Berkshire WordFest Bows at The Mount
A New Festival in Lenox: July 23 - 25
Once again, words will prevail at The Mount. For the past thirty years, actors, directors, gardeners and decorators have lovingly put their stamp on Edith Wharton’s 1902 estate and gardens in Lenox. But the literary community is taking it back. Now that the Mount has stabilized its finances, removed the velvet ropes and eliminated the hauteur, the board of trustees has committed to making The Mount not only a well-preserved historic landmark but also a dynamic center for contemporary writers. The first Berkshire WordFest (July 23 -25) is proof of the board’s seriousness, and they have lined up a roster of writers who are familiar to anyone who reads The New York Times Book Review such as Kurt Andersen, Tad Friend, Laura Miller, Francine Prose and Katie Roiphe.
“The theme of the weekend is ‘Channeling Edith Wharton,’ but it’s not a conference on Wharton,” explains 2010 WordFest director Audrey Manring. “It’s not going to be heavy and academic. The authors will discuss themes from Wharton’s books, and there will be at least one writer on each panel who has a deep knowledge of her work.”
The idea, of course, is to put The Mount on today’s literary map so that it becomes to the written word what Jacob’s Pillow is to dance and Tanglewood is to music. “A literary festival has been on our radar for some time,” says executive director Susan Wissler. “We felt this was the right year to make WordFest a reality. We believe it’s a unique and important addition to the Berkshires world-class cultural calendar, and we hope it brings attention to our region as a national literary destination.”
Though it’s being branded as the Berkshire WordFest, many big name writers from neighboring counties in our region are participating: Ruth Reichl (above, who has a house in Columbia County) will be interviewed by WAMC’s Joe Donahue; Susan Orlean (left, who lives in Columbia County) will be interviewed by Susan Arbetter (late of WAMC’s Round Table); Dani Shapiro (who lives in Litchfield County) will participate on a panel called “Well-Behaved Women”. The Berkshires will be well-represented: Roy Blount Jr. (Mill River) will be interviewed by Donahue; John Hockenberry (Egremont) will be have a conversation with Elizabeth Samet about “Writers in Wartime”; Jim Shephard (Williams College) will be interviewed by Donahue; Simon Winchester (Sandisfield) will moderate “Old Money, New Money,” a panel discussion with Kurt Andersen, Tad Friend, Katy Lederer, and Martha McPhee, “We’re delighted to be bringing together some of the country’s most acclaimed writers for a weekend of talks, interviews, readings,” says Manring. “The concentration of talent makes this an exciting opportunity for all those who love words and ideas.”
Even as it prepares for WordFest, The Mount is unveiling this weekend a new exhibition about adaptations of Wharton’s books in other media called Dramatic License: Edith Wharton on Stage and Screen. Appropriately, the guest of honor at the opening party on June 5 will be a writer: Jay Cocks, who collaborated with Martin Scorsese on the 1993 film The Age of Innocence and shared the Oscar for best adapted screenplay with him.
Dramatic License: Edith Wharton on Stage and Screen
Opening reception June 5 at 4 p.m.