Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

through the arbor of leaves

with 2 comments

…the town of Great Barrington is about a two and a half hour drive north of Manhattan, in the lower western corner of Massachusetts, settled in a part of the smooth, tall rolling collection of mountains, hills, forests and pastures of the Berkshires.

Joe Cacaci drove, while Carol Schneider, a warm and wonderful playwright, and I, as passengers, spent the trip nattering about Joe, as if he wasn’t there, and talking about our profession, which we both felt was in dire straits, as production companies fight for funding and make choices which strangle opportunity for nurturing originality and new voices. Which would bring us back to nattering about Joe, and the Berkshire Playwrights Lab, a group that really puts their effort behind their mission, to nurture and platform, new and original voices in theatre.

Both Carol and I have pieces being done in BPL’s Gala Night presentation, and we are both in Great Barrington to participate in the series of rehearsals and fetings BPL has facilitated to launch their third year season.

But once in the corner of Massachusetts, we all find ourselves silenced by the woods and fields we roll through.

The green is deep, lush and almost silken in the light mist of an afternoon cloud spritzing.. A cow pasture on the right appears, and reveals a procession of black, stolid cows, munching and moving at a walking pace, following the lone figure of a young man, hands in his pockets, in sweater and jeans, leading the herd to a maze, just ahead, that will leave them in a lower field of heavy green..

The towns slip by, announced by markers which invariably state the date of incorporation as sometime in the 1700’s.. Tall trees part to permit settlement, but remain predominant, and the thick damp scent of pine and mulch permeate the interior of the car..

Last year was my first experience with BPL and Great Barrington, and I was housed at The Egremont Inn, a tavern, coach and carriage house built in the late 1700’s. Tragedy consumed the place this past winter, as an electrical fire broke out, late at night, and incinerated the place to its foundations. Luckily no one was hurt, but the building no longer exists.

For this time we’re put up at the Wainwright Inn. Built as an Inn and Tavern in 1766, the house was used as a fort and colonial armory during the American Revolution. It was bought, in 1790, by State Representative David Wainwright, and then became known as Wainwright Hall. He passed it onto his daughter and son-in-law, Electra and Ebenezer Popes, whose son, Franklin, grew up to become an accomplished inventor; as well as being co-inventor of the ticker tape, he worked for a time with Thomas Edison.

..I am ensconced in Mr Pope’s second floor, corner room, sitting at a writing desk, where an arbor of thick Maple leaves screen the morning sun, before light sieves through the large clear windows..

The couple who own the Inn, Robert and Marja Tepper, are Dutch, and have had the property for over ten years. It is an incredible experience being in this home.. or sitting on the warp around porch.. The bedrooms are all quiet and cozy and have thimble post, poster beds.. made for deep dreaming rest..  Sofas and chairs are of a ‘period’ comfort –eclectic, Colonial, European.. There is a commanding fireplace in the front parlor, and an upright piano, beside which is a basket, filled with music books. Although it is spring and not cold enough for a fire, the last one lit remains as a smoldering aroma..

..everything about this B&B is about creating a sense of ‘destination’ and repose.. The dining room looks out onto a large green, and in front of the main windows are two wrought iron feeders, serving an incredible variety of beautiful birds which swoop, perch and pick.. Flowers on the tables are all from the garden.. A large vase of mixed roses laze into another day, ripe with scent, and softened by the bit of time they have spent cut already..

Marja presides in this oasis.. She is keen to make sure every detail of the house will encourage every visitor to relax and enjoy this home base.. Breakfast is served every morning from 8-9:30.. And it is the first feast. Always home fashioned. I’d mentioned a fondness for a Dutch holiday treat, Oliebollen (a deep fried dough ball of currants, covered in powdered sugar). Reminding me that having Oliebollen at any time other than New Year’s was bad luck, Marja proceeded to fashion a variant of the treat for breakfast, and served it with poached apples in a sweet syrup.. Bliss!

Everything out of the kitchen is prepared by Marja and her co-chef Daryl. The bread is home made, and the sinful orange marmalade is the result of many hours cooking, steady stirring, and weeks settling.. Yes, this all sounds great and indulgent.. and it is. But it is the warmth of the Wainwright Inn’s host and hostess which make this B&B the most perfect and incredible experience, in an area replete with vintage B&B’s, and culinary competition. Marja and Robert are.. well.. gracious, giving and content individuals, who like sharing their enjoyment of life..

The BPL group have engaged a handful of places to house the artists involved with this Gala event. The artists included in this are Dan Lauria, Treat Williams, Elizabeth Franz, James DeMarse, Charles Socarides, Vasili Bogazianos, Chris Stack, Kristen Johnston, Ted Sod, Pepper Binkley, Jessica Dickey, Lauren Ambrose, and Joe Paulik. Jay Thomas, and his wife Sally are also here, staying at the Wainwright. The writers involved are Anna Zeigler, Kelly Masterson, Gina Barnett, Dean Imperial, Carol Schneider and I. Joe Cacaci also has a short piece in the roster.

Rehearsals began yesterday. Dan and Jay are in my piece, called Groundwork. It was wonderful watching these two good friends find their legs in my words, and bring off the page more than I’d envisioned, snapping up the humor and dishing it out with relish.

We rehearsed today on stage, in the Mahaiwe. Tomorrow afternoon is tech, and tomorrow night –a definite Gala! Photos to come..

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2 Responses

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  1. Hi Tom!
    What a beautiful description of driving through the Berkshires. As much as I love London, and the city life, there’s nothing quite like zooming along gentle green and brown hills…
    Looking forward to reading more!
    -Abby

    Abby Edber

    May 23, 2010 at 12:31 PM

  2. Wonderful descriptions of air and terra firma. I very much enjoyed the drive from Manhattan and the interaction with Robert and Marja at the B&B. Who doesn’t love baked doughy treats? Having your work interpreted/presented must be both satisfying and overwhelming. Keep the work coming!

    Tim Johnson

    May 22, 2010 at 9:45 PM


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