When Allyn Burrows knew he wanted to be an actor but was afraid his father might object, he pulled a fast one on his old man.
"He was a great lover of Shakespeare, and while I had no idea what exactly I wanted to do, when I told him I wanted to be a Shakespearean actor he really got excited about the notion," said Burrows, who is enjoying his first summer season as artistic director at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. "That was my way of justifying to my father that I wanted to be an actor. He thought a Shakespearean actor would be legit."
A Boston University graduate who grew up just outside of Fenway Park, Burrows has acted in many non-Shakespearean productions. But he has also never wandered too far away from the Bard in his professional career, and while he's been a long-time member of Tina Packer's troupe in the Berkshires, he also served as artistic director at the Actors' Shakespeare Project in Boston from 2010 through last year.
"I did live in New York for 18 years and then I went back to Boston for about eight years to run the Shakespeare Project there," said Burrows, who has spent most of his summer with Shakespeare & Company for the past 17 season as an actor and director. "I learned a lot working here, I took that with me to Boston, and now I'm bringing back some of my own precepts to Shakespeare & Company. I was absolutely thrilled to have been selected for this major position heading one of the country's preeminent theater companies."
First up on the Shakespeare & Company season is Amy Herzog's "4,000 Miles," which opened last week at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre and runs through July 16. Winner of the 2010 Obie Award for Best New Play, "4,000 Miles" tells the story of a 21-year-old man who takes a cross-country bike trip to see his 91-year-old grandmother. Annette Miller and Gregory Boover play the two leads.
"Along with our Shakespeare plays, we're producing a lot of shows written by female playwrights," said Burrows. "Herzog's play is an Obie Award-winner that a lot of people didn't see when it was in New York, so now they can see it here. It is so beautifully crafted and will resonate with so many people in terms of family relationships. It's about what different generations can do to help each other survive in this crazy world."
Shakespeare classics such as "Cymbeline," "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Tempest" are also on the 2017 calendar, while the company will also mount performances of Lynn Nottage's "Intimate Apparel" and Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage." Burrows has also put on the schedule "The Wharton Comedies," including two short plays by Dennis Krausnick, "In Roman Fever" and "The Fullness of Life," based on the work of Edith Wharton.
"We want people to have a real Shakespearean experience this summer," said Burrows. "We do things in an intimate setting, audience members can feel a strong relationship with the actors and feel immersed into the whole world of Shakespeare. We won't drag them on the stage, but it's a whole diffferent experience than watching something on Netflix."
Burrows also had a different kind of experience himself in 2016, landing a small role in the highly-acclaimed film, "Manchester By the Sea," which earned Casey Affleck an Oscar for Best Actor earlier this year. Burrows played Father Martin.
"I read for the part, got cast, and then they cut my big scene," said Burrows, laughing. "It's always kind of a gut punch when that happens. So you only see me for a few moments in a short scene. I play a priest. I guess it was too sad a scene, even for that movie, but I was able to have a reunion with Michelle Williams because we worked together before in 'Killer Joe,' and now I can say I worked with both Affleck brothers because I worked with Ben on 'The Company Men.' It was a very good experience."Here is the Shakespeare & Company 2017 summer schedule: For more information visit www.shakespeare.org
Shakespeare & Company
- "4,000 Miles," by Amy Herzog, May 25-July 16, at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre.
- "Cymbeline," by William Shakespeare, July 4-Aug. 6, at the Tina Packer Playhouse.
- "A Midsummer Night's Dream," by William Shakespeare, July 11-Aug. 19, at The Dell-Outdoors at the Mount.
- "Intimate Apparel," by Lynn Nottage, July 20-Aug. 13, at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre.
- "The Tempest," by William Shakespeare, Aug. 10-Sept. 3, at the Roman Garden Theatre.
- "The Wharton Comedies," adapted by Dennis Krausnick, Aug. 17-Sept. 10, at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre.
- "God of Carnage," by Yasmina Reza, Sept. 14-Oct. 8, at the Elayne P. Berstein Theatre.