Thankful for the Berkshires
Recently my husband and I have been reading Mark Nepo’s amazing, Oprah-lauded book, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. The book is comprised of 429 pages of daily affirmations, reflections and meditations and has been a wonderful way to connect with my husband first thing in the morning over a cup of coffee, if we are lucky, before the kids get up. Today’s affirmation began with a quote from Berkshire-based musician James Taylor: “We could never have guessed; We were already blessed where we are …” It has taken me a long time to realize that and, like it is for many parents, can still be a daily struggle when juggling work and kids and homework and sports schedules and general adolescent unease. But by taking a few moments each morning to reflect on what I have, who I am, where I am going, and where I live each morning, is a wonderful reminder of how blessed I really am.
This column has served as a biweekly reminder of how lucky my husband and I am to be raising our children in the Berkshires. Besides the lush landscapes and opportunities for outdoor recreation, as well as the arts and culture at our fingertips just waiting to be explored, we are also lucky to live in an area with some of the best school systems in the state. From sports teams that regularly reach post-season tournaments, and award-winning theater programs among area schools, state-recognized musicians and hardworking debate teams, if one takes a close look at the schools in Berkshire County you will witness some pretty amazing things happening.
Tonight, Thursday, Nov. 17, from 6 to 9:30 p.m., the Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter School in Adams is opening its doors for the fall trimester’s Student Arts and Technology Showcase. The evening is an opportunity for students to present their artistic feats through a variety of dramatic and musical acts in the BArT atrium, while a wide array of student watercolors, still-life drawings, digital photos, musical compositions, and animations will be displayed throughout the building. The BArT chorus also will make their school-year debut! The gallery opens at 6 p.m. with performances beginning at 7 p.m.
Then on Friday, Nov. 18, the school’s class of 2012 will host a Dinner and Family Movie Night fundraiser to raise money towards the purchase of new young adult novels for the school’s library. There is a small fee for tickets, but that will get you two slices of pizza, a drink, and the choice of one of two movies — “Aladdin” or Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Doors open at 5:30 p.m., dinner is served from 6 to 7 p.m. and the movie runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Popcorn, drinks, and assorted desserts also will be available for purchase.
BArT is located at 1 Commercial Place in Adams. For more information log onto the school’s website at www.bartcharter.org.
One of my family’s favorite holiday traditions each year is visiting the annual Festival of Trees at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, but for some reason last year we missed it. Not this year though! With the theme “Under the Big Top” I can’t wait to see what tree decorators have come up with.
This year’s event, opening Nov. 18 and running through Jan. 2 promises to be “a dazzling, fun-filled holiday extravaganza with more than a hundred decorated holiday trees scattered throughout Berkshire Museum’s galleries.” In addition to the trees, there will be special exhibits of vintage circus memorabilia, posters, and photography adding to the exciting Big Top atmosphere.
The 27th annual Festival of Trees festivities begins Friday, Nov. 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with an Opening Night Party, an evening of exhilarating entertainment and delicious delicacies for the whole family. The festivities include performances by a troupe of atmospheric aerialists, a nimble contortionist, and towering stilt walkers. The RSVP period is over, but you may be able to sneak a late ticket by calling 413-443-7171, ext. 45 or by e-mailing email@example.com.
Then on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the museum will host aerial circus workshops with Show Circus Studios, where the company will bring their aerial rigging and years of professional circus performances to the museum for a truly unique experience, as the lucky workshop participants try their skills aloft. Recommended for ages 8 to 16; the workshop size is limited to 10 per session. Registration is required: call 413-443-7171, ext. 10. Workshop participants must be accompanied by an adult. For more information visit www.berkshiremuseum.org.
Stay tuned in upcoming columns for more events associated with the Festival of Trees!
Looking for something to do over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge has you covered.
On Saturday, Nov. 26, from 1 to 4 p.m., the museum will host a Pop-Up Festival where families will learn about the art of paper during this fun-filled afternoon of workshops, tours, and talks exploring the world of mechanical books and cards. Museum-goers will even get a chance to design their own holiday gifts to share. For more information visit www.nrm.org.
