Labor Day’s Marathon Studio Festival of Plays set for Shakespeare & Company

One of the most popular events each year at Shakespeare & Company is their annual Studio Festival of plays. Usually held over two days, Artistic Director Tony Simotes announced today that this year this labor of love for the theatre will all happen on one day only ,and Labor Day at that. While they are mostly simply staged readings, that doesn’t stop the actors from really getting into their parts as you can see in our photo above from 2010. (Photo – Enrico Spada).

Simotes announced the titles for its 17th annual mini-marathon of plays never before performed at the Company, running one-day only on Monday, September 5th in Founders’ Theatre. Staged readings begin at 11:00 AM, and continue through to 11:00PM. Company actors and special guest actors will present seven productions throughout the day, in the form of works-in-progress and staged readings.

Tickets for the Studio Festival are a $16 suggested donation per show, or a $60 suggested donation for a Festival Pass, which gives admittance to all six performances. For information, call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353 or visit

An annual vehicle for exploring new plays (including plays that may receive full productions in a future season), the Studio Festival is part of Shakespeare & Company’s commitment to nurturing fresh theatrical voices and staging cutting-edge work. The plays are presented as workshop readings with varying degrees of staging and production elements. This year’s Studio Festival features comedic works, such as A.R. Gurney’s hilarious play The Grand Manner, as well as more cutting-edge fare like Parasite Drag by Mark Roberts, a compelling comic-tragedy about the conflicted relationship between two brothers.

Split Knuckle Theatre.

“I am very pleased to include so many new works, directors and actors in the Festival this season,” says Artistic Director Tony Simotes. “It’s a joy to have long-time Company actors such as Michael F. Toomey and Shawn Cody back in the mix with their provocative and entertaining shows. The number of submissions this season was staggering and I am grateful to Elizabeth Aspenlieder, an Artistic Associate and Gina Kaufman, a Company director, teacher and dramaturge who spent the past several weeks reading dozens of new plays with me in order to make our selection. This year’s Studio Festival of Plays truly runs the gamut of genres and forms, from a raucous new musical (Water Dream) to an elegant comedy about cows (Milk).

“We’re even including a cast-generated piece from the physical comedy troupe, Split Knuckle,” Simotes continued. “I’m directing a dark and edgy new comedy called Parasite Drag and Founding Artistic Director Tina Packer is directing The Grand Manner, featuring Annette Miller as the Grande Dame herself, Katharine Cornell. We’re having a lot of fun putting this together, so I hope that bodes well for the audience to have some fun, too. I am very happy to once again, be able to fill Founders’ stage with works that take a journey through the range of human emotions and experiences as we explore the ways these delightful new voices in the English-speaking theatre world translate from the page to the stage.”

The Water Dream

Over the past sixteen years, the Studio Festival has featured numerous works that were later given full productions in the Company’s regular season, including Mrs. Klein, Fortune and Misfortune, Laughing Wild, Goodnight Desdemona Good Morning Juliet, The Turn of the Screw, Brief Lives, Betrayal, The Mistress, Wit, Summer, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), A Tanglewood Tale, The Scarlet Letter, Ice Glen, Hamlet, Martha Mitchell Calling, No Background Music, The Goatwoman of Corvis County, The Dreamer Examines His Pillow, White People, Devil’s Advocate, and Mengelberg and Mahler.

Last year’s Studio Festival hit, The Memory of Water, is currently receiving a full production directed by Kevin G. Coleman and starring a cast of audience favorites in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre

Studio Festival Plays…At A Glance

Monday, September, 5th


Kaufman’s Barbershop
By Robert Sugarman
Directed by Regge Life
Date: Monday, September 5. Time: 11:00– 12:30pm
Cast: George Bergen, Kelly Galvin, Jeff Kent, Robert Lohbauer, and Jonathan Majors.

