(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Berkshire Actors Theatre, a new theater company founded by local actors and directors, bows with Four Dogs and a Bone, John Patrick Shanley’s show business comedy. The play follows a screenwriter, a producer, and two manipulative actresses as they simultaneously strive to take control of a floundering Hollywood film. Inflated egos, brazen power plays, and psychological warfare abound in this hilarious dark comedy by one of America’s preeminent playwrights, whose writing credits include the Tony Award-winning play Doubt and the Academy Awarding-winning film Moonstruck.
“This is definitely a juicy show for actors,” says company artistic director Clover Bell-Devaney of Four Dogs and a Bone. “And since we wanted to be an actor-based theater, where performances are paramount, what better way to get things rolling than with a comedy full of rich, outrageous characters and fantastic dialogue? Plus, Four Dogs and a Bone is viciously funny. It will be the perfect diversion from the summer heat for audiences come August!”
In founding Berkshire Actors Theatre, Bell-Devaney has had the support of artistic associate Deann Halper and director Andrew Volkoff, who helms Four Dogs and a Bone. Both Bell-Devaney and Halper act in Four Dogs and a Bone as well, appearing as two conniving, embattled actresses who attempt to steer the film in their favor with their sharp tongues, clever schemes, and a healthy dose of emotional blackmail. As seasoned actors themselves, both Bell-Devaney and Halper have appeared in productions throughout the Berkshires as well as Off-Broadway and regionally throughout the New England area.
Bell-Devaney, who has a degree in acting from Carnegie Mellon, hadn’t planned on founding a theater company when she moved from New York City to the Berkshires ten years ago. As the head of a successful Berkshire-based event planning business (Impeccable Events), Bell-Devaney’s focus has been on producing events for the last several years, but this new theatrical endeavor is a natural progression for her.
“I feel like I’ve taken to producing like a duck to water,” says Bell-Devaney of her role leading the company. “The skills I’ve developed though event planning, including the ability to assemble and manage a team and knowing how to pull together multiple pieces to create something spectacular, are serving me well in this new role.” Bell-Devaney, who has deep roots in the theater, adds, “I suppose it’s no surprise that my life has taken this turn. My dad’s an actor, my mom’s a founding artistic director, I have a sister who’s an actress in New York City, and another sister who manages a theater in Pennsylvania. Even my eight-year-old son has started doing a bit of professional acting.”
The Berkshire Actors Theatre’s stated aim is “to produce fresh, dynamic takes on modern and classical plays, while fostering a sense of creativity and collaboration among local theater artists.”
Four Dogs and a Bone director Andrew Volkoff has also worked extensively in Berkshire County, most recently on Barrington Stage Company’s production of The Fantasticks (2009). Volkoff migrated from New York City to Western Massachusetts in the late 1990s, in order to work as an artistic associate for Barrington Stage Company. He later spent several years directing plays and musicals for BSC, and credits Barrington Stage with helping shape his artistic sensibilities, and encouraging his desire to develop new theatrical work.
“I’ve never encountered a community so theater-minded,” says Volkoff, who splits his time between New York City and the Berkshire region. “The audiences here are so ready to accept new theater and help it grow. So when people ask, ‘Why start another theater company?’ I say, ‘Well, the community here is so supportive – they’re always willing to embrace a fresh artistic endeavor.’”
Bell-Devaney, Halper, and Volkoff all stress the “Berkshire” aspect of Berkshire Actors Theater, saying that they intend to use as much local talent as possible to create fresh, high-quality performances. “Although we’re not against bringing people in from outside the area, we really want to focus on Berkshire performers and artists,” says Bell-Devaney. “Everyone working on the show either lives here or has strong ties to this region.”
In addition to Bell-Devaney and Halper, Daniel Popowich joins the cast as the film’s unsavory producer, and Michael Foster steps in as a perpetually exasperated screenwriter. All four actors have worked throughout Berkshire County and the Pioneer Valley, with venues such as Mixed Company, Aglet Theater Company, Barrington Stage Company, Main Street Stage, Berkshire Theatre Festival, and the Majestic Theater in West Springfield.
Four Dogs and a Bone runs from August 3 through August 21 at the New Stage Performing Arts Center, located at 55 North St., Pittsfield. Tickets are $25, with a special discount rate of $15 for preview performances on Wednesday, August 3 and Thursday, August 4. Tickets can be purchased by calling 413-347-9849, visiting Berkshire Actors Theatre, or at the box office before each show, depending upon availability.