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Shakespeare & Co. Season Features Firsts, Reprises

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Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts is gearing up for its 2018 season. WAMC spoke to its artistic director to learn more.

Allyn Burrows is hardly a new face at Shakespeare & Company.

“I was an actor and a director for about 17 years from 1989 to 2006 with the Company, and artistic associate," said Burrows.

The Lenox-based theater company experienced a discordant 2015, which saw upheaval in its top leadership positions. Burrows, who assumed the role of Artistic Director in 2016, says those days are behind the 40-year-old institution. 

“We like to think it’s settling down," he told WAMC. "It helps when we have a robust season, and that inspired confidence in our board, when audience is showing up in force. And things have kind of evened out a little bit.”

Burrows is entering his second season at the helm.

Last year, we did about… we sold about 72 percent of our available tickets," he said. "I built a new theater outside, called the Roman Garden theater, and we sold about 92 percent of the available tickets there. I’m not patting myself on the back, I just feel really fortunate that it happened and we’re off to a strong start this year.”

Other playwrights are celebrated at the company in addition to the Bard.

“All the new plays really come under a particular scrutiny because they have different strengths and different weaknesses," said Burrows. "You take a play like we’re going right now, Morning After Grace, and it is a very moving, funny, heartwarming comedy that takes place in a retirement home. And it has a number of surprises that crop up, but is it a towering piece of iconic drama? No. It’s about three people who suddenly find second chances in life. There are pieces that are daring and are out there, like our last play this season by Taylor Mac, called HIR. It’s going to challenge our audiences. It’s really out there, about a son and a family who comes back to his house after being in the wars in the Gulf, and his house has been turned upside down. And there are a new set of rules. And people may find a level of discomfort with that piece, that is worthy of discussion.”

The company will present a total of nine plays, including Tony winner Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons as well as August Strindberg’s Creditors.

“Normally people wouldn’t necessarily rush out of their houses to go see a Strindberg," said Burrows. "It’s the first time that we’ve produced one here at Shakespeare & Company. I felt like it was an important piece; Strindberg said it was his most important play.”

As far Shakespeare himself, there are a pair of classics in the wings.

“We’re also doing a very well-known Shakespeare title in Macbeth," Burrows told WAMC. "We haven’t done it here in 15 years. Yeah, it’s a common title, but we have an Obie award-winning director in Melia Bensussen who I’ve worked with a number of times who’s going to be taking that on her own particular way. So people are going to find that very worthwhile to come see how she does that with our company. I’m really excited. I’m also directing a pastoral comedy that people will be familiar with called As You Like It. We’re doing it outside, so it makes sense to do this outside, and a cast that’s incredibly strong.”

For more on the 2018 Shakespeare & Company summer season, click here.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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