Set in 1925, Kaufman’s Barbershop explores the challenges faced by three successful men who grew up together in the “Ward,” the immigrant Jewish area of Syracuse, New York. It also examines the lives of a resident of the city’s “Negro” neighborhood and of an Irish immigrant. In the course of the play which has a good deal of humor, the characters’ lives are irrevocably changed by the pressures of race, ethnicity and class.

Robert Sugarman (playwright, Kaufman’s Barbershop). Players, and Hello I Must be Going, Oldcastle Theatre, Bennington, Vermont. Farrier’s Lane, workshop production, Oldcastle Theatre. Without a Bugle, Without a Drum, and Happiness Ahead, Traveling Stage, Albany, NY, Interlochen Academy, Traverse City, MI (Competition Winner.) Ama Reka, Southern Vermont College. Salute a Distant Man, People at Dinner, The Homefront, And Then and Then, and several one-acts, Equity Showcase productions, New York City. Member, Dramatists Guild.

By Split Knuckle Theatre
Adapted and created by: Jason Bohon, Andrew Grusetskie, Michael Toomey, and Greg Webster, with writer Nick Ryan
Date: Monday, September 5. Time: 12:45– 2:30pm
Cast: Jason Bohon, Andrew Grusetskie, Michael Toomey, and Greg Webster.

Trapped in Antarctica with no hope of rescue, the great British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton kept 27 men alive for two years in the most inhospitable climate on earth. Ninety-five years later, in the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, Hartford insurance man Walter Spivey, struggling to justify his recent promotion and save his employees’ jobs, relives Shackleton’s story. Can one of the greatest leaders in human history inspire him to conquer the corporate world?

In this fresh and engaging piece of physical theatre, Split Knuckle Theatre creates an imaginary world of ice, snow, mountains. Through precise, and elegant movement and gesture, they continually create inventive images that surprise and delight. Join the internationally acclaimed Split Knuckle Theatre Company in a funny, physical and moving exploration of how the human spirit can conquer any obstacle with wit, humor, invention…and endurance!

The Grand Manner
By A.R. Gurney
Directed by Tina Packer
Date: Monday, September 5. Time: 2:45 – 4:15pm
Cast: Annette Miller, Brendan Sokler, Catherine Taylor Williams, and others TBA.

The golden age of Broadway is reflected in The Grand Manner, a charming, heartfelt tale of a young boarding school student who meets legendary stage actress Katharine Cornell (played by award-winning actor Annette Miller). Through a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with the actress the young man’s tale is brought to life with a poignant combination of humor and pathos.

The year is 1948, and Katherine Cornell is performing the title role in Antony and Cleopatra. Using his family connections, the young man manages to secure a backstage pass to the production, where he finds Cornell in her dressing room. With her resonant voice and barbed (yet wise) words, the actress’s larger-than-life persona entrances the young man, and he’s given a fascinating glimpse into the world of professional theatre. A mix of imagination and heightened nostalgia, The Grand Manner is a love letter to this renowned actress and an affectionate look back at the heyday of Broadway theatre.

A.R. Gurney, less formally known as “Pete,” is one of the most prolific and produced playwrights in America. His work focuses primarily on the issues and realities of middle-class American life and has been produced on international theatre stages for more than 30 years. His breakthrough success came in 1982 with The Dining Room. Other award-winning plays include The Middle Ages, Richard Cory, The Golden Age, What I Did Last Summer, The Wayside Motor Inn, Sweet Sue, The Perfect Party. Another Antigone, The Cocktail Hour, Love Letters, The Old Boy, The Fourth Wall, Later Life, A Cheever Evening, Sylvia, Overtime, Let’s Do It (a Cole Porter musical), Labor Day, Far East, Darlene And The Guest Lecturer, and Ancestral Voices.

