In 1928, Mabel Choate, doyenne of the Berkshire landscape, decided that the casino designed by famous architect Stanford White, located in the heart of Stockbridge, was an eyesore, since it had fallen into neglect and abandonment. A team of horses was hired to move the building to its current location on Main Street, and the home of the Berkshire Theatre Festival was born. Situated on 5 acres, the property now houses the theatre festival, and its onsite barn, the Unicorn Theatre, is celebrating 10 years of emerging and alternative theater.
Now settling into her 12th season at Berkshire, nine of them as executive director, Kate Maguire said, while the Unicorn as dedicated to emerging ideas and emerging talents, the two stages have come to be mixed in their focus.
The festival is one of the oldest performing arts venues in the United States and the single oldest in Berkshire County.
The summer brings the arts to life in the Berkshires, and the theatre festival is one of the best examples of the life being breathed there. This year the calendar is an eclectic mix of theater. From Tennessee Williams' "Night of the Iguana" to Wendy Wasserstein's "Heidi Chronicles" and the current production of "Amadeus" on the main stage, to the Unicorn's productions of the revival of Terrence McNally's "Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone?" to the world premiere of "The Pilgrim Papers," this season has something for everyone.
According to Maguire, the theater has "a good team on the main stage; a core group of actors, directors and designers all returning to work with BTF."
Over the years, the complexion of the theater-going audience has changed in the Berkshires, from the day-trippers to a larger concentration of second-home owners, most of whom have chosen the Berkshires expressly for the culture the area has to offer. As a result, Maguire said, the populace has allowed, and in fact demanded, a more sophisticated retinue in terms of the arts.