Don Knight, The Herald Bulletin

Don Knight, The Herald Bulletin

Basking in the masking

Berkshop Theatre operator taking his creativity to South Carolina

By Kelly Dickey The Herald Bulletin Jul 3, 2016

ANDERSON — The Berkshop Theatre is bursting with years of creativity on display.

There are the masks adorned along the wall, and the promotional posters of past performances. And there’s the music softly playing in the background.

But soon, all that will be left in the space will be the memories of all the masks, stories and creations that used to reside there.

After 11 years in Anderson, the Berkshop Theatre is closing with a set of farewell performances.

“Movin’ On… A Berkshop Finale” will run at 7 p.m. July 13 to 16 and 3 p.m. July 17 at the Berkshop Theatre, located in Room 3 of Park Place Community Center, 802 E. Fifth St.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Reservations are strongly encouraged due to limited seating and can be made at 765-610-7801.

Doug Berky’s final Anderson performance will feature circus, storytelling and schtick, as well as a guest appearance by local musician Gordon Brooks.

The actor and mask maker said he’s grown a core group of supporters during his years in Madison County.

“For them, I just thought I needed to do a thanks and a goodbye,” he said about the farewell performance.

Berky – who spends most of his touring time in the southeast – is moving to South Carolina to work in the theater department at Furman University.

Berky said he’s looking forward to teaching and collaborating with designers, directors, actors and coaches.

The artist’s time in Anderson has been a period of experimentation. Berky has spent the last 40 years touring, and although he continued to do that while living in Madison County, he put down roots in the community and branched out.

Having his space at Park Place Community Center enabled him to write and explore ideas he never could before. Before Anderson, he never would have thought his masks could be in an art exhibition – they were made to be inhabited by a performer. But his views changed when the Center for the Arts asked to put them on display two years ago.

Then there was his collaboration with Park Place Arts owner Eliot Reed in 2015. The two created a large installation piece to protest against the Mounds Lake Reservoir proposal.

Reed said he met Berky at Park Place Arts’ grand opening, and the two have become friends through their advocacy and art.

He’s happy for Berky, but Reed said Anderson will feel a loss.

“It’s certainly a hit to the art community here,” Reed said. “He did a lot of things and his talents were really unique and they were a great addition to the community.”

Berky said he doesn’t think about making an imprint on the community; he just set out to be himself and become part of the community.

Through his work in Anderson, he hopes he’s raised awareness about environmental issues and that it’s OK to embrace people who are different — something he plans to continue to do as he moves on.

With every show, Berky tries to combine lessons and humor by using narratives from different religions.

“I don’t announce that in my show, but each of the stories that I do are wisdom stories from a different faith perspective and from a different culture,” he said. “One of the things I think we need to start doing is understanding that we’re all very much alike, and our faith traditions at the very core teach us about being good and honest people, about loving our neighbors and about respecting each other.”

Berky is appreciative of the respect the Berkshop Theatre has received during its time in Anderson. But now it’s time to write the next story.

“It’s come and gone. It’ll be a thing of the past,” Berky said. “Hopefully it’s a fond memory.”