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More Family Fun in the Berkshires
After a brief hiatus from my column, I am back, refreshed and ready to reveal Berkshire Family Fun’s new format. From now on this column can be found posted at Hilltown Families on the first Thursday of each month filled with an entire months worth of activities for the whole family. From theater, to music, to fundraising opportunities, music, museums and more, this column will try and bring you the most up-to-date list of family-friendly events in the region. As for those press releases that come to me after my Family Fun deadline, we will try our best to give them a mention in our list of weekly events. So grab your calendar and a pen, iPhone, Blackberry, etc., whatever your “keeping track of schedules” preference may be and here goes …
BERKSHIRE HIGHLIGHTS FOR MARCH
I’m not sure about the entire purpose of school vacations, but I’m getting the feeling that it is just as much for the teachers and parents, as it is for the kids. One whole week at home with my children, wait strike that, after TWO DAYS at home with my children I began to feel an immense adoration for their teachers. Listening to a steady stream of bickering, whining, teasing, unyielding chatter, and one child’s nonstop monologue about anything and everything were just a few of the fun ways we spent two three-hour trips to and from my sister’s house in Amesbury, Mass. And the trip didn’t get any better even after a trip to the beach one day, a night out for dinner, hours of basketball playing, and a number of inventive gimmicks my children came up with to entertain my two year-old niece. The kids just took annoying to a whole knew level.
I didn’t think we were going to make the whole week together and I wondered, and I wondered how in the world teachers could reinvigorate themselves after months at a time in the classroom with 20 or more students at a time, in only a week when I was going to definitely need a vacation from this vacation. But a midweek trip to Springfield to visit the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Park, dinner at Theodore’s Blues, Brews and BBQ, and then an evening at the Mass Mutual Center for a Harlem Globetrotters game began to turn things around, and the remainder of the vacation was filled with basketball tournaments, sleepovers, dinners out, and even a little family time, and surprise, surprise, my kids are still alive to talk about it. However, I’m still grateful for those teachers (Good Luck!), and I anxiously and gratefully looked forward to my children’s return to school this Monday, so I could finally get some things done. Ahhhh!
Throughout March: Although it’s been a mild winter this year, there are plenty of child/family-centered activities to do indoors this month in North Berkshire County, beginning with MASS MoCA’s ongoing Kidspace exhibit “Under the Sea,” which opened this fall and runs through May 28. Visitors to Kidspace will find themselves surrounded by artistic renderings of sea creatures, plant-life, and other natural elements by six internationally-acclaimed artists — James Grashow, Aurora Robson, Ginger Ertz, Dirk Westphal, Deborah Wing-Sproul, and Johnston Foster — as they explore the ocean as habitat, myth, and a necessary element of life on earth. Through various themes and innovative materials, the artists examine the mystery and power of the ocean, as well as the catastrophic consequences of our abuse of this natural resource. Kidspace, a collaborative project of the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Williams College Museum of Art, and MASS MoCA, 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 Fridays through Sundays, and during school breaks. MASS MoCA is located at 1040 MASS MoCA WAY in North Adams.
March 1: As part of MASS MoCA’s documentary film series titled “Strategic Thinking,” celebrating people whose unconventional and irrepressible approach in the face of various injustices have led to extraordinary achievements, the museum will screen the film “Sing Your Song” at 7:30 p.m. tonight, March 1, in the museum’s Club B-10. The film will take an up close look at a great and inspiring American, Harry Belafonte. A patriot to the last and a champion for worldwide human rights, Belafonte is one of the truly heroic cultural and political figures of the past 60 years. ($)
March 17: This month the International Family Film Festival is coming to Images Cinema in Williamstown in the form of Oscar-nominated animated shorts. The animated shorts will screen together on Saturday, March 17, at 10 a.m. and noon, and Tuesday, March 20, at 3:30 p.m., with a total runtime of 80 minutes. The schedule is as follows:
- “Sunday/Dimanche” (10 minutes/English/directed by Patrick Doyon): Every Sunday, it’s the same old routine! The train clatters through the village and almost shakes the pictures off the wall. In the church, Dad dreams about his toolbox. And of course later Grandma will get a visit and the animals will meet their fate.
- “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore “(15 minutes /No Dialogue/ directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg): Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, “The Wizard of Oz,” and a love for books, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story.
- “La Luna” (7 minutes/English/ directed by Enrico Casaroasa): A fable of a young boy who is coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances; tonight is the very first time his Papa and Grandpa are taking him to work. In an old wooden boat they row far out to sea, and with no land in sight, they stop and wait. A big surprise awaits the little boy as he discovers his family’s most unusual line of work.
