By Barbara Bellesi
The lights of Broadway shine year-round, but as the temperatures climb, it’s time for summer stages all across the country to steal some of the spotlight. If you love theatre and are looking to take a break from the city for the summer, here are some of our favorite summer theatre companies in the Northeast that just might inspire your vacation plans.
Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival
Box Office: 800-457-8897
It’s called “Broadway in the Finger Lakes” for good reason: The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival (FLMTF) is the largest professional musical theatre organization in the state outside of Manhattan’s theatre district. Multiple venues make the FLMTF a theatre lover’s dream come true. The Preston H. Thomas Theatre at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse is the site of main stage productions, while new works take flight at Theatre Mack, located in downtown Auburn. The festival flourishes further this year with yet another production at Rochester’s Callahan Theatre, located at Nazareth College Arts Center.
The FLMTF is also home to the country’s largest touring company focused on youth education. When school is in session, the Merry-Go-Round Youth Theatre visits schools in over 70 districts throughout New York State, bringing joy to more than 125,000 students each year. School might be out during the summer, but the show must go on: the troupe takes to libraries, parks, county fairs, playgrounds, and other recreation centers to keep kids entertained all year round.
What We’re Excited About:
FLMTF also hosts “The PiTCH,” which is an opportunity for musicals in their infancy to take their first steps on stage. Located in the 80-seat Theatre Mack, the creative team behind each musical pitches their material to a live audience (how’s that for an audition?) and a dialogue ensues regarding the musical in progress.
“From Here to Eternity” June 29-July 20
“Austen’s Pride: A New Musical of Pride and Prejudice”July 13-24
“Crazy for You”July 27-August 17
“Treasure Island”August 24-September 10
“Million Dollar Quartet”September 15-October 1
“Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical”October 5-October 19
“Smokey Joe’s Café”November 2-November 19
The Williamstown Theatre Festival
Box Office: 413-597-3400
Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) has been Broadway’s summer home since 1955, beckoning many of the best actors, playwrights, directors, and designers to spend their summers creating outstanding theatre with the Berkshires as a scenic backdrop. For more than 60 seasons, WTF has produced classic plays and has served as the birthplace for the premieres of new plays and musicals. In addition to its main stage productions, WTF presents a variety of special events, including cabarets, workshops, readings, and a host of education programs for theatre students of all ages and experience levels.
Over the decades, the cast members have been a veritable Who’s Who of stage and screen, including the likes of Audra McDonald, Linda Lavin, Gwyneth Paltrow, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Cerveris, and Michael C. Hall. If you need further proof that WTF is a special place, here it is: the festival won the 2002 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, as well as the 2011 Commonwealth Award for Achievement.
What We’re Excited About:
With the exception of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo” (starring Marisa Tomei) and Wendy Wasserstein’s “An American Daughter,” all of the plays this season are having either their American or world premiere. First-time productions of this magnitude often call out the big guns when it comes to their casting, and this season at WTF is no exception: Jane Kaczmarek and Alfred Molina will be part of the American debut of “And No More Shall We Part.”
“The Rose Tattoo”June 28-July 17
“Cost of Living”June 29-July 10
“The Chinese Room”July 7-July 23
“Romance Novels for Dummies”July 20-July 31
“Poster Boy”July 28-August 7
“An American Daughter”August 3-August 21
“And No More Shall We Part”August 10-August 21
Shakespeare & Company
Box Office: 413-637-3353
England might have been William Shakespeare’s home, but his spirit is alive and well in New England – Western Massachusetts, to be exact. Nestled in the Berkshires is Shakespeare & Company, one of the country’s largest festivals dedicated to the Bard. Since 1978, the town of Lenox, MA has been synonymous with Shakespearean theatre. Each season, over 75,000 theatregoers flock to Lenox, MA to revel in the handiwork of a company of over 150 actors, directors, designers, and more.
While much of the season is dedicated to producing Shakespeare’s plays, Shakespeare & Company also presents classic and contemporary theatrical works, as well as new plays that reflect important socio-political issues. The result is a collaboration of some of the best, brightest, and most diverse theatre professionals who bring Shakespeare’s plays as well as his artistic values to the modern stage.
What We’re Excited About:
A new look for the Tina Packer Playhouse, named after the founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company, promises a real thrill for theatregoers this season. “With a new in-the-round stage configuration in the Tina Packer Playhouse, we will offer greater intimacy between performers and audience,” said Co-Artistic Director Jonathan Croy. “The actor-to-audience relationship will be 360 degrees, which presents an exciting new dynamic for both actor and audience—and this intimacy of the relationship with the audience supports dynamic personal interactions and our fascination with language.”
“The Taming”May 7-July 30
“Ugly Lies the Bone”June 16-August 28
“The Merchant of Venice”July 1-August 21
“Twelfth Night“July 14-August 20
“The Emperor of the Moon”July 15-August 20
“Or,”July 23-September 4
“Cry ‘Havoc!’”August 3-August 13
“The Two Gentlemen of Verona”August 8-September 4
“Sotto Voce”August 18-September 11