In the wings

By Benjamin Cassidy

When the Berkshires and Southern Vermont are in full bloom this June, the local summer theater scene will just be sprouting. In Bennington, locals can check out a play — “The Almost True and Truly Remarkable Adventures of Israel Potter” — with Berkshires ties at Oldcastle Theatre Company beginning on June 15. Less than two weeks later, theatergoers can head just south to watch stage and screen stars in “The Closet” and “The Sound Inside” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Musicians will tell their own stories throughout the region. On May 12, Brazilian jazz group Chico Pinheiro Quartet will play bossa nova and other genres from their homeland that are guaranteed to rouse at Brattleboro’s Vermont Jazz Center. On June 15, Roger Daltrey sings “Tommy” one more time at Tanglewood. And a week later, Aimee Mann will finish off a run of three singer-songwriters at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center with her weighty brand of folk.

For those who may be seeking rustic solitude without the allergens, the Bennington Museum’s “Cambium (Into the Woods): Works by Bill Botzow” exhibit may be just the antidote. For all, there will be options, a welcome sign that the region’s art scene continues to grow.

Chico Pinheiro Quartet

Culturals3Vermont Jazz Center, 72 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, Vt.

May 12, 8 p.m.
A Brazilian group will play Brazilian jazz, bossa nova and samba.

June 9, 8 p.m.
Eugene Uman’s Convergence Project: The pianist’s annual concert will feature David Picchi on bass, Michael Zsoldos on saxophone, Jeff Galindo on trombone, Jon Fisher on drums and some special guests.

For the last two decades, the Vermont Jazz Center has been a consistent source of fresh work in the genre. Since, among others, Eugene Uman took the reins from founder Attila Zoller in 1997, one of the institution’s objectives has been to stage one concert per month. It has achieved that goal since 1998, even exceeding 12-per-year on occasion. (Would it be jazz if there weren’t a little room for improvisation?)

Perhaps it should be no surprise, then, that while many area cultural institutions are still shaking off winter’s doldrums in May, this Brattleboro institution is already in full swing. Uman, a pianist who once developed music programs in Colombia, turns to another musician with South American ties for May’s concert (May 12): Chico Pinheiro, a Brazilian guitarist, vocalist and composer who has been touring across the U.S. and earning acclaim in his homeland for years.

On that night, Pinheiro will play with Eduardo Belo on bass and Helio Alves on piano. (As of this writing, the drummer had yet to be announced.) If history serves, expect a performance fit for any time.

“The Almost True and Truly Remarkable Adventures if Israel Potter”

Culturals5.jpgOldcastle Theatre Company, 331 Main St., Bennington, Vt.

Opens June 15, 7:30 p.m.
A play based on Herman Melville’s “Israel Potter: Fifty Years in Exile” recounts a Berkshires man’s journey after entering the Revolutionary War.

Last year, Oldcastle Theatre Company went international with its season opener. In Donald Margulies’ “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself),” the title character is marooned on a Coral Sea island before he returns to England.

This year’s first offering isn’t without international incident, but the story’s roots are far more local. “The Almost True and Truly Remarkable Adventures of Israel Potter” follows the journey of a Berkshires man who leaves his Western Massachusetts abode to fight in the Revolutionary War. He is soon captured and spends decades meeting a variety of figures in Britain before eventually returning home. Joe Bravaco and Larry Rosler’s play is inspired by Berkshires scribe Herman Melville, who wrote “Israel Potter: Fifty Years in Exile.”

At Oldcastle, the cast will include Christine Decker, Richard Howe and Gary Allan Poe. Nathan Stith will direct.

“The Sound Inside” and “The Closet”

Culturals1  Cuturals2

Williamstown Theatre Festival, ‘62 Center for Theatre and Dance, 1000 Main St., Williamstown, Mass.

“The Closet”
Opens June 26, 7:30 p.m.
Main Stage: Mark Brokaw directs this world-premiere comedy featuring Matthew Broderick.

“The Sound Inside”
Opens June 27, 7:30 p.m.
Nikos Stage: David Cromer helms this world premiere drama starring Mary-Louise Parker.

The two plays, “The Closet” and “The Sound Inside,” opening the 2018 Williamstown Theatre Festival suggest containment. Restraining anticipation for these world premieres, however, will be difficult for theatergoers.

Though the annual festival has a long history of bringing celebrated stage and screen actors to Williamstown, this year’s initial offerings will raise eyebrows in the bookish Northern Berkshires locale. “The Closet,” a contemporary comedy by Douglas Carter Beane that draws inspiration from Francis Veber’s film, “Le Placard,” casts Jessica Hecht, Brooks Ashmanskas and, in the lead role, Matthew Broderick. “The Producers” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” star plays Martin O’Reilly, a Scranton resident whose professional and romantic realities are upended by the arrival of Ashmanskas’ character.

