Will Call #51: Made in the Berkshires — 2016
Will Call welcomes our new host, Kate Abbott, to the show! The founder and editor of BTW Berkshires, Kate has been one of the region’s most respected Arts & Culture writers for more than a decade. Exceedingly talented with a pen, Kate takes up the microphone in an ambitious first episode about the 6th annual Made in the Berkshires Festival. Be sure to leave your comments below to let us know what you think of this exciting evolution of the show.
‘Now touch the air softly.
Swing gently the broom.
I’ll love you till windows
Are all of a room …’
From “Touch the Air Softly, by William Jay Smith
William Jay Smith served as the 19th United States Poet Laureate, and two of his collections of poetry were finalists for the National Book Award (in 1957 and 1958). He taught as poet in residence at Williams College (from 1959 to 1967). And in his later years, he lived in Cummington.
Powerfully creative people live and work in the Berkshires. Obie award–winning actors live here. Emmy award–winning film-makers. Dancers and musicians, from internationally known professionals to young performers from Kids 4 Harmony and Funk Box Dance Studio.
Six years ago, Kate Maguire, artistic director and CEO of Berkshire Theatre Group, imagined a program of Berkshire art and performances. She reached out to two local artists, Hilary Somers Deely and Barbara Sims, and the show they curated has become an annual tradition.
Made in the Berkshires
The sixth Made in the Berkshires festival will return to the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield and the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge from Friday, Nov. 11, to Sunday, Nov. 13.
It will open on Friday with visual art, music, theater and dance, and a gala celebration to benefit Berkshire Theatre Group’s educational programs.
Saturday will bring short stories and plays at the Unicorn Theatre and visual art and dance to the Colonial. And on Sunday the Colonial will screen a selection of local films.
Will Call talked with Barbara Sims and Hilary Somers Deely about the festival and how it has grown.
Made in the Berkshires
On opening night, Barbara and Hilary will present excerpts from a work of their own — “Through the Looking Glass,” a play adapted from the words of five Berkshire women who made international names for themselves and shaped history: novelists Catharine Sedgewick, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Wharton; the actor Fanny Kemble, and the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.
The festival will also honor contemporary poets and film-makers, and both together.
On Friday night, a short film will honor Karen Allen, the film actor and director known for her roles in Animal House and Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. She lives in Monterey, Mass., and has often acted and directed with Berkshire Theatre Group. She also recently played a leading role in the film “Year by the Sea,” adapted from the best-selling novel by Joan Anderson, and she is directing a film based on a short story by Carson McCullers.
On Sunday, the film festival will screen short works and feature films including “Grazers,” a documentary about farmers forming the Adirondack Grazers Cooperative in New York State, by Emmy award–winning documentary filmmaker Lisa F. Jackson and Emmy-nominated producer Sarah Teale.
Set in the Berkshires, and directed by Diego Ongaro, “Bob and the Trees” looks at the land from another direction. Ongaro is local, and his fictional film is based on real people in the Berkshires. Bob Tarasuk plays himself—a forester fighting to keep the family business together in the bitter winter of 2014. It is an official Sundance Film Festival 2015 selection, Hilary said.
Touch the Air
The film festival will also screen a condensed version of “Touch the Air,” by composer and bassist Alice Spatz and cinematographer Eric J. Shepherd, based on America’s 19th poet laureate, William Jay Smith.
Near the end of his life, William Jay Smith read his poetry at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, with his longtime friend, Richard Wilbur — who had also served as United States Poet Laureate, and had won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry.
Smith’s reading moved Alice. She asked his permission to set “Touch the Air Softly” to music. And that meeting led to an idea. Alice wanted to set five of his poems to music, but not as songs—she wanted his voice, reading his words over her sound.
A Waltz with the Woman in the Milk House
On Saturday night, Nov. 12, Made in the Berkshires will present dancers from seven troupes, the largest group they have ever had, including Cantarella School of Dance, the Albany Berkshire Ballet, Ruslan Sprague and Lisa Avery.
Among the Berkshire choreographers who will present work on Saturday night, Bettina Montano, the artistic director of Berkshire Pulse, has created “A Waltz with the Woman in the Milk House: A Tribute to the Women in Wartime.” Carrieanne Petrick-Huff performs as the woman in the milkhouse in a company of dancers who span five decades.
The song “Gaucho,” by Hot Club Sandwich, that began this episode and can be heard during our conversation with members of Berkshire Pulse, is one of the featured pieces in “A Waltz with the Woman in the Milk House.” The Seattle-based Jazz string band granted the Greylock Glass permission to use the song in this episode, and now that we’ve heard more of their work, don’t be surprised if we seize upon the first chance to have them on as guests! You can pick up a download of their most recent release, “And If Only,” HERE.
Bettina said this dance began in her own past.
The dance tells the story of a woman living through a war and the peace that comes after it. Every piece of music in it is a waltz. The sound ranges across Europe, from Spanish guitar as fast as a polka to klezmer, to a deep, slow lament. A waltz can be joyful or melancholy or longing, Bettina said. It’s a generous way of moving. When you’re dancing with someone, you feel connected.
Made in the Berkshires itself gives a feeling of connection, she said. In the quieter time of year, it gives creative people a place to meet each other — and that feeling is rare.