Both Ancestral Voices and Love Letters, enjoyed tremendous successes, including special benefit performances at Shakespeare & Company featuring both Ms. Miller and Gurney. In 1991 Gurney adapted his novel, The Snow Ball, for the stage; it premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. His other novels include The Gospel According to Joe and Entertaining Strangers. In the fall of 1999, Gurney wrote the libretto for Strawberry Fields with music by Michael Torke, as part of the Central Park Opera trilogy presented by the New York City Opera. Gurney is the recipient of many awards, notably a Drama Desk Award in 1971, a Rockefeller Award in 1977 and two Lucille Lortel Awards in 1989 and 1994. He has also received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the New England Theatre Conference. He and his wife, Molly, have four children and six grandchildren.

Parasite Drag
By Mark Roberts
Directed by Tony Simotes
Date: Monday, September 5. Time: 4:30 – 5:30pm
Cast: Jason Asprey, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Merritt Jansen, Josh Aaron McCabe.

Parasite Drag is a hard hitting tragic-comedy that looks at family in both surprising and funny ways allowing audience members to relate to their own life experiences as they view the play’s journey. Deeply estranged brothers Gene and Ronnie are forced together to make arrangements for their sister, a homeless drug addict dying of AIDS. At first glance the two men appear to be polar opposites. But as their sister’s tragedy forces open old wounds, we see that they are very much alike, united forever by a dark, tragic past.

Parasite Drag is written by multi talented playwright, actor, stand-up comic, and television producer Mark Roberts. In addition to having three plays published by Dramatists Play Service, Roberts served for 6 seasons as an Executive Producer for the CBS hit sit-com Two and a Half Men. He left that position last year to serve as Creator and Executive Producer of the past TV season’s biggest new sit-com hit Mike and Molly. Like Mike and Molly, Parasite Drag captures the true dialogue and nuances of life in the Mid-West in particular the Illinois area where Mark first began his career.

Director Steve Rothman, a long time associate of Shakespeare & Company’s Artistic Director Tony Simotes, brought the play to the Company’s attention earlier in the season and cast the upcoming reading. Simotes notes, Steve brought us a terrific new play with Mark Roberts script — a writer of amazing insight and intelligence. While Roberts is one of the hottest sit-com writers around he is always going home from the studio at night and crafting other incredible theatre works that challenge an audience with laughter and tears.”

5:30pm – 6:15pm. Food, drink and captivating trinkets available in the Lobby!


Parallel Lives: The Kathy and Mo Show
By: Kathy Najimi and Mo Gafney
Consulting Director: Rebecca Holderness
Cast: Eleni Sophia and Katherine Pecevich.
Date: Monday, September 5. Time: 6:15pm – 7:15pm

The audience is whisked through an outrageous universe where two actresses play men and women struggling through the common rituals of modern life. With boundless humor, Pecevich and Sophia reprise their roles in one of the most lauded theatrical productions of the Berkshire region. Pecevich is currently performing to rave reviews in “Ludwig Live!” and Sophia can be seen as Speed in Two Gentlemen of Verona at Shakespeare & Company this summer.

“There is a smart sense of restraint and definition—they put a human face on the characters who in less skillful hands might have fallen into the trap of archetype.” Jeffrey Borak, The Berkshire Eagle.

By Emily Devoti
Director: Gina Kaufman
Cast includes: Jonathan Croy, Dana Harrison, Susannah Millonzi, Kevin O’Donnell, Tony Roach, and Kristin Wold.
Date: Monday, September 5. Time: 7:30pm – 9:00pm

In rural Massachusetts, just before Reagan’s second term, Meg and Ben are a creditor away from losing their family farm. To the rescue flies a high-powered and fabulously arrogant businessman—in a chopper no less—offering a tidy sum for the taste of farm life and the pure, raw milk that goes with it. Milk is a whimsical parable of change set on the cusp of a shifting American landscape.

