New series, "Storytellers and Songwriters," bows this weekend at Shakespeare & Company

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LENOX — In honor of its 40th season, Shakespeare & Company is launching this weekend a special August event series, "Storytellers and Songwriters."

Each one-night-only event will explore various characters through solo performances by veteran company artists, many including live music and original compositions from musicians and songwriters, including Michi Wiancko, Kris Delmhorst, and BSO Tanglewood Music Composer Fellows.

This series begins Friday with Jonathan Epstein in David Hare's "Via Dolorosa," followed on Saturday by "T.S. Eliot and His Love of Shakespeare" with Allyn Burrows and musical guest, violinist Michi Wiancko, and continues the weekends of Aug. 18 and 25.

All performances begin at 8:30 p.m. in the Tina Packer Playhouse, 70 Kemble St..

"At Shakespeare & Company we celebrate language, connections, and community," artistic director Allyn Burrows says in a news release. "In this unique series of performances, we celebrate the human spirit through music and the spoken word."

In addition to Burrows and Epstein, company artists performing solo pieces include Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Nehassaiu deGannes, Nigel Gore, John Hadden, Tina Packer, and Tod Randolph. Special musical guests include Kris Delmhorst, Bobby Sweet, Vikki True, and the BSO Tanglewood Music Center Fellows.

The events:

- Friday — "Via Dolorosa" by David Hare. Featuring Jonathan Epstein

"Via Dolorosa" is the story of British playwright David Hare's 1997 visit to Israel and Gaza, told by a single actor in a 90-minute chronicle of people, places, and events. As Hare, Jonathan Epstein turns himself into more than 30 different characters, each an impassioned participant in the Arab-Israeli struggle, as the play ranges through London, Tel Aviv, the Settlements, Gaza, and Jerusalem. This performance will be followed by a talkback with Epstein.

- Saturday — "T.S. Eliot and His Love of Shakespeare." Featuring Allyn Burrows; musical guest, Michi Wiancko

Allyn Burrows plays the poet, playwright, literary contrarian, and Nobel Prize winner T.S. Eliot in an exploration of the writer's fascination with language and Shakespeare. The words of the two great poets will be intertwined with the music of celebrated violinist Michi Wiancko, a multi-dimensional violinist, composer, and collaborator.

- Aug. 18 — "Door of No Return." Written and performed by Nehassaiu deGannes

Partly autobiographical, but drawing primarily on historical research and present-day interviews, "Door of No Return" excavates the complex but often silenced multicultural legacies of New England. Drawing on her Caribbean heritage and Canadian upbringing, her visits to West Africa, and her arrival in Rhode Island, Nehassaiu criss-crosses time and space to bring us stories from the 18th century and the Triangle Trade, as well as unexpected contemporary narratives.

- Aug. 19 — "In Light of Jane" by Joan Ackermann. Featuring Tod Randolph; musical guest, Kris Delmhorst

A lighting designer (Randolph) visits an empty theater space two years after a devastating loss, and as she sorts through her memories, the way forward is illuminated in unexpected ways. Blended into the evening is the music of Boston-based singer/songwriter Kris Delmhorst, who also performs an intimate concert.

- Aug. 20 — "Bad Dates" by Theresa Rebeck. Featuring Elizabeth Aspenlieder; musical guest, Vikki True and original recorded compositions by the BSO Tanglewood Music Composer Fellows

"Bad Dates" follows a single mother's idiosyncratic journey of self-discovery which involves the Romanian mob, a Buddhist rainstorm, a teenage daughter, over 600 pairs of shoes, and a few very bad dates. Highlights of the evening will include interwoven music provided by the BSO's Tanglewood Music Composer Fellows, directed by Michael Gandolfi (composition head of the TMC), and local singer Vikki True who will, following Aspenlieder's performance, take center stage for a short set of some of her signature R&B/jazz standards.

- Aug. 25 — "Women of Will" by Tina Packer. Featuring Tina Packer with Nigel Gore.

After three years of traveling the world and a four-month Off-Broadway run, "Women of Will" comes home. By examining passion and intrigue through women's eyes, we see how Shakespeare himself developed as a human being.

- Aug. 26 — "Travels With the Masked Man." Written and performed by John Hadden; musical guest, Bobby Sweet

Founding company member John Hadden performs a 50-minute, one-man show based on his book "Conversations With a Masked Man: My Father, the CIA, and Me." The evening finishes with an intimate concert by local singer/songwriter Bobby Sweet, who also will be contributing music to Hadden's show.

Ticket information is available online at shakespeare.org, or by calling Shakespeare & Company's box office at 413-637-3353.








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