The artful mind for issuu com aug 2014

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off katZ Sara the frinGe on

Harryet Candee: Are you ready for this eventful summer in the Berkshires? What are some of your fun plans? Sara Katzoff: absolutely! the Berkshire fringe is something i look forward to and plan all year and my favorite moment of the entire summer is happening right now. artists have started to arrive from all over the world and our season is in full swing. this year, we have over 30 performances, free concerts and workshops happening now through august 18 as part of the Berkshire fringe’s 10thanniversary. we are celebrating with a massive kickoff party august 2nd. featuring live performances, food, drink and a huge dance party in our new digs at Shire city Sanctuary. our galas are so much fun and they always draw a really exciting mix of audiences. definitely a highlight of the summer!

What were you busy with during the winter months in terms of preparing for Fringe? Sara: this winter and spring i was focused on our move to pittsfield and envisioning the fringe in a completely new city and venue. it’s been a big change for the festival and one that all of us and our artists are really excited about it. we have met so many incredible, creative people and everyone has been so welcoming. it’s really inspiring to be a part of the creative energy and momentum that is taking shape all over the city. What makes this summer’s line up different? Sara: for our tenth season we are presenting a ‘best of the fest’ retrospective of works by some of our favorite artists and ensembles that have performed at the fringe over the past decade. artists include the wardrobe ensemble from Bristol, uk, under the table from Brooklyn, the pi clowns from San francisco and dan Bernitt from lexington, ky. these artists are in residence with us here in pittsfield performing at the fringe and also developing new work. two of the companies who are here are each performing two very different shows. it presents a rare opportunity for audiences to see how a group of collaborators work and train together to approach and perform not just a particular play but a body of work they have written and generated as a company over several years.

Do you personally know many of the actors? Sara: yes. we have about 40 performers and musicians at the fringe and i have the incredible pleasure of knowing all of them. i’m really excited to be celebrating them and reintroducing their work to the Berkshires. 8• auGuSt 2014 the artful Mind

How did Fringe start? Sara: during my junior year of college, i traveled to california to perform and train with a theater company called dell’arte. while i was on the west coast, i observed how dell’arte drew artists from all over the world and attracted a huge community of supporters of all ages and backgrounds. it was really inspiring. as artists who grew up (or attended college) in the Berkshires, my collaborators (peter wise and ryan olson) had experienced how our peers were not attending live theater and cultural events because performances were often too expensive and the content was not particularly relevant to them. when i returned from california, i approached ryan and peter about starting a theater festival that would change that and the fringe began to take form. over the last ten years we have built a festival that is committed to presenting high quality, financially accessible and adventurous new works by fresh, emerging ensembles from around the globe. i think the work we do inspires audiences to think about theater in a completely different way. I find the Berkshires a great place for making really good friends, networking and carrying out creative endeavors, like no other place I have lived. Do you agree? How has all this taken shape for you in terms of friendships, creative projects and connections you have made here? It’s almost like a mecca for art gatherings! Sara: i’ve lived all over the united States and i absolutely agree that the Berkshires are truly unique. Several of the most significant artistic collaborations and partnerships in my life have emerged from living and making work here. having grown up in the area, i am also grateful to have traveled, lived and worked elsewhere. Spending time away gave me perspective and allowed me to appreciate how incredible it is here. the Berkshires are a wonderful place but it can be challenging to make a living, particularly as a young professional and an artist. it’s a huge issue for our region right now and certainly one of the many reasons my collaborators and i felt so strongly about coming home and starting the fringe here. we wanted to create more opportunities for emerging artists and new audiences. How would you describe our community up here in the Berkshires to someone, say, from Alaska, who may be thinking of moving here? Sara: as Sarah Bernhardt said, “life begets life, energy creates energy...” there is something almost indescribable about this partic-

R. Jacoub Photography

ular part of the world and why so many creative minds have thrived here for centuries. Beyond the natural beauty and cultural bounty, the Berkshires are truly a surreal place filled with the most interesting, generous and inspiring people you will ever meet. there are so many unsung entrepreneurs, artists, teachers and farmers who work with tireless passion to build and give back to this community and they do so with no expectation of recognition or reward. these are the real heroes of this region and i think what they are generating is one of the many reasons so many other creative people are drawn to the Berkshires and chose to make a life here.

About Fringe, what keeps this small theatre a happening upscale venue? Who are the creative thinkers behind the scenes? Sara: i actually wouldn’t consider the fringe an ‘upscale’ venue--though it certainly is a happening one! part of our work and our mission as an organization is to dispel the notion that theater is something that is only available or of interest to a specific kind or demographic of person. My collaborators and i believe that theater is for everyone and it should be celebrated and enjoyed as such. we have certainly worked to build an artistic home for emerging artists but we have also created a place where all kinds of audiences feel welcome.

What have some of the challenges and struggles you have encountered along the way? Do you think most are in hindsight and now green pastures are on the horizon for the next bunch of years? Sara: Being an artist and an artistic director has always meant needing to be creative, flexible, innovative and open to embracing all kinds of challenges. that never stops, nor would i want it to! what i do want is for the process of funding the arts to be less of a constant challenge. artists are rarely paid living wages and that needs to change. that change starts with putting an end to the exoticism of the “struggling artist” which is an image that a lot of us are taught to accept as the reality of doing what we love. when you do what you love, people assume you are willing to do it for free and when you are starting out, you need opportunities. the down side of that is there is an expectation that you don’t have to compensate artists. while the arts are certainly appreciated, they are not always valued as something worth paying for. the arts are vital and valuable and those who make art deserve to be compensated fairly. that is definitely something i wish i knew in my 20’s. So, to answer your question, the greener pasture i look towards is the emergence