Berkshire Cultural Weekend Preview, August 29-Sept 2, 2012

‘SATCHMO AT THE WALDORF’ SINGS ‘HELLO BROADWAY’ at SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY

John Douglas Thompson as Louis Armstrong in 'Satchmo at the Waldorf' (photo Kevin Sprague)

(LENOX, Mass., August 17, 2012) – There is nary a wrong nor a false note played in Terry Teachout’s Satchmo at the Waldorf, starring John Douglas Thompson as Louis Armstrong, directed by Gordon Edelstein, and running at Shakespeare & Company through September 16, 2012, before it heads to Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, where Edelstein is artistic director, for a run. And it’s not just because, as Teachout — an Armstrong biographer as well as one of America’s most esteemed jazz and theater critics – has Armstrong say, “There are no wrong notes in my music.” Rather, it’s because Teachout has written a pitch-perfect script that accomplishes the nearly impossible – rendering Armstrong’s life, times and music in all of its American triumph and tragedy in the course of only 90 minutes and through an innovative theatrical device that has Thompson playing both Armstrong and his lifelong manager, Joe Glaser, and dramatizing the intense bond that tied the two together in an almost impossible Gordian knot until, as Teachout’s Glaser says several times to the musician, “I’m Louie and Louie’s me.”

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BATTLE OF BANDS FEATURED in NEW ROCK MUSICAL at BARRINGTON STAGE

Ben Platt, Harrison Chad and Jason Hite are 'The Black Suits' (photo Kevin Sprague)

(PITTSFIELD, Mass.)  – New rock musical The Black Suits, about a high school garage band on suburban Long Island trying to win the St. Anne’s Battle of the Bands, runs in a workshop production as part of Barrington Stage’s Musical Theatre Lab, for which William Finn is artistic producer, through Sunday, September 2, 2012. The Black Suits features music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and book by Joe Iconis and Robert Emmett Maddock; is directed by John Simpkins with musical direction by James Sampliner; and plays at BSC’s St. Germain Stage (formerly Stage 2), located on the upper level of the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden Street, Pittsfield. In The Black Suits, two teens struggle to learn how to be real friends as the inevitability of adulthood threatens to pull them apart. It’s a musical about dreams, blood, Pop Tarts, records, drug runs, blue hair and the transformative coolness of rock and roll music.

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LUKAS NELSON, SON of WILLIE NELSON, TO PERFORM at HELSINKI HUDSON

Lukas Nelson

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – As soon as he opens his mouth and sings, the relationship is unmistakable. Like his father, Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson has a unique, reedy vocal instrument with a natural twang and vibrato, and a sense of ease with gliding melismas – one note flowing into another on the same syllable. Lukas Nelson, however, has his own sound – he’s got more of a Roy Orbison-like tenor voice, and his musical aesthetic owes as much to his father’s more rock-oriented contemporaries as to his father’s country and pop influences. “Four Letter Word,” for example, is an overt nod to Bringing It All Back Home-era Bob Dylan, and the slow, brooding funk of “Pali Gap/Hey Baby” flaunts his hotshot electric guitar chops by way of Jimi Hendrix. Nelson brings his rock quartet, Promise of Real, to Club Helsinki Hudson on Thursday, August 30, 2012.

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NEW ROCK OPERA to PREMIERE at MAHAIWE

A scene from 'Blue Venice'

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Blue Venice, a new live theater work by performance artist Heather Fisch and composer Jonathan Talbot, will premiere at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Friday, August 31, 2012, at 8 p.m. The production, variously likened to rock opera and neo-vaudeville features an eight-piece orchestra and choral ensemble and costumes by George Veale, head of the costume department at Simon’s Rock college. Based on the psychological construct of the Seven Stages of Grief, the show takes the audience through all the stages, says Fisch.  The story follows a young man who embarks on a vision quest, and finds himself thrust into the delirious and shadowy world of Blue Venice – a fantastical realm ruled by the tyrannical Rat King and the icy blue Snow Queen. On a whimsical and nightmarish adventure, the young man encounters Cupid, Venus de Milo and other outlandish characters, including seven alluring maidens of fertility.

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MUSICAL POLITICAL SATIRE GROUP GEARS UP FOR ELECTION YEAR COMEDY AT CRANWELL

Capitol Steps

(LENOX, Mass.) – This week’s Republican convention with no doubt add to the election-year fodder for the award-winning musical satire group Capitol Steps to draw upon in the final weekend of its annual residency at Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club in Lenox, where the ensemble has been playing for the sixth consecutive summer. Performing now through Sunday, September 2, 2012, including a new Sunday matinee, the group will entertain audiences with numbers from their latest album, Take the Money and Run for President! Capitol Steps’ 90-minute show is performed in Cranwell’s Olmsted Manor at 8pm, Wednesday through Saturday, and Sundays with a 3pm matinee. Cranwell offers convenient pre-show prix-fixe dining from 4.30 to 6:30 at its Wine Spectator award-winning 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. In-theatre wine and beer is offered before the show.

