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Schooled in Passion: Packer's "Women of Will" at Shake & Co.
By: By Nichole Dupont On: 11:38PM / Tuesday June 14, 2011
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Packer and Gore make sparks and quips during "Women of Will"

LENOX, Mass. - I'll be the first to admit it, I'm a feminist. Apparently, because this is a loaded word, saying one is a feminist could be a career-ender, unless you're Tina Packer. When it comes to William and his "written" ladies, Packer, who is one of the founding artistic directors of Shakespeare and Company, takes no prisoners. Not even Joan of Arc can escape the astute, passionate and almost professorial obersvations of a woman who, when it comes to the bard, clearly knows and loves her stuff.

Now through July 10 at the Bernstein Theatre, Shakespeare and Company is presenting "Women of Will, The Complete Journey: Parts I-V." The performances, for lack of a better, more inclusive term, represent a culmination of Packer's years of piecing together the lives, actions and projections of the female characters in Shakespeare's plays, beginning with his early comedies and ending with "Henry VIII." Each part is two hours long (roughly) and carries a theme with it--Part 1: The Warrior Women, From Violence to Negotiation, Part II: The Sexual Merges with the Spiritual: New Knowledge, Part III: Living Underground, or Dying to Tell the Truth, Part IV: Chaos is Come Again, the Lion Eats the Wolf and Part V: The Maiden Phoenix: The Daughter Redeems the Father.

Recently, I attended the opening of "The Warrior Women," in which Packer and her equally charming sidekick, and I daresay partner in crime, Nigel Gore, took the audience on a roller-coaster ride of passion, violence, and, of course, women.
  
"Warrior Women" opened with a scene from "The Taming of the Shrew," played two ways. The first rendition presents Katherine (the shrew) as a willful woman who is just barely, but violently subdued by her controlling husband, Petruchio. Gore, with his hands around Packer's neck, is a terrifying presence as he commands his "wife" to say that the sun is the moon and the moon is the sun in order to gain her complete obedience, which is only won by her fear and resignation to his unrelenting abuse. In that same scene, Packer changes her "mood" and the mood of Katherine to display a woman gone mad from sleeplessness and starvation, tactics which Petruchio used to "tame" his headstrong wife. She delivers the same monologue as in the previous scene, but now, it is clear, that the transformation is complete and that Katherine, her voice flip-flopping between low moans and high coquettish assents, has been utterly broken and will be a madwoman until her death. Yet, despite this broken insanity, Gore as Petruchio does emit a certain fear at this revelation. This fear, which is also felt by the audience, is vastly different from his bulldoggish, arrogant portrayal in the first rendition of the scene. 
  
And so it went from scene to scene. I often found myself gripping my chair inadvertantly as Packer (who was easily able to transition from a 16-year-old maid to a religious fanatic to a vengeful mother) and Gore tested the boundaries of Shakespeare's words and women. These rivoting scenes were interjected with academic commentary (note, I did not say dry commentary, this is Tina Packer we are talking about) as well as the playful banter between the two performers, a relationship that clearly has emerged from several decades of friendship and craft (and bawdiness, of course). The instability of Shakespeare's women as he presented them, be it in a comedy, a tragedy, or even a historical, is blatantly obvious. However, it takes an expert mind like Packer's to unravel the nuances of negotiation, sexuality and violence in the lives of the "Warrior Women," and this is only Part I...



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A Place for Us: Re-Wear Brings Style to Sheffield
By: Nichole DuPont On: 01:19PM / Tuesday June 07, 2011
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Why buy new when Re-Wear has everything?

SHEFFIELD, Mass. — My mother always told me to shop smart.

"Don't buy 50 of the same thing, or 50 versions of the same thing and then complain that you've got nothing to wear."

Good advice, although I did notice the other day that she had several black cardigans and charcoal T-shirts in various styles, but, whatever, good advice.

My father, who rarely said much, ever, always shopped local — always. To this day, he rarely goes behind the borders of Great Barrington for anything, including food. In fact, in the summer, he'd much rather just grill a nice steak on a Saturday night, throw in some greens from the farmer's market less than two miles down the road, and call it a perfect night out.

So, shop smart, shop local. Sounds easy, right?

Not if you live in a town in which dairy and corn are tops on the export list and and a day trip involves a 5-minute walk to the bank. The scenery is beautiful; the fashion options, nonexistent.

Of course, that was then and this is now. It is with great pleasure, the same pleasure I had with the opening of the Marketplace Cafe and Awaken Healing Arts, that I can say that my little town on the fringe of everywhere now has some style — affordable, funky, real woman- (and man-) friendly.

Nothing says style like a pair of purple dancing shoes. Size 8.5 and they're all mine.

Re-Wear, located just north of the center of town (at the old Bradford's building), is a no-nonsense but plenty of thrills and frills consignment boutique that takes good clothes and the environment seriously. You don't have to dig through boxes of musty clothes to find that perfectly worn pair of jeans. Nor do you have to go gallavanting about the store looking for the match to that hot summer sandal that you're not even sure is your size. Everything at Re-Wear has a place and a price and the only thing you have to do is expect to find something amazing, for literally any occasion.

While most of the clothes are functional, everyday styles and include brands such as Gap, Ann Taylor and Jones New York, anyone looking for a little black dress or a light, sexy summer shift and shoes to match will not be disappointed.

Each rack is alight with color and each size is organized to a T, whether it be worn jeans, polished dress slacks or gypsy skirts. It's there and most likely you'll find at least one in your size. That's a bargain.