- “A Morning Stroll” (7 minutes/No Dialogue/ directed by Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe): When a New Yorker walks past a chicken on his morning stroll we’re left to wonder which one is the real city slicker.
- “Wild Life” (13 minutes/English/Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby): Calgary, 1909: an Englishman moves to the Canadian frontier, but is singularly unsuited to it. His letters home are much sunnier than the reality.
Images Cinema is located at 50 Spring St. in Williamstown. Visit www.imagescinema.org for more information. (>$)
March 3: Get your dancing shoes on for Saturday, March 3, at 8 p.m. when the wildly energetic and uplifting instrumental indie rock band Delicate Steve will play at MoCA’s Club B-10. Led by the talented guitarist Steve Marion (who’s rumored to play 39 other instruments) and signed to David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label, Delicate Steve incorporates a dizzying array of influences into a joyful sound that rewards listening and dancing in equal measure.
March 10: Then on Saturday, March 10, at 8 p.m., musician and 2009 Americana Musica Awards Best New and Emerging Artist Justin Townes Earle will appear with Richard Buckner to entertain audiences in the museum’s Hunter Center. Earle’s record, “Midnight at the Movies,” was named one of the best records of last year by Amazon, received four stars in Rolling Stone and found a sweet spot in the blackened hearts of fans and critics alike. GQ Magazine named him one of the 25 best-dressed men in the world in 2010. He also appeared on HBO’s “Treme” with his dad, troubadour Steve Earle, on whose Grammy Award-winning “Townes” record Justin also guests. ($$)
March 24 & 25: Last up on the MoCA schedule for March, on Saturday, March 24, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 25, at 3 p.m., Australian-based dance company Chunky Move will present their newest work “Connected,” a collaboration of choreographer Gideon Obarzanek and visual artist Rueben Margolin that animates the physical relationship between eleven dancers and a kinetic sculpture made of wood, recycled plastic, paper, and steel. Founded by Artistic Director Gideon Obarzanek in 1995, Chunky Move has earned an enviable reputation for producing a distinct yet unpredictable brand of genre-defying dance performance. In “Connected,” a sculpture takes up a good portion of the stage and is built in front of us as the dance unfolds. The performance will take place in the museum’s Hunter Center. All tickets to MASS MoCA events can be purchased online at www.massmoca.org or by calling 413-662-2111. ($$)
March 3: If you are an outdoor-loving family then you might want to head on over to Sheep Hill, located on Cold Spring Road in Williamstown this month. On Saturday, March 3, from 1 to 3 p.m., the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation will host an Open House at the conservation property and WRLF headquarters. The day’s outdoors activities will include an animal tracking and winter ecology hike, as well as sledding and snowshoeing on the hill, snow permitting. Inside the farmhouse there will be seasonal craft activities and maple treats to celebrate an early beginning to the maple syrup season. ($)
Mondays in March: Also at the Sheep Hill property on Monday afternoons from 1 to 2:30 p.m., the WRLF will offer drop-in preschool nature classes on the property. Classes will begin March 5 and run through March 26. The weekly classes will include nature stories, crafts and activities focusing on signs of the coming spring. Naturalist and WRLF Director Leslie Reed-Evans will lead the class. Pre-registration is encouraged but not required. The hour and a half classes will run through March 26. A parent or guardian must accompany each two children. For more information call 413-458-2494 or visit www.wrlf.org. ($)
If you are looking for a vacation from your vacation there is plenty to do with your family or ALONE in Central Berkshire County this month. From local fundraisers, to old-time movies, to musical entertainment and theater auditions, there is sure to be something on the schedule that will tempt everyone’s “entertainment pallet.”
Month of March: I’ve decided I can’t possibly fill you in on one of the most exciting month-long events coming to Berkshire County this month, so I will just direct you to the website. For the entire month of March a variety of venues all around the county will be hosting poetry readings, writing workshops, dance performances, productions of new plays and more as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers 2012. You do not have to be a writer to enjoy this, and I am sure there is something during the month that will appeal to each and every member of your family. Really. Check out the website and see: http://berkshirewomenwriters.org.
