceived by Jon Michael Tebelak with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, "Godspell" is a 1971 rock musical loosely based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew. This production is being directed by Alan Filderman, with music direction by Andrew Baumer and choreography by Gerry McIntyre.

The cast includes Ashley Edwards, Nicholas Alexander, Alex Getlin, Tim Jones, Isabel Jordan, Emily Koch, Hanna Koczela, Brandon Lee, Jaygee Macapugay, Michael Wartella and Zach Williams.

Tickets go on sale Tuesday. Information is available at berkshiretheatregroup.org or by phone at 413-997-4444.


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