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Once Upon a Time in the Berkshires (2017)

Community Works

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.

COMMUNITY WORKS is committed to providing free and regular arts programming throughout Berkshire County. Events will take place on a monthly basis and will consist of workshops, open mics, readings, and much more! As COMMUNITY WORKS enters into this new and exciting chapter, we have committed to putting community partnerships and accessibility at the center of our work. We hope to collaborate with any and all community-serving institutions to provide community-building experiences for individuals of all races, religions, ethnicities, ages, genders, and abilities.

If you would like to partner with us or get involved in any way, please contact Kori Alston at community@wtfestival.org.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Workshops that are open to the public will be clearly marked below as OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Participants under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

HOW TO START A PLAY: FREE PLAYWRITING WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Wednesday, June 22, 2022, 4:00-5:30 PM ET

Are you a seasoned playwright looking for that spark to start a new play? Are you someone who has never tried playwriting but wants to explore? Are you a writer of another discipline looking to stretch your literary skills?

Join local artist and educator Kori Alston on June 22 at 4:00 PM ET at the Berkshire Athenaeum for this free 90-minute COMMUNITY WORKS workshop. We will provide notebooks and pens; feel free to bring the medium on which you would prefer to write. Kori will guide participants through a variety of exciting ways to start a new play and help you begin writing it!

All ages are welcome and no prior experience is necessary for this fun, free, intergenerational workshop! To register and learn more, click the links below or email community@wtfestival.org. Registration and masks are required.

Kori Alston is Williamstown Theatre Festival’s COMMUNITY WORKS Associate. He is a Berkshire County native from Great Barrington and an accomplished playwright who was named The Future of Playwriting in 2021 by The Blank Theatre and UCross Foundation. His play, A Case for Black Girls Setting Central Park on Fire recently received a workshop in NYC with Clubbed Thumb.


 

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!

 

HOW WE DO IT

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.

 

IT’S WORKING!

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.

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 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.”

 

YOU CAN HAVE A DIRECT IMPACT

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.

 

Click here to send an email asking for more information on how to get involved

 

PAST EVENTS

 

IN-PERSON PLAYWRITING WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Friday, December 10, 2021, 1:00-2:15 PM

Williamstown Theatre Festival’s COMMUNITY WORKS co-founders Laura Savia and Lucy Thurber led an intergenerational playwriting workshop open to the public at Berkshire Community College (1350 West St, Pittsfield, MA) on December 10th, 2021, from 1:00-2:15pm.

No prior experience was necessary! Free of charge. Participants under 18 were accompanied by an adult for the duration of the workshop.

IN-PERSON THEATRE WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Friday, September 24, 2021, 4:30-5:30 PM

WTF’s COMMUNITY WORKS hosted a FREE, public, in-person theatre workshop in Williamstown on Friday, September 24, from 4:30-5:30 PM during ArtWeek Berkshires 2021.

Led by WTF Associate Artistic Director Laura Savia, this workshop aimed to develop theatrical skills with a focus on self-expression and story-telling! No prior experience was required! This workshop was open to participants 18 years of age and older.

Location:
The Williamstown Council on Aging, 118 Church St, Williamstown, MA

The workshop was conducted outdoors. Masks were required and participants were not in physical contact with others. In the case of inclement weather, this workshop would have been conducted virtually via this link.

On August 8th, 2021, from 1pm – 4pm, Williamstown Theatre Festival’s COMMUNITY WORKS, in partnership with the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, hosted an afternoon of art, food, games, and community-building at the West Side Riverway Park in Pittsfield. This event brought together community members with local poets, musicians, dancers, and various resource organizations in an afternoon of sharing and community connection.

While research shows that public parks provide safety and security for a neighborhood, when the park becomes a locus of activity and connection, the safety of the space only increases. WTF, the DA’s Office, and CPCS aimed to encourage such resilience and connection with this fun-filled family event.

ONLINE DANCE WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Wednesday, February 10, 5pm EST / via Facebook Live

Join Broadway’s Leigh-Ann Esty, Sara Esty, and Emilio Ramos for a participatory workshop exploring dance! No prior experience necessary—fun for all ages.

