Arts Beat

By Mark G. Auerbach


Chester Theatre Brings ‘The Story of King Lear’ online

Chester Theatre presents a virtual performance of The Story of King Lear, Shakespeare’s classic tale, as adapted and directed by Chester’s Artistic Director, Daniel Elihu Kramer. The 50-minute recap, to be aired at 7PM on August 27, features a stellar cast of four playing multiple characters.

Michael Potts, known to TV audiences as Brother Mouzone on The Wire, plays Lear. He’s known for his Broadway performances in Grey Gardens, The Prom, and Jitney, and he’s in the upcoming film version of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Shelley Fort, from Chester’s production of The Mountaintop and Broadway’s The Play That Goes Wrong co-stars. Also appearing are area favorites Tara Franklin, who won the Berkshire Theatre Critics Award for her performance last season in Chester’s On The Exhale, and James Barry, actor, singer, and director, whose Corona Covers are gaining acclaim.


Director Daniel Elihu Kramer intends to be creative with the virtual platform. “We have been staying engaged through a range of activities. Now, it’s time to make work for our audience. We are providing this performance free of charge, and we are relying on the support of our community and audience so that we can be there with them through this and when we can gather in person again. King Lear speaks to our moment with remarkable power. In difficult times, we turn for sustenance to stories that speak to our shared experience”

For details: www.chestertheatre.org

Of Note…

Valley Arts Mentors (VAM), a new collaboration between Piti Theatre Company, Holyoke Media and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Franklin County, is launching a remote mentorship program pairing artists with 15+ years of professional experience with younger artists ages 18+ or those considering a career change. Mentor/mentee pairs will meet once every two weeks for a six-month period remotely as long as COVID-19 remains a safety issue.

VAM’s goal is to provide early career artists with the support and encouragement crucial to launching a successful career in the arts. Related objectives include broadening the mentee’s base of contacts, providing guidance about next steps in their training and connecting early career artists with financial and marketing tools helpful for arts entrepreneurship. For details: www.artsmentors.org.

American Son, Christopher Demos-Brown’s play that had its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company, and moved on to Broadway with Kerry Washington as star, was filmed for Netflix. The film adaptation is Emmy-nominated as Outstanding TV movie. TheaterWorks opened its season last year with the drama.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has cancelled all live performances for the first part of the 2020-21 season, and an announcement about their Holiday Pops will be forthcoming. They plan to program online concerts and recitals. That schedule will be revealed in September. For details: www.bso.org.

The Inheritance, Matthew Lopez’s critically acclaimed hit on both sides of the Atlantic, received a GLAAD Media Award. The play was commissioned and developed by Hartford Stage.

Keep in Mind…

The Falcetti Four, a quartet of singers from Playhouse on Park’s musicals, present a Broadway-style cabaret on August 27 (Raindate: August 27) at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, CT. The Falcetti Four performed weekly for two years at Falcetti Music’s in Blue Back Square as part of Playhouse on Park’s outreach program. Advance tickets arew required. No door sales. For details: www.playhouseonpark.org.

An Arts Reporter Ponders His Return

Both Barrington Stage and Berkshire Theatre Group, two of our most important area theatres, have made meticulous steps to return to live performing. Their proactive plans have caught the attention of the arts industry and the New York Times.

Personally, as painful as the decision is, I’m regretfully going to decline to attend. From an accident last year, I’m a high risk for COVID19, and I do not want to put anyone in my bubble at risk. However, sight unseen, I can recommend both productions. Godspell is a life-affirming musical with an early score by Stephen Schwartz, who later wrote Pippin and Wicked. The young cast, Broadway regulars and local home-grown talent, all have impressive credits. Harry Clarke, according to the reviews from previous productions, is a powerhouse of a solo play. And, Mark H. Dold, Barrington Stage’s star, is the epitome of versatile, polished acting, from his pensive performance in The Glass Menagerie to his sinister role in Gaslight—both Barrington favorites of mine.


I might venture out solo later this summer. For Godspell details: wwwberkshiretheatregroup.org. For Harry Clarke details: www.barringtonstageco.org.

Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat TV/Radio for WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB, and is a contributor to Pioneer Valley Radio.


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