"Made in the Berkshires" Festival Shows Off Homegrown Talent this Weekend
The Berkshires of western Massachusetts is a region known for top-shelf performing arts, whether it's international dance companies at Jacob's Pillow, or the Boston Symphony Orchestra's annual residence at Tanglewood. But this weekend's "Made in the Berkshires" festival is designed to show that not all of the talent here is imported.
In a small church in downtown Lenox, a group of actors is working on a satirical new play with a very contemporary topic: urbane sophisticates at a dinner party in the Berkshires, the sort who take local food so seriously the chef suggests olive oil and then excuses himself to go press the olives.
That's Colter Rule, Ken De Loreto and Deann Halper. The Food Issue will be just one among dozens of performances in the second annual Made in the Berkshires festival, tonight through Sunday at Berkshire Theatre Group's Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge and the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.
The eclectic festival ranges from play excerpts to poetry, short story readings, film, dance, and live music. But they all have something in common, says festival co-curator Hilary Sommers Dealy.
"We wanted things to be original works that were created here and performed by people that actually live and work here, talented artists."
The performances are linked together in mix-and-match blocks segueing from, say, dance to poetry and back again.
Combining performers in this way makes for an eclectic show, but also offers a larger audience for work that might otherwise have stayed under the radar.
Filmmaker Theodore Collatos shot a short film in Pittsfield, called Wartime, about an Iraq War veteran talking with his grandfather about re-enlisting.
That's the late Arthur Collins, and Rick Roucoulet. Collatos says the festival offers an opportunity to show work in a high-profile setting.
"This is amazing. the Colonial Theatre is one of the premiere theaters in not only the Berkshires but in Massachusetts. So this is real exciting for all of us."
Barbara Sims, the festival's other co-curator, says Made in the Berkshires also fosters connections among Berkshire-based artists who are unused to working with others outside their fields. Last year's festival spawned unexpected partnerships, she says.
"It started opening night when we had all the different genres represented. And all of a sudden everyone was backstage exchanging emails and business cards and: 'Well, where do you get this published?", "Oh I''ve got a great place," "Oh, we're doing a play over here. I"d love to have your email, you'd be great in it.."
Bobby Houston, who wrote The Food Issue, is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker who sees the festival as a chance to branch out into the world of theater. Last year he wrote an irreverent musical in which he played a Cuban drag queen. This year's festival provides a low-pressure opportunity to work out his theater muscles some more.
"It's the most supportive kind of woodshedding environment you can imagine. You have all these professional actors who are willing to show up and give their time and help the writing process. I hear the play at least once a week, read by this great cast."
The Made in the Berkshires festival opens tonight at the Colonial Theatre. For New England Public Radio, I'm Jeremy Goodwin.