The Colonial Theater opened in September of 1903, and for 40 years, offered the residents of Pittsfield, the opportunity to see some of the finest stage actresses, actors, and entertainers of the day. Although the general mores of American society looked down upon "acting" until well into the 20th century, stage careers offered many women opportunities equal to, and sometimes superior to, their male counterparts. As "popular" culture began to emerge in the 20th century, more and more actors and actresses began to acquire national name recognition and celebrity. After a successful run in America's larger East Coast cities, many plays, musicals, and entertainment revues took their shows on the road, performing in small towns during the week, and arriving in big cities for weekend shows. Pittsfield, located on the western edge of Massachusetts, was a prime location for travelling entertainers. Located about halfway between the large markets of Boston and New York City, Pittsfield's Colonial Theater was a regular stop for some of America's most famous early 20th-century entertainers. A remarkable array of big-name women entertainers have graced the Colonial Theater's stage. Ethel Barrymore appeared here, as did Constance Cowl, Maxine Elliot, Anna Held, Lillian Russel, May Irwin, and even Edith Luckett, First Lady Nancy Reagan's mother. In 1926, Florence Mills and the cast of Eubie Blake's award winning black musical Shuffle Along performed here, as did world famous ballet dancer Anna Pavlova . In 1928, the 100 member cast of the Ziegfeld Follies played to a packed Pittsfield audience. The Colonial Theater, like so many other playhouses across the United States, was converted into a movie theater in 1937. Recognized as one of the finer small theaters on the East Coast, a full restoration was completed in 2006 after years of fundraising and publicity.
The Colonial Theater is located at 111 South Street in Pittsfield, MA. The Colonial Theater is operated by the Berkshire Theatre Group and is open for scheduled tours; go here for more information on tours, and here for further details and photographs of the Theater's history and renovation.