The Barrington Stage Company workshopped “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” in a small, 80-seat space in its old Sheffield offices.
“We brought these actors up in the middle of the winter,” says Julianne Boyd, founder and artistic director of the company. “It was like doing ‘The Shining.’ The actors were like, ‘we’re from New York, we’re not used to being on these strange, dark roads at night, with ice!’”
But after the first performance in February 2004, Boyd says, “I can’t remember ever seeing a more euphoric audience.”
A year later, the musical was on Broadway — and Boyd’s company was on the map.
Barrington Stage has since moved to Pittsfield, serving as a cultural landmark for the entire region and an important community resource.
Among Boyd’s most significant contributions: the nationally recognized Playwright Mentoring Project, which pulls together small groups of at-risk teenagers for several months at a time, and turns their struggles into a series of scenes they perform at their schools.
“These kids,” she says, “they just need to be heard.”
Boyd has provided the megaphone.