The Fourth of July holiday weekend is filled with a diverse of array of entertainment choices in the greater Berkshire region. Of course the holiday is practically synonymous in recent years with James Taylor at Tanglewood, but if you don’t already have tickets to his performances you are pretty much shut out. Fortunately there is plenty else from which to choose, including..
Underlining the growing internationalism of the contemporary dance world, Carte Blanche, Norway’s award-winning National Company of Contemporary Dance, makes its U.S. full company debut in a program of compelling works by Batsheva Dance Company house choreographer Sharon Eyal of Israel at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival on June 29-July 3. The U.S. premiere of Killer Pig presents a hypnotic, sensual look at femininity, while Love is a testimony to the ensemble’s strength in handling complex and layered choreographic material. The combination of Eyal’s unconventional choreography and Carte Blanche’s distinguished technical abilities delivers performances of artistic intensity, described as “top notch of imaginative, precise, and powerful dance art” (Oberösterreichische Nachrichten, Austria.)
Sharon Eyal’s Love was originally choreographed for Batsheva Dance Company, which presented the work’s U.S. premiere at the Pillow in 2004. Twelve dancers are accompanied by a ballad by Lisa Germano, an artist with a hushed vocal style and emotional lyrics, blended with an atmospheric soundscape with techno beats. Numerous movement sections overlap one another as dancers transition in and out of duets, trios, and ensemble phrases. Love’s rhythmic style results in “pure dance, singing the praise of the human body’s gift” (Ha’aretz, Israel).
The U.S. premiere of Killer Pig, commissioned by Carte Blanche for six female dancers in their company, is a convergence of sensuality and physical prowess. Dressed in white, quilted two-piece costumes, the dancers combine extreme balletic technique with uncanny flexibility and mysteriously stripped-down performance qualities. Sharon Eyal is often lauded for her work with female dancers; dance critic Gaby Aldor comments, “the clarity of movement in Eyal’s dances is such that feminine splendor becomes magnificence greater than life, worthy of goddesses. Her approach is a fresh reminder of an alternative femininity, maybe similar to that of Madonna who fearlessly re-invents herself every day.”
Performance and Ticket Information
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, June 29 through Saturday, July 2 at 8
Saturday, July 2 and Sunday, July 3 at 2
413.243.0745 or in person at the Jacob’s Pillow Box Office.
Jane Comfort and Company, the acclaimed contemporary dance-theatre group renowned for pushing the intersection of dance, music, theatrically, and language, performs at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival June 29-July 3 in the Doris Duke Theatre.
As You Like It, one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, runs through September 4 in Shakespeare & Company’s Founders’ Theatre in Lenox, Mass. Abounding in fools, lovers, and cross-dressers, this is the sort of production that Shakespeare & Company does best. Directed by company artistic director Tony Simotes, this As You Like It is set in Paris, France, in the early 1920s – coincidentally, the era lovingly paid tribute to in the recently acclaimed Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. This charming comedy follows the intrepid Rosalind as she travels from the chic City of Lights to the slightly sinister Forest of Arden, where she finds shepherds, soldiers, and eventually, true love.
A core group of long-time company actors joins Simotes in breathing new life into this celebrated pastoral romp. Tod Randolph takes on the role of Jacques, Jonathan Epstein slips on his clown shoes for Touchstone, and Johnny Lee Davenport and Malcolm Ingram pull double duty by taking on dual roles.
In Simotes’s production, as France emerges from the Great War, the country is re-imagining itself with a new spirit of adventure, love, and poetry. Women, in particular, are breaking the rules and finding new ways to shape their place in the world. “I felt that the period following World War I was the perfect setting for Rosalind ? one of Shakespeare’s funniest and most independent heroines ? to discover herself and find true love,” says Simotes
By incorporating music, song, and dance into his production, Simotes hopes to create an atmosphere that’s both charmingly vibrant and engagingly pensive. “Orlando, Touchstone, Celia and Jaques are some of Shakespeare’s most interesting comedic characters,” says Simotes, “and the play is chockful of terrific comic dialogue and slapstick humor.”
