For the past 13 years, many of the original musicals performed by Island Theatre Workshop (ITW) have been the result of the creative talents of its musical director, Linda Berg. Since 2005, Ms. Berg has served as the director of the Children's Theatre (a division of ITW), a position from which she is retiring.
As music director, Ms. Berg wrote original scores for adult productions, and for Children's Theatre, which rehearses and performs at the Sailing Camp, she composed songs and taught them to the young actors.
"She did her best to fit her music into the lyrics that were given to her by the young staff members," remembers artistic director Lee Fierro. "Sometimes this was easy and sometimes this was difficult. Many of them hadn't written lyrics before. But Linda somehow made it all work."
Kevin Ryan, ITW's board vice president, says, "When you look at over 10 years as music director and three summers as director of Children's Theatre - that's about 1,000 kids she's interacted with - a huge number of people that have been impacted by her. We feel that that's something worth honoring."
Photo by Susan Safford
Time for payback.
This Saturday, Nov. 1, ITW will host a potluck dinner at the Sailing Camp in Oak Bluffs to honor Ms. Berg. Activities are being planned to highlight her contributions. While she will be retiring from her current position, she will continue contributing her musical talents as the need arises.
When she became Director of the Children's Theatre, she began writing and directing four original musicals each season. Ms. Berg wrote the book, lyrics, and music for such productions as "Billy and the Angel," and "The Sleeping Prince." Her play "Beanstalk! The Musical!" was recently published by Baker's Plays.
Says Ms. Berg, "I feel very passionately about theater for children. I've seen young people who were so shy that they could barely work up enough courage to go on stage become these stellar performers. It makes all that hard work worthwhile to see a child bloom like that. It happened every year."
Ms. Berg's contributions have not been limited to ITW. For years she's been involved with the Vineyard Playhouse, acting, composing, and directing. She wrote an original score for their production of "Arthur's Christmas." She is also the music director and organist for the West Tisbury Congregation Church and its Gospel Choir, as well as a piano and vocal coach.
Says Ms. Fierro, "Linda is such a talented person in so many ways. She thinks, she acts, she directs, she writes, she composes. She's bursting with talent all over the place, and we've been really, really fortunate to have her."
Mary Payne founded Island Theatre Workshop 40 years ago. It quickly evolved from a summer theater workshop into a year-round program for teenagers and adults. Following the death of Ms. Payne in 1996, Lee Fierro became artistic director, and Ms. Berg took over as musical director. "She was a wonderful partner to me after Mary died," says Ms. Fierro. "I couldn't have done it without Linda."
"One of the other things about the program that was especially nice for me was working with our Carnegie Mellon theater majors," remembers Ms. Berg. "It was good for the kids too, to be with such talented young people who are so serious about a career in theater. And I'll miss working with the junior and senior staff - our Mug umps. These are young people who over the years have grown up in Children's Theatre, stayed in the program, and could probably run it on their own at this point."
For the potluck on Saturday, from 2-5 pm, guests are asked to bring their favorite fall dish along with the recipe, which will be put together into a cookbook to be given to Ms. Berg. The ITW board will provide desserts and beverages.
"She's a very informal and relaxed person," says Mr. Ryan. "So it's really going to be about people coming and being able to spend the afternoon with her."
Retirement Party for Linda Berg, Saturday, Nov. 1, 2-5 pm, Sailing Camp, Oak Bluffs. Bring a dish to share.