Producing a nice big Broadway musical is a great way for a summer theater to bring in people, but at Barrington Stage Company, founder and artistic director Julianne Boyd has learned there’s more than one way to fill the house.
“We looked at what kind of programming we needed to bring in our local audience, and we found that serious straight plays were the answer,” said Boyd, who founded the Barrington Stage in 1995.
“We know that big, popular musicals work, but we’ve also learned in the last five years or so that serious straight plays have an audience. We’ve done so well with ‘The Whipping Man’ and ‘Freud’s Last Session’ the last few years, and the reason was we were growing our audience right here in the Pittsfield region.”
This summer, Boyd is hoping to produce that same kind of magic with “Lungs,” a new play by Duncan Macmillan about a young couple who are deciding whether to bring a child into the world in what they see as a time of great global anxiety and political unrest.
WHERE: Barrington Stage Company, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield, Mass.
WHEN: Through June 10. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: $39-$15
MORE INFO: 413-236-8888, www.barringtonstageco.org
The play will be performed at BSC’s Stage 2 venue, which was recently renamed the St. Germain Stage, and is on the upper level of the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center at 36 Linden St. in Pittsfield.
“What we do on Stage 2 is going to be dedicated to new plays,” said Boyd. “They might be workshopped here, or they might have their world premiere here or a second production. Sometimes you produce a play and it dies. It doesn’t get that second production which a playwright really needs. Well, ‘Lungs’ premiered in Washington, D.C. last fall, and now it’s going to have its New England premiere right here.”
“Lungs,” which is directed by Aaron Posner, stars Brooke Bloom and Ryan King as the would-be parents.
“They’re trying to decide if they should bring a child into this crazy world,” said Boyd. “They don’t know where they’re going to be in 20 years. It makes us think about the world we live in, and I think regardless of your age the play will still work for you.”
“Lungs” is playing now through June 10, while kicking off the mainstage season on June 13 will be the classic Broadway musical smash “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Written by Joseph Stein with music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, “Fiddler on the Roof” tells the story of a Russian Jewish family dealing with change in the early 20th century. It debuted on Broadway in 1964, won nine Tonys and was the first musical to ever reach 3,000 performances.
“We’ve never done ‘Fiddler’ before, and part of the problem was that there was a national tour somewhere nearby and we couldn’t get the rights,” said Boyd. “But it’s one of the great musicals of all time, and I’m very excited about it opening up our mainstage season on June 13. That’s a little earlier than we usually open.”
Brad Oscar, who earned a Tony nomination for his performance as Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family,” will take on the role of the beloved dairyman Tevye in “Fiddler.” Joanna Glushak, who starred in “Sweet Smell of Success” on Broadway, will play Golde. The production will be directed and choreographed by Gary John LaRosa, with music direction by Darren R. Cohen.
Following “Fiddler” on the mainstage will be Arthur Miller’s classic work “All My Sons,” from July 19-Aug. 4. Philip King’s “See How They Run” will take the stage Aug. 9-26, and closing out the mainstage season Oct. 3-21 will be “Lord of the Flies.”
“I love ‘All My Sons,’ and it’s a play that is still relevant today,” said Boyd. “It’s about people making decisions that perhaps are not in the best interest of the country, yet they try to rationalize what they do because they’re pursuing the American dream. In doing that, they ruin the family.”
“See How They Run” was the most noteworthy work produced by King, a British playwright who wrote the play in 1942 and then added a new ending at the end of World War II. A comedic farce, the story centers on an American actress married to an English vicar. John Randall is directing.
“We decided we wanted to do a farce, so we proceeded to read just about every single farce in existence, and then we came across this one,” said Boyd. “John Randall remembered doing it in high school, so I read it and really loved it. A lot of people have forgotten about it, but it really is a great comedy.”
“Lord of the Flies” is based on William Golding’s 1954 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a group of British boys trying to govern themselves on a deserted island. During the show’s three-week run, BSC will do a number of matinees to accommodate school groups.
Following “Lungs” on the St. Germain Stage, a one-woman show starring Debra Jo Rupp as Dr. Ruth, “Dr. Ruth, All the Way,” will take the spotlight June 19-July 15. Rupp is best known for her role as Kitty Forman in the long-running Fox sitcom, “That ’70s Show.” She also played Alice in “Friends,” and was also on the ABC sitcom “Better With You” in 2010 and 2011.
The production is a world premiere, and was written by Mark St. Germain, who wrote “Freud’s Last Session.”
“It’s scary how much Debra looks and sounds like Dr. Ruth,” said Boyd. “She does a great job, and Dr. Ruth has had a very interesting life. People just think of her as the sex doctor, but her life story includes living in an orphanage in Sweden, fighting the Nazis in World War II, and then on to Palestine. She has an amazing story to tell.”
Also on the St. Germain Stage this summer will be two more new plays, “The North Pool,” by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, and “The Black Suits,” a story about a teenage rock band. Joe Iconis wrote the music and lyrics, and worked with Robert Maddock on the book.
After a career in New York, which included directing the 1978 Tony-nominated “Eubie!,” with Gregory Hines, Boyd moved to the Berkshires and started up her own theater company in Sheffield, Mass. In 2004, Barrington Stage Company hosted the world premiere of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which won two Tonys and earned six nominations. A year later in 2005, BSC moved its operations to Pittsfield.
“With the purchase of the old VFW building [the Blatt Performing Arts Center], which allows us a permanent cabaret space as well as an intimate 110-seat theater space, we have completed the Barrington Stage campus in downtown Pittsfield,” said Boyd.
“It’s a real thrill to have the BSC campus confined to the downtown area. We have plenty of rehearsal space, and we can now be running a full production on the mainstage and still have something at the St. Germain Stage.”