Press quotes from the NYC production. Produced by New Georges, Off-Broadway in May 2010

“Multi-faceted and dynamic. MILK is rich, unexpected, and often enthrallingly vivid. Playwright Emily DeVoti has produced some perfect morsels of dialogue, vivifying characters who raise piercing questions about choice, consumption, death, domesticity, and the decidedly mixed virtues of the simple life.” – The Village Voice

“Blends realism with a touch of the fantastic… there is an engagingly original streak running through [DeVoti’s] writing… it may send you home ruminating on its themes: city vs. country; wild vs. domesticated; stability vs. freedom.” — The New York Times

Emily DeVoti’s plays have been developed and presented in NYC by New Georges, Rattlestick Theater, New York Theater Workshop, ArsNova, Abingdon Theater, HotINK/NYU, Cherry Lane Theatre, Six Figures, Judith Shakespeare Company and Perry Street Theater, and supported by residencies with The Orchard Project and The MacDowell Colony. Her play The Upstart was produced in February 2011 by Rising Phoenix Rep, NYC, in their Cino Nights series and will be published in December 2011. Her play MILK was produced Off-Broadway by New Georges in Spring 2010 and is published by Samuel French. Her play Dirt was recently work shopped by the National Theatre Studio, London, in collaboration with Max Stafford-Clark. She is currently working on a full-length commission for Shakespeare & Co. (Lenox, MA) and Colorado Shakespeare Festival, for their American History play cycle. She is a member of New Georges’ Kitchen Cabinet and is a founder and the current Theater Editor of The Brooklyn Rail. She holds an MFA in dramatic writing from NYU/Tisch and an A.B. from Princeton University.

The Water Dream
Book/Music/Lyrics: By Shawn Cody
Director/arrangements: Bill Barclay (EveryActor, The Hollow Crown)
Music Director/Piano: Emily Otto
Date: Monday, September 5. Time: 9:15pm – 11:00pm
Cast: COLE: Anthony Rapp (Bway Rent), SOFIA/SWEETWATER: *Karmine Alers (Bway Rent), BRIAN/SEABIRD: *Erik Lochtefeld (Bway Metamorphoses), MICHAEL: *Nigel Gore (Shake & Co Memory of Water, Women of Will, The Hollow Crown, Hamlet), MARINA: *Alexis Hightower (Natl Tour Rent), MOPPET: *Shawn Cody (American Rep: Seagull), HENRY: *Cheo Bourne (New Rep: Passing Strange), DANDELION BUM: *Rob O’Hare (Disney: Peter & Starcatcher), WATER GODS: *Adam Kern (T.S. Eliot Fellow), AEEELEEEOOO BELL: *Doug Chapman (Empirical Rogue: Hamlet), ISABEL: *Diane Phelan (Lincoln Center Bernarda Alba), with Alisa Ledyard, Alana Rader and others.

Scranton Pennsylvania 1972. The State Basketball Champs from a Catholic High School come to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their stunning victory with their beloved coach who now faces a terminal illness. Widely praised when it opened on Broadway the New York Times wrote: “Mr. Miller has a perfect ear and instinct for the rough and tumble profanity of locker-room humor. The coarsely elegant gibes go along with Mr. Miller’s indictment of a society, which opens with an ironic playing of the National Anthem and then lacerates the sickness of small-town America full of bigotry, double-dealing, racism and hate.”

The Water Dream is a Broadway-bound musical about redemption, that features giant whale puppets, an aquarium of real water, and stars Anthony Rapp from the Original Broadway Cast and Feature Film of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-Winning Musical Rent. The Water Dream was recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship Award in Playwriting, and the Citation from Governor Deval Patrick for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts. Shakespeare & Company’s Studio Festival marks eighth workshop for The Water Dream and its sixth public presentation. Presently seeking producers for intended 2012-13 Broadway opening. Inquiries contact: Jonathan Mason at Don Buchwald & Associates• For audio, video, and info visit:

Book Contributions: Rob O’Hare; Guitar/Contributions: Ryan Link; Stage Directions: Noel Joseph Allain; Percussion (Justin Hines), Associate Producer: Adam Kern; Associate Producer: Doug Chapman, Stage Manager: Joan H. Cappello.

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