Culture in three dimensions

By Benjamin Cassidy

Summer doesn’t just bring more people to the Berkshires and Southern Vermont; it brings more art. The annual Marlboro Music Festival will once again turn Marlboro, Vt., into a chamber music hub throughout July and August. The 21st edition of the North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show will transform the Vermont village into an exhibit. And Jacob’s Pillow Dance in Becket, Mass., will ramp up its programming with troupes such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago visiting.

While these institutions have made dazzling audiences summer tradition, there is still room for new entrants to do the same. Take, for example, the inaugural Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival, which will host bluegrass up-and-comer Sierra Hull, among others, in mid-August. With FreshGrass at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass., still a month away, this roots music gathering aims to extend the region’s bluegrass season.

Old-reliables Shakespeare & Company and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute can be counted on to bolster the region’s summer arts offerings, too. The former’s stages will be crowded with works by the Bard of Avon and others this July and August; “Macbeth” will certainly attract attention at the Tina Packer Playhouse. The latter’s “The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy” adds some three-dimensional flavor to a museum known for its paintings. Like some of those pieces, this summer arts season is best approached from all sides.

Marlboro Music Festival

Marlboro Music Festival
Courtesy photo

Marlboro Music Persons Auditorium, Marlboro College
2582 South Road, Marlboro, Vt.

July 14–Aug. 12.
Marlboro Music Festival
Saturdays at 8pm
& Sundays at 2:30pm
Two special Friday evening shows will be held at 8pm on Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.

Marlboro Music estimates that less than 25 percent of its school’s rehearsals pertain to its festival performances. Yet, it turns out that less than a quarter of Marlboro Music’s time is worth more than 100 percent of many other institutions.

Entering its 68th season, the Marlboro Music Festival is one of the country’s most esteemed gatherings of chamber players. Every summer, some of the best up-and-coming and established musicians from around the world spend weeks on Marlboro College’s campus. These “participants” arrive having proposed pieces to work on. Following roughly three weeks of rehearsals, they present some of their favorite compositions to the public during weekend concerts. These choices (and the personnel they require), however, aren’t known more than a week before the shows.

This scheduling tactic adds intrigue, but not all remains a mystery; the approximately 70 participants in this year’s festival have already been announced. Twenty newcomers will join regulars such as pianists Jonathan Biss and Cynthia Raim. Artistic director Mitsuko Uchida is back for another summer, and Shulamit Ran’s influence will be felt as the current composer-in-residence. They’ll have chamber buffs’ full attention.

North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show

North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture
Nancy Winship Milliken’s “Stall.” Photo: Nancy Winship Milliken

48-66 Main St., North Bennington, Vt.

North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show
opens July 7
The 21st edition of this annual display features more than 35 artists and is curated by Joe Chirchirillo.

The Berkshires and Southern Vermont have no shortage of compelling art exhibits throughout the year, but all-hours shows are rare.

For early risers, night owls and everyone in between, the North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show has been a reliable source of artistic inspiration for more than two decades. Now in its 21st year, the annual exhibition will begin on July 7 and continue through Nov. 3. During that period, North Bennington pedestrians can view works by more than 35 artists, including Peter Barrett, Elizabeth Keithline, David Nyzio and Nancy Winship Milliken. Their pieces will be placed in the vicinity of the Vermont Arts Exchange, among other locales.

Local artist Joe Chirchirillo will curate the show for the sixth time. Milliken’s “Stall,” a 15-foot-by-15-foot wall-like sculpture that uses “steel, reclaimed cello bow strings made of horsehair woven into netting,” according to the artist’s website, will be one of its many pieces. It was part of The Mount’s 2017 SculptureNow display, another summer installation that appeals to the region’s art-loving wanderers.


Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival

Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots
Photo: Gina R. Binkley

Hunter Park, Manchester, Vt.

Aug. 16-19
Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival
Hunter Park
Sierra Hull leads a lineup of roots music performers at this inaugural event.

FreshGrass has made bluegrass a late-summer staple of the Berkshires soundscape. Now, a new festival aims to extend that resonance to the north earlier in the season.
The inaugural Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival will bring a host of the genre’s performers to Southern Vermont in mid-August. Sierra Hull, Mandolin Orange, Donna the Buffalo, Peter Rowan and Upstate Rubdown are among those who will play during the four-day festival at Hunter Park, where campers and local vendors will set up shop.

Hull has lived with the “prodigy” label for more than half her life now, having signed with Rounder Records when she was 13. The mandolinist and vocalist has received praise from Alison Krauss and collaborated with Béla Fleck along the way, but creative darkness hasn’t eluded her. Her most recent record, 2016’s “Weighted Mind,” ruminates on the burdens of this expectation.

Whether Green Mountain’s reputation can rise as quickly as Hull’s remains to be seen.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Jacob's Pillow
Courtesy photo

Jacob’s Pillow Dance, Ted Shawn Theatre
358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.

July 18-22
Dorrance Dance
Ted Shawn Theatre
Michelle Dorrance’s tap virtuosos return with a new work, “Myelination,” and a live score.

Aug. 1-5
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Ted Shawn Theatre
Pillow regulars celebrate 40 years with a program choreographed by Crystal Pite and Alejandro Cerrudo, among others.

