Berkshire Theatre Festival Announces 80th Anniversary Season

Marking eight decades in New England, the Berkshire Theatre Festival has announced its 2008 season. Under the supervision of Artistic Director Kate Maguire, the festival plans to deliver another slate of both classics and newer works in its two auditoriums, the Main Stage and Unicorn Theatre.

The festival opens in the Unicorn with Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker (May 24th – June 28th). Directed by Eric Hill and starring Jonathan Epstein, both festival mainstays, Pinter’s dark comedy examines the dynamics of power and obsession as two brothers take in a homeless man they have rescued from a pub brawl.

The initial Main Stage production will be the return of George Bernard Shaw’s Candida (June 20th – July 5th), also featured during the festival’s inaugural season in 1928. Directed by Anders Cato, Candida raises issues of both love and politics as a woman is forced to choose between her husband, a politically progressive minister, and the sensitive poet she meets on a trip to London.

Matthew Wilkas and Mark Setlock’s Pageant Play will see its world premiere in the Unicorn from July 5th – 26th. Featuring the playwrights as rival beauty pageant coaches, Pageant Play satirizes the twisted world of stage mothers and child beauty queens.

Karen Zacarías’ The Book Club Play will grace the Main Stage from July 11th – 19th, in a comic examination of how friendship and literature are sometimes closely intertwined.

Eric Hill will take his place in front of the curtain, along with festival regulars Tara Franklin and Walter Hudson, in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons (July 25th – August 9th). Directed by Richard Corley, it is the tale of Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England who refused to grant Henry VIII a divorce from his second wife so that he could wed Anne Boleyn. Frequently staged and adapted, it depicts the power of conviction in the face of unyielding authority.

Anders Cato’s second effort of the season, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, goes up in the Unicorn Theatre from August 2nd – 23rd. Starring David Adkins and Randy Harrison, it is both an existential meditation and an absurd farce on the futility of existence, as two men await the arrival of a third who may or may not exist.

The final Main Stage production of the summer will be Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (August 15th – September 6th). Directed by Martin A. Rabbett and featuring Richard Chamberlain and Jan Maxwell, this vicious dissection of domestic strife cemented Albee’s reputation as a playwright.

Rhoda Lerman’s Eleanor: Her Secret Journey will play in the Unicorn Theatre for select dates between August 27th and November 9th. A one-woman piece delving into the struggles and triumphs of Eleanor Roosevelt, it paints the portrait of an icon of feminism.

The festival will also produce a series of works for younger audiences. Hercules, adapted and directed by E. Gray Simons III, will bow at the Berkshire Museum from June 25th – July 26th. Another Simons’ adaptation, Around the World in 80 Days, will be directed by Amy Brentano and featured in the Unicorn from August 6th – 23rd. Both productions will draw their casts from the festival’s group of acting apprentices. Simons will also direct Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver!, playing on the Main Stage from September 11th – 14th, with a company of local adult and child performers.

The season proper will conclude with a staging of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the Unicorn, with a script adapted by Eric Hill and co-directed by Hill and Simons (December 11th – 30th). The festival will also host various community events and one-off performances, including a cabaret night featuring Broadway legend Judy Kaye.