Shine Some Light

Dear Mahaiwe Friend,

I am thinking of you, and hoping you are safe and well.  All of us at the Mahaiwe miss you and wish we could know how you are.  Trusting that you will also want to know how the Mahaiwe is, here is what we are doing to keep the Mahaiwe safe and well.

The Mahaiwe is shuttered for now, and our ghost light is on.  In keeping with theatrical tradition, we are leaving a single light – known as the ghost light – shining on the stage, now that the theater is empty.  There are safety reasons and plenty of lore surrounding this habit, but its meaning is clear:  The light stays on as a promise that any pause is temporary, and we will be back for the next show.  When the time comes, we will unplug the ghost light, blaze the marquee, and once again provide a space for the unifying forces of art to flourish.  For now, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center’s light shines hopefully in the auditorium.  It is a good image to keep in the mind’s eye as we collectively face hard truths.

The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is a purely place-based non-profit, and so the necessary current prohibitions against gatherings also stand in the way of the Mahaiwe’s very purpose.  The Mahaiwe is an historic building that is loved precisely because it underscores who we are when we are together; envelopes us with extraordinary experiences and enlarges the special moments of daily life; is sacred ground for the connection between artists and audiences; and is a meeting point for old friends and new acquaintances.  It is where we feel the resonance of private joys and pains and, in an audience, know them as universal.

This theater, that exists for and ultimately belongs to the public, with its doors open to all and its offerings reaching across ages, interests, and price points – is a public trust.  In 1905, in a town of less than 6,000, a small group of civic-minded business people built it and installed 1,000 seats, with optimism and faith.  In the 30s, it was reincarnated by the Raifstanger family in a pivot from vaudeville to movie house.  In the 90s, Abby Schroeder and a small band of citizens saved it from the wrecking ball by creating a historic overlay district and convincing a distant corporate owner to sell.  In the early part of this century, Lola Jaffe and many of you and your friends, rescued it again, by rolling up sleeves, pounding on doors and never relenting.  In 2008, everyone held on tight and eventually climbed to the surface with good strategy and bold fundraising.  The Mahaiwe has seen and withstood the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, two World Wars, and near demolition because its community valued the art on its stage and the shared moments in its hall, and ensured its existence.

What is more, as a staple of the Berkshire economy, with an $8.6 million annual economic footprint, the Mahaiwe directly and indirectly supports the equivalent of more than 100 full-time jobs, so for that reason, too, it must endure.  In the near term, closure means no work for an army of contractors and gig-economy workers who make shows happen.  When tides turn, our diverse and year-round programming will mean the lights can come back on quickly, and we need to ensure that we are able to do so.  We are losing revenue every week, while continuing to pay core staff, utilities, insurance, and other necessary costs.  In response, we are conserving resources and applying for loans and grants, and we will need even more help than that.  We have been happily surprised and deeply touched by each gesture of encouragement and generosity that members of this community have already made.  If you are able to provide additional help now, here are some ways you can shine some light:

  • Make a special gift to the Mahaiwe’s SHINE SOME LIGHT FUND. Click here or send your tax-deductible donation to the Advancement Office, Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, PO Box 690, Great Barrington, MA 01230 and earmark it SHINE SOME LIGHT. For questions or more information, contact or 413.644.9040 x123.
  • If you have tickets to a show that has been canceled or postponed, donate your tickets back to the Mahaiwe as a contribution by contacting the Box Office at 413-528-0100 or
  • Tell us what you miss about the Mahaiwe so we can share it on social media. Tag us in your posts on Facebook (“Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center”), and Instagram and Twitter (“@themahaiwe”).

Thank you, always, for what you have done over the years to befriend the Mahaiwe.  Until we see you, we are keeping the light on.

Be well,

Janis Martinson
Acting Executive Director

PS:  If you have a minute to let me know how you are doing, email me at