The usual tradeoff between city and country life is culture for nature, but the mountainous Berkshires region in Western Massachusetts seamlessly combines both, particularly in the summer months when Bostonians and New Yorkers alike retreat to this cool oasis. Here are five of the best performing arts centers to check out.
Williamstown Theatre Festival
Located on the campus of Williams College, this renowned theater festival is a great place to catch A-list actors like Uma Thurman and Jesse Tyler Ferguson retreating from their busy film and TV schedules. Seven plays and musicals are staged in two state-of-the-art theaters each season, many of which end up on or off-Broadway. Recent highlights include Bess Wohl’s touching and hilarious new play, Grand Horizons, about the long haul of marriage, which will play Second Stage’s Helen Hayes Theater in the winter.
1000 Main St, Williamstown
Barrington Stage Company
A relative newcomer to the scene, the Barrington Stage Company recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. Known for their association with the musical theater composer William Finn, BSC was first to workshop his hit musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Nine plays and musicals are presented each summer on two stages and a third basement space dubbed “Finn’s Cabaret” hosts veteran club acts like Billy Stritch and Marilyn Maye.
30 Union St, Pittsfield
The aptly named Tanglewood is as magical and wondrous as its name implies. Stretched over 529 rolling acres just outside of the village of Lenox, this idyllic site has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937. Arriving early is a must to wander the grounds, attend pre-show lectures, and score a place for picnicking for those with lawn seats. Opt for a seat inside Seiji Ozawa Hall or the cavernous Koussevitzsky Music Shed for the best acoustics. Offerings range from the most familiar classical masterpieces to more obscure genius composers like Charles Ives, Samuel Barber, and André Previn. Popular artists like Brian Wilson and Wilco have also been known to play here.
297 West St, Lenox
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
Founded by modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn, Jacob’s Pillow is both an incubator for developing new work and one of the Berkshire’s crown jewels of performance spaces. Each summer dozens of the country’s top companies like Paul Taylor and Martha Graham perform in two beautifully renovated barn-like buildings. Recent highlights included a celebration of Taylor’s career along with an exhibit of his found-art collages and the premiere of a new work by Caleb Teicher, a brilliant young choreographer who’s remaking the world of tap dance.
358 George Carter Rd, Becket
Berkshire Theatre Festival
Dating back to 1928, the Berkshire Theatre Festival is the longest-running in the region and features a mainstage theater housed in a building designed by Stanford White. It’s a great place to see new productions of classic works like Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, which was recently directed by the playwright David Auburn. Their season stretches into the fall, which is a rarity for theaters in the region.
6 East St, Stockbridge
For more info and help planning your trip, check out Berkshires.org.
By Christopher Kompanek