Community-engaged theatre that WORKS!
COMMUNITY WORKS is Williamstown Theatre Festival’s year-round community-engaged theatre program that brings together hundreds of Berkshire area residents from all walks of life. These diverse constituencies are connected with professional theatre artists and with each other through workshops, rehearsals, and a professional-caliber production on the Main Stage at the Festival, presented free of charge for more than 2,000 locals. Scroll down to read more about COMMUNITY WORKS, including how you can get involved!
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OUR ORIGIN STORY
In July of 2015, Artistic Director Mandy Greenfield charged Associate Director Laura Savia and Obie Award-winning playwright Lucy Thurber with creating a multi-year initiative that would build meaningful relationships with our neighbors in the Berkshires, bring together participants from diverse economic and social backgrounds, and make the Festival more accessible than ever.
The resulting year-round community immersive theatre project, COMMUNITY WORKS, invites the people of Western Massachusetts to be a part of the Festival’s creative process – not just as audience members, but on stage as well!
Throughout the fall, winter, and spring, WTF personnel and key Festival artists – like Broadway actors Thomas Sadoski and Saidah Arrika Ekulona – conduct acting, playwriting, and story-circle workshops with our community partner organizations. These workshops are where we build trust, teach theatre skills, and hear the local stories that inspire our summer production.
In the summer, WTF brings its world-class design and creative talent to the project, mounting a full production of a new, free, family-friendly play. Community cast members, many of whom are first-time actors, have costume fittings and rehearse in the same spaces as our veteran actors. Finally, the show is performed – music, choreography, and, of course, the people and stories of the Berkshires flood the stage.
COMMUNITY WORKS is an antidote to Facebook filter bubbles and echo chambers. Participants must interact and engage with people unlike themselves in an environment that embraces diversity and encourages risk-taking.
The results are clear and remarkable: by coming together in one equalizing rehearsal room, putting on costumes, and telling a story for free to everyone else in their community, participants go from a nervous group of 100+ strangers at first rehearsal to a tight-knit family by closing night, with bonds that defy socio-economic class, race, gender, and age. Attendance at our 2017 COMMUNITY WORKS production, Once Upon a Time in the Berkshires, was at capacity (more than 2,000 over four packed performances), and the response of participants and audiences alike was extraordinary.
“Last year, at this time I was homeless. This year, professional pictures were taken of me in costume… I came from over 30 years of abuse. I’ve found my voice and my courage. For me, it’s been miraculous.”
Here is what other COMMUNITY WORKS participants had to say:
“The experience confirmed my perception that theatre can be a unifying force.”
“Personally, I have gained back a little of my faith in humanity because of my experience working on this project… I have also gained more confidence in myself.”
“In a time where the world is so crazy, it was such a nice relief to be involved with a group where age, race, orientation, etc. didn’t matter in the least and we all came together to create something beautiful.”
“I’m proud of the people who had the guts to get out there and do stuff they’d never done before. I’m proud of WTF for taking this step.”
“Different people, coming from different walks of life, all collaborating on a single creation, is truly something that I am proud to be a part of. To me, this is what being human is about. I wish there was more of this powerful, breathtaking, positive energy in our world today.”
Berkshire On Stage called the production “poignant and relevant” and “something approaching miraculous.” They went on to say: “But the most moving element of this production is the diversity of the cast—senior actors paired with children, performers of every race and type, including Banshees in wheelchairs escorted onstage by assistants, and a message of inclusion that teaches us what can be possible in our fractured world.”
COMMUNITY WORKS is only possible through the generous support of donors, whose contributions enable the program to have the broadest and deepest impact on our community.
Your contribution in support of COMMUNITY WORKS will help:
- Bring theatre to people who wouldn’t otherwise experience it
- Provide educational and cultural opportunities for youth and senior citizens
- Promote discourse and relationship-building across communities
- Teach community engagement best practices to a new generation of artists
- Create a world premiere production, based on the lives and stories that impact our community
- Grow our program, raise the standard of excellence for our productions, and forge new partnerships with increasingly diverse populations
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation in support of COMMUNITY WORKS today.
OUR COMMUNITY PARTNERS:
OUR FUNDING PARTNERS:
HARRIS FAMILY FOUNDATION
ELLEN J. BERNSTEIN
This program is supported in part by grants from the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire and the Pittsfield Cultural Council, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.
This project has been supported by a grant from the Fund for Williamstown, a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
’62 Center for Theatre and Dance
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Box Office 413.458.3253