Knowing Where to Look: Berkshire County’s Hidden Treasures
As the school year slowly revs into full gear, the number of family-friendly events seems to decline in the Berkshires, but that is only true if you don’t know where to look. Hidden behind the doors of local museum, barns, year-round theaters and historical venues, families can find a treasure trove of activities guaranteed to please even the most finicky of family members. From geckos to sea creatures, Martians and stories of the Ku Klux Klan, this month the region has some truly eclectic offerings:
- MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA
- BERKSHIRE MUSEUM in Pittsfield, MA
- NORMAN ROCKWELL MUSEUM in Stockbridge, MA
- BARRINGTON STAGE COMPANY in Pittsfield, MA
- SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY in Lenox, MA
- MISSION HOUSE in Stockbridge, MA
- BIDWELL HOUSE MUSEUM in Monterey, MA
- NAUMKEAG in Stockbridge, MA
- MODEL FARM in Dalton, MA
- THE MOUNT in Lenox, MA
- MAHAIWE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER in Great Barrington, MA
Each year I anxiously await the opening of the newest Kidspace exhibit at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, and once again the museum did not disappoint. On Saturday, Oct. 1, Under the Sea opened in the museum’s second-floor gallery, where visitors found themselves surrounded by artistic renderings of sea creatures, plant-life and other natural ocean elements. The exhibit features six internationally-acclaimed artists — James Grashow, Aurora Robson, Ginger Ertz, Dirk Westphal, Deborah Wing-Sproul and Johnston Foster — who explore the ocean as habitat, myth and a necessary element of life. Kidspace is open to the public every day during the school year, except Tuesdays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Art-making takes place Friday through Sunday, and during school breaks. MASS MoCA is located at 1040 MASS MoCA Way. For more information visit kidspace.massmoca.org.
Besides the newest kid-focused exhibit at the museum, there is also plenty in store for the parents at the North Adams venue during the next couple of weeks. This Saturday, Oct. 8, beginning at 8 p.m. the museum will host a night of provocative and absurd improv featuring the Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company. The company’s cast is hand-picked from the best improv comedians in the country — a veritable “next wave” of comedy superstars from the theater that brought you Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz, Ed Helms (“The Hangover,” “Cedar Rapids”), Rob Corddry (“The Daily Show”), Rob Riggle (“SNL,” “Daily Show”), Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel (“Best Week Ever”) and many more. For ticket information call 413-662-2111 or log onto massmoca.org.
Also coming to MASS MoCA on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. is “John Kelly: Find My Way” a dance theater work that is based on the ancient Greek myth “Orpheus and Eurydice.” The production moves the myth from antiquity to the Great Depression era, with Orpheus (the great musician of antiquity) recast as a famous radio crooner, who makes a pact with the gods so that he can venture into the Underworld to bring his Eurydice back to life. Opera, period music, dance from the 1920s and ‘30s, and cinematic acting styles collide and unfold. The work includes scenes and arias from Gluck’s Baroque opera Orfeo Ed Eurydice, (originally written for male castrato, and sung in Kelly’s countertenor voice), together with projected film sequences, extravagant costume and set design, and a company of seven dancers. More information can be found at massmoca.org.
Due to the popularity of the Berkshire Museum’s summer exhibit “Geckos: Tails to Toepads,” it was extended to run through the end of this month. This reptile-filled exhibit provides an up-close chance to view 14 different species of geckos in lush, naturalistic habitats that let you visit a gecko’s realm. A host of interactive stations offer the full gecko experience: get a first-hand look at gecko night vision, hear the many different voices of geckos and try to spot as many camouflaged geckos as you can. Hurry to the museum before Oct. 30 to catch this one.
Other reasons to visit the museum this month:
- Aquarium Adventures: Fridays at 11 a.m., where each week toddlers meet some of the aquarium’s residents, enjoy a story based on that animal, and then create a simple craft inspired by their new animal friend.
- Chow Time in the Aquarium: Saturdays at 12:30 p.m., where visitors of all ages can watch the museum staff feed their aquarium friends.
- Wally’s Birthday Party: Join the staff at the museum on Monday, Oct. 10, to celebrate the 14th birthday of the museum’s beloved stegosaurus that stands guard outside the museum’s front doors. Crafts will begin at 1 p.m. and run until 3 p.m.; “Happy Birthday will be sung at 2 p.m. followed by cake and punch.
More information about any of the museum’s upcoming events and exhibits can be found online at www.berkshiremuseum.org.
