What To See in the Berkshires This Summer
For its stunning combination of pristine nature, outdoor activities, and world-class cultural resources, few destinations in America compete with a summer in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.
By day there are family activities including hiking and swimming. When it rains, visitors focus on the sprawling, massive MASS MOCA with nearby Clark Art Institute and on the other end of the county the ever-popular Norman Rockwell Museum.
At night, there is a stunning range of options. In Becket, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival hosts national and global companies. The Boston Symphony Orchestra summers at Tanglewood in Lenox. There is a range of Equity theater companies including Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Theatre Group, Mac-Haydn, and Shakespeare & Company.
With so many options the greatest challenge of high season is deciding on what to see. To assist in those difficult choices, here are some of this season’s highlights.
Tanglewood Music Festival
The official opening night of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its conductor, Andris Nelsons, is July 8, and the run concludes on August 26. There are guest conductors and featured performers at the intimate Ozawa Hall and in the Koussevitzky Shed, which has picnic seating on the lawn.
There has been an increase of popular artists in the expanded shoulder seasons. The concerts sell out including local resident, James Taylor (July 3 -4). A hot ticket is Roger Daltry and Boston Pops performing “Tommy” (June 15). Tony winner Audra McDonald will appear with the Pops on June 24. Steve Miller and Peter Frampton co star on July 2. Other top dates: Steve Stills and Judy Collins (June 18), Ry Cooder and Emmylou Harris (June 17), and Harry Connick, Jr. (June 23).
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
There are two stages: the large Ted Shawn Theatre (named for Pillow’s co-founder) and the smaller Doris Duke Theatre. Different companies perform on both stages from Wednesday through Sunday including evenings and matinees. There are also free twilight, outdoor one-night events of emerging artists in the Inside/ Out program. Pillow features exhibitions and pre-performance lectures as well as dining options.
A selection of top events includes: Pilobolus (June 27-July 1), Bathsheva (July 4-8), Eastman (July 11-16), Dorrance Dance (July 18-22), Hubbard Street (Aug. 1-5), Jose Limon Company (Aug. 8-12), Stars of American Ballet (Aug. 22-26).
Barrington Stage Company
Under founding artistic director, Julianne Boyd, Barrington Stage Company is noted for developing new works. Known for a passion of musicals, Boyd provides balanced programming and Fall productions that involve the community and regional schools.
The season starts on May 23 with Berkshire-based playwright, Mark St. Germain’s renewed production of “Typhoid Mary” on the stage that bears his name. The mainstage starts with a premiere of “The Royal Family of Broadway,” with a book by Rachel Sheinkin and music and lyrics by William Finn. Celebrating Leonard Bernstein, BSC will refresh its production of “West Side Story,” Aug. 5-Sept. 1. The Broadway hit, Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2, will be onstage July 12 – 28. Rachel Lynett’s “Well Intentioned White People” (Aug. 16-Sept. 8) promises to be provocative. From Oct. 3-21, Boyd will direct Tennessee Williams’s “The Glass Menagerie.”
Berkshire Theatre Group
The oldest Equity company in the Berkshires, Berkshire Theatre Company is programmed by Kate Maguire. A schedule of one-night shows at the Colonial in Pittsfield operates year-round while the Fitzpatrick Main Stage and intimate Unicorn Theatre have summer seasons.
This year, programming begins with “Church and State” at the Unicorn on June 16. The world premiere of “Coming Back Like a Song” opens July 2 at the Main Stage. A small production of “Hair” will be a blast at the Unicorn. “The Petrified Forest” opens on the Main Stage on August 4. Christopher Durang’s hilarious “Sister Mary Ignatius” rocks the Unicorn on August 18. The avant-garde Pirandello’s provocative “Naked” opens September 29 at the Unicorn.
Shakespeare & Company
Originally Shakespeare & Company resided on the campus of Edith Wharton’s estate, The Mount. It later relocated to its current location, a former boarding school, in Lenox. For the past couple of summers there has been an annual outdoor production at The Mount as well as programming in two buildings, The Tina Packer Playhouse and Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre. Last summer, the company added the outdoor Roman Garden Theatre.
The program this season will have productions in all of these venues. A main stage production of “Macbeth” opens on July 7. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” opens at The Mount on July 12, and “As You Like It” opens in the Roman Garden on August 12. Non-Bard production openings include “Morning After Grace” (May 27), August Strindberg’s “Creditors” (July 22), “Heisenberg” (Aug. 11), “Mothers and Sons” (Aug. 16), and “Hir” (Sept. 13).
In Chatham, N.Y., on the edge of the Berkshires, Mac-Hadyn Theatre focuses on musicals.
This year’s program includes “Damn Yankees” (May 24-June 3), “Funny Girl” (June 7-June 17), “Cabaret” (June 21-July 1), “Mamma Mia!” (July 5-July 22), “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (July 26-Aug. 5), “The Wedding Singer” (Aug. 9-18), “Annie” (Aug. 23-Sept. 2), and “End of the Season Cabaret” (Sept. 1).