March 1: There are plenty of opportunities for the music-lovers in your family to get out and about this month starting today, Thursday, March 1. Musical venues tonight include: Whiskey City at The Garage (located in the lobby of The Colonial Theater, Pittsfield), 9 p.m., free; Sister City Jazz, Patrick’s Pub, (Pittsfield), 6:30-9:30 p.m; Ampersand, and The Marketplace Café (North Street, Pittsfield), 6:30-8:30 p.m. (FREE)
March 8: There is more music slated for March on the Berkshire Community College campus in Pittsfield, and this next events sounds like fun for the whole family (or at least for those Broadway musical buffs like my family). On Thursday, March 8, from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., enjoy an hour of Gershwin performed by master pianist Lincoln Mayorga in the Koussevitzky Arts Center. The event is open to the public. For more information call 413-236-4564 or e-mail email@example.com. (FREE)
March 10: When was the last time you went out and “shook your booty” for a good cause? Well, on Saturday, March 10, at the Wahconah Country Club in Dalton, the Dalton Benefit Association will host its annual Cabin Fever Dance featuring Shut Up & Dance. Doors open at 7 p.m. with live music from 8 to 11 p.m. The DBA is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that raises funds to support youth recreation in Dalton and the surrounding hilltowns. For more information, call Brendan Ronayne at 413-684-3579. ($)
March 10 & 22 : Winter is definitely a great time to catch a great flick, and like Images Cinema in the North and The Mahaiwe in South County this month, Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield is hosting its own film festival of sorts. This series of films, which extends into April, is sure to provide the whole family with a few hours of fun, laughter and plenty of childhood memories new and old. This “film festival” is part of the company’s Movie Musical Series and this month features include “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971), March 10, at 2 p.m.; and “My Fair Lady” (1964), March 22, 7 p.m. Stay tuned for April’s offerings. Barrington Stage Company is located on Union Street in Pittsfield. Go online to www.barringtonstageco.com for more information. (>$; KIDS FREE)
Through March: Alchemy Initiative in Pittsfield is gearing up for its third annual Earth Day Fashion Show and Clothes Swap, to be held on April 20 and 21, and is putting out a community call for clothes, shoes, and accessories. “The last two years our call for clothes brought in literally tons of used clothes. So let’s leave spring for playing and use the days we are stuck inside this winter for cleaning out our closets,” says Jess Conzo, director of Alchemy Initiative.
- North Berkshire: MCLA Gallery 51, 51 Main St., North Adams, Sunday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Central Berkshire: Alchemy Initiative, 40 Melville St., Pittsfield, Sundays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through the end of March.
- South Berkshires: Railroad Street Youth Project, 60 Bridge St., Great Barrington, Fridays 4-6 p.m. through the end of March.
Donations should be in good, clean condition.
March 10: Now I am a far cry from a green thumb. In fact, until recently, we didn’t even plant a garden on our several-acre property here in the Berkshire Hills. But my husband took control a couple of years ago and he and the kids planted us a garden (though we didn’t tend to it much last summer, and by the time we thought about it the veggies were overgrown and rotted). Ugh! We did however build up a pretty good compost pile as a result, which if we do it right, could help make this year’s garden the envy of all our neighbors. How? Find out on Saturday, March 10, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Lenox Community Center where the Center for EcoTechnology will host a Home Composting Made Easy workshop. Attendees will participate in a hands-on demonstration of how to build an efficient and active compost pile, and gain all the knowledge they will need to start composting at home. Participants will also see how easy composting really is and how they can save money by reducing waste costs and reduce the amount of topsoil or compost you buy from the store. In addition, composting helps prevent the build-up of methane in landfills by diverting organic waste. This helps reduce methane from being released into the atmosphere and adding to the buildup of global warming gasses. The community center is located on Walker Road, in Lenox. RSVP by visiting the events page at www.cetonline.org or call CET at 413-445-4556 and register with Amanda at ext. 10 or Aric at ext. 30.
March 2 & 4: For the aspiring actor in your family Barrington Stage Company has one of the most amazing theater opportunities in the county for youth ages 13 and up. Each summer the company puts on a professional production featuring area youth and directed and produced by professionals in the business. Actors get a small stipend, and lead the life of an equity actor for a few short months. This year’s production will be “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” and auditions will be held on Friday, March 2, and Sunday, March 4. To schedule an appointment contact BSC Education Director Hester Kamin at 413-499-5446. All actors must act, sing, and move well. An accompanist will be provided. Those auditioning should bring a headshot or labeled photo and prepare two songs —16 bars each of two contrasting (one uptempo, one ballad) musical theater songs, one from “Beauty and the Beast” and one from a musical of your choice. Please bring sheet music in the appropriate key and be prepared to dance. Callbacks will take place March 17 and 18. For more information log onto www.barringtonstageco.com.
