With Shakespeare and Company’s Winter Studio Festival of Plays drawing to a belated conclusion, because of a fierce winter storm, and the press announcement of the 2019 season coming up, it seems a particularly opportune time to publish the Podcast of my interview with Artistic Director Allyn Burrows about the highly successful 2018 season.
We are already well into the series of performances of Shakespeare’s early masterpiece, Richard II. The only one of his plays to have been written entirely in verse, it has long been treasured for the poetic beauty of its sad tale of a failed monarch. As rich as this stream in the play is, Shakespeare never neglected the toughness of the genre of history plays he helped to create.
You have only two days left to see Theresa Rebeck’s philatelic thriller at the Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington. By all means drop any other plans you may have and treat yourself to a show that is both gripping and tartly amusing, with its sour, disillusioned view of sibling relationships and human behavior inspired by desirable objects.
Shakespeare and Company, a presence in Lenox since its foundation in 1978 by Tina Packer and Kristen Linklater, has undergone some seismic challenges in recent years, and there has at times been some concern about its future, but it continues to soldier on with its richly and solidly matured education programs and performances that seem to only to get better and better. Now, following a brilliant season (2016) and looking forward to what promises to be another equally exciting program this summer, all the upheavals seem basically of academic interest, and I’ll let you wait until someone publishes a history of this company, which wears its laurels so lightly that some, I believe, underestimate just how important it is, not only for the history of Shakespeare performance in this country, but anywhere.
Every spring for some years now the brilliant Polish actor-director-playwright-poet Omar Sangare has created extraordinary productions at the ‘62 Center for the Performing Arts with his acting students at Williams College, and they keep on getting better. All of them have been highly unusual. There was a double-cast A Streetcar Named Desire: by that I mean that it was performed by two separate casts almost, but not quite simultaneously. Far from an weird distraction, the device emphasized the universality of the play…and gave the many interested student actors a chance to perform.
The Oldcastle Theatre Company is one of the most appealing in the Berkshires, which, culturally, extends from northwestern Connecticut to Dorset and Weston, Vermont. Downtown Bennington has a unique feeling to it—small-town in the best sense—and is home to a respectable array of bars and restaurants for audiences to enjoy anticipation or a cool-down before or after the show. Keith Kibler has been chronicling and enjoying—very much—Oldcastle’s productions for some years on our site, and I was happy finally to catch a show myself.
John Rando and Joshua Bergasse are ingenious at moving ensembles around a stage—be they orphan pirates, lovelorn young ladies or frivolous policemen. Pirates leap onto rope nets strung down from the top of the theater; they crawl down the aisles at our feet, swords in hand. Young ladies sidestep closely together as they pine in song for young men to be their husbands. Uniformed policemen hop onto each other’s backs or fall down onto the stage dominos style all the while delighting the audience into non-stop grins.