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Williamstown Festival Will Take the Shows Outside


The Williamstown Theater Festival, which was forced by the pandemic to convert its 2020 season into a series of audio plays, will present live performances again this summer, though not in its indoor venues.

Instead, the festival announced on Wednesday three shows that will be staged outdoors throughout the festival’s college-town home. Alongside new plans for scaled-down seasons at Tanglewood and at the Jacob’s Pillow dance festival, it marks a tentative step toward business as usual for the culture-rich region of Massachusetts.

The Williamstown season will open on July 6 with “Outside on Main: Nine Solo Plays by Black Playwrights,” to be staged on the front lawn of its main venue. The series, curated by the writer and director Robert O’Hara (“Slave Play”), includes short works by the writers Ngozi Anyanwu, Charly Evon Simpson, Ike Holter and Zora Howard, among others.

The world premiere of the musical “Row,” with songs by Dawn Landes and a book by Daniel Goldstein, will be staged at the reflecting pool of the nearby Clark Art Institute starting July 13. The show, directed by Tyne Rafaeli, is about a woman who intends to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Initially slated to be produced last summer, “Row” was recorded as part of the festival’s deal with Audible, and will be released April 8 on that platform.

The third show, “Alien/Nation,” is a world premiere immersive production that asks audiences to journey through Williamstown by foot or car and “plunge themselves into the center of stories inspired by real events that took place in Western Massachusetts in 1969,” according to a news release.

Scheduled to run from July 20 to Aug. 8, it is the brainchild of the Tony Award-nominated director Michael Arden and a company called the Forest of Arden, who devised it along with the playwrights Jen Silverman and Eric Berryman. Early last summer, Arden and some of his collaborators created a similar, experimental piece called “American Dream Study” in New York’s Hudson Valley.

The festival typically presents seven shows per summer; according to a publicist, digital-only productions are still to be announced.

The Berkshires ended up a national center of attention last summer when Berkshire Theater Festival’s “Godspell,” staged outdoors in a tent next to its main venue, became the first production in the country to get approval by the leading actors’ union since the theater shutdown.

This summer Berkshire Theater Festival has announced indoor productions of “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Nina Simone: Four Women,” while Shakespeare & Company will open its season with Christopher Lloyd in the title role of “King Lear.”

Barrington Stage Company, another notable theater in the region, promises a five-show season that includes a Gershwin revue and the world premiere comedy “Boca” outdoors, and, indoors, a solo play about Eleanor Roosevelt.


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