Julianne Boyd Discusses Barrington’s Season

From High Drama to Three Musicals

By: - Feb 03, 2014


During a recent press conference Julianne Boyd, the artistic director of Barrington Stage Company discussed all of the productions in the 2014 program.

Now in its 20th season the company is known for its range from heart warming fun musicals to heart wrenching dramas exploring difficult and complex social issues.

After the gypsy early years Barrington found a permanent home as well as a second stage and office building in Pittsfield. The theatre has been a key element of the cultural and economic development for the city with an outreach into the Northern Berkshires community.

Boyd has come to be known for both elevated social commitment and an ability to put together seasons that represent the best of American regional theatre.

It also has a Broadway presence based on the hit musical 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. And a national reputation for the plays of Mark St. Germain. His Freud’s Last Session has also been produced internationally. Last summer’s smash hit On the Town is opening this fall on Broadway.

What follows is a run down of the season with Boyd’s commentary.

Breaking the Code

Breaking the Code is a 1986 play by Hugh Whitemore about British mathematician Alan Turing, who was a key player in the breaking of the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II and founder of computer science.

Following a run in the London West End beginning in November, 1986, the play ran on Broadway from November 15, 1987 to April 10, 1988, in both cases starring Derek Jacobi. The Broadway production also featured Jenny Agutter in the role of Pat Green.The Broadway production was nominated for three Tony Awards including Best Actor in a Play, Best Featured Actor in a Play, and Best Direction of a Play, and for two Drama Desk awards, for Best Actor and Best Featured Actor.

The play was adapted for television in a 1996 BBC filmed production, directed by Herbert Wise, and also starring Jacobi, which won a Broadcasting Press Guild Award and was nominated for two BAFTA TV awards, for best single drama and best actor, and for a GLAAD Media Award. It was broadcast in the United States by PBS.

Mark Dold is playing Alan Turing. He was C.S. Lewis in Freud’s Last Session here for us. It will be directed by Joe Calarco (Signature Theatre's  GypsyA Christmas Carol). Performances are from July 17 through August 2.

The Queen just pardoned Alan Turing on December 25th 2013. He was an absolutely brilliant man and the first person to conceive of the computer. As a homosexual he was arrested, tried and found guilty of “gross indecency.” That’s an English term. The arrest occurred in 1952.

Winston Churchill did not want him to go to jail. He was a hero. Basically he helped to stop the war. It helped to win the war perhaps two years earlier than would otherwise have happened. He literally saved thousands of lives.

So Churchill said “You can’t send him to prison.”

Instead they gave him female hormones to kill his sexual drives. He developed female characteristics.

He committed suicide in 1954.

That’s not actively in the play but it’s suggested in the end. We know that he died. If you put two and two together you know that he died.

It’s amazing that the Queen Just pardoned him. She had been asked to pardon him for many years before that.

She said “He was guilty of a crime. It was a crime when he was found guilty.”

She would not pardon him. Finally so many people including the House of Lords said “You have to do it.”

Now it’s 2013 and she finally pardoned him.

It’s the right time for us to do this play. Mark is very excited and we’re thrilled to have Joe back.

Dancing Lessons

We’re doing Dancing Lessons a new Mark St. Germain play on the Main Stage. John Cariani is playing the character with Aspergers Syndrome. (He made his BSC debut as ‘Dogberry’ in last summer’s Much Ado About Nothing. Cariani is also the playwright of the popular play Almost, Maine and is currently starring in the play’s Off-Broadway revival.)

It’s a story of a relationship between a man who is very bright and has high functioning autism. He develops a relationship with a woman who is a dancer sidelined with injuries. She was in a car accident and has a brace on her leg. She’s a tough New York dancer. They each help each other and open up.

What I love about it is that it’s not historical. This is from Mark’s mind. It’s one of the first things he’s done that isn’t historical. I just love the way it’s being developed. We did a reading in September. We’re doing another reading in March. We’re doing a reading in New York. We’re doing a reading up here at MCLA on March 8. We want to keep on developing it. Once you get into rehearsals for a one or two character play it’s hard to change large sections of it.

I’m not sure yet who is playing the woman but I am totally delighted that John is coming back. (He was in the September reading which we attended.) He’s becoming a part of our family. We’re also doing one of his ten minute plays called Uh Oh in the Ten x Ten Festival. He was Dogberry in Much Ado so we’re very excited that he’s coming back.

We’re working with a number of autism organizations. We’re working with College Internship Program (CIP) right here in Pittsfield. They have programs for people with autism and Aspergers and they basically take young people from the time that they graduate from high school till they go out into the world after college and into the work force. They work with them. They own three buildings in Lee including the Starving Artists Café. We just met with them yesterday. Mark has them reading the script. We want to make sure that everything is from the absolutely right perspective of someone who has high functioning autism.

We’re going to have a Saturday afternoon performance for people with autism.

