Kate Abbott: Berkshires Week celebrates 60 years

Related Article | Timeline of Berkshires Week's 60 years

Hail fell on July 4, with thunderstorms. French troops were pulling out of Hanoi, causing panic in South Viet Nam. The U.S. army announced that it had finally completed its program to desegregate its troops. The Canadian government announced the find of a nesting site for one of the world's last 24 whooping cranes.

It was July 10, 1954. In the Berkshires, Tanglewood was preparing to celebrate Nathaniel Hawthorne's 150th birthday, and the Modern artists George L.K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen had work on display at the Otis Library. And the Berkshire Eagle decided to cover the summer art scene.

Sixty years ago today, this magazine began.

This week, Rachel Fitterman and Christopher Huffaker -- my summer interns -- and I have gone looking for the past. While Rachel has talked with Shakespearean actors, Chris has pored over bound books of back issues, unspooled microfilm and dug into decades of stories.

We swapped notes as we went. He found Sinclair Lewis' bid for a Williams professorship. (Lewis owned a house on Oblong Road in Williamstown and ran his guests ragged.) I told him I'd flagged an ad from the Book Shelf in August 1962 because Robert Frost's daughter ran the shop, and she was announcing a new collection of his poetry, "In the Clearing." Chris found Bill Tague's Eagle Eye photo page of Louis Armstrong performing at the Music Barn in Lenox. And I told him Dizzie Gillespie taught classes on the lawn at the Lenox School of Jazz.

Who knew that Eagle editor Mark Miller once helped playwright Arthur Miller to prime a pump in his fish pond?

After reading those sobering 1954 headlines in the daily paper, I am encouraged to find photographs here of the Dance Theatre of Harlem in its early years, performing at Jacob's Pillow.

And here is Sushil Mukherjee, a painter, print-maker and teacher at Windsor Mountain School in Lenox in 1962, explaining the history of printmaking back to 770 A.D. (and the difference between a print and an original.)

Today I look at all the events I can't fit into these pages. Bang on a Can returns to Mass MoCA to play in the galleries with Teresita Fernandez' skyscapes and Izhar Patkin's veils. Mass Live Arts brings film and performance to Bard College at Simon's Rock. The Norman Rockwell Museum celebrates Edward Hopper.

We have ‘A Great Wilderness' at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Harpeth Rising at the Guthrie Center, Dafnis playing percussion at PS/21, jazz at Bascom Lodge, music from Charlemagne at Tanglewood, live caterpillars at the Berkshire Museum -- a long list.

Saturday at MCLA, Brian jones will perform a play by Howard Zinn, the internationally acclaimed historian who compiled "A People's History of the United States" from the accounts of the kind of people who often don't make it into history books: the Mohican families who caught smallpox from the colonists, the colonists' slaves, the children working in the mills, the strikers and the strike breakers. I wonder what a People's History of the Berkshires might look like.

Looking at the papers around me, I think: It might look like this.


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