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Play Time

Williamstown Theatre Festival provides a platform for playwrights



Playwright Halley Feiffer, far left, on stage a few years ago with Jessica Hecht and Eric Bogosian in Williamstown Theatre Festival’s production of "Legacy".

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

One morning as Halley Feiffer sat in Tunnel City Coffee on Spring Street and wrote, re-imagining Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, an actor sat down nearby. She asked him to read a scene with her. It was the first time she had shown the script to anyone.

“He just started laughing,” she says, “and I knew I was onto something. You can’t do that in New York or in L.A., but in Williamstown you can.”

Harrison David Rivers recalls a summer day when he talked with members of the Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) about violence in the national headlines, and read scenes he was writing out of his own sadness and anger. “It gave us a moment to breathe and cry and be together,” he says.

Rivers has won numerous awards and has written at least 11 plays, with commissions and productions from New York  to San Francisco. Feiffer is a Theater World Award–winner and an actor on and off Broadway and in film. Both she and Rivers are coming back this summer with work they developed at Williamstown Theatre Festival—Feiffer as a commissioned writer in 2015 and Rivers as a playwright-in-residence the following year.

“There’s a different energy about working on a new play than on a classic,” Rivers says. “Anything can change. The playwright is there and scribbling furiously. Classics are also exciting, but there’s something about a play being written in the room. The energy of the festival becomes what to rewrite before the preview tomorrow.”

WTF has a unique range and depth in its programs to support playwrights and new work. Along with its commission program and writing residency, it holds readings of new work during the Fridays@3 Reading Series beginning July 7, which will move to the Clark Art Institute this summer, and has one of the few director-fellowship programs in the country, says artistic director Mandy Greenfield.

The festival will produce a substantial core of new works this season: The Roommate on the Mainstage and all four plays on the Nikos Stage have come through WTF programs. Rivers’s When Storms Are Born runs July 12 to 23, and Feiffer’s Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow opens July 26. 

Feiffer’s play is the first in WTF’s New Play and Musical Commissioning Program that the festival will fully stage. Many theaters commission new work, Greenfield says, but what WTF does that is wholly unique is support a play, from first glimmering idea to performance, with hands-on development and resources—housing, actors, writers, and directors.

Feiffer turned to The Three Sisters because she loves the play—which she finds painful, funny, and contemporary—but productions never felt accurate to her experience of it. In high-school, she performed in it with a close friend. “It cracked our brains open,” she says, “because this was our relationship. ‘I’m always belittling you. You’re passive-aggressive to me.’ This is us.”

She was inspired to begin her re-creation at WTF, she says, when Greenfield invited her to write whatever she wanted. Feiffer has come through other residencies, but this one is different for two reasons: “The first is Mandy herself. She is a strong, brilliant, charismatic artist with a vision, who also happens to be a woman, and she empowers other artists. She nurtures and pushes you at once.

“The other thing is Williamstown itself.”

In her three-week residency, Feiffer could meditate or write in a cabin on the hillside, or polish her script at a picnic table, or talk with close friends and writers she got to know.

Rivers agrees: “Everyone was friendly and warm. Actors and directors are excited to be there, and you can approach everyone anywhere—walking to rehearsal, at a bar, at dinner—and talk about art and life together.”

The festival draws a mix of people: pros at the top of the industry, actors on and off Broadway, emerging artists getting glimpses of what a career might look like, and students. As playwright-in-residence, Rivers talked with all of them. His was a staff position for the full ten-week summer—half for his own writing (such as new plays When Storms Are Born and The Bitter Earth) and half on the WTF literary staff, leading talks before and after shows, interviewing artists, and working with acting apprentices.

He finds Williamstown to be a calming and magical place. But as Rivers wrote and walked and worked there, frightening things were happening in the world outside. He needed to talk about them, he says, and WTF gave him the space.

Rivers talked about young men dying and how people look at black bodies. Greenfield and the staff understood that everyone was grappling with this hard time, he says, “and there was an incredible moment when we all came together. It felt necessary.”

Greenfield vividly remembers Rivers reading from his new work. Last summer was a complicated and fraught time in the U.S., she says, with gun violence toward black men.

“And that’s why you have a playwright in residence,” says Greenfield. “That’s the whole point—to have a living, breathing artist responding to the world, and to let that breathe and let the festival respond.”


 

Meet the Playwrights 
Harrison David Rivers and Halley Feiffer will bring new works to WTF’s Nikos Stage this summer.

