When the curtain comes down on Moliere's "The Learned Ladies" on March 25, Tina Packer will start packing up to head to Boston to direct a play for Shakespeare & Company alumnus Allyn Burrows, the artistic director of the Actors Shakespeare Project.
Her next stop: Boulder, Colo., to spend the summer with that city's Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
Then it's on to Prague, Czech Republic, to do Shakespeare there.
In both Colorado and Prague, she will be staging "Women of Will," her five-part opus focusing on Shakespeare's heroines, along with S&Co. collaborator Nigel Gore.
What you will not find on Packer's itinerary is a production with the Lenox troupe for which she was the founding artistic director. As S&Co. celebrates its 35th anniversary season, its guiding light for more than three decades will be largely absent.
Although Packer stepped down from the artistic director role a couple of years ago, she still has been a presence on the campus the last two summers -- directing "The Taster" in 2010 and starring in the one-woman "Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins" last year.
During a late January interview to promote "Ladies" with co-director Jenna Ware, Packer discussed her experience as an emeritus artistic director and her decision to spend this summer away from Lenox:
Advocate: It was strange sitting through the season announcement and not hearing your
TINA PACKER. Got rid of her at last!
Advocate: When was the last summer you weren't on the campus?
TP: Thirty-six years ago.
Advocate: There was no year when you took a sabbatical or anything like that?
JENNA WARE: Well, she's not taking a sabbatical this summer either. She's taking a break from us.
Advocate: But the obvious question is why?
TP: A couple of reasons. I'm really working toward getting ‘Women of Will' into New York. So I need to keep on working on it, finding places that will let me do it so I can keep on developing it.
Because it's five separate evenings, it's a lot of work, and it's a big commitment for a theater company.
So I found two theater companies who were up for it -- The Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder and the Prague (Summer Shakespeare Festival).
They were willing to let me work on it, and one is in the summer, and one is in the fall. That is principally because I'm going off to do that.
I'm also on the last three or four (Shakespeare) plays I haven't directed yet, so I'm looking for places to do those. This spring, I'm going off to do "Troilus and Cressida" for Allyn Burrows at the Actors Shakespeare Project. Allyn Burrows was a leading actor here for years. ... I'm going there to direct a play for them.
If someone else offers me ‘Cymbeline,' I'll probably go off and do it. But that's not my priority. My priority is to get ‘Women of Will' finished and into New York. That takes a lot of focus and attention. It's one reason I stepped aside. ... And the book is coming out as well, so I have to do work with that.
Advocate: Is it difficult to step aside?
TP: I do find it difficult. I find it difficult not to interfere. But Tony (Simotes) is doing a very good job.
I think it will be excellent me not being here. My husband, Dennis Krausnick, is playing King Lear. I think it's good that I'm not here while he's doing it, and he has the house to himself. I'll be back in the middle of August, so I'll be back in time for the second half of the season.
Advocate: Has it been an adjustment for you to be here and not be the artistic director?
TP: It's weird as shit. But it also is a blessing. I also love it. ... I was mortified when I realized what I'd done today (arriving late for this interview), but if I'd been the artistic director, I would have felt the responsibility not just between me and you, but I would have felt I'd let the whole company down.
I would be carrying the weight of the whole company. In this case, it's just me and thee.
What I'm trying to do (with "Women of Will") is hard work. I don't know if you've ever tried to really set it up so you can take five plays into New York. It only has two people in it, but it's still a lot of work.
JW: It's also nice to have you acting again because when you were the artistic director you almost never had time to just act. It was particularly nice for me because I got to direct a lot. But I think that was a nice experience for us and for the audience as well to have you acting again.
TP: I did "Molly Ivins," which was great fun, and "Women of Will," of course, I've been doing.
JW: Last summer I directed Tina in "Red Hot Patriot," and then the last two summers, we did "Shirley Valentine." ... When Tina does a one-woman show, I'm there.
TP: It's good because then when we're (directing "Learned Ladies" together), we don't really struggle much at all.