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The appeal of Hidden Hills is far from obscure

"The Bully Pulpit," written and performed by Michael O. Smith, will take the stage July 5-15 at the Chester Theatre Company. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Lori O'Brien


For area residents who enjoy taking the back roads to find unique shops or ways to entertain the kids, a visit through the "Hidden Hills" is ideal anytime during the year.

In the summer, of course, the region of 15 contiguous towns especially comes alive with a host of activities and events that can appeal to all ages.

The Hidden Hills stretch from Williamsburg to Becket, Plainfield to Russell and Otis to Westhampton. The "hidden" aspect gets its reputation from the fact there are no interstate highway exits anywhere in the region so back roads are a must to get to destinations.

Scenic attractions are one of the must sees through the towns and areas of interest include the Arunah Hill Natural Science Center and the Bryant Homestead, both in Cummington, the Chesterfield Gorge, Glendale Falls in Middlefield and the Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Haydenville. Other scenic attractions include the McLennan Reservation in Otis, the Notchview Reservation in Windsor, and Sanderson Brook Falls in Chester.

Also unique to the area are the historic railroad arch bridges in Middlefield which are difficult to reach so visitors must hike in to view them. The entire journey to view "The Arches" is about four miles and arrangements to view them are recommended.

For theater goers, the Chester Town Hall magically becomes a small intimate theater seating up to 150 in the hall's main meeting room by late June.

"The intimacy of the setting adds to the theatergoers experience," said Jenny Schoenborn, managing director of the Chester Theatre Company, during an interview with Reminder Publications. "It's as if you are on stage yourself, talking and interacting with the characters themselves."

Schoenborn said the theater company offers "thought-provoking, discussion-provoking plays" that address issues that concern us as a society and that inspire new thinking.

"We present these issues in an exciting, engaging and immediate fashion," she added. "Our theater produces theater that rivals the best the area has to offer."

This year's slate of plays deals with issues of aging, identity, class, faith and love in its many guises, according to Schoenborn, who elaborated on "Teddy Roosevelt's love of nature, family and country; the love that binds mothers and daughters; romantic love, and our instinct for loving God" as the basis for this summer's offerings.

Schoenborn noted that the Chester Theatre Company, formerly the Miniature Theater of Chester, "produces plays that present thoughtful scripts with terrific actors in a small intimate setting. This is what our theater supporters have come to love and expect."

Theater offerings will include "The Bully Pulpit," a funny journey into the complex persona of Teddy Roosevelt, July 5 - 15; "The Interview," a story of mothers and daughters forgiving and being forgiven, July 18 - 29; "Mercy of a Storm," a puzzle of twists, turns and surprises served up in a champagne cocktail of sexy, comic romance and "Grace," a story of neighbors weaving tales of sin and forgiveness.

Just up the road from the Chester Theatre Company is the world renown Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, celebrating its 75th season this summer.

"This season is a perfect opportunity to show the world just how great the Pillow is and just how fun dance can be," said Ella Baff, executive director.

Baff noted that the Pillow has 15 works new to the world or to America, and six debuts by companies that have never been seen in the United States.

"For the Pillow's 75th season a number of companies, including the Royal Danish Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, and the always intoxicating Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, have developed shows that will literally never be seen again," added Baff.

Baff said one "remarkable show" is "Invisible Wings," a work developed especially for the Pillow that takes visitors across the lush campus at night and shows true-to-life scenes based on its history as a station on the Underground Railroad.

"You simply must see it to believe it," she said.

Baff noted that it's important to see as much as you can in the Berkshires because "this place is so full of inspiration from art to music to theater, it's all there." She also stressed that the Pillow plays a valuable role during the summer season.

"We show the best dance companies anywhere, period," she said. "But we're also for nature lovers hiking our Wetlands Trail, foodies eating in our caf , families sampling movement at Inside/Out, art lovers with our exhibits, scholars with our archives. The list goes on!"

The Pillow's 11th annual Community Day is slated July 28 and is a perfect time to experience a sampling of all the offerings.

"Parents have told me they plan summer vacations around that single event," said Baff, adding, "which does my heart proud."

Audiences can do as much as they want in a full day at the Pillow take a picnic onto the Great Lawn, catch one of 40 free performances on the lush outdoor stage Inside/Out, hear a dance critic explain why a choreographer chose a certain step, see the latest in the cutting-edge Dutch dance scene (for example) in one of the theaters, and talk with interns and dancers after the show in the homey Pillow Pub.

"These are experiences that simply can't be had anywhere else," said Baff, adding, "and they're largely free."

For a complete schedule of the Pillow's summer season, visit

The Hidden Hills Web site also features background on a host of events ranging from the Sevenars Concerts in Worthington and the Littleville Fair in Chester to the Middlefield Agricultural Fair and Cummington Fair. In addition, a complete list of businesses including campgrounds, bed and breakfast inns, restaurants and shops can be found on the website, as well as scenic bike routes, canoe and kayaking options and hiking trails.

The best way to reach the Hidden Hills from the Springfield area is to take U.S. Route 20 West through Westfield and when you arrive in Russell, take Route 23 to Blandford and Otis or stay on Route 20 to Huntington and follow signs for your preferred destination.

For a map and a complete list of businesses and activities throughout the Hidden Hills, visit