The Mahaiwe Theater has been a treasured presence in the Berkshires’ town of Great Barrington since it opened in 1904. Classical design, notable interior ornamental plasterwork, and Pennsylvania pressed Roman brick on the exterior made the 750-seat theatrer a rival to its counterparts across the country. Designed by James McArthur Vance as a vaudeville theater, it was renovated in 1931 for motion pictures.
In 2000, the Berkshire Opera Company became the building’s owners and commissioned Hugh Hardy to restore the Mahaiwe and to develop an annex building to serve as a reception and gallery space, with staff offices on the second floor.
Although the theater boasts good natural acoustics and excellent sight lines, it currently lacks support space and air conditioning, is not ADA compliant, and the lighting, equipment, and stage equipment are not up to functional standards.
The restoration included functional improvements, including excavation for a lower-level lobby and restroom facilities; creation of an orchestra pit and a modern stage-rigging system; upgraded electrical service; and a life-safety system.
Patron improvements included renewal of interior finishes in the public spaces; new lighting, seating, and a stage curtain; addition of dressing rooms and a green room; and wheelchair accessibility.
The renovated Mahaiwe now provides a fitting presence for the Berkshire Opera Company in the region.