Also beginning at the museum this month is its educational program “Kids Create!,” scheduled to take place the last Wednesday of each month through April (Nov. 30, Dec. 28, Jan. 25, Feb. 29, Mar. 28, and Apr. 25) at 10:30 a.m. Parents and children ages 2 to 5 will get to explore the galleries with the museum’s Chief Educator Melinda Georgeson for an exciting interactive look at the world of art. Find more information on this low-cost program on the museum’s website.
One last thing you might want to add to your calendars, as December fills up quick, is the museum’s “Cabaret for Christmas” event on Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. where visitors can enjoy an old-fashioned afternoon of music, art, and heartwarming treats! At 4 p.m., Curator of Education Tom Daly will explore the spirit of the holidays in Norman Rockwell’s art, and at 4:30 p.m., the Sheri Buxton Trio will perform seasonal favorites. Norman Rockwell’s favorite cookie recipe will be served with hot chocolate, and patrons also can make a holiday pop-up card to take home.
Though we are blessed with a number of award-winning theater companies in Berkshire County, some of the best places to introduce one’s children to theater are within the area’s schools. I neglected to mention a performance of “The Curious Savage” at Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton last week, which is why I wanted to be sure to mention the Drury High School Drama Team’s 24th season opener “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” which opened yesterday at the high school and will run both Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18 and 19, at 7 p.m. in North Adams.
“Cuckoo’s Nest,” by Dale Wasserman, from the book by Ken Kesey, first was performed by the drama team in 1998 with the late Mike Grogan playing the lead of Randle McMurphy. This production is presented in his memory. No reservations are needed, as general admission tickets will be available at the door. This play contains scenes of violence and adult themes and therefore only patrons over 10 years of age will be admitted.
Besides the local school systems, the Berkshires are blessed with a number of colleges — Williams, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), Berkshire Community College and Bard College at Simon Rock — that regularly open their doors to area residents through myriad camps and recreational programs, performances, lectures and more. MCLA in North Adams will open its doors to the public this week when it presents the Tony Award-winning “Urinetown: The Musical,” Nov. 17-19 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. in the Mainstage theater in Venable Hall on the MCLA campus. To reserve tickets call the box office at 413-662-5123.
Two years ago, when I was writing for a weekly paper in the Berkshires, I covered a performance of “Pirates,” produced by the emerging local theater company Nutshell Playhouse, at Berkshire Community College.
On Saturday, Nov. 19, at 1 p.m. the Milne Public Library in Williamstown will host a performance of the original play, written by Don Jordan, described as a “swashbuckling adventure featuring bold buccaneers, a mysterious map with a riddle, cursed treasure, a visit to an island that you can’t see, a pirate ghost, and a magical journey to the bottom of the sea.” Having seen this play myself, it is definitely a fun-for-the-whole-family type of event. The library is located at 1095 Main Street. For more information call 413-458-5369.
You may want to mark Berkshire Country Day School’s website to your list of favorites as I’m always fascinated by the eclectic array of offerings the school always has on its calendar that are open to the general public and geared towards parents and children alike. I’m always intrigued to see what children’s author or illustrator will come to visit the Lenox private school for its yearly author’s event, and this year the school once again did not disappoint.
On Saturday, Nov. 19, at 10 a.m. Kathryn Lasky, the best-selling and multi-award winning author of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series will come to speak at Fitzpatrick Hall on BCD’s Brook Farm campus located at 55 Interlaken Road (Route 183) in Lenox.
The talk, sponsored by the Berkshire Country Day School Parents’ Association, is free and open to the public. Kathryn Lasky is the Newbery Honor author of over 100 fiction and nonfiction books for children, young adults, and adults. Also included in her talk will be “The Deadlies,” an early chapter books series about an adorable family of venomous spiders. Expect to hear about her Wolves of The Beyond series, as the fourth book “Frost Wolf”, is expected to be released on Dec. 1. And because this really is a presentation for all manner of readers, Lasky also will include her mermaid series, “Daughters of The Sea.”
