Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre is an icon in western Massachusetts. Like so many other venues across the US, the Colonial faced an uncertain future during the COVID pandemic.
But on Memorial Day Weekend, Massachusetts took its next step towards recovering from the pandemic when it allowed all businesses to reopen at full capacity. This includes performance venues, many of which have been closed for much of the last year and a half.
Berkshire Theatre Group welcomed crowds to a tent outside the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield over the Holiday weekend, many no longer wearing masks as part of the state’s new COVID guidelines.
Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman shows us how the theater is handling these changes and talks with Grammy Award Winner and former NPR Host Chris Thile about his new record and returning to live music.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: On Memorial Day weekend, Massachusetts took its next step towards recovering from the pandemic when it allowed all businesses to reopen at full capacity. This includes performance venues, many of which have been closed for much of the last year and a half.
Berkshire Theatre Group welcomed crowds to a tent outside the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield over the holiday weekend, many no longer wearing masks as part of the state’s new COVID guidelines.
Connecting Point’s Ross Lippmann’s shows us how the theater is handling these changes and talks with Grammy Award winner and former NPR host Chris Thile about his new record and returning to live music.
Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: Drab, dreary and cold. They aren’t words you’d normally use to describe Memorial Day weekend in the Berkshires. But the weather wasn’t the only thing unique about Saturday, May 29th in Pittsfield.
Ticket-taker: Ok, I just need to confirm your phone number?
Ross Lippman: At Berkshire Theatre Group, fans are filing in with one major difference.
Ticket-taker: And we’re just asking patrons tonight if they have been fully vaccinated?
Theater Goer: We’re all vaccinated.
Ticket-taker: All vaccinated. Good to hear! Okay.
Ross Lippman: Masks are now optional.
Kathy Jo Grover, Berkshire Theatre Group: For vaccinated people, masks are encouraged but not required. For non vaccinated people, they’re still advised, as is distancing.
Ross Lippman: May 29th marked the largest step in Massachusetts reopening after 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Usher: All the way down the hallway. Enjoy the show!
Ross Lippman: All businesses can reopen at 100 percent capacity, including theaters. There is also no longer an order for face coverings. Instead, an advisory.
Kathy Jo Grover: The only constant is change. And that’s very true with the COVID and it’s also true in theater. So, live theater especially. You don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next, so you have to be ready for anything.
Usher # 2: Hello, how are you? Welcome. Welcome.
Ross Lippman: When the pandemic was shuttering theaters across the country, BTG improvised with its outside under the tent series of concerts, plays and musicals.
Now, the tent faces its biggest litmus test to date for the first time, with fully visible faces in the crowd. Tonight, they’re eagerly waiting to see Grammy Award winner and former NPR host Chris Thile.
Chris Thile, Musician: The pandemic has affected musicians like it’s affected all of us, just a total sea change. It was…it was like something out of a movie to see the schedule just evaporate.
Chris Thile: Nothing matters, we’re live music-ing.
Ross Lippman: Thile is back on the road with a limited number of shows for his new record “Lay Songs.”
Chris Thile: That our souls are untethered and nothing’s sacred. Or profane.
Chris Thile: This is actually the first truly solo thing that I’ve that I’ve made. And that felt very appropriate given everything that was going on. And certainly some of the the lines of thought that I feel like we were all pursuing during this time.
It’s a questioning record, let’s say. And music in general, I think, is better at asking questions than it is at answering them.
Chris Thile: My mind is troubled. My mind is trouble and so is my lover’s….
Ross Lippman: Now a question Thile and musicians all over will be able to answer is what it finally feels like to be back on a stage performing in front of live crowds.
Chris Thile: How are you? I feel like we haven’t seen each other in forever. You doing all right? I’m so, so glad you’re here.
Chris Thile: I’ve been doing this professionally since I was seven years old. And while I…identify as someone who doesn’t take it for granted, someone who still loves it after all this time, I know now that I have absolutely been guilty of of of undervaluing any opportunity to play music with and for people.
And so, if there’s a silver lining to all of this, from my perspective, it’s that I will never take the company of my fellow human beings for granted ever.
Ross Lippman: Berkshire Theatre Group still has a summer’s worth of shows to go. And as Massachusetts continues to move forward with reopening, their goal is to find the right balance so patrons can feel safe. And as they have for the last year and a half, that the show goes on.
Kathy Jo Grover: We’re very grateful that we’ve been able to provide theater throughout the entire year, throughout the whole process of COVID. Our patrons have been very — I’m getting a little misty- – have been very grateful as well.
And so we just hope that they’ll keep coming back and exploring with us and being safe and giving us their input so that we can make it the best experience that they could possibly have.
Chris Thile: Thank you so much! Thank you!