Harrison Gallery of Williamstown, Mass., celebrates its tenth anniversary starting Saturday, July 2, with a retrospective exhibition featuring artists whose work has been shown in the gallery over the past ten years, including such prominent names as Stephen Hannock, John MacDonald, Hale Johnson, Nick Patten, Wayne Thiebaud and Susie Cronin.
All four rooms of the Gallery will be filled with paintings, sculpture, ceramics and photographs by these and other artists who have reached their greatest prominence during the past decade. They’re reunited for this show to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Harrison Gallery.
The Harrison Gallery celebration – starting at 10 am on Saturday, July 2 — will spill out into the street as a community event with free balloons, curbside music and an artist working at his easel painting a scene of Spring Street. John MacDonald will give a demonstration on his art technique in making “digital woodcuts,” and Susie Cronin will show how to make a bronze sculpture. There will be a raffle and, of course, a birthday cake.
The Harrison Gallery is located at 39 Spring Street in Williamstown, Mass. Gallery hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 to 5:30, Sunday 11 to 4. For further information please contact The Harrison Gallery at 413.458.1700 or visit Harrison Gallery.
JAZZ GREAT DON BYRON BRINGS GOSPEL PROJECT TO HELSINKI
Don Byron, one of modern jazz’s most eclectic, virtuosic musicians and visionaries, bring his latest project, the New Gospel Quintet, to Club Helsinki Hudson on Saturday, July 2, at 9, fresh from appearing at the Montreal International Jazz festival. Byron’s gospel project grows out of his in-depth studies of gospel music. With gospel pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey as a major inspiration, Byron revisits some of the master songwriter’s works alongside other classics as well as lesser-known gems of the genre, as he has done before with a variety of genres, including Afro-Cuban, klezmer, Ellington, and cartoon music.
The weekend at Helsinki kicks off on Thursday night with JP Harris & the Tough Choices playing hardcore honkytonk. Hudson based singer- songwriter LivCarrow opens the show with her own brand of folk-punk and enchanting humor.
On Friday night at 9, New Orleans bandleader and trombonist Glen David Andrews, who plays himself on HBO’s Treme, brings his own high-powered ensemble that veers from traditional jazz to gospel, rock, blues and funk to Helsinki.
On Sunday night, the Lucky Five closes out the holiday weekend with a Club Swing Dance Fest starting at 8. The Lucky Five is a hard-swinging old-school jazz quintet, featuring musicians from a handful of popular outfits between New York City and the Berkshires. The band brings verve, high energy, and an unpredictable impulse to the tradition of jazz from the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, grooving deeply, and keeping feet moving on the dance floor.
The core of the band consists of Matt Downing on bass, Evan Palazzo on piano, Kip Beacco on clarinet, tenor/alto sax & guitar, and Brian Kantor on drums.
The evening will also consist of a special swing lesson by instructor Paul Rix. Paul also teaches the Helsinki swing Night the second Friday of every month.
For over two decades, Don Byron has been a singular voice in an astounding range of musical contexts. As clarinetist, saxophonist, composer, arranger, and social critic, he redefines every genre of music he plays and has been consistently voted best clarinetist by critics and readers alike in leading international music journals since being named “Jazz Artist of the Year” by Down Beat in 1992.
“In the past few years I have listened more intensively to black religious music than ever before,” says Byron. “Examining the specific blues styles peculiar to country, R&B, and rock led me to thorough studies of the blues based religious music of white and black Southern gospel. I am combining my own compositions with traditional gospel pieces in a way I have not attempted before. This project coincides with a growth in my own faith and is for me a religious expression.”
The Don Byron New Gospel Quintet was launched in the spring of 2009 and had its New York premiere during a four-night run at the Jazz Standard. The band went on to tour Europe for three weeks and was received enthusiastically by audiences and critics alike. The quintet’s performance at England’s Cheltenham Festival was broadcast on BBC3 radio and described by critic Kevin Le Gendre in glowing terms:
The New Gospel Quintet features Byron on clarinet, tenor saxophone, background vocals; DK Dyson on lead vocals; Xavier Davis on piano; Brad Jones on bass and background vocals; and Pheeroan akLaff on drums.