For more information about the event and the school visit www.berkshirecountryday.org.
Having grown up in the Berkshires I knew about the famed Guthrie family, long before I ever met any of them. I went to middle and high school with Cathy Guthrie, and though we didn’t hang out, I recently reconnected with her on Facebook only to learn that she (the last of the clan to do so) finally joined the “family business” in her own unique way, joining forces with Willie Nelson’s daughter to form the two-person folk group Folk Uke. Though the content of many of the twosome’s songs are not kid appropriate, mothers might want to check them out, they’ll definitely leave you with a good chuckle to start your day. Visit www.folkuke.com to listen.
Why, you might ask, am I diverging on the topic of the Guthrie’s? Because they are one of the most talented, grounded and community-minded families I have ever met and they are coming to Pittsfield’s Colonial Theater, this Saturday, Nov. 19, at 8 p.m. in a family performance titled “The Guthrie Family Rides Again.”
This fall my husband and two of my children had the privilege of seeing Arlo perform at the annual Hilltown Hoot benefit concert in Washington (I told you, you didn’t want to miss it). I was home with my concussion-recovery patient and the three concertgoers couldn’t wait to rub it in that we had missed a great performance. One of their favorite parts of listening to Arlo perform? His storytelling. On Saturday, he will take the stage with three generations of Guthries at the Pittsfield theater, and believe me when I tell you, this is a performance not to be missed.
For more information and tickets visit www.thecolonialtheatre.org.
Some people may send cards of thanks, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to a food pantry or send care packages to soldiers to show their thanks and appreciation to others at this time of year, but Berkshire South Regional Community Center in Great Barrington does something else to celebrate the season. Each year the center opens its doors to community friends both old and new for a Thanksgiving feast — an annual celebration of delicious food and great fellowship. This year’s feast is scheduled for Nov. 22, from 4 to 7 p.m.
Reserve a seat by calling 413-528-2810, ext .10 at least 24 hours in advance, as space is limited. The feast is free.
For the past year the city of Pittsfield has been engaging in a yearlong celebration of its 250th anniversary and on Nov. 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the celebration will come to an exciting conclusion with an open house, a community celebration, and the performance of a comic opera at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield.
The community celebration, featuring performances and awards, will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Then, the day will conclude at 4 p.m. with the performance of “Happy Day or the Wizard of the Elm,” which was first performed on the same stage in 1904. A complete cast of local actors and some surprise guests will re-enact the staged production. Tickets may be purchased at the Colonial Theatre box office or by calling 413-997-4444.
The turkey and the ‘fixins have all been gobbled up, the last leftover turned into a hearty stew, and guests are returning to their out-of-town homes. This might be the perfect time for parents to call in the reinforcements (AKA: babysitters) and head out for a night on the town.
New Stage Theatre Company in Pittsfield is making it possible for parents to do just that, and have fun, too, on Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. with its original spin on the pub quiz performance titled “Known Unknowns.” Mixing together elements of trivia competitions, sketch comedy, and talk shows the company will present audience members with a unique live comedy experience they surely will not forget.
Compete in a team, test your luck on stage with the company’s very own wheel of fortune, or just sit back and watch as your co-hosts quiz you with a series of questions, sketches, improvisational dances, and terrible, terrible impersonations.
This months theme: Broadway! What is the Phantom of the Opera’s first name? How many people make up a chorus line? Why would Willy Loman call his children stupid names like Biff and Happy? Find out the answers to these and other questions at “Know Unknowns”! Tickets are $5 per person, $20 for a group of five; and there is a cash bar. The company is located within the New Stage Performing Arts Center, North Street, Pittsfield. More information at www.newstageperformingarts.org.
I just want to take a moment to remind all you readers to take some time each day for yourself. Exercise, go shopping, read a book, take a bath, read this column (check that one off the list) or simply sneak five minutes alone in the bathroom (easier said than done I know), because only when you take this time for yourself do you get to reflect on what really matters in life and appreciate all the things you have to be thankful for.
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 almost-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.