Sit back, relax and enjoy an ice cream with ... Mahaiwe's Beryl Jolly

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Beryl Jolly, executive director of the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, got her start answering phones on Broadway.

After graduating from Brandeis University with a bachelor of arts degree and using the connections she made during a summer internship at the prestigious Williamstown Theatre Festival, Jolly landed the receptionist job at Broadway producer Fran Weissler's office.

This was the big time.

Weissler and her husband, Barry, produced scores of plays, including "Waitress," which is playing on Broadway. When Jolly worked for the office, the company was producing the Tony Award-winning "Falsettos." Within a year of working with the Weisslers, Jolly became an assistant producer. The days were long and started at 8:30 a.m. — sharp, she says.

"Once you walked in the door, you were on. Anything could happen. You had to be disciplined, attentive, detail-focused."

She went on to work for two more production offices in the city: She was a general manager at Marvin A. Krauss Associates for a year and then became a market researcher for The Public Theater, which produces Shakespeare in the Park, among other community events. At The Public Theater, Jolly says, she fell in love with the nonprofit theater's mission of bringing art to everyone.

Jolly says there are many times she has been star-struck. One of the first was in Weissler's office, talking on the phone to actors such as Christopher Plummer and Mickey Rooney. She met playwright Arthur Miller while the Public Theater was producing his play, "Ride Down Mt. Morgan," starring Patrick Stewart. Jolly said Miller would bring his wife, photographer Inge Morath, to the set.

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"They were both such thoughtful, gracious people. I had the whole scope of American theater history right there. It was really fascinating and exciting," she says.

Working with artists can be tricky — they're often perfectionists — but inspiring.

"When you're at the top of your game, you're very specific about individual details," she says. "You've got to follow their creative process, listen to their needs."

Before leaving New York, Jolly had jobs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, aka BAM, and the Broadway League, a trade association.

Jolly grew up in North Virginia, near Washington, but fell in love with the Berkshires while doing her internship in Williamstown. A return to rural life was appealing, so she applied and was chosen to lead the Mahaiwe in 2005, just as renovation of the historic theater was being completed.

Success to Jolly is deciding what you want out of life and getting it.

"Know the value of your markers of success — and whether you're there. I live the life I've chosen to live. Who do I want to be? What do I want to do?"

Suggest people to interview for this column by sending recommendations to kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com.


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