image description
Officials cut the ribbon on the newly renovated Ted Shawn Theatre on Saturday.
image description
image description
Pamela Tatge, executive and artistic director.
image description
Vincent Vigilante, technical production director, says the renovation will allow faster and more efficient changes between performances.
image description
State Sen. Adam Hinds says he was glad the theater's iconic barn doors were retained.
image description
Architect David Croteau talks about aspects of the project.
image description
Sandra Burton, senior lecturer in dance at Williams College, leads the gathering in a movement.
image description

Renovated Ted Shawn Theatre Reopens

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story

Trustees Chairman Christopher Jones talks about the efforts that got Jacob's Pillow to this point. 
BECKET, Mass. — Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival celebrated on Saturday the opening of the newly renovated Ted Shawn Theatre, a five-year project to restore the first theater in the nation dedicated to dance. 
 
Built in 1942 as part of founder Ted Shawn's vision for presenting dance, the 80-year-old structure has been in dire need of upgrades to continue to support the dance community. 
 
Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Jones explained that over the last 80 years, the growth of the Pillow over the Berkshire summers motivated the board to include the renovations as a critical part of the $22 million Vision 22 Strategic Plan. 
 
"It's taken us five years to reach this momentous moment in time in Jacob's Pillow's 90-year history," he told those gathered for the ribbon cutting on Saturday morning. "It's required passion, belief, determination, and a lot of work. And it would never have happened without extraordinary commitment from our incredible stuff."
 
The institution broke ground on the renovation in January 2021. The Pillow's major stage reopens for the season but there's still the loss from the fire that burned the 216-seat Doris Duke Studio Theatre in 2020. Officials say a new theater is expected to be built by 2024. 
 
Technical Production Director Vincent Vigilante said the renovations were crucially needed to improve efficiency and the staff environment. 
 
Before the renovations, it would take eight to 20 hours for a staff of 15 to complete changing over for the next show. 
 
"I don't know if you've ever been on a ladder for 20 hours straight, but that's not fun. So I do want to thank the staff who's worked with us so far, for all these years, every single one of us have worked hard to improve this space. And this is the dream," Vigilante said. 
 
"The changes that we've made is that all of the electrics now fly in, we can work the entire team, not just a crew of three on ladders working up in the air, the entire team of now 30 people can change over, which cut our time down to 50 to 75 percent." 
 
The more than $8 million renovation includes a new ventilation system with air conditioning, new electrical system and lighting, orchestra pit, enhanced accessibility for artists and audience, a lower level with dressing rooms, elevator, ramp, maintenance and wardrobe storage.  
 
The stage itself has been increased in size — it's 10 feet deeper and clearance height has been raised from 17 to 25 feet, allowing more complex rigging and fly systems.  
 
The renovations are designed to allow the crew to complete the artists' vision in an efficient manner and although they are not sure of the impact, officials hope it will allow them to keep up with the times.  
 
"We take a vision from an artist, collaborate with them, and put it on stage for all to see this, we're really good at making things work. We have a budget, we have this, we see the limitations, and we turn them into strengths," Vigilante said. 
 
"This renovation is absolutely staggering. And we're not going to know really what the impact is going to be. Because we built this with the help of the team to last for the future, to actually change and, hopefully, for the next 80 years, be able to keep up with the times, this structure is going to be standing as our theater consultant practice."
 
The Pillow began its search in 2016 for an architect who could honor the historical landmark while also improving its functionality. The choice was David Croteau, president of Flansburgh Architects of Boston.
 
"After realizing that the beams that supported the roof, supported all of the rigging, had aged and could no longer be repaired, and then with climate change and rising temperatures, we would need to add a ventilation system and air cooling, we went in search of an architect who could replace the stage house and do it in such a way as to honor this historic landmark," Executive and Artistic Director Pamela Tatge said. 
 
The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund awarded Jacob's Pillow with two grants to help fund the needed theater renovation, including a $200,000 grant last year.
 
"We are still sadly the only state in the country that has a cultural facilities fund. That was the brainchild of the Berkshire delegation many years ago as a young legislator," state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli said. "I'm very proud that I'm the only one left in the original delegation that had this idea. But Senator Hinds and I've been working very closely, we recognize the value of the creative economy, the cultural impact we have, not only our generation, but future generations. This is an investment in our collective futures."
 
Pignatelli said he bragged about the Jacob's Pillow during a national conference in Texas and explained that the cultural economic impact that it has on our region makes us so special.
 
"When General Electric and a paper mills started to go away, we shifted our collective focus. But one of the staples that have always been here is Jacob's Pillow," the Lenox representative said. 
 
Pignatelli said the Pillow is one of the oldest dance festivals in the country and that "this historical site really speaks volumes." 
 
During the pandemic, the Pillow adapted and is now an international company because of the digital programing it has developed. 
 
"If Jacob's Pillow's doors were open last year, the construction would have ended. But because of the pandemic, we are here today, I think we really got a one-year head start bringing this beauty of dance to the world today in 2022," Pignatelli said. 
 
State Sen. Adam Hinds also noted how the Pillow kept the barn doors on the theater and that it has always been a regional leader in shifting accessibility, programing, and inclusivity. 
 
"I want to recognize the fact that you didn't touch the barn doors. So thank you for that. A lot of us were worried about what we've come into today. And to have some of these iconic kind of elements of the institution in place, it's just fantastically beautiful," Hinds said.
 
"We all are stewards of our of the land, of our institutions in kind of preserving but also improving our culture. And it doesn't happen by mistake that we have an institution like this. It truly is the work of all of you. And we are so grateful for that."

Tags: jacobs pillow,   

Comments
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to info@iberkshires.com.

CHP CEO Stepping Down After Nearly 7 Years

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Community Health Programs (CHP) CEO Lia Spiliotes, who has led CHP since 2015, has announced she is stepping down from CHP. 
 
In a statement to staff and colleagues, Spiliotes said she intends to refocus on family health priorities in Boston and New York. She stated she is also turning her professional attention to broader advocacy efforts around public and economic policy related to community health. Her last day is June 30. 
 
"We have accomplished so much by advancing and accelerating CHP's mission and vision," said Spiliotes in a statement. "CHP reaches so many in our community in need, regardless of their ability to pay, but CHP is also a choice for many people who have plenty of health care resources and options. They choose CHP's excellent team for their care, and I am proud to have been among the CHP stewards of our community's health and wellness." 
 
 "The Board is grateful for Lia's leadership during her tenure," CHP Board President Brian Drake said. "CHP has grown exponentially, achieved strong financial stability, and maintained uninterrupted services during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lia has been a voice of advocacy for healthcare access, and CHP is on a solid path toward the future." 
View Full Story

More South Berkshire Stories