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Mastering the moments: The early years of the Williamstown Theatre Festival

William Charles Henjum, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Local business became an early partner of the Williamstown Theatre Foundation, organized in 1954 for the purpose of establishing a summer theatre on the Williams College campus. Community support mobilized and $11,500 was raised. Ralph Renzi managed the campaign for funds and support, David Bryant planned the season, and Irwin Schainman handled the finances. Nikos Psacharopoulos, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, shared directorial responsibilities. Luckily, the enterprise received an endorsement from Cole Porter and a local-girl-turned-celebrity returned home to star in the inaugural production. ^ Many of the first Broadway hits like The Crucible, and The Rainmaker. Throughout the summer, critics were encouraging. For Ondine, Nikos secured costumes from the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of 1954, an artistic coup that saved the season. ^ Just three months later, David Bryant was driven from Williamstown by scandal, and Nikos Psacharopoulos assumed artistic control. Things changed. Plays for the second season were chosen from a survey of college audiences and community supporters. The publicity expanded its boundaries to include Albany, New York, and Springfield, Mass. Mid-season, audiences dwindled, and the summer theatre called desperately for help at the box office. Audiences returned, and the enterprise broke even. ^ Nikos Psacharopoulos lived the rest of his life as artistic director, and his theatrical family grew. Under Nikos' guidance, the Williamstown Theatre Festival has earned a national reputation for producing plays of the world's greatest playwrights, like Shaw, Chekhov, and Tennessee Williams. ^ The early years set the stage for success. ^

Subject Area

American Studies|History, United States|Business Administration, Marketing|Theater

Recommended Citation

Henjum, William Charles, "Mastering the moments: The early years of the Williamstown Theatre Festival" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9976994.