Women in Film Seminar – “Invisible: Female Fim Makers Before 1960”
Feb 13 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Berkshire screenwriter and historian Nannina Gilder, as well as former film curator for the Little Cinema at The Berkshire Museum, will host a four-part Women in Film Seminar titled “Invisible: Female Filmmakers Before 1960” here at the mansion. The classes are scheduled for Thursdays, January 23 and 30, February 6 and 13, all at 7:00 – 9:00 pm. Ventfort Hall board member Birgit Vetromile is the sponsor for the film series.

Gilder asks these questions, “Imagine telling the history of film without the first director to use the camera to tell a story, or the first feature length animated movie?”  “Who was the first surrealist filmmaker, or the director of the first movie of the French New Wave?”

“For decades these milestones have actually been relegated to a dusty corner of film history,” according to Gilder, “pushed aside in favor of a straightforward narrative of brilliant men behind the camera and beautiful women in front of it. Films directed by women in the early decades of cinematography have been considered obscure curiosities, but the truth is much richer and more complex.”

Gilder will delve into how actress Ida Lupino became a writer/director/producer who changed the face of American independent film, how Dorothy Arzner’s technical innovations in the early sound era untethered actors, giving them the freedom to move and express themselves, how Lotte Reiniger’s magic scissors and multi-plane camera opened up worlds of animation or how Alice Guy came to make of the first non-documentary film.

Female directors included in the seminar were nominated for Oscars and won awards at Cannes and Venice. Their films influenced such directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scoresse and Francis Ford Coppola.

The seminar will offer a glimpse into movies that changed the face of cinema, but today are hard to find.  Each of the four classes will examine short and feature-length films in the context of these themes: January 23, The Birth of Cinema – Alice Guy (short) and Ida Lupino (feature); January 30, Dancer & Director – Shirley Clarke (short) and Dorothy Arzner (feature); February 6, Worlds of Animation – TBA (short) and Lotte Reiniger (feature), and February 13, Obsession – Wendy Toye (short) and Jacqueline Audry (feature).

Gilder comments, “The seminar will reveal that not only were women making films in the classical period of cinema, but they were crafting beautiful, vibrant pieces of entertainment. The history of film is inseparable from the history of women in film.”

Gilder has appeared on the film podcast Citizen Dame. Her play “The Curious Abduction of Mona Lisa” was performed at Ventfort Hall in 2013.

Tickets for the Women in Film seminar are $15 for each of the four classes or $50 for the four-part series.  Reservations are highly recommended as seating is limited.  For reservations call us at 413-637-3206.

SOLD OUT – Murder Mystery Dinner Theater – “The Last Night at the Museum” Doors open at 5:00 pm. Program starts and first course served at 5:30 pm
Feb 15 @ 5:00 pm


The Comical Mystery Tour ensemble will present a new mystery for you to solve, “The Last Night at the Museum,” and invites the public to join the fun on Saturday, February 15th. Doors open at 5:00 pm. Program starts and first course served at 5:30 pm.

It takes place at the Hysteriaworst house. Kathryn Spinner is donating the house to the city so it can become a museum and be enjoyed by anyone that wants to take a tour. Shirley Eugest is the representative from the city that is helping with the transition but things aren’t going as smoothly as she would hope. Ferris Faire is the long lost cousin that isn’t happy about the family money going away from him. Ivanna Partay is the Mayor’s daughter that has other plans for the house and Charles is the butler that loves the family and house that he has been working with for years. Someone shows their displeasure by eliminating options. Starting with one of the people involved.

In production since 1995, The Comical Mystery Tour has had over 50,000 audience members viewing and/or participating in their programs. The ensemble appears regularly at Ventfort Hall.

Cost to attend is $42 per person including a full course dinner. A cash bar is available for beer and wine. BYOB is not allowed for liability reasons. Reservations are required by Wednesday, Feb. 12th. Seating is limited.  For reservations call us at 413-637-3206.

Feb 19 all-day
Rhône Rangers Wine Seminar Presented by Nejaime’s
Feb 21 @ 5:30 pm
Tea & Talk – “The Ice Famine of 1919”
Feb 22 @ 3:30 pm

A museum professional in the field of living history, historian and author Dennis Picard will give a talk here at the mansion on “The Ice Famine of 1919.”  His visual presentation and demonstration will be followed by a Victorian tea.

The commercial harvesting and export of ice from New England’s frozen lakes and ponds began in the first decade of the 19th century.  By the end of the century, ice harvesting was the ninth largest industry in the US, employing tens of thousands of workers in New England alone and producing hundreds of thousands of tons of block ice annually.

