Traveling in Pursuit of Theater

 

Since I live in New York City, I usually don't take a "theater vacation"-you know, the eight-shows-a-week type of trip to New York or London. Even when I go to London, theater is just one of the activities on my itinerary. But the last three summers, I have found myself in a summer theater destination and have been appreciating more and more the joy of taking my No. 1 pastime on the road.


 

Last August, I extended a trip to Niagara Falls to the charming resort town Niagara-on-the-Lake, 18 miles north of the falls and home to the annuAl Shaw Festival, one of Canada's most prestigious theater ensembles. I saw Merrily We Roll Along and The House of Bernarda Alba. This year, the Shaw Festival presents 11 plays on its three stages from April 3 to Nov. 30, including Misalliance; the Kaufman-Ferber comedy The Royal Family; The Plough and the Stars, by Sean O'Casey; Chekhov's Three Sisters; Brian Friel's Chekhov-inspired Afterplay; a Lizzie Borden post-trial bio, Blood Relations; and the musicals On the Twentieth Century and Happy End. (www.shawfest.com)

 

In July 2001, I took a cruise on the Rhone River in southern France that included a day in Avignon. The city's been at the forefront of worldwide theater news recently, as an actors and technicians strike has forced the cancellation of the 57th Festival d'Avignon, one of two arts festivals held there every July. Together, the Festival d'Avignon and Festival Off-what we in the States might call a "Fringe Festival"-offer more than 500 productions in over 100 venues; in Festival Off, a performance starts approximately every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to midnight. I selected Georges Feydeau's Mais n'te promene donc pas toute nue! (en anglais: Don't Walk Around Naked! [they didn't]). If you're going to watch a play in a language you don't completely understand, a sex farce may be your best bet since you can get a gist of the plot from the physical antics. And I could still tell the acting was tres bon. (www.festival-avignon.com, www.avignon-off.org; no English translation on the latter site)

 

After dabbling in theater away from home, this year I finally decided to take a vacation getaway planned around theatergoing. New Yorkers and Bostonians have a great theater destination just three hours away: the Berkshire region of western Massachusetts. I stayed only two nights on my recent trip but saw four shows: one from the classical canon, a modern comedy, a musical and a fairly new one-man play. The quantity of theater in the Berkshires has grown so much that the area now promotes itself as "America's Premier Cultural Resort." Other performing arts have something to do with that: The Berkshires, after all, are probably best-known for Tanglewood, the outdoor summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (and famous in theater circles as the place where Leonard Bernstein's career was launched). The region also offers a host of other music and dance festivals and concert and performance series.

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Adrienne Onofri Adrienne Onofri, one of BroadwayWorld's original columnists, created and writes the Gypsy of the Month feature on the website. She also does interviews and event coverage for BroadwayWorld, and is a member of the Drama Desk. Adrienne is also a travel writer and the author of the book "Walking Brooklyn: 30 Tours Exploring Historical Legacies, Neighborhood Culture, Side Streets, and Waterways," published by Wilderness Press.