The Berkshire Museum is not the only museum getting ready to conclude its summer exhibit. The summer-long exhibits “Ice Age to the Digital Age: The 3D Animation of Blue Sky Studios” and “Robot Nation: An Outdoor Installation for the 20th Century” will be coming to a close on Oct. 31 in preparation for the museum’s upcoming exhibit “Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H.A. Rey” set to open Nov. 12 and run through Feb. 5. (I’ll keep you informed as that exhibit begins to unfold.) But the Rockwell Museum still has a few fun-filled family events up its sleeves before the Blue Sky exhibit says goodbye to the Berkshires.
On Saturday, Oct. 15, at 1 p.m. renowned animation director Carlos Saldanha will present a program titled “The Making of Rio!” Saldanha will share a rare behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie, the acclaimed feature-length film that has received rave reviews since its worldwide release last spring. Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the film traces the adventures of Blu, a domesticated blue macaw, and reflects the color, beauty and excitement of Saldanha’s native city. According to the museum’s website, “this lively look at the complex process of creating a 3D animated film is sure to delight!” Saldanha is also the director of “Robots” and the beloved “Ice Age” series. Art activities and a reception with the director will follow the program.
Also scheduled for Oct. 15 from 1 to 4 p.m. is “By Design: Creating Unique Greeting Cards” with museum head educator Melinda Georgeson who will inspire visitors to design, assemble and reproduce a unique image that makes a personal statement with fine papers, fabrics and variety of art media.
Then on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 1 to 4 p.m. is a “Careers in Animation” event which will provide visitors with an inside look at animation today with the talented artists of Blue Sky Studios. Outstanding professionals will discuss the narrative, artistic and technical skills that make 21st-century animation possible, and explore the range of opportunities available to aspiring creators. Talks and exhibit tours will provide a rare chance to connect with an accomplished team of artists working in diverse aspects of the field. Representatives from The Fashion Institute of Technology and other schools also will be on hand to discuss college animation programs for interested students.
Also currently featured at the museum in addition to the permanent collection of Rockwell art, Saturday Evening Post Covers and “The Stockbridge Model Project”:
- “It’s a Dog’s Life,” featuring cover paintings, story illustrations, advertisements, and family Christmas cards highlighting some of Rockwell’s favorite canine subjects. The exhibit is set to close Nov. 11.
- “Sol Schwartz: Drawing in the Dark,” featuring the art of Sol Schwartz, whose vibrant drawings have captured the beauty and excitement of music, theater and dance in the Berkshires for more than a decade. The exhibit will close Oct. 23.
- “Day in the Life: Rockwell’s Stockbridge Studio,” that brings visitors back to October 1960, when the artist was hard at work on one of his most famous Saturday Evening Post covers, “The Golden Rule.” This exhibit will end on Oct. 31.
To learn more about the Norman Rockwell Museum visit www.nrm.org.
The Berkshires is so lucky to have year-round professional theater in venues such as Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre and Barrington Stage Company, and Lenox’s Shakespeare & Company. This fall the community will be given an extra treat from the folks at BSC with an encore presentation of the summer’s successful “The Best of Enemies,” the world premiere play based on the true story of events that took place in Durham, North Carolina, in 1971. The production will run through Oct. 16. For ticket information call 413-236-8888 or visit www.barringtonstageco.org.
Also at Barrington Stage:
- “Live from 92Y” series, featuring “Andy Bor0witz Presents Funniest American Writers” (Oct. 19); “Barbara Walters with Dr. Gail Saltz” (Oct. 27); and “Paula Deen with Dr. Gail Saltz” (Nov. 10). All shows begin at 8 p.m. at Barrington Stage’s Mainstage located at 30 Union Street in Pittsfield. Call the box office at 413-236-8888 for tickets.
- “Fall Kids Act!: Saturday Morning Camp,” Saturdays, beginning Oct. 15 through Dec. 10, where children ages 8 to 14 from throughout the Berkshires work as a team to create and perform an original play. To register for the camp or for more information call 413-997-6118.
If you’ve never been to Shakespeare & Company on Kemble Street in Lenox, make sure to schedule a parents’ night out and give it a try this fall or winter. It took me nearly 35 years to finally visit the beautiful campus and take in a show, but once I did I was hooked. From summertime events for the whole family to the company’s newest tradition begun last year — a holiday run of “The Santaland Diaries” in December — you just never know what might tempt your theatrical palette at S&Co.