Our social issue plays are going onto the Main Stage this year. We just can’t get away from this because there are so many things that we contend with. The wonderful thing about Dancing Lessons is that Mark has found the humor in the relationship. We want to show that people with autism also have senses of humor. It’s important to show a well rounded person. Mark has done it brilliantly and I will be directing.

Enemy of the People

In the fall we’ll be doing Enemy of the People Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play. I have a very soft spot for Arthur Miller having done The Crucible and All My Sons. I’m mad for Henry Miller. He says something.

Miller did this adaptation in 1950 three years before The Crucible. Senator Joseph McCarthy was already a dangerous man. It was the individual against the social majority.

This play deals with a town, two brothers, a doctor and the mayor. The doctor sees that the town’s water supply has been poisoned because they’re building something. The mayor says, this is the livelihood of this town and you can’t tell anyone about this.

You have to save the town economically. So its one man’s voice (the doctor) who becomes an enemy of the people pitted against society.

We’re doing it for the school kids. We will be heavily involved with environmental organizations. We’re working with the Housatonic River Authority. Obviously this is a play that has special meaning in the Berkshires. Not just the Housatonic River but all environmental issues. We’ll have four student matinees as we usually do.

The Other Place

On our second stage there’s a play that I love by Sharr White The Other Place. It was done at the Manhattan Theatre Club two years ago. Chris Innvar is directing it. I really don’t want to say too much about it. The play deals with a fiftyish woman whose life seems to be coming unhinged. He husband is suing for divorce. Her daughter is having all kinds of problems. It’s a puzzle. What’s truth? What’s reality? What’s not reality? In the end it all comes together in a shocking bolt of what happened to this woman’s life.

I’ve been talking to people and came to realize that nobody knows Sharr’s work. He’s writing today about what’s happening. That’s the first play and will be in the May/ June slot.

Working on a Special Day

The second play is Working on a Special Day. A Mexican theatre company did this play for a couple of weeks in New York. Then it disappeared. It’s been playing in Europe. It played at the Edinburgh Festival. It’s played in Prague.

It’s based on an Italian movie. It takes place on May 8, 1938 the day when Hitler came to Rome to make a pact with Mussolini. It deals with a harried housewife, the mother of six kids, who was told by her husband to stay home and get the food ready.

She develops a relationship with a stranger who lives across the way in an apartment. It’s a beautiful simple story. The set is three blackboards. When something happens they draw it. A bird flies out of the woman’s house. She draws the birdcage and the bird. At the end of the play the stage will be filled with the props that they’ve drawn.

I want to do something imaginative that the audience can think about. This is really about telling the story.

The Golem of Havana

The third play is a premiere of a musical The Golem of Havana. It’s written by two Venezuelan Jews. They were thrown out of Venezuela. There is an anti Semitic movement there. I was not aware of how grievous what was happening there until I met these young men. Salomon Lerner, who wrote the music, was Bill Finn’s assistant for the past two years. (Lyrics by Len Schiff, with book and direction by Michel Hausmann.) We knew he was writing something but not this. They had to get student visas to get out. One went to NYU and the other to Columbia. These are men in their thirties.

They wrote a story about a Jewish immigrant family that lives in Cuba. It takes place at the end of 1958. Castro came to power in January of 1959. The teenage daughter develops a relationship with a young man who is a Castro revolutionary. At what process does the family get involved? They were in the camps and came to Cuba to try to develop their own lives there. The daughter becomes involved in something political.

I hadn’t realized that there were a lot of European Jews that settled in Cuba. At one time there were quotas for immigration from particular countries here in the U.S. So people went to Cuba thinking they would come here. Many of them settled in Cuba. I just had an amazing lunch with one such person in Florida. It was a retired Cuban doctor who told me this. His family went to Cuba trying to get into the Unites States. Some made it and some didn’t. He had to go to Spain to get into the country.

The music is Klezmer/ Latino. It’s a very exciting and different sound. It’s an upbeat musical until it isn’t. Because it deals with something serious.

Romance in Hard Times

Bill Finn came to me and said “I want to redo Romance in Hard Times.” It’s a 1989 musical he did at the Public Theatre. The score got great reviews. It’s about a black woman who runs a soup kitchen. Rachel Sheinkin who did Spelling Bee with Bill wants to redo the book. This is their first project together since Spelling Bee. About half of the score will be redone. Joe Calarco is going to direct it after he does Breaking the Code.

The plot revolves around the black woman who runs the soup kitchen. She’s pregnant but 20 months pregnant. She refuses to have her baby until the world’s a better place. It’s so Bill Finn. Eleanor Roosevelt is a character. We’re doing it as a workshop and not opening it for reviews because it is really being written now. We need to give it a chance to breathe.

We have all these associate artists coming in for our 20th year. Bill Finn on one stage and Mark St. Germain on the other stage. Both Mark Dold and Chris Innvar are involved. We have Renee Lutz coming back. Joshua Bergasse (Emmy for choreography of Smash) Darren R. Cohen is back as music director and they will both be working on Kiss Me Kate. So we have a whole family of artists who will be here this summer.