INTERGENERATIONAL “Acting The Scene” CLASS

Wednesdays in January, 4-7pm, starting January 6, 2021 / via Zoom

In early 2021, WTF’s year-round, community-engaged theatre program, COMMUNITY WORKS, will launch its very first scene study class. In this 4-part series, designed to be intergenerational in nature, members of two different age groups will be matched to study, rehearse, and present scenes from published plays. Two age groups that are invited to participate: 18-30 years old AND anyone age 60 and over. All participants will meet over Zoom for four sessions with facilitator, Associate Artistic Director and COMMUNITY WORKS co-founder, Laura Savia, to spend time on the fundamentals of acting and share their work. Participants will be required to meet (virtually) outside of class time to rehearse.

ONLINE THEATRE WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Wednesday, November 11, 5:00 pm ET / via Facebook Live

We’re going behind the scenes! Learn all about the world of theatrical design during our Facebook LIVE workshop. Join two Williamstown Theatre Festival artists, Scenic Designer Riw Rakkulchon and Costume Designer Nicole Slaven, as we dive into the craft and magic of bringing a play into three dimensions! Click here to access a recording of the workshop.

ONLINE THEATRE WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Wednesday, September 23, 5:00 pm ET / via Facebook Live

Ever wonder how a director hones their craft? Tune in for this month’s workshop with COMMUNITY WORKS Engagement Artist, Maya Davis, and learn some of the skills of directing! From working with actors, to blocking, to design, join this workshop to explore the directors’ toolbox! All ages welcome—no prior experience is required! To tune in, visit the Williamstown Theatre Festival Facebook page—the live video will be located at the top of the feed. A captioned recording of the workshop will also be available. Email Hayley at community@wtfestival.org if you have any questions. We hope you can join us! Click here to access a recording of the workshop.

ONLINE THEATRE WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Monday, May 11, 5:00 pm EST / via Facebook Live

Join the COMMUNITY WORKS team and guest playwright James Anthony Tyler (ARTNEY JACKSON) for a workshop on comedy! Known for his character-driven comedies with lots of heart, James will show us how to set the scene for a side-splitting scenario — no laugh track needed! Click here to access a recording of the workshop.

ONLINE THEATRE WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Tuesday, April 14, 5:00-5:45pm / via Facebook Live

Join us on FACEBOOK LIVE for a workshop exploring how an actor approaches their script. Through simple and fun exercises, you’ll speak powerful, theatrical language with confidence. No prior experience is necessary and all ages are welcome. Full household participation is encouraged! We will offer an audio-only version of the workshop by phone at 5:00pm EST the following day. Click here to access a recording of the workshop.

THEATRE WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Saturday, February 15, 11:30-1:00pm / The Harper Center – 118 Church Street, Williamstown MA
Laura Savia (Associate Artistic Director), Hayley Sherwood (Community Works Associate) and a professional guest artist will lead the group in a workshop on the fundamentals of acting. Through simple and fun group exercises, you can step inside the creative process. No prior experience is required! Special thanks to the Williamstown Council on Aging for hosting.

REID MIDDLE SCHOOL
COMMUNITY WORKS Associate Hayley Sherwood will facilitate a workshop on how to make your own play, and you don’t even need a pen!

THEATRE WORKSHOP – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Saturday, December 14, 11am-12:30pm / Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, Pittsfield
Join COMMUNITY WORKS Associate Hayley Sherwood for a workshop on adding movement and sound to stage pictures, therefore creating the foundation of theatrical storytelling. No prior experience is required!

Williamstown Theatre Festival THEATRE WORKSHOP
Sunday, November 3, 2019/Williamstown Youth Center
Associate Artistic Director Laura Savia led the group in a workshop on acting and stage pictures. Through simple and fun group exercises, participants stepped inside the creative process.  (VIDEO here!) Special thanks to The Williamstown Youth Center for hosting.

OUR COMMUNITY PARTNERS:

 

Berkshire County Arc

Berkshire
Community College

Common Folk

DysFUNK crew

Kids 4 Harmony

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Pittsfield Public Schools

Rock On Workshop

Soldier On

Williamstown
Council on Aging

Williamstown
Youth Center

 

OUR FUNDING PARTNERS:

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Williamstown Theatre Festival is a member of the Public Works Affiliate Network.

 

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Find Us

By Phone: 413.458.3200
By Email: wtfinfo@wtfestival.org
By Snail Mail: PO Box 517
Williamstown, MA 01267