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Berkshire Theatre Festival facts for kids

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Berkshire Theatre Group
Berkshire Playhouse, Berkshire Theatre Festival
Red Barn at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge MA.jpg
The Red Barn at the Berkshire Theatre Festival
Address Stockbridge, Massachusetts
United States
Coordinates 42°16′55″N 73°18′04″W / 42.282036°N 73.301226°W / 42.282036; -73.301226
Owner Non-profit Organization
Opened 1928

The Berkshire Theatre Festival is one of the oldest professional performing arts venues in the Berkshires, celebrating its 80th anniversary season in 2008.


The main building of the Berkshire Theatre Festival was originally the Stockbridge Casino, designed by Stanford White and built in 1887. At one point the center of social life in Stockbridge, by 1927 it had fallen into disuse. Mabel Choate, the daughter of one of the casino's founders, purchased the property for $2,000, but wasn't interested in the casino itself (she moved the Mission House to the property). Three prominent Stockbridge residents, sculptor Daniel Chester French, businessman and artist Walter Leighton Clark, and Dr. Austen Fox Riggs, formed a committee called the Three Arts Society to save the casino; Choate sold the building to them for $1 on the condition that it be relocated. French, Clark, and Riggs agreed, and had the structure dismantled and moved to its current location.

After an extensive renovation, the newly christened Berkshire Playhouse opened on June 4, 1928, with a production of "The Cradle Song" with Eva Le Gallienne. Actors who have starred in productions at the Berkshire Playhouse include James Cagney, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Katharine Hepburn, and Buster Keaton. Notable producing directors have included Billy Miles, Joan White, Robert Paine Grose, George Tabori, Arthur Penn, Josephine Abady, Julianne Boyd, Bill Gibson, Richard Dunlap, and Arthur Storch.

In 1967, the Three Arts Society was dissolved and the Berkshire Playhouse was incorporated as a nonprofit organization, the Berkshire Theatre Festival. In 1982, the Berkshire Theatre Festival purchased Beaupré Performing Arts Center's property in Stockbridge, renaming it the Lavan Center for the Performing Arts. The site was used as a dormitory, classroom, and performance space for the organization's apprentices and interns.

In 1993, a formal season of plays was offered in the Unicorn Theatre to meet the growing popularity of the festival. Prior to that, the Unicorn had been in use for years to house various offerings over the course of the season, including a slate of cabaret and workshop productions in 1992. The Unicorn Theatre was completely replaced with a new facility prior to the 1996 summer season; the inaugural production in the new space was "L-Play" by Beth Henley.

In 2010, Berkshire Theatre Festival merged with The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA to form Berkshire Theatre Group.

The Berkshire Playhouse facility was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Past seasons

Over the past 80 years, the Berkshire Theatre Festival has produced 550 fully staged productions, an eclectic mix of revivals, classics and premieres, embracing fully its role as a true theatrical “Festival.” More than 2,100 actors have worked at the BTF in more than 6,000 performances, including notable actors that have won Emmys, Oscars, and Tonys. Many playwrights at BTF have won Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes.

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