A quick guide to summer theater festivals

Steven Weber - Three Hotels.jpg

Steven Weber in Three Hotels at WTF.

By Stephanie Preston

One of the great things about summer in the Capital Region: all the theater festivals. And the theater season is currently at its peak.

You've probably heard the names tossed around a lot -- Berkshire Theater Festival, The Mac-Hayden, Williamstown -- but each one has a little something different to offer in mission, atmosphere, style and pricing.

So, after the jump, you'll find a quick guide to help you choose which festival you might like to attend, complete with a few details you'll want to know before you go.

Williamstown Theatre Festival
1000 Main Street, Williamstown, MA (map)

After almost 60 years, The Williamstown Theatre Festival still strives to balance classics with work by newer playwrights. Right now, Three Hotels is playing on the festival's main stage and Ibsen's A Doll's House is on the smaller Nikos Stage. Here's a look at the rest of the season.

Williamstown draws some big names. Maura Tierny and Steven Weber are currently starring in Three Hotels and Lili Taylor is in A Doll's House. For years Christopher Reeve spent summers at the festival, and actors such as Blythe Danner, Kate Burton and Olympia Dukakis have appeared at WTF.

The main stage and the Nikos stage are indoor venues and tickets range from around $35 to $54.

Savings hint: If you're willing to take a chance on getting in, they offer general rush tickets at $20 for plays, $25 for musicals, up to 3 hours before the show, subject to availability. Rush tickets are cash only, and you're limited to two per person.

The festival also includes staged readings of new plays on Friday afternoons ($5 suggested donation), late night cabarets, and a few other events.


Berkshire Theatre Festival
6 East Street, Stockbridge, MA (map)

BTF produces world premieres, contemporary works, and classics. There are two theaters -- the main stage and the smaller Unicorn Theatre. They also do a number of children's plays.

Currently running: Sylvia, A.R. Gurney's story of a couple who finds a dog that brings them "closer together," (sort of a more eccentric Marley and Me). Tickets range from $42-$46.

For kids, they're bringing a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Edith Wharton's The Mount in Lenox ($15). This show is being performed outdoors. While you're there, you can also take a guided tour of Wharton's home and three-acre gardens.

Older kids might be into Dutch Masters, for $37 at the Unicorn Theatre or listening to poet and rapper Talib Kweli at the Colonial Theatre on July 22. Tickets for that event range from $20-$55. The rest of the season includes a romantic comedy called In the Mood, the classic Finian's Rainbow and Tennessee Williams' Period of Adjustment.

Mac-Haydn Theatre
1925 New York 203, Chatham, NY (map)

The Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham has "family friendly" written all over it. They do classic, fun, crowd-pleasing musical theater. If you have a secret yearning to dance like those kids on Glee, you'll have fun. Swing! plays through July 31, followed by the classics, Grease and Carousel in August. The theater closes in September with Always...Patsy Cline. Shows are indoors and tickets run from $28-$30.

Adirondack Theatre Festival
207 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY(map)

The Adirondack Theatre Festival is housed in what used to be the Woolworth Store in Glens Falls. You won't see Our Town here. ATF is focused on new and contemporary plays and musicals. They're currently showing Hello Out There, a musical comedy documenting how three teenagers spend their summer in New Jersey; craziness and hilarity ensues. The musical, written by two NYU grads and staring a Tony Award nominee, is playing throughout July at the Charles R. Wood theater. All performances are $40 and indoors.

The festival is less than an hour from Albany and you could easily make a day trip out of it. The website even has a helpful list of restaurants, hotels and other amenities to plan your visit to Glens Falls.

Shakespeare & Company
70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA (map)

Shakespeare & Company does its fair share of plays by The Bard, but also expands to new plays, other classics and cabarets. They've got two theaters. This season their Founder's Theater is rotating Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It and The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Elayne P. Bernstein Theater has five more shows, including The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. Here's the full season.

