Letter: BTG education programs thrive in Pittsfield
To the editor:
A week ago Sunday, we concluded the weekend run of "Willy Wonka KIDS" at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. No program is more important to our mission at Berkshire Theatre Group (BTG) than our education program called BTG PLAYS! Quite simply one only needed to be there at the packed houses to understand why.
In the audience were perhaps the most excited individuals of all, birth and foster parents and grandparents who have come to create the paths forward for the next generation. On stage were over 100 truly talented and committed elementary and middle schoolers, supported backstage by an equally energized group of mentors from our more experienced student group.
We meet 13,000 of the 16,000 students in Berkshire County annually through a variety of programs. Our programs include our touring musical adaptation of the esteemed Mary Pope Osborne's "Magic Tree House" books with multi-talented collaborators Randy Courts, Jenny Laird and Will Osborne; our seasonal productions like this year's "Aladdin JR" and "Shrek," and in school and after school curriculum based programming and camps designed for young people with local educator's input. These educators find time to advise beyond their already full and remarkable schedules at our area schools. BTG administrators Travis Daly and Allison Rachele Bayles guide our work in education with a wonderful team. We know we have a responsibility to open our doors as widely as possible.
Recently we also celebrated the ribbon cutting and renovation of the historic Thaddeus Clapp House. The house will serve our housing needs and provide a new setting for events and area retreats. The fifth annual Children's Holiday Extravaganza at the Colonial this December is already filled to capacity and will serve hundreds with goodies and entertainment engineered by love from area businesses and volunteers. Our productions this past summer met 5,000 additional ticket buyers at our theaters in Pittsfield and Stockbridge, serving record-breaking crowds, and generating additional streams of revenue for area businesses. These artists are thrilled to teach and work alongside what they deem to be, the most talented group of young students they have ever encountered.
None of these events occur in a vacuum, they happen through perseverence, collaboration and discipline. It is a time-bearing truth that we meet our better angels when we aspire to create something stronger for the next generation. In those aspirations, we find positive and visionary ideas.
We will succeed at the Colonial because a corner has been turned in Pittsfield. No city, large or small, is immune to the critical challenges that result from past social injustices. A significant energy is being developed by a diverse group of individuals and through serious work. It was abundantly evident this past weekend at the theatre in a show performed by our youngest. At the heart was a lot of sacrifice and good will for the promise of what potential each of our young ones hold.
Thank you to the city of Pittsfield, to the leaders, to all who support not only our theater but who are striving to carve the way forward. Cheers to the good news, and to the worthwhile fight ahead.
The writer is artistic director, CEO Berkshire Theatre Group.
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