I went in there with several "fashion goals" in mind. I needed a dress for a hot flamenco concert (or several hot concerts, thank you, Jacob's Pillow), something light for the impending rise in temperature and humidity (more heat), some decent, lightweight tops for when I actually have to go out in public where people know me, and yes, as always, a pair of shoes that nobody but me will have.

No hunting, except for bargains.

I found it all, even the shoes.

Especially the shoes — purple slingbacks with lots of buckles and a perfect heel for tall, clumsy journalists. So, one burnt velvet, fringey, Argentinian nightclub dress, one white linen "Out of Africa" shirtdress, two silk shells and a pair of shoes later, I am out the door with money to spare and a wardrobe boost that'll last for years.

And a place to go the next time my ever-growing daughter needs a pair of shorts on the fly. I think Re-Wear marks the official renaissance of my small town. Now all we need is a theater company ...

Re-Wear is open most days from 11 to 5, and consignment sales are by appointment only. Check out their Facebook page for more details.



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Richmond Still Looking For Town Clerk
By: Andy McKeever On: 06:28PM / Wednesday March 02, 2011
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RICHMOND, Mass. - Nobody wants to be the Town Clerk.

Since former Town Clerk David W. Morrison died in January, the town has been unable to find a replacement. At the initial deadline of Feb. 18 not a single resume was submitted, according to Town Administrator Matt Kerwood. The town has now extended the deadline in hopes to fill it.

"A handful of people did request the full job description but as of the deadline nobody applied," Kerwood said Wednesday. "We're hopeful a candidate will come forward."

Resumes are now due by March, 11 for consideration and a full job description can be received by Kerwood. The candidate must live in town be be registered or can be registered to vote. If no candidates come forward Kerwood said he is unsure what the town will do.

"I was appointed Assistant Town Clerk prior to this and now I'm doing Town Clerk duty on top of my own work," Kerwood said. "There are some theory of what plan B will be but we don't know for sure."

Kerwood said he posted the position at various locations in town and is not sure why there is not much interest. With the extention Kerwood is optimistic that the town will find the right person.

Morrison served as Town Clerk since 2006.



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The Last of the Insects
By: Nichole Dupont On: 12:17PM / Wednesday February 16, 2011
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Courtesy photo

Rene Wendell has collected thousands of insects during his forays into the Berkshire woods and meadows.

SHEFFIELD, Mass. — Rene Wendell has been around the woods more than a few times. The 94-year-old Pittsfield native and former tracker and taxidermist is an avid collector of all things wild including flies and beetles and, of course, several decades of memories. 

"I grew up around Burbank Park," he said in a phone interview. "As a kid, the woods were my playground and I was obsessive about animals. That was 70 or 80 years ago, can you imagine? It's been very interesting, I've seen a lot of changes here over the years."

These changes aren't all good. Wendell said that in his many outdoor adventures he has noticed a significant drop in the amount of birds and butterflies that used to fly in abundance in the Berkshires.

"I know it's because of the environment," he said. "A lot of the birds and butterflies are gone. Some of them left because of the environment. This place has changed from open fields to forest, the whole landscape is different."

Fortunately, Wendell has collected thousands of butterflies and insects over the years and he wants to share his collection with others. On Thursday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. at Bartholomew's Cobble, Wendell will present his impressive, well-preserved collection of flies, wasps, beetles, butterflies and moths — all of which he has found on his many forays into the Berkshire meadows and forests.

Strangely enough, Wendell said his favorite specimens have always been the long-horned beetle, an insect many gardeners brush off as destructive pests. It's not the habits of the beetle that concern him.

"I've always loved the way they're shaped and the different colors they have," he said. "That and moths. Moths are beautiful. The ratio of moths to butterflies in the area is 14 to one."

For the most part, Wendell is done adding to his collection. However, there is one insect that has eluded him for years and he hopes that this year he will finally find it.

"There's one more butterfly that I want for my collection," he said. "It's a giant swallowtail butterfly. I've seen them in Sheffield and I keep going back to find them but so far no luck."

For more information about Wendell's presentation call 413-229-8600. Registration is strongly suggested.



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Is Verizon Making Good on Its Word?
By: Nichole Dupont On: 05:22AM / Tuesday February 08, 2011
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One of three Verizon service trucks spotted in South County on Monday morning.

SHEFFIELD, Mass. — While making the drive from Sheffield to Lee to cover a story, I noticed three Verizon trucks, one in Great Barrington, one in Stockbridge and one in Lee.

Each truck was cordoned off by bright orange cones and, of course, a police officer stood by to direct traffic around the trucks. Hard hat-wearing maintenance workers were situated in buckets, high above the traffic, working on the lines (for hours in the cold).

That's when it dawned on me — Verizon doesn't have a choice, not anymore. Back in December in a settlement agreement signed by Attorney General Martha Coakley, Verizon, IBEW Local 2324 and Hancock, Egremont and Leverett, Verizon was required to assess and address the poor condition of its phone lines which are strung over 99 communities in Western Mass. The company had until Dec. 31 to survey and repair 33 wire centers (reaching 65 municipalities) and 15 months to improve the condition of its telephone network at 34 other centers.

It appears that they might actually be doing something now that the agreement is in place and all of Massachusetts is watching very closely. I will have to check in with those of you who still have a Verizon landline. I ditched mine once and for all a year ago, when the crackling on the line became a daily nuisance not worth the 40 bucks.

Who knows, maybe once the lines are fixed it will pave the way for high-speed Internet for the still-deprived hilltowns. Hey, anything's possible.



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