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NEW SHAKER-INSPIRED PAINTINGS by BERKSHIRE ARTISTS TO BE EXHIBITED

'Hancock Shaker No. 4' by Michael Cohen

(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Four Berkshire artists spent a year studying Shaker history and culture and painting scenes while onsite at Hancock Shaker Village. The results can be seen in SEASONS at Hancock Shaker Village: a Painting Exhibition, featuring works by Marguerite Bride, Mike Cohen, Ivor Parry, and Scott Taylor, which will open in the Poultry House Gallery on Friday, August 31, 2012, with a reception from 5pm to 7pm, and run through Sunday, October 28, 2012. The artists will also give a gallery talk about how the aesthetic beauty of the historic village inspired their paintings as part of the  Return and Learn series on Saturday, September 8, 2012, at 2pm.  Marge Bride, Mike Cohen, Ivor Parry, and Scott Taylor spent a year painting scenes while onsite at Hancock Shaker Village — from the Round Stone Barn in the winter to the baby animals in the spring. Concepts from Shaker philosophy and culture also helped to inform the paintings, leading to some unusual compilations from artist Ivor Parry, such as an oil painting of Mother Ann’s emigration from Manchester England and depictions of sheep and pigs balanced on the Shaker-invented flat broom. The artists work in a variety of mediums, including watercolor, acrylics, and oil. Proceeds from the sale of these paintings will help support village programming.

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TRIO to PERFORM RICKY IAN GORDON’S ‘ORPHEUS AND EURIDICE’ at TANNERY POND

Soprano Elizabeth Futral (by Christian Steiner)

(NEW LEBANON, N.Y.) – Todd Palmer, clarinetist and three-time Grammy nominee, joins forces with Israeli pianist Ran Dank and soprano Elizabeth Futral to perform Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice, a song cycle in two acts which was originally commissioned by Lincoln Center’s Great Performers Series in 2005, at Tannery Pond Concerts in the Tannery on the grounds of the Darrow School in New Lebanon, N.Y., on Saturday, September 1, at 8 p.m. Futral and Palmer created their roles – Euridice and Orpheus, respectively – for the Lincoln Center premiere, which garnered an OBIE award. Dank will also perform Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A minor in the first half of the concert.

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PARSONS DANCE to PERFORM NEW WORKS at PS21

A scene from 'Swing Shift' by Parsons Dance

(CHATHAM, N.Y.) – Parsons Dance returns to PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century for the seventh consecutive season on Friday and Saturday, August 31 and September 1, 2012, at 8pm, with performances to include two new works: Round My World and A Stray’s Lullaby, as well as several others. A Master Dance Class Workshop will be held on Saturday, August 31. Both Round My World and A Stray’s Lullaby premiered in January of this year at the Joyce in New York City, one of the country’s premiere performance venues for dance.

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‘PARASITE DRAG’ GETS EAST COAST PREMIERE at SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY

Elizabeth Aspendlieder and Jason Asprey rehearsing 'Parasite Drag' (photo by Kevin Sprague)

(LENOX, Mass.) – Mark Roberts’ darkly comic and hard-hitting tale Parasite Drag gets its East Coast premiere at Shakespeare & Company’s Bernstein Theatre, where it ends its run this weekend, playing through Sunday, September 2, 2012. Director Stephen Rothman, who makes his Shakespeare & Company debut this season, has assembled a talented cast to navigate Roberts’ sharp-witted dialogue which plumbs the depths of family dynamics. Parasite Drag features the stellar ensemble of Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Jason Asprey, Josh Aaron McCabe, and Kate Abbruzzese. Relationships between husbands and wives, brothers and faith unravel as a Midwestern storm brews on the horizon. Ringing with family truths that are familiar in many of our lives, Parasite Drag unravels in Gene and Joellen’s modest Baptist home in Tolono, Illinois, where Gene’s older brother Ronnie shows up unexpectedly as a result of their sister’s health crisis. Amidst razor-sharp verbal sparring and laughter, past truths and secrets collide sending the deeply estranged brothers on a headlong journey into rough waters.

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MCLA GALLERY 51 to FEATURE NEW ART by RICHARD CRIDDLE

New work by Richard Criddle

(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – MCLA Gallery 51 will present Compendium, a solo exhibition of new drawings and sculptures by local artist Richard Criddle, from Friday, August 30, 2012, through September 23, 2012. A free reception will be held Thursday, August 30, from 6 to 9 p.m. as part of the DownStreet Art Thursday celebration. Richard Criddle’s work is inextricably linked to the idea of “work ethic.” As such, the body of work included in this exhibition serves to celebrate the individual’s ability to affect a difference through craft, planning, design, skill and application. His near-obsession with the discovery and magic of the sculptural process through the use of tools, machines and materials underpins his creative process. He describes the monumental as being “made possible by directed effort.”

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