Aug. 15-19
Sonya Tayeh
Doris Duke Theatre
An Obie Award-winning choreographer’s dance symphony, “you’ll still call me by name,” examines a mother-daughter relationship with music by indie folk duo The Bengsons.

Jacob’s Pillow Dance has become a year-round cultural force, but even its administrators would admit that recreating the Becket institution’s rustic summer splendor is an impossible endeavor. Anyone who has roamed the grounds while some of the world’s best dancers sprawl and stretch just feet away, or picnicked while taking in a performance at the Inside/Out Stage, or just shuttled between the Doris Duke and the Ted Shawn, would agree. Thousands of dance fans make the pilgrimage every year, largely, because of this marriage between movement and setting.

Dance companies aren’t immune to the Pillow’s pull. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has appeared more than a dozen times in Becket since its first stop there in 1983. This year, the company is celebrating its 40th anniversary, bringing a diverse contemporary program led by choreographers Crystal Pite and Alejandro Cerrudo, among others. Performances will run Aug. 1 through Aug. 5 at the Ted Shawn Theatre.

Pillow regulars Dorrance Dance and Faye Driscoll will return, too. But it isn’t all regulars. Cie Art Move Concept, Netta Yerushalmy and Compañía Sharon Fridman will make their Pillow debuts in July and August. If history serves, they’ll be back.


Courtesy photo

Shakespeare & Company, Tina Packer Playhouse
70 Kemble St., Lenox, Mass.

July 3–Aug. 5
by William Shakespeare
Tina Packer Playhouse
Obie Award-winner Melia Bensussen directs this edition of The Bard’s tale of corruption and its horrors

Aug. 9–Sept. 2
As You Like It
by William Shakespeare
Roman Garden Theatre
Shakespeare & Company Artistic Director Allyn Burrows helms this production of the comedy examining love and gender.

July 19–Aug. 12
by August Strindberg
adapted by David Greig
Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre
Nicole Ricciardi directs this psychological thriller.

Shakespeare & Company, artistic director Allyn Burrows emphasized in a recent interview, has an ampersand in its name for a reason. The Lenox institution tackles William Shakespeare’s famous works and contemporary playwrights’ additions to the dramatic canon. This July and August, for example, the troupe will host productions of Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons”, Simon Stephens’ “Heisenberg” and August Strindberg’s “Creditors” (adapted by David Greig).

Still, Shakespeare & Company knows what comes first in its moniker. Though they are well-trodden, the Bard of Avon’s plays offer ample territory for the troupe to explore. One of this season’s highlights is “Macbeth.” Obie Award-winner Melia Bensussen will direct this tragic story of misguided ambition; Jonathan Croy and Tod Randolph will play the Macbeths. Gregory Boover, Thomas Brazzle, Nigel Gore, Deaon Griffin-Pressley, Zoë Laiz, Ella Loudon and Mark Zeisler round out the cast.

Bensussen cites Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” as inspiration for this production. If this “Macbeth” pays homage to that work, audiences may be in store for some heart-pounding. A Shakespeare reprieve may even be in order.

The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musée le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy

The Clark
Pierre-François Marie Boulanger (French, 1813–1891), Bracket with Dragon, French, 19th century. Wrought iron, with modern mount, 78 3/4 x 44 1/8 x 11 7/8 in. Réunion des Musées Métropolitains, Rouen, Normandy, LS.2016.2.1 © Agence La Belle Vie – Nathalie Landry

The Clark
225 South St., Williamstown, Mass.

The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy
through Sept. 16
Signs, locks, gates, grilles and railings, among other items, demonstrate wrought iron’s predominance before the mid-19th century.

Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900
through Sept. 3
Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, among others, are exhibited in a show honoring female artists who worked in Paris during the latter half of the 19th century.

Jennifer Steinkamp: Blind Eye
through Oct. 8
The media artist creates the Clark’s first video installation piece, featuring six projections.

With a world-class collection of impressionist paintings, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute often draws the types who want to see a Renoir oil-on-canvas. It exhibits artistic titans, such as Picasso, that cater to paint-loving crowds, too.

This summer, however, those more drawn to the trades may have reason to find themselves strolling around the Williamstown institution. At the Clark Center, “The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy” will feature 36 objects that champion wrought iron. These signs, locks, gates, grilles and railings, among other items, demonstrate the material’s predominance before the mid-19th century. For example, “Bracket with Dragon” by Pierre-François Marie Boulanger (one of the few signed objects on display) is made entirely of wrought iron.

Artist Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq Destournelles developed an appreciation for these objects while on photography assignments, frequently saving them when buildings were destroyed. They now belong to France’s Musée Le Secq des Tournelles and, until Sept. 16, to the Clark.

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.

More from Benjamin

Vermont Country magazine

Vermont Country has a hyperlocal focus on the Green Mountain lifestyle, its personalities, events, attractions and culture. The magazine appears six times a year, designed to complement the state and four-season living. VtCo magazine is a Southern Vermont publication of Vermont News & Media.

Previous Story

Looking for fine Vermont-made furniture?

Next Story

UpCountry Magazine raises a toast to the season

Latest from Arts