Herewith, an all-in-one review of upcoming performances in the Berkshires, in chronological order, based on news releases we have received as of Thanksgiving week.
David Joseph Hansen Leads The Santaland Diaries through Dec. 30 at Shakespeare & Company
Shakespeare & Company’s annual production of David Sedaris’ irreverent Christmas memoir, The Santaland Diaries is getting ready to tickle everyone’s funny bone while taking a sardonic look at the big Holiday. Once again directed by Artistic Director Tony Simotes, this will be the third and final year Shakespeare & Company calls on an actor to don the regulation pointy-toed socks. This year, Shakespeare & Company welcomes longtime Company member David Joseph Hansen to play Sedaris’ less-than-merry autobiographical self, Crumpet the Elf.
The Santaland Diaries is the occasionally subversive, alarmingly clever, engagingly poignant, and always rib-tickling account of Mr. Sedaris’ time as a Christmas elf in the famous Macy’s Santaland. The essay on which the play is based propelled Sedaris into the national spotlight when it was first published, and is now a modern holiday classic. After applying for the position as a gag job, our hero is suddenly thrown into a world of tinsel, fake snow, Santas who are more naughty than nice, and all the cringe-worthy trappings of the Macy’s Santaland. Our reluctant protagonist guides us through the yuletide nightmare with a wryly satiric attitude, but even he may eventually find himself filled with holiday cheer. A true tale of redemption and good will, The Santaland Diaries is a hilarious depiction of what the modern holidays are all about.
“Found” explores life through a series of unrelated notes, found serendipitously.
Peering across the great generational divide of those who were weaned on Rowen and Martin’s Laugh-In, a television sketch program that ran from 1968 to 1973, to last night’s workshop production of Found at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, it seems that times have not changed all that much. Everyone likes things that are funny. And people will easily spend an hour or two watching little bits of life that make them laugh. All it takes are odd bits of notes – often embarrassing – in which people can recognize themselves, their friends and family.
For three weeks the artistic company of Found has been encamped in the Berkshires, working on a show that is built from little scraps of paper that were found serendipitously. Last night’s work in progress showing proved that the kids are alright. They are hot on the trail of an innovative work that could signal a new format and direction for contemporary theatre, though it is more likely to stand alone as a sentinel, a marker for theatre’s future.
OK, congratulations, you’ve just Found it. Found is a musical show that is a powerful fix for the voyeur instinct in all of us, the ultimate reality musical and it is getting a pre-Broadwaay workshop at Berkshire Theatre Group’s Colonial Theatre September 21 and September 22, 2012.
Based on Davy Rothbart’s popular Found magazine comes a new musical comedy about the things we’ve lost and the ways they bring us together. Tony-nominated book writer Hunter Bell joins composer/lyricist Eli Bolin to create the semi-autobiographical account of Davy’s life and loves as he performs around the country and imagines the stories behind the discarded notes, diaries, love letters, to-do lists, photographs — anything that is a glimpse into someone else’s life. Like the highly-lauded magazine and books, this theatrical phenomenon is a one-of-a-kind, multi-media musical experience that is the true embodiment of the adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Frank Rich. He’s coming to the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield on Sunday, October 9 at 2pm. When the leaf peepers start to arrive they will be snapping up the remaining tickets, so think about getting your seats early. It’s not to be missed. Here’s why.
If you know who he is, Rich is either the god of truth to you, or the enemy. He is, journalistically speaking, one of America’s great eminences. From 1994 when he began writing his op-ed columns in the New York Times to this past March when he wrote his last (before going over to New York Magazine), you could always count on him to see through the murky waters of half truths to reveal what was actually going on in Washington.
“The answer is not complicated,” Rich once wrote. “When people in power get away with telling bigger and bigger lies, they naturally think they can keep getting away with it.” But he admits that “It is kind of tedious after a while, to parse politicians doing the same thing over and over again. The facts change from week to week, but the sort of masquerade doesn’t.”
We are going to get a chance to hear that side of him soon as WAMC’s Joe Donahue probes his thoughts, up close and personal.
Tommy (Randy Harrison, top center) is a sensation in the BTF production at the Colonial Theatre. (photo: Jaime Davidson)
I hate it when I am called on to name my “Best Picks” for the upcoming season because I don’t have ESP and because I often get excited over obscure shows that interest no one but me. But mostly importantly because more often than not what looks lit a sure-fire hit in April turns out to be a big disappointment in July, and usually for reasons it was impossible to anticipate.
But Tommy proves the exception to that rule. The minute I heard that the first BTF production at The Colonial Theatre would be The Who’s Tommy starring Randy Harrison I said “Wow!” What a cool, bold choice of show! What a great way to build on the relationship that has developed between Harrison and the BTF. What a fabulous way to bring the theatrical riches – and potential – of this region to the attention of the movers and shakers of the theatre world.
Now that I have been there and seen that, I am happy to report that this production lived up to every bit of hype, hope, and expectation. It is daring, it is wonderfully entertaining, and it is thoroughly homegrown. It has the fingerprints of the BTF and Eric Hill all over it. This is not a bus-and-truck show hauled out to the sticks to amuse the locals, this is theatre by us, for us. This bodes very well indeed for the newly minted BTF/Colonial merger. More, more!
Caffè Lena has received a 2011 Grammy Foundation Grant which will go to help preserve Caffè Lena’s rare recordings of live performances from 1960-1975 with help from three-time Grammy Award-winning sound preservationist Steve Rosenthal. They are currently planning the restoration of recordings by Pete Seeger, Mississippi John Hurt, Jean Ritchie, Don McLean, Kate McGarrigle and others, with listening copies made for the Library of Congress. If you or someone you know made an audio or video recording at Caffe Lena, please contact the Caffe in order to help preserve its rich recorded history.
Amy Williams, president and CEO of the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, will leave the organization on July 15 to become project manager at Exhibit Planning & Management International in Menands. Former WMHT executive Deborah Onslow will become ACCR’s interim president. Williams has held the top job at ACCR since 2008 and served as vice president for more than 20 years. Best of luck, Amy!
When I struck out in my own music language, I took a step out of the world of serious music, according to most of my teachers. But I didn't care. I could row the boat by myself, you know? I didn't need to be on the big liner with everybody else.