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Manhattan Transfer: Twentysomethings Back in the Berkshires

Rural Intelligence CommunityBy Fiona Breslin
For twentysomethings living in the 413, last call is early by Manhattan standards. A late night is 1:30 a.m., 2 o’clock if you’re lucky. But it’s the monotony that can become most unappealing: one bar, one street, 1 a.m., every night. But not this summer. Berkshire natives and former Manhattan students Mike Valenti, 23, Jared Decoteau, 25, and Joanna Boody, 27, plan to change the summer’s social trajectory. The threesome, along with friend Ashley James, have founded Prtty Pitty Productions, to create more eclectic nightlife in Pittsfield for people 18 and older. Their first event, Pittsfield Prom: Party On!, takes place on Saturday, June 5, at the loft like Upstairs at Jae’s Spice on North Street at 8 p.m.

“I hope you don’t think we’re tragic bar hoppers,” jokes Valenti, who studied architecture at NYU. He graduated in 2009, and, like his friends, is back in the Berkshires because he couldn’t find a job in New York. “They were laying off architects not hiring,” says Valenti, who now works freelance in the Berkshires. “I live on North Street,” he says, taking a second thought, for it’s a different street than he used to know. “Three years ago, I would have never realized that it would be possible to look outside my window and view the activity that is there now.” He’s happy to see people stopping for coffee, riding bikes to The Market at lunchtime, and going to movies at the Beacon.

Rural Intelligence Community“But there’s a void in the nightlife scene!,” says Decoteau, who grew up in North Adams. He attended college at NYU and graduated in 2007 with a degree in English. Unable to find work in Manhattan, he returned to the Berkshires and got a job with Bay State Hospitality Group assisting in the marketing and bookkeeping departments. “At first I was resentful,” he admits, but he’s found consolation “with the cultural renaissance happening in the Pittsfield area.”

To spread the word about their prom, the group turned to Facebook. “Our instinct was to put it on the internet,” says Boody, who grew up in Pittsfield, graduated from The New School University in 2008 with a masters in psychotherapy and now works for the Pediatric Development Center in Pittsfield. Within two weeks, Prtty Pitty had more than 550 Facebook friends (now 649) and 260 people interested in attending the Pittsfield Prom. Even Nancy Fitzpatrick, the owner of the Red Lion Inn and doyenne of the Berkshires creative economy, took notice. “She was one of the first people to contact us wanting to know, Who are you guys? You’re all over Facebook.”

There’s irony attached to the prom part of the party: “Just like you remember, only better!” reads the invitation, but unlike a high school prom drinks will be available to anyone 21 and up (with a valid ID.) “We’re hoping we can keep this going all summer and beyond,” says James who graduated from UNH in 2009 with a degree in research economics. Tickets are $15 for 18+ and $10 for 21+. “We want a fun and affordable nightlife scene,” says James.

As for the peculiar name:  Prtty Pitty is a riff on a nickname (“Shitty Pitty”) that students had for Pittsfield when Boody was in high school.  But as these four make clear, there’s no self-pity at this Pitty party.

Pittsfield Prom: Party On!
Saturday, June 5 @ 8 p.m.
Upstairs at Jae’s Spice
297 North Street
Pittsfield, MA

Fiona Breslin, who grew up in Great Barrington, is a student at the New School University.

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 06/02/10 at 04:59 AM • Permalink