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Shakespeare & Company

by Kathryn Boughton

Summer in the Berkshires is virtually synonymous with the arts. Performance arts take center stage from June through Labor Day and who is more central to the theatrical world than Shakespeare, whose beautiful language and sweeping ideas have captivated audiences for four centuries.

Shakespeare is fundamental to the programming of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA, but, as its name implies, the Bard is not the only focus for the theatrical troupe. “Here at Shakespeare & Company we always present as much Shakespeare as we can, but there are other classics and new plays as well—hence, the ‘and company,’” said Jenna Ware, associate director of education.

Ware said this year the troupe will present nine different mainstage productions - ranging from the provocative new play by Sarah Treem, The How and the Why, to three Shakespearean plays, Henry V, The Comedy of Errors, and Hamlet. In addition, there will be The Unexpected Man, by Yasmina Reza, the regional premiere of Red Velvet, by Lolita Chakrabarti and the world premiere of Jane Anderson’s Mother of the Maid.

Shakespeare and the Language that Shaped a World, written and directed by Kevin G. Coleman, will be staged in the Rose Footprint Theatre and a production of Hamlet will be performed at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home, also in Lenox.

In bringing Shakespeare to life each year, the company explores the great issues that span human history. And, while the language may seem strange at a distance of 400 centuries, Ware said Elizabethan English is still a vital force for 21st-century listeners.

“Our youngest students are 7 years old and they are at a point of learning all sorts of language. For them, it is kind of business as usual and they have an easy time embracing the language,” she said. Teenagers, as well, adapt easily to the unfamiliar vocabulary.

Ware, who is directing Henry V, said Shakespeare never goes out of fashion because of the sheer beauty of his writing and because the themes relate to what it means to be human.

“The language is large enough for really, really large thoughts,” she said. “I was once asked if we could make Hamlet relevant for today’s teens. What teen doesn’t know what it is like to be really mad at your mom, to dislike your stepfather or to break up with your girlfriend? When you talk about Henry IV, you are talking about an absolutely rebellious, misbehaving son, but by Henry V he has stepped up to the position of king and is trying to figure out what it means to be a leader. I think the plays, whatever the topic, talk about what it is to be human, what all of us feel—love, jealousy and fear. The issues are so big and the language is so stunning, Shakespeare continues to be fresh.”

Shakespeare & Company is located at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox MA. For more information go to the website listed below or e-mail