Community Engagement Initiative

Theatre By And For The Berkshires

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.

The resulting Community Engagement Initiative invites the people of Western Massachusetts to be a part of the Festival’s creative process – not just as audience members, but on stage!

Now in year two, the Community Engagement Initiative has brought together participants from diverse economic and social backgrounds and has made the Festival more accessible than ever.

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 from September through May.  These workshops are where we build trust, teach theatre skills, and hear the local stories that inspire the work.

In the summer, WTF brings its world-class design and creative talent to mount a full production of a new, family-friendly play.  Cast members, many of whom are first-time actors, rehearse and have costume fittings 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.  

In July of 2016, 50 Berkshire residents and 25 Festival actors came together to perform Orpheus in the Berkshires, a world premiere play about and for the Berkshires, presented free of charge.  Orpheus in the Berkshires was attended by more than 1,500 people – over 30% of whom were first-time Festival goers.

Orpheus in the Berkshires cast members came from all walks of life. Our youngest was 7; our oldest, 80.  Our cast brought together veterans, students, retirees – and people of all races, creeds, and sexual orientations.

During rehearsals, we watched shy kids come out of their shells, we created a safe space for discussion and self-expression, and we erased any distinction between “professional” and “first-time” performers.

One cast member, who came to the project through workshops with our partner Soldier On, told the Berkshire Eagle:

“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 participants in this project 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.”

Your contribution in support of WTF’s Community Engagement Initiative 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 WTF’s Community Engagement Initiative today.


Youth Center

Council on Aging

Community College

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Soldier On




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.



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