Now playing at the venue’s Elayne P. Berstein Theatre is “War of the Worlds,” a tale of Martians and mass hysteria directed by Artistic Director Tony Simotes, featuring Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Jonathan Croy, David Joseph, Josh Aaron McCabe, Dana Harrison and Scott Renzoni bringing to life the legendary 1930s radio broadcast that had Americans believing aliens had arrived on Planet Earth to destroy mankind. The show runs through Nov. 6. Visit www.shakespeare.org or call 413-637-3353 details.
Recently, as I’ve mentioned in previous columns, I have enjoyed learning about Berkshire County history by visiting a host of local venues whose goal is to do just that — teach local history. Though many of these venues will close for the season, there is still time to check them out.
MISSION HOUSE ♦ Stockbridge, MA – This Saturday, Oct. 8, the Mission House in Stockbridge, a national historic landmark and home to the first missionary to the Mohican Indians, will host a leisurely guided walk that follows the route of the “Mohican Quest” to visit places of significance to the Stockbridge Mohicans. The event runs from 10 to 11 a.m. and is free. The house is located at 19 Main St., Stockbridge. Call 413-298-3239, ext. 3003, for more information.
BIDWELL HOUSE MUSEUM ♦ Monterey, MA – Then on Sunday, Oct. 9, Bidwell House Museum, an elegant Georgian saltbox, originally built circa 1750 as a parsonage, that uses the history of its land, house and collections to reimagine, recreate, restore and research colonial and early American life in Western Massachusetts, will host a Pumpkin Fest featuring activities for children of all ages from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The museum is located on Art School Road in Monterey. More information can be found at www.bidwellhousemuseum.org.
NAUMKEAG ♦ Stockbridge, MA – Also on Sunday, Oct. 9, Naumkeag, the former home of the Choate family built at the height of the Gilded Age, will host “Upstairs & Downstairs: Servant Life at the Gilded Age Museum,” featuring guided tours of the hidden recesses — downstairs and in the attic — where the workers and servants of Naumkeag lived. The program runs from 11 a.m. to noon at the Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge site. For more information call 413-298-8138.
MODEL FARM ♦ Dalton, MA – Also along the same historical lines is the last chance to see an exhibit that dives into the lives of the women of one of my hometown’s most influential families — Dalton’s Crane Family. The exhibit “Crane Women of Substance and Style: Enriching their Communities” is open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day through Oct. 10 at Model Farm located at 191 Main Street Dalton. This exhibit features fashions of the 19th and 20th centuries, worn and donated by the Crane family, and illustrates the correlation between the Crane family women and their philanthropic efforts through the clothes they wore, the parties held and the networks they created.
THE MOUNT ♦ Lenox, MA – Lastly, the former home of author Edith Wharton, The Mount in Lenox, is once again offering its annual ghost tours through Oct. 29. For over a century The Mount has been home to writers, actors, wealthy families, working servants and teenage girls, and this month visitors can tour the most haunted parts of the estate to find out which of those spirits might still be lurking during the venue’s 90-minute Friday Night Fright tours at 6 and 7 p.m. Oct. 7, 14, and 21; there will be an enhanced and extended tour on Oct. 28. For more information or to make your reservations call 1-800-838-3006 or purchase them online.
As I was proofreading my column I received a press release from the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington about this next upcoming family-friendly event. On Monday, Oct. 24, at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., the Mahaiwe will present “Baobab,” a West African tale told through puppetry by Quebec-based Theatre Motus. The story takes place in a region of West Africa where a drought has been persisting for very long, stands a big ancient baobab. One day, the ancient baobab brings forth an egg and from this egg is born a little boy. The people in the village discover that he is the only one who can free the source of water. Then begins a quest during which only the courage of a child might change the history of the world. The program is recommended for children ages 4 and up. For more information visit www.mahaiwe.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelly Bevan McIlquham
Kelly Bevan McIlquham writes our bi-monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun, sharing update, events and activities for families in the Berkshires. Kelly is a freelance writer living in Hinsdale with her husband, Mark, and three children — 12-year-old twins, Max and McKenna, and amost-10-year-old, Shea. She has had her work published in The Advocate, The Family Beat and Berkshires Week out of Berkshire County, and the former Wee Ones E-magazine. She also authors a new blog and Facebook page titled “Renaissance Mom.” firstname.lastname@example.org — Check out Berkshire Family Fun every other Thursday.