FOCUS ON 2013 CONCLAVE: Mahaiwe Theater, Great Barrington, MA

Our twelfth venue visit on 2013′s Conclave Theatre Tour will be to:
14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA
OPENED: September 26, 1905
ARCHITECT: James McArthur Vance
STYLE: French Renaissance

Following a fire that destroyed an entire block, plans were made to build a series of commercial buildings as well as Great Barrington’s first purpose-built theatre. The opening presentation was a Shubert Brothers production of the Broadway musical Happyland starring De Wolf Hopper (later husband of Hedda Hopper). Between the acts, Hopper performed his most notable piece, a recitation of “Casey at the Bat.” Prices were one dollar for orchestra and balcony and fifty cents and a quarter for seats in the gallery.

Once movies came up on the scene, the Mahaiwe alternated between stage and screen productions. In 1925, the theatre changed hands and plans were made to redecorate the theatre. In 1930, a new Bernkert Simplex carbon projector was installed (and was used until 1980 when it was finally replaced).

The Mahaiwe itself had a moment in the cinematic sun in 1967 when the theatre was used as a location for the Anthony Perkins/Tuesday Weld film Pretty Poison. By the mid-eighties, the theatre’s days as a movie house were numbered and the Hoyts Cinema Corporation made plans to shut down the theatre. A grassroots campaign convinced Hoyts to keep the theatre operating and to upgrade the facility. The city officials created a special historic district aimed mainly at ensuring that the theatre and its building could not be demolished without approval. Between films, community theatre productions and concerts held forth on the stage.

In 1999, the Berkshire Opera Company purchased the theatre but quickly found itself financially unable to restore and operate the theatre and transferred the theatre to a not-for-profit group.

Stunningly restored, 108 years old!

Online registration for Conclave is now closed, but if you’d still like to register, there are a few spots left!
Call THS directly at 630-782-1800 to find out more.

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