These days, Kristen van Ginhoven is one busy theater artist. “It’s feast or famine in our field, isn’t it?” she observed to me recently. Right now, the energetic co-founder of WAM Theater is involved in no less than three of the events comprising the 10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival, which starts Thursday in Pittsfield. Her involvement embraces theater, visual art, spoken word and music—most of the genres represented in the festival.
What looks like becoming an annual celebration of Berkshire-area arts—and specifically the burgeoning arts scene in the county seat—began last year as an idea at Barrington Stage Company to mount a midwinter evening of 10 10-minute plays. That impulse, and the 10×10 theme, became a sprawling ten-day, all-over-downtown parade of performances and exhibits.
The multi-venue arena for this year’s shindig is the newly state-designated Upstreet Cultural District, the downtown area bisected by the North Street artery. Events include theater performances ranging from ten short plays to ten improvised mini-musicals; music including ten young singer-songwriters and ten decades of jazz; and several decimal-themed art exhibits, plus poetry, stand-up comedy and more.
Van Ginhoven, Canadian-born and now Berkshire-based, was drawn to participate in 10×10 because, she says, “It’s such a fun thing to do in February, and it’s a great way to be involved with the other arts and cultural organizations in the area.” She instinctively looked for ways to make it collaborative, “because you know that’s what I love to do.”
The result, called 10x10on10, is a transgenerational interdisciplinary collaboration between WAM and the Alchemy Initiative, which supports the visual arts while championing sustainable living and urban agriculture. Some three dozen visual artists and writers, aged younger than 10 to over 90, were invited to respond to the question “What are the 10 things that inspire you most at this decade of your life?” The resulting spoken-word piece and art exhibit (tickets, of course, are $10) runs through February 24th at the Y Bar on North Street. The performance starts at 6 pm and runs about half an hour, intended to merge into a festival-hopping evening. “We’re trying to make it so people can have a whole night out,” van Ginhoven explains. “You can see the show, look at the art, have a glass of wine and some tapas, then walk over to Barrington Stage Company for the 10×10 plays.”
Which is another of the festival projects van Ginhoven is involved in. She’s directing two of the 10 10-minute plays in BSC’s New Play Festival, performed by seven actors for three weekends (adds up to 10!) through March 3. This Thursday, van Ginhoven told me, “I’ll be running between the first preview at Barrington Stage, a 10x10on10 rehearsal and the One Billion Rising dance party upstairs at Spice Dragon restaurant.”
The latter is not only the festival’s kickoff event, it’s part of a global movement spearheaded by Eve Ensler, she of The Vagina Monologues, aimed at focusing awareness and fighting back at the problem of violence against women. WAM is co-hosting the One Billion bash because its thrust is part of the theater’s mission: to both showcase the work of women artists and support local and international organizations working to improve the lives of women and girls.•
10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival, Feb. 14-24, various venues (separate ticketing). Visit discoverpittsfield.com/10×10 for info and schedules.
Contact Chris Rohmann at StageStruck@crocker.com.