SOUTHBURY, Conn. — The 24-year-old Shakespeare & Co. is facing a watershed summer. It will stage its final productions at its original home, Edith Wharton’s Lenox, Mass., estate, and present its first productions at its new home in the same town, adjacent to the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood venue.
S & Co. and Edith Wharton Restoration Inc., the owner of the Mount, have come to an agreement for the theater company to vacate the property at the end of 2001, rather than two years later as specified in the lease.
The company’s 24th season will bid farewell to the Mount with an al fresco production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the 600-seat main stage. The production, under the helm of founding artistic director Tina Packer, will run July 20-Sept. 2.
At its new home, on 63 prime Lenox acres, S & Co. will offer reserved seating and subscription packages for the first time. As a transition period before the official opening of the site in 2002, S & Co. will launch its first venue on the 22-building estate, the 428-seat indoor Founders’ Theater, with a revival of last summer’s acclaimed production of “Coriolanus.” The new theater will be air-conditioned, a first for S & Co.
A second new venue, the 99-seat Spring Lawn Theater in the south salon of the new property’s grandiose 1902 Berkshire “cottage,” will open with “The Wharton One-Acts.” Running June 30-Sept. 2, the production will comprise adaptations of Wharton’s “The Rembrandt” and Henry James’ “An International Episode.”
At a cost of $3 million, the Founders’ Theater has been carved out of a former gym-cum-cabaret venue. It’s a flexible space that has three potential seating configurations. The company also plans to build a 700- to 800-seat replica of Shakespeare’s first Elizabethan playhouse, the Rose.
Meanwhile, Edith Wharton Restoration has completed its restoration of the Mount’s deteriorated exterior. With the help of a $2.9 million Save America’s Treasures federal grant and a nearly $1.5 million grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, work on the gardens and interiors will be completed in time for the historic building’s centennial in 2002.