In announcing plans for their eighth season in The Berkshires, WAM Theatre’s Artistic Director Kristen van Ginhoven, has drawn attention to something truly different and special, some relatively unprecedented in the region. Their 2013 hit play, “Emelie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight” played at Barrington Stage Company’s second stage in November of that year and was a critics’ darling, a hit that sold out and brought a great deal of attention to this young company.
For the first time a hit production by any company not among the major foursome is coming back, revived in The Berkshires with its original production and cast intact. It will play at the Tina Packer Playhouse on the Lenox campus of Shakespeare and Company for two weeks beginning on March 30 running through April 9. “Emelie. . .” is the story of a female physicist during the Age of Enlightenment who enjoyed a 15-year liaison with Voltaire. While their relationship is central to the play, it is the reality of who and what the woman was in history of science that makes her story different and relevant.
I wrote of the play, in its first run, “. . . there is a touch of innocent madness kept under control and used as a lure in this show. . . bring an open mind and be prepared to be stimulated. That’s what Emilie, etc. is all about.” Kim Stauffer, who plays Emilie again, said to me at the press breakfast at the Garden Gables Inn in Lenox, “I don’t know if you’ll recognize the play. It feels so different to me this time and I know there’ll be some surprises in the staging in this very different space.”
Her co-star, playing Voltaire, Oliver Wadsworth added, “It’s an adventure to take this on again in a new place and in a new way. Kristen is directing it again and the years have added a new insight, I think.” Van Ginhoven has worked for three years to raise the money to remount the production which is sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union with a special weekday matinee for school groups sponsored by Berkshire Sterile manufacturing. The cast includes Suzanne Ankrum, Brendan Cataldo, and Joan Coombs, all repeating their original roles. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Flying Cloud Institute supporting scholarships for public school girls who attend Flying Cloud’s after-school science clubs.
Their Fall mainstage production, a Northeast Premiere of Canadian playwright Kate Hennig’s play “The Last Wife” which WAM first presented as a Fresh Takes Play Reading last year will play from October 13 to November 5 in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox. It is a contemporary re-telling of the marriage of Henry VII and Katherine Parr, a politically charged work about passion and competition.
Their Fresh Take series of play readings begins on March 12 with Alyson Mead’s “The Flora and Fauna” directed by Molly Clancy at No. 6 Depot Roastery and Café in West Stockbridge. On May 7 Jackie Sibblies Drsury’s play “Really” directed by Alice Reagan will take place at the same location. June 4 Van Ginhoven directs their third reading, “The Droill” by Meg Miroshnek at the same space again.
A fourth reading will be given in Williamstown in conjunction with the Williamstown Theatre Festival making the WAM the only independent company to have collaborated with Barrington Stage Company, Shakespeare and Company, Berkshire Theatre Group and WTF.
More information will be available on their website, www.WAMTheatre.com.