TED SHAWN’S THEATRE: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Succeeds Despite Adversity, Boston Globe, June 30, 1957.
Born during the great depression, harassed by the war years, gas rationing four hurricanes and the 1955 flood, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival has achieved success despite adversities. Founder and director Ted Shawn will open the Pillow’s silver jubilee year July 2 with the knowledge that the S.R.O. sign will, as it increasingly has in recent years, be a fairly frequent box-office decoration.
Dancer Shawn purchased the 18th century farm called Jacob’s Pillow in 1930. It consisted of a house built in 1792 and two weather-beaten barns. To Mr. Shawn this was a welcome retreat after two decades of touring the world with his wife, Ruth St. Denis, and their celebrated Denishawn company.
The Denishawn partnership was severed in 1931 and Mr. Shawn in 1932 launched the forerunner of today’s Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
From various colleges, Mr. Shawn selected, organized and trained a group of athletes which became the first all-male dance company in occidental culture in modern times. The barn-studios became the birthplace of men’s group programs which were offered on extensive tours from 1922 through 1940.
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Construction on what is known as the Ted Shawn Theater was begun in the Fall of 1941 and opened in 1942. Architect Joseph Franz designed a facility which not only blends with the beautiful Berkshire landscape, but also uses the natural scenery. The back wall of the stage can be made to disappear, thereby providing a natural backdrop of trees and starry skies for certain productions.
Dance critics from major publications throughout the country rate Jacob’s Pillow as the most important festival in the world today devoted exclusively to the dance. Dance is one element of some festivals, and all-dance festivals exist elsewhere, but those festivals limit themselves to one phase of dance. . . .