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L-R: Bridget Saracino as Rachel and Tod Randolph as Zelda in THE HOW AND THE WHY.  Photo by John Dolan
L-R: Bridget Saracino as Rachel and Tod Randolph as Zelda in THE HOW AND THE WHY. Photo by John Dolan

If your theatrical tastes lean more towards an Elizabethan flavor, there is certainly  no shortage of classical options in New York City to satisfy your erudite palette. From the Public Theater’s stagings in Central Park to Riverside’s Park’s  abridged version of Henry IV starring Steve Guttenberg (yep–the guy from Three Men and A Baby and Police Academy–really! ) and  numerous other companies doing “pop up” versions of Shakespeare throughout the summer, Gotham offers accessible outlets to appreciate the Bard and his ilk.

But let’s be frank: For all of its’ cultural splendor, summers in Manhattan can be a real pain in ye olde derriere. As another wise  William (Joel), once observed, “Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood.” Although the Hamptons and Fire Island offer an escape from the metropolitan frazzle, the  Berkshires, located in neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut, provide a perfectly pastoral setting for one of the country’s larger Shakespeare Festivals.

 Jonathan Croy in this season's HENRY V.. Photo by John Dolan.
Jonathan Croy in this season’s HENRY V.. Photo by John Dolan.

Tina Packer thought so too. In 1978, the British actor, writer, and director came to America and landed upon novelist Edith Wharton’s estate, the Mount, located in Lenox, MA.   With a grant made possible through the Ford Foundation, Packer secured residency and years later, expanded her dream by  purchasing a 30 acre home, one mile from the Mount.  Currently, the company has three theaters on the property and is home to one of the largest theater-in-education programs in the Northeast. They also boast an intensive actor training program. Packer remains heavily involved as the founding Artistic director, and recently released a book explore the feminine aspects  of Shakespeare called “Women of Will.”  Later this summer, she will take to the stage in Jane Anderson’s world premiere, Mother of the Maid.

The troupe opened its  2015 season on Memorial Day and will continue though mid-September. Shakespeare & Company  continually boasts an impressive line up of stage actors and this summer, they are thrilled to welcome back OBIE Award winning actor John Douglas Thompson, who will star in the Regional Premiere of Red Velvet, a play based on Ira Aldridge, the first African-American actor to play Othello on the English stage.  Having seen Thompson in a one-man show based on Louis Armstrong (Satchmo at the Waldorf), and being aware of his acclaimed turn  in  off-Broadway production of Tamburlaine the Great last fallit’s a safe bet that audiences are in for another riveting performance. Thompson could probably be cast in any role of a Broadway revival of Moose Murders and turn it into his magnum opus.

John Douglas Thompson in a 2008 production of OTHELLO. Photo by Kevin Sprague  
John Douglas Thompson in a 2008 production of OTHELLO. Photo by Kevin Sprague

A cerebral drama, The How and The Why, by Sarah Treem, writer of television’s  House of Cards and In Treatment continues now through July. Yasmina Reza, the Tony winning creator of Art and God of Carnage will see her 1995 drama brought to life in An Unexpected Man later this month. Those who crave true Shakespearean verse can rush to Henry V and The Comedy of Errors, playing through August. In addition to their fully staged productions, special events, talks, and benefits fill Shakespeare and Company’s  already robust calendar of  events.  Best of all, you needn’t a “borrower nor lender be” to afford any of them!  Shakespeare and Company’s affordable ticket pricing allows for Broadway quality at a fraction of the cost.

Interim Managing Director, Stephen D. Ball and Co-Interim directors Jonathan Croy and Ariel Bock are thrilled that box office sales to-date  are ahead of last year’s numbers and going strong. “After this tough winter, it is encouraging to see our summer season off to such a terrific start,” Ball said. “We have aggressive and inspiring programs that are being very well received.”

Although the season wraps in September, the Lenox based ensemble hopes to offer year round programming including performances, lectures, actor training, and educational resources.

Olympia Dukakis appeared here in 2013. That's right , folks. She's not afraid to travel outside of Manhattan! Photo by Deborah Feingold.
Olympia Dukakis appeared here in 2013. That’s right , folks. She’s not afraid to travel outside of Manhattan! Photo by Deborah Feingold.

The summer is still young, so point your compass north and take a three-hour jaunt to Shakespeare and Company in the  Berkshires. While you’re there, check out the other cultural events that has made this destination a hotspot for the arts. A variety of transportation options are available from New York.

For tickets and more information visit http://www.shakespeare.org or call the box office at (413) 637-3353.