March 8: This next event sounded like an interesting event for families this month. On Thursday, March 8, at 7 p.m., the Berkshire Museum will host the only PechaKucha Night in western Massachusetts. What is PechKucha? you ask. The event features a series of presentations, each consisting of 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each, totaling a talking time of 6 minutes, 40 seconds. The goal is to bring prominent and up-and-coming creative minds together for a night of inspiration, networking, and fun. The presenters range in age from 5 to 69 years of age. For more information or to purchase tickets call 413-443-7171, ext.10, or log onto www.berkshiremuseum.org. The museum is located on South Street in Pittsfield. (>$, FREE FOR MEMBERS)
My family and I have been spending a lot of time in South County lately, mainly for basketball tournaments, but if you have some extra time on your hands and are feeling the need to get the kids out of the house, there is plenty to do “down south.”
Through March 6: Feeling a little artsy this month? Head on down to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge to view the artwork of area high school students in the museum’s 26th Annual Berkshire County High School Art Show exhibit. But hurry it is only on view until March 6. This year the High School Art Show showcases 131 works of art from 16 different schools and organizations in Berkshire County. Students submit original works to the exhibition in a variety of media, including painting, drawing and sculpture. The young artists learn how to prepare their work for a gallery show, acquire a personal understanding of the exhibition process, and have the opportunity to exhibit their work in a professional museum setting. Admission the High School Art Show is free, but does not include regular museum admission. For more information visit www.nrm.org.
Thursdays in March: Want to test out your own internal artist? Well, IS183, a nonprofit community art school in Stockbridge, has a little something for the creative mind in all of us. With a mission to encourage people of all ages, means and skill levels to enrich their lives through hands-on experience in the visual arts, the school offering a few new classes beginning in March. Beginning today March 1 and running on consecutive Thursdays through April 5, the school’s “Poetry Studio” class will be in session. During this class, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m. each week, participants will get the chance to try out a range of approaches, forms and styles in forming their own original poetry. IS183 is located at 13 Willard Hill Road, Stockbridge. For more information visit www.is183.org. ($$$)
Thursdays in March: Also on the IS183’s schedule for March, “Jewelry Design and Metalsmithing,” with instructor James Kennedy where participants will make rings, pendants, brooches, and other forms of wearable art in wax, and then invest and cast the pieces in silver. Classes begin Thursday, March 5, and meet each Thursday from 6-9 p.m. through April 9. IS183 is located at 13 Willard Hill Road, Stockbridge. For more information visit www.is183.org. ($$$)
March 17: Last up, an “Intro to Digital Photography” taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 17. The hands-on course will focus on the essential technology and knowledge necessary to get started in the digital photography process. IS183 is located at 13 Willard Hill Road, Stockbridge. For more information visit www.is183.org.($$$)
March 30: Every year in preparation for Easter Venfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox holds an Easter Egg Workshop with egg-decorating expert Tjasa Sprague, and this year is no different. On Saturday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to noon, and again from noon to 2 p.m., Sprague will present two Slavic Easter egg-decorating demonstrations and instructional workshops. I have seen photos, and these eggs are absolutely amazing to look. The cost is $25 per person and $20 for members. The workshop is appropriate for children 12 and over. Venfort is located at 104 Walker St. in Lenox. For more information call 413-637-3206.
March 9, 10 & 11: OK all you moms and dads out there who, like myself, grew up in the 80s have I got a fun evening out for you this month? During the month of March The Mahaiwe in Great Barrington is sponsoring a 1982 30th Anniversary Flashback Movie Series. How fun is that? Most of the movies aren’t appropriate for younger children, but a night out with your spouse or teen to experience the 80s all over again through films like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (March 9, 7 p.m.), “Pink Floyd: The Wall” (March 10, 7 p.m.), and “Poltergeist” (March 11, 7 p.m.), could be fun. So break out the curling irons, hairspray, legwarmers and baha-sweatshirts (or even start sporting that mullet again) and head on over to Castle Street in Great Barrington to buy a ticket to the 80s. More information is available at www.mahaiwe.org. (>$)
For those who have been following this column for a while, you know how I LOVE my free family entertainment at local libraries, and the Mason Library in Great Barrington is cooking up some fun and unique activities for families during the month of March.
