Company buys 500-seat Berkshire Music Hall
NEW HAVEN — Can you spell “real estate”?The Barrington Stage Company, which launched hit Broadway musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” last summer, has purchased its first permanent home: the 500-seat Berkshire Music Hall in downtown Pittsfield in the Massachusetts Berkshires. The 11-year-old nonprofit company, which uses two stages at a regional high school in Sheffield, Mass., for its summer shows, purchased for $785,000 the 1912 proscenium theater and the neighboring Octagon House in Pittsfield. The purchase of the two buildings, announced Friday, is part of a $2.8 million plan that includes renovation of the former vaudeville house, the building next door for administrative offices and the renting and creation of a “black box” space in the downtown area. The new facilities will allow the theater to produce and present shows year-round, including a workshop series of new musicals next summer by up-and-coming writers, curated by “Spelling Bee” composer William Finn. Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington, said the theater will be renovated and upgraded over several phases but will be able to present a “we’re here” show in the fall. Barrington Stage will be open for regular business at its new location starting next summer with a slightly longer schedule — 12 to 14 weeks instead of the current 10. The new location moves Barrington Stage to Pittsfield, 45 minutes away from its current base of seasonal operations to a city with a year-round population of 45,000 that can also draw from Albany, N.Y., and Williamstown, Mass., Boyd said. She added the theater company, which has an annual budget of $1.7 million, has no debt, but also no endowment. After the new theater is up and running, an endowment drive will follow. State, city, business and board support is expected to make up much of the fund-raising drive. The new theater also will be used as a rental facility. Barrington Stage owns its 10,000-square-foot building in Sheffield which houses its offices, rehearsal hall and storage. Also helping the kitty is money from developing “Spelling Bee” — which now brings in a mid-five-figure sum each week that’s expected to grow into the low six figures as the musical begins its national tour next year. More importantly, the musical has given the theater company momentum to launch the drive and make its move. It also coincides with Barrington’s current hit production of “Follies,” which Boyd said is the most successful show of the theater’s history.