Club Helsinki Hudson
405 Columbia St.
The seminal 1971 drama, Moonchildren, by playwright Michael Weller, kicks off the Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Unicorn Stage season this week, in a production directed by actress Karen Allen. The play, often regarded as one of the definitive dramatic portrayals of young American life in the mid-1960s, runs June 28 through July 16.
Set over the course of the 1965-1966 school year in an unnamed college town, eight students embark on their final year of study against the backdrop of a world enmeshed in struggles over feminism, civil rights and the Vietnam war. As the pressures and pains of the “real world” touch upon the friends, their coming-of-age provides a mirror of the sea change occurring throughout the country. Gripping, funny, and fully realized, Moonchildren is widely regarded as an under-appreciated masterwork by one of our great writers.
BTF Box Office: 413.298.5576
Poet William Cullen Bryant celebrated the quintessential American landscape in his verse, “A Summer Ramble,” which, like many of his works, drew inspiration from the Berkshire countryside where he found solace in nature, away from the responsibilities of man. Sohn Fine Art Gallery presents A Summer Ramble, a group exhibition featuring 12 contemporary artists and curated by Cassandra Sohn. Through photography and mixed media, artists explore the visual and conceptual metaphors of this 19th century poem from a contemporary point of view. An opening reception for the show takes place on Saturday, July 2, from 5 to 8. The exhibition runs through August 22.
This exhibition is showcased at two locations, Sohn Fine Art Gallery in Stockbridge, Mass., and the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Mass. At the Homestead, the exhibition is installed inside the historically preserved, Victorian rooms of Bryant’s estate, creating a contrast between Bryant’s original, 19th century décor and the contemporary pieces. Each work is placed with intention to accentuate the conceptual aspects present in the pieces. Nacht’s deconstructed book sits in the library where Bryant wrote his poetry. Monika Sosnowski’s photograph of flowered linen blowing sweetly in the breeze looks like it could have been one of Julia’s (Bryant’s daughter) belongings.
Artists represented in the show include John Atchley, Patrick Barry, Stephen G. Donaldson, Ken Green, Martin Greene, Mona Mark, Irmari Nacht, Terry Rosen, Cassandra Sohn, Monika Sosnowski, Kevin Sprague, and Sabine Vollmer Von Falken.
The terrific production of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire (see Seth Rogovoy’s review here) currently running on the Nikos Stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) runs only through this Sunday, July 3, 2011. Sure, you’ve seen Streetcar in film or play version hundreds of times, but never like this. Director David Cromer has chosen to understate the typically over-the-top histrionics in favor of a subtle minimalism that better serves the poetry inherent in Williams’s sometimes overwrought language. And actors Jessica Hecht (Blanche DuBois); Sam Rockwell (Stanley Kowalski); Ana Reeder (Stella); and Daniel Stewart Sherman (Mitch) are spot on in this innovative, almost experimental production, which also features a novel stage set and fabulous sound and light cues. Not to be missed.
Soprano Christine Brewer, best known for singing Wagnerian opera, will let her musical hair down when she performs a recital of American songs by the likes of Charles Ives, Virgil Thomson, Ernest Charles, Walter Kramer and Harold Arlen, accompanied by pianist Craig Rutenberg, on July 2 at 8 in the Concerts at Tannery Pond series at the Darrow School in New Lebanon, N.Y. Rutenberg will also play a solo of Thomson’s music.