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Spring in February arrives annually at the Connecticut Convention Center. Explore over 300 booths overflowing with fresh flowers, plants, herbs, bulbs, seeds, gardening books, garden...

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT
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Website »

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The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

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Opening Reception: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm. Light hors d'oeuvres and wine served. Enjoy a gallery tour and scholarly presentation at 7:00pm by Dr. Peter Bayers, Director of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

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Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Jeremy Holmes: New Sculpture,” the first solo exhibition of the artist at the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Vermont based artist Alisa Dworsky opens an exhibition of new works, including InVersion, a large scale, site-based volumetric work, at CYNTHIA-REEVES, located on the campus of MASS MoCA in North...

Cost: Free

Where:
CYNTHIA-REEVES
1315 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Sponsor: CYNTHIA-REEVES
Telephone: 413-398-5257
Contact Name: Kristen Jussila
Website »

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EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
Website »

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Robert Deyber (born August 1955 in Greenwich, Connecticut) is an American artist best known for literal visual portrayals of cliches, euphemisms, and idioms from the English and other languages....

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

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Come see and shop for Xavier Ricolfi's new line of jewelry just in time for Valentine's Day!  French designer Xavier Ricolfi draws upon his industrial design background, ...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Spaght Gallery; February 8, 2018 - July 23, 2018 Seeking opportunities and a better life is an ideal uniting our shared American identity. This exhibition provides and intimate look at the...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Spectrum: Annual Contemporary Art Show What’s Now/What’s New Open Call For Entries Spectrum is a juried exhibition of original, contemporary artwork by local and regional...

Cost: $26 for members/student / $41 for non-members

Where:
, CT


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The Loft Gallery will host Litchfield artists, Barbra Kraut and Joan Morosani, from February 21 through April 8. ​The exhibit will highlight abstract paintings by Ms. Kraut,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Smithy and Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
New Preston , CT  06777
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Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
Website »

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The first one was awesome so let's do it again! Come down for our FREE Winter Jam 2 featuring live music by The Zambonis from 5PM to 8PM. We'll have a beer...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Warehouse at Fairfield Theatre Company
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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The 10th annual “Close To Home” event to benefit the Pacific House Young Adult Program will be held Friday, February 23rd at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich.  This popular,...

Cost: $50.00

Where:
Hyatt Regency Greenwich
1800 E. Putnam Avenue
Old Greenwich, CT  06870
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Sponsor: Pacific House
Telephone: 203-406-0017x304
Contact Name: Lisa Planchard
Website »

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UMass Amherst Libraries present the 24th Annual Du Bois Lecture, featuring Dr. Reiland Rabaka

Cost: Free

Where:
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
14 Castle Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
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Sponsor: UMass Amherst Libraries
Telephone: 413-577-0932
Contact Name: Whitney Battle-Baptiste
Website »

More information

Spring in February arrives annually at the Connecticut Convention Center. Explore over 300 booths overflowing with fresh flowers, plants, herbs, bulbs, seeds, gardening books, garden...

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Opening Reception: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm. Light hors d'oeuvres and wine served. Enjoy a gallery tour and scholarly presentation at 7:00pm by Dr. Peter Bayers, Director of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Jeremy Holmes: New Sculpture,” the first solo exhibition of the artist at the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Vermont based artist Alisa Dworsky opens an exhibition of new works, including InVersion, a large scale, site-based volumetric work, at CYNTHIA-REEVES, located on the campus of MASS MoCA in North...

Cost: Free

Where:
CYNTHIA-REEVES
1315 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Sponsor: CYNTHIA-REEVES
Telephone: 413-398-5257
Contact Name: Kristen Jussila
Website »

More information

One-Time Cladies Night for Adults Interested in Learning to Use the Potter’s Wheel Looking to get your hands dirty and learn how to use the potter’s wheel? Try Clay Center’s...

Cost: $50

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
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Website »

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Robert Deyber (born August 1955 in Greenwich, Connecticut) is an American artist best known for literal visual portrayals of cliches, euphemisms, and idioms from the English and other languages....

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Come see and shop for Xavier Ricolfi's new line of jewelry just in time for Valentine's Day!  French designer Xavier Ricolfi draws upon his industrial design background, ...

Cost: free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Spaght Gallery; February 8, 2018 - July 23, 2018 Seeking opportunities and a better life is an ideal uniting our shared American identity. This exhibition provides and intimate look at the...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Seldom has there been such a merging of intellectual rigor and emotion as in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gamba Sonatas. The slow movements reach remarkable spiritual height and the outer movements...