March 10:On Saturday, March 10, from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m., stop by the library for a little Chinese. No, I’m not talking about a smorgasbord of pork fried rice, dumplings and a little General Tso’s chicken, I’m talking about learning a little bit of the Chinese language with Nikki Wang. On the March 2nd & 4th parents and children can practice newly-learned words and write Chinese characters. 413-528-2403. Mason Library in Great Barrington. (FREE)
March 17: Then on Saturday, March 17 (oh yeah, it’s St. Patty’s day!), drop by the Main Street library from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. to listen to a few “St. Patty’s Irish Tales” with storyteller Mary Jo Maichack. This event is recommended for ages 4 and up; a snack will be provided. 413-528-2403. Mason Library in Great Barrington. (FREE)
March 31: Last but not least, on Saturday, March 31, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Nutshell Playhouse and its zany “Pirates” will be visiting the library to take visitors on 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. This sea-faring tale features mime, music, masks, and delightful puppets created by Clothespin Puppets. The performances feature Berkshire County actors Wendy Walraven, Justina Trova and Matt Coviello. There will be a craft activity and a snack prior to the performance. 413-528-2403. Mason Library in Great Barrington. (FREE)
March 31: In order to keep the offerings coming at IS183 (mentioned above), the organization relies heavily on donations and fundraising throughout the year, the biggest of which is the school’s annual fundraising gala. This year the school will hold its Buckaroo Bollywood Ball on Saturday, March 31, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Interlaken Estate (the former DeSisto School) in Stockbridge. The costume ball will inspire guests to participate in a mash-up of John Wayne westerns and Bollywood extravaganza during the Berkshire’s first-ever Jai Ho-down. The evening will include a feast of “Indo-Tex delicacies,” and dancing, as well as a silent and live auction. Partygoers can join in the fun at three levels: Rootin’ Tootin’ Guru patrons will be recognized at the event, online and in print, and will receive a gift certificate for an IS183 class plus invitation to a post-gala thank-you cocktail party, along with a ticket to the dinner and dance party ($$$). Buckin’ Brahmin dinner guests can chow down at the banquet then kick up their heels at the dance party ($$). Pistol-Packin’ Pandits arrive at 9 p.m. when the dance party kicks in; their ticket lets them belly up to the saloon for beer and wine, and enjoy delectable desserts donated by Chocolate Springs ($). Seating at the dinner is limited; the deadline for purchasing Rootin’ Tootin’ Guru and Buckin’ Brahmin tickets is March 16. Tickets at all levels can be purchased online at www.is183.org or by calling 413-298-5252, ext. 100. IS183 is located at 13 Willard Hill Road, Stockbridge. ($$$)
March 25: Besides film and theater in the month of March, Great Barrington’s Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is also bringing music to the area. On Sunday, March 25, at 7 p.m. “The Blind Boys of Alabama,” recognized worldwide as living legends of gospel music will hit the Mahaiwe stage. Celebrated by the Grammys and the National Endowment for the Arts with Lifetime Achievement Awards, inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, sung for two presidents in the White House, and winners of five Grammy Awards, “The Blind Boys of Alabama” have attained the highest levels of achievement in a career that spans over 70 years and shows no signs of diminishing. Longevity and major awards aside, the Blind Boys have earned praise for their remarkable interpretations of everything from traditional gospel favorites to contemporary spiritual material by acclaimed songwriters such as Curtis Mayfield, Ben Harper, Eric Clapton, Prince, and Tom Waits. The Blind Boys’ live shows are roof-raising musical events that appeal to audiences of all cultures, as evidenced by an international itinerary that has taken them to virtually every continent. ($$)
March 14 & 15: Another flashback featured at The Mahaiwe this month is the March 14 and 15 presentations of the Greek classic “Jason and the Argonots,” that will be brought to life on the stage for students ages 8 and up by two actors, a handful of action figures and one incredible wooden cart. Showtimes are Wednesday, March 14, at noon, and Thursday, March 15, at 9:30 a.m. For more information call 413-644-9040, ext. 105. (>$)
March 24: South County is also offering some theatrical entertainment for children toddler-aged through kindergarten this month in the form of puppetry at Matrushka Toys and Gifts, located at 309 Main St. in Great Barrington. On Saturday, March 24, at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., the store will celebrate the spring mud season with a performance by puppeteer Somer Serpe titled “Mud Muffins.” “Mud Muffins” is a story about the coming of spring, and the sweet surprises it brings. For more information call 413-528-6911 (FREE) .
March 3: Another opportunity to get outside awaits you on March 3, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, 472 West Mountain Road in Lenox. Christyna Laubach will lead a demonstration on bird-banding where participants can watch a demonstration on the proper use of mist nets and banding of the birds, while helping gather data and release the birds unharmed. This is not recommended for children under 3. (>$)
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 on the first Thursday of every month.