10X10 Upstreet Arts Festival Returns For Charming Third Year
By Lisa Green
The 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival returns to Pittsfield for its third year, Feb. 13-24, and while in some cases the third time’s the charm, 10x10 seems to have been charmed from the get go.
It began with a premise nobody could argue with: People need get out of their self-imposed hibernation during the doldrums of winter. Artists need a creative kick to develop and present their art. Pittsfield needs activity to sustain the momentum driven the rest of the year by Third Thursdays and the Friday Arts Walks. The City of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development and Barrington Stage Company stepped up to make that happen. Turns out people were just waiting to be lured out of their dens.
The roster truly includes something for everyone: theater, art shows, film series, concerts, comedy and dance and plenty of kids activities, all somehow embracing the theme of ten, whether it’s the number of acts in a performance, a time limitation or the size of a canvas.
And, of course, there is the original raison d’etre: The 10X10 New Play Festival at the Barrington Stage Company, featuring ten 10-minute plays by 10 playwrights (and three directors and six actors, but who’s counting?). Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington Stage, who initially introduced the 10X10 theme, says the ten-minute plays appeal to everyone. Perhaps it’s because they’re more like our modern TV viewing habits, she speculates, with our shortened attention spans, not to mention the ability to change the channel. After all, there’s a new one act every ten minutes. “If you don’t like one, there’s another,” she says.
But that doesn’t seem to be a problem. The evenings of one acts draw in many people who come to the theater for the first time, and the audiences are younger than the summertime crowd.
Painting by Michael Rousseau, one of the ten Berkshire artists featured in the TEN SPOT art show at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.
“From the first to the second year, the number of attendees and events doubled,” says Megan Whilden, who runs the Office of Cultural Development. “It gives performers an opportunity to do something creative in the winter, and for the community and visitors to come out and enjoy the activities in one compact area, the Upstreet Cultural District.”
“Plus,” she adds, “it’s really affordable. A lot of the activities are free, or very low fee.” The priciest — the New Play Festival — is $30, but there are $15 tickets for preview nights, a Barrington Stage tradition in the summer season.
The Festival is scheduled to coincide with school vacation week, so kids and teens can take part in the tens, too, including a teen art show and the DANCE TEN performance showcase presenting ten community dance groups and schools throughout the Berkshires.
Each year has offered different events, although some have been such hits that they are becoming regulars on the schedule. The New Play Festival, the Ten Days of Play at the Berkshire Museum, the Real Art Party fundraiser, and the comedy club have proven themselves. Some approach the tens in a new way. Instead of a ten-minute film festival, The Beacon Cinema, along with Berkshire International Film Festival, will screen four ten-themed films (free!). Among the new events this year are the Ten Popular Arias (at the new kid on the block, The Whitney Center for the Arts,and the Ten Fingered Jazz with the Roy Gerson Trio presented by Berkshires Jazz at Baba Louie’s. The presenting organizations fund their own events, but there is a marketing fund from the city, and the Festival is getting additional support from local sponsors.
Both Boyd and Whilden pointed out the whimsical nature of the Festival. It’s just fun — something we all pretty desperately need this time of year. And although it’s called 10X10, it may be time to add another equation into the festival. For everyone —artists, the area and audiences — it’s WinXWinXWin.
The schedule is exciting and extensive, so best bet is to check out the website.
Restaurant URL: The 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival returns to Pittsfield for its third year, Feb. 13-24.
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