Christine Brewer is a Grammy award-winning American soprano whose range, golden tone and boundless power have made her a favorite on stage as well as a sought-after recording artist. Her operatic performances have taken her to the Metropolitan Opera House, Opera de Lyon, Santa Fe OPera, and many other opera houses around the world. Her recital career includes appearances at Carnegie and Wigmore Halls, as well as Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Reservations and information: 888.820.1696 or visit Concerts at Tannery Pond
The award-winning musical satire group Capitol Steps returns to Cranwell Resort, Spa at Golf Club for the fifth consecutive summer, this weekend, performing from July 2 to September 3, as the group celebrates its thirtieth anniversary with the release of its newest album, Desperate House Members. The troupe will perform a variety of new songs and acts from the album, including “Hotel Arizona,” ‘Ballad of the Queen Berets,” “Fun Fun Fun Til Obama Takes Our Tea Bags Away,” “Berlusconi Amore,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to My Facebook,” and “March Like An Egyptian.”
Capitol Steps’ 90-minute shows will be performed in Cranwell’s Olmsted Manor at 8pm nightly, with the exception of Tuesdays, from July 2 – September 3, 2011. Cranwell offers convenient pre-show Prix Fixe dining from 5 to 6:30 at its historic Wyndhurst Restaurant in the Gilded Age Mansion or a casual a la carte menu at Sloane’s Tavern, where diners have the option of outdoor terrace seating with views of the golf course. Following each performance, guests can visit the Mansion where a late-night dining menu will be served until 11, featuring an extensive selection of international coffees and desserts.
Show tickets and dinner can be reserved by calling 413.881.1636 or tickets may be purchased online at to Cranwell Resort, Spa at Golf Club. Overnight accommodations can also be reserved online or by calling 800.272.6935.
Those Two Guys, a comedy duo featuring Pat Ferri and Dave Cox, bring their unique act, “Comedy for A New Depression,” to the tent at PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century on Saturday, July 2, at 7 pm. Incorporating juggling, unicycling, tumbling, outrageous physical feats, and dangerous stunts, this family-friendly show will include new skits as well as old favorites.
“This year we are introducing contortionist Miss Ekaterina (aka : Miss Coney Island), vaudeville magician Adam Cardone, plus Evil Dan and Colleen The Side Show Queen,” said Ferri.
Admission is $25 for adults, $20 for PS21 members and $10 for children under 14. For information or to order tickets, please call 518.392.6121 or visit PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century. Tickets will also be available at the door until the show sells out.
Berkshire Playwrights Lab will present a staged reading of Andrew Dolan’s The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King directed by Rod Menzies on June 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Bard College at Simon’s Rock Daniel Arts Center McConnell Theater (84 Alford Road, Great Barrington, Mass.). The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King is a darkly humorous play about a modern American family of second marriages and mixed races set in a university town. The politics of academia weave through the narrative as egos collide, relationships buckle, and the content of character is put to the test. The cast includes Peter Jay Fernandez, Brandon Gill, Tracey A. Leigh, Judith Moreland, and another actor.
“Andrew Dolan, a seasoned actor, is a new playwriting voice with whom we are excited to work,” said Bob Jaffe. “We think this play is as provocative as its title.” As with all Berkshire Playwrights Lab readings,admission is free. For reservations, call 413.528.0100 or visit the Mahaiwe Box Office (14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, Mass.) or visit Berkshire Playwrights Lab.
E STREET GUITARIST PLAYS INFINITY HALL
The spirit of E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died just a few weeks ago, will undoubtedly be on hand when longtime E Street guitarist Nils Lofgren performs at Infinity Music Hall & Bistro in Norfolk, Conn., on Friday, July 1, at 8. In addition to performing alongside Clemons with Bruce Springsteen since the 1980s, Lofgren, who will perform as an acoustic duo, has toured with Neil Young and Ringo Starr, in addition to having fronted the 1970s group Grin and enjoying his own estimable solo career.
If Clarence was the Big Man, the diminutive Lofgren was the Little Man, although his sound quickly became essential to the E Streeters after he joined the band when Steve Van Zant left in 198X. Unlike most of the rest of the musicians in the E Street Band – most of whom can only claim their service with Springsteen as the highlight of their resumes — Lofgren is arguably the most accomplished, experienced, and professional member of the group, as an in-demand studio musician and versatile musician whose talents have colored and influenced much of the rock music of the last four decades.
Infinity Music Hall & Bistro
20 Greenwoods Road