Built in 1903, the historic Colonial Theatre is a leftover from a bygone era, a venue whose stage has graced stars from the past like John Barrymore and George M. Cohan, to contemporary superstars like Berkshires resident James Taylor.
Closed in 1951, it was repurposed as an art supply store until its renovation back to its previous grandeur in the late 20th century, and now is a thriving center for the arts in the 21st century.
Producer Tony Dunne and Videographer Mark Langevin pull back the curtain on the Colonial’s storied past.
This story originally aired on October 21, 2015.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Built in 1903, the historic Colonial Theatrer is a leftover from a bygone era. A venue whose stage has graced stars from the past, like John Barrymore and George M. Cohan, to contemporary superstars like Berkshires’ resident James Taylor.
Closed in 1951, it was repurposed as an art supply store until its renovation back to its previous grandeur in the late 20th century and now is a thriving center for the arts in the 21st century.
Executive producer Tony Dunne pulls back the curtain on the Colonial’s storied past.
Kate Maguire, Colonial Theatre: The Colonial was designed by Mr. McElfatrick. It was built in 1903 and it was very much a part of the Vaudeville Era. So, all the famous Vaudevillians performed here for quite some time.
Ruth Blodgett, Berkshire Theatre Group: And it served the community as a theater and then a movie house for many years. Then, it closed down.
Kate Maguire: And what was most miraculous was that the Miller family purchased the theater and they built an art store within the theater itself.
Ruth Blodgett: So, when you walked through the paint and the art store for years, you could see columns from the original theater. And the whole back of the theater was all saved and protected.
So, the Miller family did this community a wonderful service to preserve the theater for later.
Kate Maguire: So, the theater sat here for many years and then, Pittsfield began to go through a revitalization. And of course, when any town or community goes through a revitalization, there’s a recognition that the arts can really bring some strong vitality and invigorate a community.
So, in the 90s, Hillary Clinton came here.
Ruth Blodgett: And she brought a lot of attention for this community about the Colonial Theatre. And that really helped galvanize community support to ultimately renovate the theater.
Kate Maguire: The theater was restored to its original brilliance. If you go into the beautiful, historic lobby, you can see the gold work and the angels everywhere and the colors. The whole thing was restored to its original state.
Part of what’s so special is that there is an intimacy. So, despite the fact that there’s over seven hundred seats, the way that the theater itself is designed is that you really feel like you’re part of what’s going on on stage. You don’t ever feel that you’re so far away from the performance on stage.
But the other thing that is rather miraculous, is to walk inside this theater and just look around and recognize that you’re in one of the most beautiful theaters in the country.