Editor’s Note: Here’s the Summer Stage Preview Part I, about the Berkshires.
These days, Sam Rush often finds himself using the punning phrase “Home is where the art is.” That’s because his company, New Century Theatre, having lost its longtime home at Smith College in Northampton, is mounting a reduced summer season on two Valley stages while searching for a permanent abode. For now, though, he’s determined to feel “at home in any venue.”
Other Valley theaters are also on the move this summer. Silverthorne Theater Company, after three seasons in two towns, is newly established as the resident theater in Greenfield’s Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center (formerly the Arts Block). Double Edge Theatre leads the parade down Ashfield’s Main Street, June 3-4, in the town’s Spectacle and Culture Fair, before leading spectators around the company’s farm in its annual movable-feast production.
Eggtooth Productions continues its peripatetic ways, presenting shows this summer in Turners Falls and Deerfield. Real Live Theatre revives its all-woman Shakespeare deconstruction in two Valley venues before taking it to New York. And Chester Theatre Company, while staying put, is moving things around to stage half of its four-play season in the round.
All this motion has not distracted our theater community from the political landscape we are all traversing these days. Chester’s Daniel Elihu Kramer finds meaning in the fact that his company’s summer home is in the Chester Town Hall, where the productions function as “a kind of town meeting where we come together to share what matters to us.” In the season lineup, two teenagers share secrets over Leaves of Grass; a mismatched trio share a love of folk music; factory workers share job insecurity in the global economy; and a desperate man shares (with audience help) a list of the best things in life.
The Ko Festival of Performance’s season of “Tactics for Trying Times” includes an encounter between James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry, a collision between the Amazonian jungle and American industry, an interactive experiment in “civil discourse,” and an exploration of “all that is awesome and all that sucks” about motherhood.
Hampshire Shakespeare Company, in Amherst, finds contemporary themes in two overlapping classics: the Bard’s Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which will run in alternating repertory with the same cast. According to the directors, the former looks at “cycles of abuse” in “our own culture of excess,” while the latter reflects on a realm where “truth is hard to find and those with political power are behaving badly.”
Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy gets a makeover in Real Live Theatre’s The Life and Death of Queen Margaret, bringing a peripheral character to center stage. The show will travel to New York’s Theatre for the New City in August, preceded in July by one-night stands at The Drama Studio in Springfield and the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. But first, next month in Easthampton, comes She Kills Monsters, Qui Nguyen’s dramedy in which fantasy turns real in a Dungeons and Dragons world.
The Shea also plays host, June 2-3, to the summer’s second-coolest-titled show, You Don’t Know Jack, starring Jack Golden, a multitalented clown who combines “a red nose, an open heart, and a finely tuned compass for comedy.” It’s presented by Eggtooth Productions, which is also behind a two-part evening of dance-theater, Fine House and Perception, June 23-24, created by Lori Holmes Clark. Entering Deerfield Academy’s Hess Theatre, the audience passes through a gallery of living art into “a varied landscape of new choreography” by members of the Dance Co-op.
The “Coolest Title” crown goes to Silverthorne’s Stupid Fucking Bird, a laugh-aloud remix of Chekhov’s The Seagull, updated but oddly faithful to the original. That’s followed in July by Chapatti, a not-quite love story about an aging man and woman drawn together by loneliness and their pets (the offstage title character is his dog).
In We the People, this year’s peripatetic journey of spectacle and imagination at Double Edge, the company continues its exploration of “the paradoxes, the stories, the dreams that make up a human being, a community, a society” in a roving tour of the troupe’s Ashfield acreage.
New Century’s nomadic summer sets out in July with two productions in PVPA’s new theater in South Hadley. The Foreigner is Larry Shue’s farce about a fake immigrant — reflecting in its two-word premise a pair of suddenly very topical themes. Hold These Truths, by Jeanne Sakata, more seriously echoes today’s headlines as it traces the true story of one man’s resistance against the racist internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II. In August the troupe decamps to the Academy of Music for The 39 Steps, a madcap recap of Hitchcock’s classic thriller.
Chris Rohmann is at StageStruck@crocker.com and valleyadvocate.com/author/chris-rohmann.