Kate Maguire knows a good thing when she sees it — and goes after it, no matter how daunting the challenge.
Following the 2010 summer theater season, her 16th with the Berkshire Theatre Festival, Maguire was asked to take on a new job: overseeing the creation of the Berkshire Theatre Group, a huge entertainment entity with five theaters in three towns throughout the Berkshires.
“Sometimes I ask myself why I took this on, but my life has never been simple,” said Maguire, an actress by trade who came to the Berkshires in 1995 to take charge of the Berkshire Theatre Festival.
“This is the second season, so the good news is that at least we have a sense of what we’re dealing with. I always used to say that my job was to keep the train on the tracks and, if I can continue that metaphor, we’ve just added more cars to the train. But it’s still about keeping the train on the track.”
Her schedule with the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, mostly a producing theater, was busy enough, but now she oversees the performance lineup at the century-old Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, mostly a presenting venue. It all seemed a little unwieldy at first, but she jumped right in.
“Now that we’ve been through one summer, it does seem a little bit easier,” she said. “And I know it might sound corny, but I love the people I work with and I love my job. It’s exciting and I feel very fortunate to be here doing what I’m doing.”
‘A Chorus Line’
WHERE: Berkshire Theatre Group, Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Pittsfield, Mass.
WHEN: Previews begin Monday at 8 p.m.; Opens July 7; performance times are 8 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: $60-$37
MORE INFO: (413) 997-4444 or www.Berkshiretheatregroup.org
The first big production of the summer this year will be the 1975 smash Broadway hit “A Chorus Line,” winner of the Pulitzer Prize and nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Eric Hill will be directing and Gerry McIntyre is the choreographer, the same team that handled “The Who’s Tommy” last year for Maguire.
The show will be staged at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s biggest venue, the 780-seat Colonial Theatre. Previews begin Monday; the show opens July 7 and runs through July 21.
“The majesty of this theater is part of the story of ‘A Chorus Line,’ ” said Maguire. “To be able to produce this show at the Colonial Theatre, and to tell the story of Broadway dancers in a theater like this just seemed perfect. It felt like the absolutely right thing to do.
“I also felt like I had the right team in Eric Hill and Gerry McIntyre,” she added. “They did a great job last year with ‘Tommy,’ and I knew they would use that experience to help them with this show. Eric Hill is a wonderful storyteller, and Gerry McIntyre is an incredible choreographer. They call him ‘Mr. Broadway.’ ”
The Colonial Theatre will continue to schedule musical acts year-round, and one important date on the summer calendar this year is a benefit concert on July 28 to honor Larry Vaber, a trustee of the Berkshire Theatre Festival and a longtime patron of the troupe in Stockbridge. Donna McKechnie, who has starred on Broadway in numerous shows, including “A Chorus Line,” will perform her cabaret act “My Musical Comedy Life.”
Action at other venues
Part of the Berkshire Theatre Group’s mission is to produce new plays, and one that has Maguire excited is Kelly Masterson’s “Edith,” opening July 31 in Stockbridge at the 408-seat Fitzpatrick Main Stage. The play is set in 1919, soon after U.S. president Woodrow Wilson has suffered a stroke. His wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, played by Tony-nominated Jayne Atkinson, takes over the reigns of leadership during her husband’s ill health, and the issues the play tackles are still relevant today. Michael Sexton is the director.
“This woman was essentially running the government, so it was a very provocative situation during a time period that seems to have a lot of interest for us today,” said Maguire.
“I didn’t know that much about Edith Wilson before I read the play, but it’s a fascinating story and gives us a really close look at the relationship between Wilson and Edith. It’s about White House politics, so it’s a bit of a ‘West Winger,’ and the play fits beautifully into that very traditional space we have in Stockbridge.”
Another world premiere play on the BTG schedule for Aug. 14-25 is David Epstein’s “Brace Yourself,” which features former “L.A. Law” co-stars Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry. James Naughton is directing.
“All actors love working with a new piece, and we have this wonderful cast and a great director in James Naughton working on ‘Brace Yourself,’ ” said Maguire. “It’s a story about the relationship between a mother and a daughter. It’s a great new play, and I feel very positive about it.”
The 122-seat Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge is currently producing “The Puppetmaster of Lodz,” through July 7 and again in September, while other productions at the Unicorn this summer will be “A Class Act” and “Homestead Crossing,” another new play by William Donnelly.
“He’s a Massachusetts playwright and a very smart writer,” Maguire said of Donnelly. “He writes about contemporary relationships, and this story is about a couple who come face-to-face with their relationship when they meet a much younger couple who very much mirrors them.”
“Homestead Crossing” will run from Aug. 7-Sept. 1, and is being co-produced by BTG in partnership with the Merrimack Repertory Theatre of Lowell, Mass., and the Portland Stage Company of Portland, Maine.
At The Mount in Lenox, Mass., the former home of author Edith Wharton, BTG is producing “Pinocchio” on the Neil Ellenoff Stage July 25-Aug. 11. At BTG’s fifth performance venue, The Garage, various local musical acts will be scheduled throughout the summer. The Garage is next to the lobby of the Colonial Theatre.