“Williamstown Theatre Festival occupies a very specific, very vital place in the American theatrical landscape,” says Artistic Director Mandy Greenfield. “It’s a place where luminary theatre artists and unknown up-and-coming artists gravitate, where they can really throw artistic spaghetti at the wall—take a big risk, do something they’ve been yearning to do.” Greenfield has been artistic director of the summer festival in Massachusetts’ Berkshire Mountains since 2014; the festival itself dates to 1955 and won the 2002 Tony for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
As an example of the veteran-apprentice synergy, she cites Williamstown’s 2012 revival of The Elephant Man, starring Bradley Cooper: “Some of the non-Equity kids from that show moved with it” to Broadway two years later.
How does Greenfield plan her season? “I’m always looking to put together a season that’s diverse—stylistically diverse, diverse in terms of the stories it’s looking at and telling, diverse in terms of the artists making the work.” In addition to the two main venues, “a whole layer of work happens developmentally—a public reading series, a cabaret series, a late-night series. We do workshops, and there’s the commissionees.” Casting is done in New York City, home of the festival’s main office in Times Square.
This summer season illustrates Greenfield’s diversity goal. It begins June 27 with two-time Tony nominee and Emmy winner S. Epatha Merkerson and Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Jane Kaczmarek in The Roommate, a new two-hander by Jen Silverman. Merkerson portrays a Midwesterner taking on a roommate from New York (Kaczmarek) who leads her on new adventures. Mike Donahue directs.
Starting July 19, Tony nominee Jessica Hecht stars in Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist. In the whimsical play, a physician (Jayne Atkinson) discovers that her sister (Hecht) and not her Brazilian cleaning woman (Cote de Pablo) has been cleaning her home. Rebecca Taichman (Indecent) directs.
A new musical, A Legendary Romance, about a retired film producer looking back on his life arrives August 3, directed by Lonny Price. The summer also includes Jason Kim’s The Model American, about a young, gay Latino immigrant (June 28); Where Storms Are Born by the festival’s 2016 playwright-in-residence Harrison David Rivers, directed by Saheem Ali, about a mother and son mourning his sibling (July 12); and Halley Feiffer’s Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow, a modern version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, directed by Trip Cullman (July 26).
The festival, Greenfield says, “is a magnet” for actors, writers, directors—anyone involved in the stage. “They want to be there. They want to be part of its energy.”