Mary-Louise Parker (“Proof,” “Weeds”) will also command plenty of attention. She plays an Ivy League professor who must ally with a student to overcome a challenge in “The Sound Inside,” a drama by Adam Rapp. With Carmen Cusack and Steven Pasquale also appearing on the Main and Nikos Stages this summer, excitement should remain high throughout the festival’s eight-week run.

Roger Daltrey

Culturals4.jpgTanglewood, Koussevitzky Music Shed, 297 West St., Lenox, Mass.

Roger Daltrey with the Boston Pops
June 15, 8 p.m.
The Who’s lead singer performs the rock opera, “Tommy.”

Alison Krauss
June 19, 7 p.m.
One of the most decorated acts in music is touring after the release of her first solo album, “Windy City,” in nearly two decades last year.

Andy Grammer
June 22, 7 p.m.
The pop artist will make his Tanglewood debut a year after playing the Boston Pops July 4th Fireworks Spectacular.

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer begins on June 21 this year. But in the Berkshires, you can be forgiven for bumping that date up a week. That’s because Roger Daltrey and the Boston Pops will open Tanglewood’s season on June 15 with a performance of “Tommy.”

For many, Tanglewood, with its lush lawn and sweet sounds, evokes summer as much as bathing suits and ice cream trucks. And for many, Daltrey is just as connected to rock ‘n’ roll. The Who’s lead singer helped the iconic group embark on multiple decades of commercial success and critical acclaim. He appears in Lenox one year after bandmate Pete Townshend played a different rock opera, “Classic Quadrophenia,” with the Pops at the storied summer music festival.

“Tommy” explores the life of a boy who is deaf, mute and blind. The Who released the double album in 1969, the same year the group first took the Tanglewood stage. This year’s show, part of Tanglewood’s Popular Artist series, precedes a June lineup of Alison Krauss, Andy Grammer and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, ensuring that Tanglewood will dive, not wade, into this summer.

Aimee Mann

culturals7.jpgMahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle St., Great Barrington, Mass.

Melissa Etheridge
June 10, 7 p.m.
The iconic rocker returns to the Berkshires less than a year after performing at Tanglewood.

Aimee Mann
June 22, 8 p.m.
The singer-songwriter is touring after collecting her first Grammy win earlier this year.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo
June 25, 8 p.m.
The rock ‘n’ roll duo (and couple) will offer an acoustic performance that shows off Benatar’s mezzo-soprano range and Giraldo’s guitar wizardry.

Throughout the year, venues in the Berkshires and Southern Vermont book a broad range of singer-songwriters because the region reveres meditative verses and refined instrumentation. During a 12-day period in June, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center will pay homage to that culture by housing three of the most celebrated singer-songwriters around: Melissa Etheridge (June 10), Ani DiFranco (June 17) and Aimee Mann (June 22).

Though none of them are strangers to the area, Mann might still need to pull up Google Maps from time to time. Mann’s first landmark musical moment came when she contributed to the soundtrack for the film, “Magnolia,” which earned her three nominations at the 2001 Grammy Awards. A more recent one arrived this year when her 2017 album, “Mental Illness,” won for best folk album at the 2018 Grammys.

The renowned lyricist isn’t typically sunny in song. But in this part of the country, she’ll find an audience who knows that reveling in the summer light requires enduring the clouds.

“Cambium (Into the Woods): Works by Bill Botzow”

Culturals8.jpgBennington Museum, 75 Main St., Bennington, Vt.

“Cambium (Into the Woods): Works by Bill Botzow”
Opens June 2
The politician and visual artist submits a range of works that includes a multi-panel display depicting bug paths in a tree’s cambium layer.

“Crash to Creativity: The New Deal in Vermont”
Opens June 30
Paintings, photos, documents and furniture from 1933-1943 highlight the New Deal’s impact on creativity in the Green Mountain State.

Politics has always impacted art. For further confirmation, gallery-goers can visit the Bennington Museum’s late June opening of “Crash to Creativity: The New Deal in Vermont,” which illustrates the impact of federal programs on visual works in the Great Depression’s aftermath. Yet, a show starting earlier in the month demonstrates that the Southern Vermont institution’s remains dedicated to, first and foremost, showcasing regional ingenuity.

The exhibit, “Cambium (Into the Woods): Works by Bill Botzow,” contains eight watercolor and mixed media works on paper, a large-scale multi-panel and wood sculptures by a Southern Vermont resident. That the local artist is a state representative could excuse overt partisan pieces. But Butzow doesn’t go there. Instead, he draws inspiration from his natural surroundings, including cambium, the layer between the bark and wood on a tree.

“My path to thinking about the cambium layer comes by noticing, by paying attention to the growing forms we see all around us,” Botzow wrote in an artist’s statement.

“Attention, noticing, touching, gathering, ordering, responding has led to sculptures and drawings that I hope in some way honor that liveliest, hidden place where the creative grows.”

Benjamin Cassidy is the arts and entertainment reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School and the University of Michigan, Benjamin now lives in Dalton, Mass.

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