by Adam Cohen . . .

Jim Frangione is a Massachusetts native actor, writer, director and now Artistic Director of the Great Barrington Public Theater.  Jim has acted for over 30 years in New York and across the country, performing in the original Off Broadway production and the Alley Theatre & National Tour productions of Mamet’s Oleanna. With the Atlantic Theater Company, Jim performed in Romance, Ghost Stories, The Night Heron, Hobson’s Choice, Hellhound On My Trail, Edmond and on Broadway in The Old Neighborhood; with regional theater companies: Humana Festival, The Delling Shore; Berkshire Theatre Festival, American Buffalo; Long Wharf, The Front Page, Mark Taper Forum, Romance, among others. An Emerson alum, Jim founded The Stage Company of Boston in the mid-80’s. He also produced and acted in David Mamet’s 1988 production of Sketches of War, a theatrical benefit for the Vietnam Veteran’s Workshop at Boston’s Colonial Theater, starring Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Walken, William H. Macy and many others.  

As Artistic Director of the Great Barrington Public Theater, Jim is responsible for conceiving, developing, and implementing the artistic vision and focus of the organization, and for major decisions about the ongoing development of the aesthetic values and activities.  He was kind enough to take a break from directing the world premiere of Mark St. Germain’s “Public Speaking 101” (playing through July 24th) to answer a few questions. 

Cast of Public Speaking 101 (L-R:Peggy Pharr Wilson, Rachel Burttram, Brendan Powers and David Smilow)

AC: What’s your favorite play and why? 

JF: I saw a production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman years ago and it stayed with me ever since. The idea that theater illuminates social issues was new to me back then.  It left a profound and lasting impression on me. Later, in Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross, his own updated mid-1980s take on Miller’s original theme—unbridled capitalism leaving the most vulnerable behind—Mamet adds into the mix the destructive power of greed.  

AC: What made you want to go into theater? 

JF: I started in high school doing plays, comedies and musicals. I’ve always enjoyed comedy and making people laugh, that was really the beginning of it all for me. Fortunately, I had a resourceful and inspiring theater teacher, Jim Ruberti, at Barnstable High School on Cape Cod.  

I left the musicals behind when I arrived at Emerson College, though now, toward the end of a long performing career I’ve come to regret it. Performing in musicals is a truly joyful experience. I’ve had a good career wearing many hats over the years—actor, director, playwright, audiobook narrator, producer, and I never tire of the variety. 

AC: What was your motivation for starting Great Barrington Public Theater? 

JF: The formation of GB Public grew out of our desire to present full productions of new plays with a focus on the local talent pool of actors, directors and of course, playwrights! I started GB Public with Deann Simmons Halper (Executive Director) back in early 2019 after we’d both been working with Berkshire Playwrights Lab for several years presenting stage readings at the Mahaiwe.  

Our most significant addition has been bringing on Tristan Wilson as our Managing Director in early 2021, a position (and person) of such great talent whose importance to the growth of the organization can’t be understated.  

Our mission and vision of focusing on new plays, local talent and affordable ticket prices, has come into sharper focus. Last summer in 2021 we launched our first full season with three new plays, (this season, 2022, there are six!) and audiences have rewarded us with their patronage and with their support.  

AC: What were your artistic considerations for shaping the season? 

JF: I’m always scouring the local landscape for projects that are ready for production and development. When I began looking at projects for 2022, I knew that the solo (single-actor) play format was an extremely high bar to realize, but there were several high-level projects percolating, all with local talent. Alison Larkin is a friend and lives full-time in the Berkshires and her story, Grief, the Musical… a Comedy, resonated with me from the moment we began discussing it. Michelle Joyner, a Housatonic resident, had been working on The Shot, about Katharine Graham, for over a year, and her husband Robert Egan brought me Leave Your Fears Here, a new work he’d been developing at the Ojai Playwright’s Conference in CA. Actor extraordinaire Will LeBow, a Becket resident and longtime friend, had a biographical piece he was interested in working on.  

In a solo play the actor (in many cases also the playwright) must overcome myriad obstacles in the telling of the tale. There’s nobody onstage with you as a lifeline for 60 or 80 minutes (in the long form) and the performer/writer must keep all the plates spinning at a great height. You’d better have an engaging and vital story to tell, with passion and heart that’s honest and personal and relevant to what’s going on in our world and in our community in the here and now. Fortunately for Great Barrington Public Theater, our 2022 Solo Festival in the intimate Liebowitz Black Box Theater (capacity 80) could not have been more critically praised, further establishing our bona fides as a presenter of new work. 

Mark St. Germain’s world premiere comedy Public Speaking 101 just opened on our Mainstage and runs thru the 24th of July. Andrew Bovell’s powerful family drama, Things I know to Be True (Aug 4th—14th) follows that. I knew Mark, of course, after having directed the premiere of his heartfelt memoir play, Dad, with GB Public last summer. He sent me Public Speaking 101 back in the early Fall and I knew immediately that I’d like to take a crack at directing it. I sent it to Tristan and after he read it, we then began looking at schedules and budgets. Mark is one of our area’s most lauded and gifted playwrights and going by opening night’s reaction, they love this play.  

Things I Know to Be True, by Andrew Bovell, came to me via an actor in the original production. When I first read it in 2019 during its initial run at Milwaukee Rep, I’d hoped to find a slot for it. It’s a big, ambitious family drama that audiences will love.  

AC: As a director, what’s your process for working with writers as you launch new works?  

JF: What really makes my socks go up and down is working with playwrights, be they well established, mid-career, novice or emerging. Over my career I’ve been in the rehearsal room with some great ones—David Mamet on several occasions, Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem, The Ferryman), to name a few. Mark St. Germain is a joy to work with. And, watching the play take shape in rehearsal with new pages and revisions with the actors in rehearsal is a fascinating process that excites me to no end. 

I should also mention that Berkshire Voices is a program of GB Public, where emerging playwrights under the tutelage of playwright Michael Brady (To Gillian on her 37th Birthday) work together reading and commenting and supporting each other’s work with the goal of public readings, workshops and productions.  

For more information and tickets to Great Barrington Public Theater, visit their website at