Meeting the challenges: Performing arts groups to offer an eclectic mix of programming | Local News

PITTSFIELD – After losing all or much of last season to the coronavirus pandemic, leaders of five major Berkshire performing arts organizations say they plan to bounce back this summer with a creative mix of programming interiors, exteriors and virtual which they believe will help them. remain viable and sustainable members of the local economy.

“I see this summer as an experience in many ways that will inform our comeback,” said Pamela Tatge, Executive Director and Artistic Director of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket.

Executives or representatives from Pillow, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Theater Group, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Williamstown Theater Festival took part in Friday’s discussion, a virtual town hall hosted by 1Berkshire CEO Jonathan Butler.

All five said they plan to showcase a hybrid of indoor, outdoor and virtual performance this year. Many intend to continue offering virtual or recorded performances that customers outside of the Berkshires can access online. All organizations turned to technology last year when the pandemic forced live shows to close, and some have said this pivot has helped them find new audiences.

Williamstown Theater Festival (copy)

The upcoming season of the Williamstown Theater Festival will feature the work of nine black playwrights performed on the lawn outside the ’62 Center for Theater and Dance.

“We will continue to work with our partner, Audible, so that we can continue to present the work of the Williamstown Theater Festival to a global audience,” said WTF Artistic Director Mandy Greenfield.

Outdoor shows will take place in all kinds of venues: the Berkshire Theater Group will pitch tents on its Pittsfield and Stockbridge campuses; Barrington Stage will use its representative center on Laurel Street, near General Dynamics Mission Systems; Jacob’s Pillow will host shows throughout the county; and the Williamstown Theater Festival will literally use the city of Williamstown as its backdrop.

WTF will stage plays by nine black playwrights on the lawn outside the ’62 Center for Theater and Dance, and the world premiere of the musical, “Row,” at the Clark Art Institute’s reflecting pool.

In collaboration with a group called Forest of Art, WTF will also stage “Alien / Nation,” an outdoor performance that Greenfield describes as an “interactive installation play” that will be set up in “nooks and crannies”. from Williamstown. It can be viewed “on foot or by car,” she said.

“It’s a season that draws on the literal architecture of Williamstown, Massachusetts to come to life,” said Greenfield. “And I hope our audience will bring him a spirit of adventure and openness as he hopes to revive everyone’s senses in a true celebration of human ingenuity.”

The BSO, of course, has always hosted outdoor shows at their summer home in Tanglewood, with the lawn in front of The Shed being one of the most iconic viewing spaces. Due to COVID-19 security protocols, lawn ticket sales will be limited to four per household at this point, according to Alexandra Fuchs, the BSO’s director of operations.

Guests planning to sit on the lawn will receive an 8-foot by 8-foot covering – “a glorified piece of plastic,” Fuchs said – which is designed to provide enough space for chairs and accessories for two. adults, or two adults and a child. Customers should remain seated within one foot of this flooring.

“We felt it was important to keep the essence of Tanglewood, and people love picnicking on the lawn, and that’s part of the experience,” said Fuchs. “The idea is to keep space along the lawn between people [and] give them their space to enjoy.

Right now, James Taylor is scheduled to perform at Tanglewood on August 31st. Asked by Butler about the status of this concert, Fuchs said, “We’re still tracking and monitoring what we’re going to do once it’s August. We have a date at the end of August and we are hopeful. We will just have to keep monitoring and keep monitoring. “

All five organizations plan to operate under COVID security protocols. Several said they plan to either post a video on their website or play one before a live show to describe the terms that customers are required to adhere to.

“My feeling is that with the security protocol, people should feel comfortable, and if they aren’t, they probably shouldn’t go,” said Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington. Stage Company. “But we find that the majority of people really want to go out. Our job is to let them know that this is a shared responsibility between us at Barrington Stage, the artists and the audience.

All of the indoor, outdoor, and virtual hybrid performances that performing arts organizations have turned to were done out of necessity, but all five attendees said some form of this blend will remain in place once the pandemic has passed.

“I think we’re forever changed, if you will,” said Kate Maguire, artistic director / CEO of the Berkshire Theater Group.

“I think we have discovered new ways of working adapted to what we do. There are some things we do that I’ll be happy to say goodbye to and never see again, like calls from Zoom. But I know that one of the things that has radically changed is finding spaces, new spaces to perform. … I suspect we will be using our lands in new ways for years to come.

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