On a quiet side street in Great Barrington’s bustling downtown, the Mahaiwe (pronounced Ma-hay-wee) theater and its magnificent marquee take center stage in the town’s newly-designated Cultural District. Originally opened in 1905 as a vaudeville house, the theater has also, in its history, served as a movie house. In 2005, it reopened its doors as the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, a nonprofit founded by Lola Jaffe, who had a vision for a cultural center that would bring the community together. The Mahaiwe completed an extensive renovation plan 2006. Since then, the venue has become one of the region’s premier year-round destinations for music, dance, theater and film.
Executive Director Beryl Jolly has been involved with the Mahaiwe since the first night of its reopening. She says her move to the Berkshires from New York City—where she had been working on and off Broadway, for the New York Shakespeare Festival, and for the BAM Academy of Music—was specifically by choice. “I loved New York City,” Jolly says, “but I didn’t want to raise my family there. I majored in theater at Brandeis and interned at the Williamstown Theater Festival. I so loved my time here and had spent a few years looking for ways to live and work here when the job opened up at the Mahaiwe.”
“We have so many world-class experiences of the caliber found in any big city, with a small-town scale,” Jolly continues. “It’s a tremendously-rich and rewarding and beautiful place to live and to work, with a very interesting and supportive community for families and creative, artsy people. There are so many resources for children and education and fascinating individuals from all kinds of backgrounds. I love it. There’s no other place like it!”