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival
1601 New York 9D, Garrison, NY (map)

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is a little farther away than the other festivals mentioned, but it's worth it for Shakespeare fans!

The festival is held every year outside the Boscobel estate in Garrison. The casts are made up mainly of actors from New York City, and many have performed on Broadway. The plays rotate from night to night, but this season's shows are Hamlet, A Comedy of Errors and Around the World in 80 Days (not Shakespeare, obviously -- it's based on the Jules Verne novel).

They perform under a tent in Boscobel's back yard overlooking the Hudson. A sweatshirt might come in handy since it can get chilly. Here's the schedule for the season. Tickets range from $25 to $37.

It's a little on the expensive side but if you're splurging, you can also order a picnic on the festival's website . Make sure you come two hours early to sit and enjoy.

Savings hint: If you have a family member or friend living in Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester, Orange or Rockland County, they have "county nights" where your ticket is significantly cheaper with proof of residence in the county.

Saratoga Shakespeare Company
Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, NY (map)

If you're looking for Shakespeare a little closer to home Saratoga Shakespeare Festival just opened its season. Each summer they do a free Shakespeare play for several weeks in Congress Park. This year they're performing The Merchant of Venice. It's outdoors on the the Alfred Z. Solomon Stage July 19-23 at 6pm Sundays, July 17 and 24 at 3pm. And it's free!

Park Playhouse
The Lake House, Washington Park, Albany, NY (map)

Speaking of free -- Park Playhouse has opened its season with The Producers. The show runs through August 14. Shows start at 8 pm.

Also this year: Park Playhouse Kids is doing Annie Jr. at 5:30 from July 26 through August 2. Starting August 3, Park Playhouse II will perform Thoroughly Modern Millie at 5:30 -- so you can get two shows in one night.

The shows are free, but you ou can also purchase reserved seats ahead of time.

Oldcastle Theatre Company
44 Gypsy Lane at Vermont Rte 9-West,Bennington, VT (map)

This season the Oldcastle Theatre Company presents a classic by Neil Simon, Laughter on the 23rd Floor. The company is part of the Bennington Center for the Arts, where you can check out the Covered Bridge Museum, see a concert, or check out its extensive Wind Sculpture collection before the show.

Oldcastle also has some sweet deals on tickets -- a special student price of $10.00, and a buy-one-get-one-free deal on the first Saturday of each production. Laughter on the 23rd Floor runs through July 31. The Last Days of Mickey and Jean runs August 19 - September 4. And Night and Her Stars, September 23 - October 9, rounds out the season.

Tickets are $34 which is on the cheaper side than some of the other festivals mentioned.

Bakerloo Theater Project
291 River Street, Troy, NY (map)

As in years past, Bakerloo Theater Project is performing one play by Shakespeare, as well as a non-Shakespeare work. This season the Troy based company is performing Twelfth Night and Timberlake Wertenbaker's For the Lover of a Nightingale, an adaptation of an ancient Greek legend.

Tickets are $15 or you can get a $25 season pass. Here's the schedule.
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Those of some of my top picks. There have to be a few we've missed, so please to add to the list, and tell us what you like about them.

Comments

I want to add Powerhouse Theater!
http://powerhouse.vassar.edu/
When we lived downstate I went to many. Cheap, great talent, contemporary.

I just wanted to add another one to the mix. It's a little farther, about 90 minutes from albany, but the Dorset Theatre Festival in Dorset, VT is really great place to check out. Beautiful area and a beautiful theater. I saw two shows there last year and both were top notch.

Right now they have Hitchcock's "Dial M For Murder" running until July 23rd. After that, "Noises Off" a hilarious British farce that I personally am really looking forward to checking out. That's running from July 28 - August 13. A couple other shows happening including new play readings.

http://www.dorsettheatrefestival.org/

I'm surprised you mentioned as far north as Glens Falls. It's good to see your looking past Albany as well. Keep up the good work Steff!

http://www.bspafilm.com/home.html

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