Cost: $38 general seating / $15 students

Where:
Saint James Place
352 Main St
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Close Encounters With Music
Telephone: 800-843-0778
Contact Name: Close Encounters With Music
Website »

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Registration Closes - Wednesday, February 21st Jessica is a Certified Children’s Yoga Teacher, RYT 200, Founder of Lily Pad Yoga, LLC. and Certified Pediatric Occupational Therapist....

Cost: $20.00pp

Where:
DayDreamer Studio
@ The Yellow Money Antiques
792 Route
Cross River, NY, NY  10518
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Sponsor: DayDreamer Studio
Telephone: 914-977-4243
Website »

More information

Washington, CT. Shepaug Valley School will host Minds in Motion™ Shepaug on Saturday, February 24, 2018 from 12:00-4:00. Co-presented by Region 12 and Connecticut Association for the Gifted...

Cost: $15

Where:
Shepaug Valley School
159 South Street
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: CAG
Telephone: 203-291-6586
Contact Name: Julie King
Website »

More information

Spectrum: Annual Contemporary Art Show What’s Now/What’s New Open Call For Entries Spectrum is a juried exhibition of original, contemporary artwork by local and regional...

Cost: $26 for members/student / $41 for non-members

Where:
, CT


Website »

More information

Broadway comes to Ridgefield! Daniel C. Levine directs Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit Broadway musical, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, featuring an all-star Broadway cast. If...

Cost: $69.50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 EAST RIDGE
RIDGEFIELD, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Magazine’s Broadway & Cabaret Series, Partially underwritten by Books on the Common and Adam Broderick Salon
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery will host Litchfield artists, Barbra Kraut and Joan Morosani, from February 21 through April 8. ​The exhibit will highlight abstract paintings by Ms. Kraut,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Smithy and Loft Gallery
10 Main Street
New Preston , CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
Website »

More information

Registration Closes - Friday, February 23rd Douglass DeCandia is a local farmer who works with the Food Bank for Westchester, to grow natural food for families experiencing food insecurity and...

Cost: $40.00

Where:
DayDreamer Studio
@ The Yellow Money Antiques
792
Cross River, NY  10518
View map »


Sponsor: DayDreamer Studio
Telephone: 914-977-4243
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue (ROAR) will host its annual ROAR WITH LAUGHTER gala and fundraising event on February 24th at Rolling Hills Country Club in...

Cost: $175 per guest | table of 10: $1,650 | table of 12: $1,980

Where:
Rolling Hills Country Club
333 Hurlbutt Street
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: ROAR
Telephone: 203-438-0158
Website »

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On Saturday February 24 at 7pm, join New Pond Farm’s team of astronomy volunteers and gaze through the telescopes at the 9-day Old Moon and several galaxies and star clusters. The team will...

Cost: $4 per New Pond Farm member ($12 max. per member family), and $6 per non-member

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
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Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

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New-York based Marina Franklin is emerging as one of the hottest comedians on the comedy scene today, with such notable appearances as Amy Schumer's Trainwreck, Conan O'Brien, The...

Cost: Price:$29 No Member Discount

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Ahmed Gallab makes music that is joyful and generous, with a razor-sharp message about community and social justice. He led the 15-piece Atomic Bomb Band, with collaborators that included David...

Cost: $10-$26

Where:
MASS MoCA
1040 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Telephone: 413-662-2111
Website »

More information

Broadway comes to Ridgefield! Daniel C. Levine directs Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit Broadway musical, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, featuring an all-star Broadway cast. If...

Cost: $69.50

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 EAST RIDGE
RIDGEFIELD, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Magazine’s Broadway & Cabaret Series, Partially underwritten by Books on the Common and Adam Broderick Salon
Website »

More information

Spring in February arrives annually at the Connecticut Convention Center. Explore over 300 booths overflowing with fresh flowers, plants, herbs, bulbs, seeds, gardening books, garden...

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening Reception: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 6:30-8:30pm. Light hors d'oeuvres and wine served. Enjoy a gallery tour and scholarly presentation at 7:00pm by Dr. Peter Bayers, Director of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Jeremy Holmes: New Sculpture,” the first solo exhibition of the artist at the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Vermont based artist Alisa Dworsky opens an exhibition of new works, including InVersion, a large scale, site-based volumetric work, at CYNTHIA-REEVES, located on the campus of MASS MoCA in North...

Cost: Free

Where:
CYNTHIA-REEVES
1315 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA  01247
View map »


Sponsor: CYNTHIA-REEVES
Telephone: 413-398-5257
Contact Name: Kristen Jussila
Website »

More information

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