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Berkshire Playwrights Lab and Theater5Alliance Aim to Keep Live Theater Alive Through Partnership

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The alliance of the companies brings the art into people’s homes with a new series featuring renowned actors of stage and screen.

Berkshire Playwrights Lab and Theater5Alliance Aim to Keep Live Theater Alive Through Partnership

With theaters dark nationwide, Berkshire Playwrights Lab moved to the digital realm through two partnerships: Off the Cuff with The Berkshire Museum and Keeping Live Theater Alive with the Theater5Alliance. On September 24, BPL takes its turn as a member of the Theater5Alliance with the virtual presentation of Keeping Live Theater Alive at BPL, reinvigorated by the addition of new co-artistic directors Rick Dresser, Felicia Harden, and James Anthony Tyler (with remaining co-artistic director Joe Cacaci), is gearing up for 2020 with a deepening of these two partnerships.

In August and September, BPL and The Berkshire Museum presented the timely and compelling Off the Cuff discussion series, which took a deep dive into societal and cultural issues that affect theater-goers and theater-makers alike at this consequential moment for both the theater and the country. Off the Cuff panelists explored a range of topics, from how Covid-19 will impact the theater world to whether the theater community been complicit with or resistant to white supremacy. These expansive, free-wheeling conversations with actors, writers, and directors were streamed live then made available for ongoing viewing. Viewing participants in the live event were invited to submit questions to the panelists during the program.

Theater5Alliance formed in June to bring the arts to people's homes and to emphasize the importance of keeping local theater alive and thriving. The alliance is comprised of Berkshire Playwrights Lab, Durango PlayFest, Laguna Playhouse, New Jersey Repertory Company, and Seven Angels Theatre, organizations that cancelled their in-person summer programming due to Covid-19. Theater5Alliance's first presentation, Keeping Live Theater Alive, was conceived by actor Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years, Lombardi), and presents three- to ten-minute original vignettes written and read by well-known stage and screen actors; the films are edited by filmmaker Jeremy Fletcher. The series is exclusively available on each company's website. The first part of the series features Kim Brockington, Jodi Long, Joe Mantegna, Alfred Molina, James Pickens Jr, and Tony Shalhoub. BPL will launch its participation on Thursday, September 24. The next installment, available on October 13, will feature Bryan Cranston, Lou Diamond Phillps, Priscilla Lopez, Reno Wilson, Wendie Malick, and Dan Lauria.

About Berkshire Playwrights Lab:

Berkshire Playwrights Lab occupies a unique position in the theater landscape, both locally in the Berkshires and nationally. For 15 years, BPL has been one of a few organizations in the country to focus solely on the development of new plays, and, consequently, on the development of new playwrights. A sharp focus on new talent and new ideas has given BPL expertise in finding adventurous thinkers and lively pockets of creativity in the theater community nationwide.

Over 15 years of cutting-edge work, BPL has:

- offered scores of playwrights the unusual four-day opportunity to hone their new plays in collaboration with professional actors and a director, culminating in an elaborately staged reading before a large live audience of up to 400 people.

- actively engaged audience members in the process of "creating theater."

- taken some of those new plays to full production, like James Anthony Tyler's Some Old Black Man, which had its premiere reading at The Mahaiwe, its premiere production at St. James Place and its NYC premiere production at 59E59th St. theaters. In addition, BPL has served as a pipeline for new material for theater companies across the country-among them Berkshire Theatre Festival, New Jersey Repertory, Shakespeare & Company and The Public Theater-where plays that BPL launched were given full productions.

- nurtured local writing talent through The Radius Festival and Berkshire Voices Writers Workshop.

- forged deep collaborative relationships with actors, playwrights, directors, producers and artistic directors across the country. Their participation in these conversations acknowledges the value they place on their partnerships with BPL.

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