According to Picard, “People don’t think of ice as a crop, but it was so very important for food preservation and transportation.”  In 1919, there was a shortage which led to some hard choices being made by Americans.  “Man-made ice was man’s response to Mother Nature’s fickle ways,” says Picard.  His presentation will include images of the progression of ice harvesting, the innovation of man-made ice and refrigeration, as well as an exhibit of ice harvesting tools.

Picard has been a museum professional in the living history field for over forty years.  He began his career in 1978 at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, where he filled various positions including lead interpreter, researching and designing many public programs which are still offered by that institution today.

He has held the positions of Assistant Director and Director, including at the Sheffield Historical Society and Storrowton Village Museum.  He also served on the staff of Hancock Shaker Village as a historic trade craftsman and site interpreter.  He has authored many articles on the lifestyles and folkways of New England.  He is also on the Board of Directors of the Pioneer Valley History Network.

Tickets for the Picard Tea and Talk are $28 for advance reservations and $32 day of the event.  Reservations are highly recommended as attendance is limited.  For reservations call Ventfort Hall at 413-637-3206.

POSTPONED TO BE RESCHEDULED – Reading of Audiobook Adaptation: The Secret Garden & Good Wives (Little Women, Part 2) followed by a Tea
Mar 21 @ 3:30 pm


Actresses Alison Larkin and Anne Undeland will narrate two beloved novels, celebrating their launch as the latest additions to the audiobook library produced by Alison Larkin Presents, the Berkshire-based audiobook company.  The event, followed by a Victorian tea, will be held at Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum on Saturday, March 21 at 3:30 pm.

Larkin, whose youthful experiences were very similar to that of Mary Lenox, the heroine in the classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, will narrate scenes from the book.

When her parents die from cholera in India, orphan Mary is sent to live with her uncle in a cold, dark mansion in England.  There she discovers a secret garden that has been locked up since her aunt’s death ten years earlier….   Larkin was adopted as a child and sent to live in a big, drafty English house, though without a secret garden.

According to AudioFile Magazine: “A novel rich in imagination, detail and surprises requires a narrator who can embrace every element of the story – Alison Larkin is that narrator.”

Larkin has appeared on and off Broadway with the Royal National Theatre.  She is also a comedienne, narrator of over 200 audiobooks and winner of eight AudioFile Earphones awards.  She is the bestselling author of The English American, an autobiographical novel about an adopted English woman who finds her birth parents in America.

Undeland, who last fall presented a reading that launched the audiobook company’s Little Women at Ventfort Hall, returns to read passages from the sequel, Good Wives, Little Women, Book Two.

 Three years after the conclusion of the story in the first book, we return to the March family, opening with Meg’s wedding. No longer little girls dreaming of “castles in the air,” Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are now young women, each with her own share of joy and heartache, and each with her own path to forge.

Audiofile Magazine says: “Anne Undeland captivates listeners with her exquisite narration. Listeners are effortlessly transported…”

Undeland has been featured in numerous radio productions for BBC Radio, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and NPR affiliates in the US.  A long-time theater artist, she performs one-woman shows (a Ventfort Hall favorite) and is the author of plays including Lady Randy, the story of Jennie Jerome Lady Randolph Churchill, the mother of Sir Winston Churchill.

Tickets to attend are $28per person with an advance reservations $28 and $32 per person the day of. Reservations are strongly recommended as seating is limited. For reservations call us at (413) 637-3206.

To order The Secret Garden, visit: https://alisonlarkinpresents.com/product/the-secret-garden-audiobook/

To order Good Wives, Little Women, Book Two, visit:

CANCELLED – Sangiovese Wine Seminar Presented by Nejaime’s
Mar 27 @ 5:30 pm
POSTPONED TO BE RESCHEDULED – Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire
Mar 28 @ 3:30 pm


Performed by professional actress Michèle LaRue and directed by Warren Kliewer, “Someone Must Wash the Dishes” has toured coast-to-coast, garnering reviews ranging from, “Better than the best stand-ups!” to, “I would have learned a lot more in school if she had been our teacher!” Her performance will be followed by a Victorian tea. This performance is made possible thanks to the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum’s “100 Events for 100 Years” initiative commemorating the 2020 Women’s Suffrage Centennial.

American women won the right to vote in 1920—and it only took 72 long years! As we near the centennial of Woman Suffrage and face the challenges that still remain, it’s enlightening—and fun—to look back at women’s arguments AGAINST voting.

“Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire” does just that: “Woman suffrage is the reform against nature,” declares its unlikely, but irresistibly likeable, heroine. “Ladies, get what you want. Pound pillows. Make a scene. Make home a hell on earth—but do it in a womanly way! That is so much more dignified and refined than walking up to a ballot box and dropping in a piece of paper!”

“Someone Must Wash the Dishes” was written in 1912, by Marie Jenney Howe, a prominent pro-Suffragist and Unitarian minister. Howe satirizes arguments seen as accurate in their day, though absurd in ours.  This fictional “Anti” sincerely believes being a “womanly woman” will keep the Home intact and save the Nation from anarchy. “She is charming, obsessed, oblivious—stylish in her wardrobe, but muddled in debate. What her husband tells her goes in one ear and out her mouth,” laughs her portrayer: professional actress Michèle LaRue.

Labeled “wicked” when it debuted in Manhattan and “side-splitting” in Cape May, NJ, “Someone Must Wash the Dishes” was directed by the late Warren Kliewer. A Minnesota native, Kliewer was founding producing artistic director of The East Lynne Company, which revives American plays and literature written before 1920. “Dishes” has convulsed audiences from Connecticut to Texas to Washington State.

Michèle tours nationally with her repertoire of 30 Tales Well Told—vibrant stories from America’s Gilded Age. Her 400 sponsors range from libraries and historical societies, to Leagues of Women Voters and international conferences. A member of Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA, Michèle is also a writer and editor. For more about her productions, and how to bring them to your group, visit http://www.michelelarue.com.

Author Marie Jenney Howe (1870 – 1934) left her native Syracuse, NY, to become a prominent Midwestern Unitarian minister. In 1910, she moved to New York City, where she was a catalyst in many Progressive social reforms—notably Suffrage—and an influential writer.

Tickets for the event are $28 for advance reservations and $32 day of the event.  Reservations are highly recommended as attendance is limited.  For reservations call us at 413-637-3206.

CANCELLED – Egg Decorating Workshops 10am – 12 noon and 1-3 pm
Apr 4 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm


In practicing social distancing workshops will be limited to 6 people at each session.

Two workshops: 10 am to noon and 1 pm to 3 pm

Celebrate the Easter season with a unique opportunity to learn a time-honored Eastern European craft.  We are offering our annual Slavic Easter egg decorating demonstrations and instructional workshops on Saturday, April 4 from 10:00 am to 12 noon and again from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.  This year the workshop will take place at the mansion’s former gatehouse at 55 Kemble St., Lenox.

This Eastern European tradition of creating intricate and beautifully decorated eggs has been passed down for generations.  Lenox resident Tjasa Sprague, who will again lead the workshop, learned the technique many years ago from her Czechoslovakian mother, Maria Krofta.

The technique begins with unwashed eggs (provided by a local poultry farm) which have a residue-free shell surface.  The Slavic Easter egg is a wax resistant technique which employs aniline dye later in the process. The decorating begins with drawing on the egg with wax, followed by immersion in the dye, with repeated wax drawing and dying as desired.  The eggs are uncooked and are “blown” out after the decorating has been completed.  The eggs may be displayed, when stored carefully, for an indefinite number of years.

The fee for each workshop, which includes all materials, is $35. Reservations are required and seats are limited. Children should be at least 12 years of age.  For reservations call us at 413-637-3206.

CANCELLED – Murder Mystery Dinner Theater – “Murder She Float, A Mardi Gras Mystery”
Apr 18 @ 5:00 pm

The Comical Mystery Tour ensemble returns with an encore presentation, “Murder She Float, A Mardi Gras Mystery,” and invites the public to join the fun on Saturday, April 18th. Doors open at 5:00 pm. Program starts and first course served at 5:30 pm.

The Wild Chalupas Krewe is hosting a party to choose the Queen to ride on their float in the Mardi Gras parade. Things seem to be going smoothly until one of the contestants is found expired. Who could have done it? Was it Maude E Graw, the organizer and representative of the sponsor or Matty Door, the costume designer. How about Dick C Lee, the overworked manager of the float build or was it the float Judge, Jim Teacher. Come along for some fun and mystery and don’t forget, you will be in New Orleans and won’t even have to pay for a ticket to get there.

In production since 1995, The Comical Mystery Tour has had over 50,000 audience members viewing and/or participating in their programs. The ensemble appears regularly at Ventfort Hall.

Cost to attend is $42 per person including a full course dinner. A cash bar is available for beer and wine. We are unable to cater to special dietary needs. BYOB is not allowed for liability reasons. Reservations are required by Wednesday, Apr. 15th. Seating is limited.  For reservations call us at 413-637-3206.