I’ve been enamored with Williamstown Theatre Festival (their unfortunate acronym is WTF) for years, without ever setting foot in the bucolic western Massachusetts hamlet — namely due to their boundary-pushing plays and high caliber of artists drawn to return summer after summer. Theater people talk about Williamstown the way I talk about summer camp: as a formative experience that bonds people together for life. If you’ve spent a summer there, it’s a stamp of approval that lets people know you’re in a special club. Two years ago I even applied to work here (the seasonal gigs are mostly reserved for recent college grads) but it never got to the interview stage. I was glad to finally visit Williamstown in person this summer to take in a show and soak up the atmosphere for a few hours.
Williamstown, MA is home to Williams College and it has a small college town vibe. There is a charming main street with restaurants and coffee shops. Art is prominent with sculptures and statues dotting the big green lawns around the college. It’s all so pleasant.
Here is the main building for Williamstown Theatre Festival:
Relaxing lawn area:
Shortly before the matinee performance, they featured a Lawn Talk with longtime Williamstown alum and Chekhov scholar Steve Lawson, moderated by WTF Associate Artistic Director Laura Savia.
Steve talked about a book called The Actor’s Chekhov: Interviews with Nikos Psacharopoulos and the Company of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, on the Plays of Anton Chekhov. It is currently sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read!
That afternoon I saw a play called Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow by Halley Feiffer, based on Chekhov’s The Three Sisters and told with hyper-modern language. I utterly loved it. I’d seen a staged reading of The Three Sisters before so I was somewhat familiar with the plot, but Feiffer’s take on the story brought it into sharp focus and made it relatable in a fresh way. The play starred Thomas Sadoski (one of my favorite stage actors), Tavi Gevinson, Cristin Milioti, Rebecca Henderson, Jeanine Serralles, Ryan Spahn, and Micah Stock.
Before and after the show, I spent time on the main street with shops and restaurants:
I loved Tunnel City Coffee — I grabbed a quick bite here before the show, and stopped in again afterwards for more coffee. I saw a bunch of the cast members here.
And I got dinner at The Log, where I also saw cast members from the play — Williamstown has such a small town vibe.
Fish & chips for dinner in a nearly empty dining room (it was like 5pm):
While waiting for my meal I flipped through my program from the play and saw photos of this very room! Apparently some of the Williamstown late night music shows are held here on this stage:
So that was my first visit (hopefully of many) to Williamstown, MA. So glad to finally be acquainted with this legendary town in the theater community.