By Lisa Green
Ask Enrico Spada
[right] why he wanted to start a free Shakespeare in the Park venture — in Pittsfield — and he’ll give you a couple of reasons: I saw it being done successfully in other cities. I wanted the opportunity to work on a play with local actors. The city of Pittsfield really deserves this kind of a project.
It's all true. But after saying all that, he admits his motivation was a lot simpler.
“I just wanted to do it," says Spada, who for the past 8 years has taught, directed and performed at Shakespeare & Company
in Lenox. And he — with a lot of community support — has made Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park
happen. The first production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream,
opens July 17 in Pittsfield’s Springside Park
. It’ll run through July 27, with performances Thursday through Saturday.
Pittsfield these days is all about culture (the downtown, called Upstreet, was the first city in western Massachusetts to be designated a cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council
in 2012), and no doubt the city’s zeitgeist helped push Spada’s concept forward. With the backing of Pittsfield’s former Director of Cultural Development Megan Whilden, he approached the Parks Commission last fall, applied for and received a grant from the Pittsfield Cultural Council,
met the matching grant from Berkshire Money Management
and secured sponsorships from other businesses.
Assistant Stage Manager Haley Barbieri, Stage Manager Alex Reczkowski, Director Enrico Spada and Julie Castagna, an actor, in rehearsal at the Whitney Center. Photo by Fiona Barnett-Mulligan.
“We’re putting this together through the kindness and generosity of strangers," Spada says. Barrington Stage
and the Monument Mountain Regional High School’
s drama program have donated the costumes. A stage is being built with lumber provided by Berkshire Production Resources
, and the set is made from pallets and barn doors ("an abstract design," Spada quips). Spada himself is not only directing but also doing the sound design.
But the resources Spada seems most proud of are the local actors. “They’re really talented and don’t get the chance to do Shakespeare except in the winter," he says. The actors comes in all sizes and ages, from about 6 years old and up. There’s even a dog in the company (and she’s a pro; this is her second production, so she’s not apt to forget her lines). Since Spada has directed Shakespeare & Company’s Fall Festival of Shakespeare high school residency program for seven years, plus other K-12 residency programs, getting the younger set involved was a no brainer. And really, their presence in the production will make Shakespeare just that much more accessible to kids in the audience, an important target market.
Maizy Broderick Scarpa as Puck in rehearsal at the Whitney Center. Photo by Fiona Barnett-Mulligan.
The play, slightly abridged, starts at 8 p.m. to take advantage of the night sky, but everybody will be out by 10:15 or so. Prior to the start time at selected performances, the company will be offering “interactive pre-show workshops," an opportunity for people to play with Shakespeare’s text, movement and dancing.
eight performances are the only shows scheduled this summer, Spada would like to see the lineup increase to two (if not more) next year.
“My goal is to raise enough money to hire artists to do all the technical parts so I can just produce and direct," he says.
To kick off the opening night of Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park, Cultural Pittsfield is throwing a mini fundraiser during the Third Thursday street party on July 17 from 5-8 p.m. Actors from the company, as well as local artists (who will be selling their work), will gather under a tent for a meet-and-greet. Hors d’oeuvres will be provided by Mission Bar + Tapas. Admission fee is $5.
Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
July 17-27, Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m.
Springside Park, 874 North Street, Pittsfield, MA