Treat Williams Performed for Berkshire Theatre Group

In 2013 We Discussed Lion in Winter

By: - Jun 13, 2023

Treat Williams, the actor known for his roles in the movies “Hair” and “Deep Rising” and the TV show “Everwood,” has died. He was 71. A  S.U.V. crashed into his motorcycle in Dorset, Vt. He was 71.

We spoke with him in 2013 following a performance as King Henry in “Lion in Winter.”

There was an after party in a tent that included Jane Atkinson his co-star.

As I reported at the time.

Treat Williams appeared to be in an upbeat mood after a superb and successful performance.

He was chatting with Aaron Costa Ganis who played young Prince Richard to his King Henry while I was photographing.

“You always seem to catch me with a drink in my hand” Williams said playfully. “Why are you taking so many pictures?”

“I’m a critic” I said introducing myself.

He laughed and said “I’ve never had anyone say that to my face. I’m a critic.”

I turned on a recorder to discuss the play and his ever more visible involvement in Berkshire theatre. For this Stockbridge production he is commuting from a home in Manchester, Vermont.

Perhaps, given his proximity, and the success of this initial collaboration, we will anticipate seeing more of him at BTG.

Charles Giuliano Was it your idea to do Lion in Winter?

Treat Williams No Kate (Maguire artistic director of Berkshire Theatre Group) and I sat down over dinner and talked about some possibilities.

CG Why this particular play?

TW In a perfect world I would have said let’s do Shakespeare. But there’s a lot of Shakespeare here.

CG Lion in Winter is Shakespearian.

TW It’s Shakespearian but it’s also summer theatery. It’s very funny. I wanted to so something period and it’s very theatrical. It’s weird. I just threw a bunch of stuff out and she threw a bunch of stuff out. When I said Lion in Winter we both said “oh, great.”

CG How challenging it this?

TW I have worked with James’ (Goldman, June 30, 1927 – October 28, 1998, author of Lion in Winter) wife in Follies. When I called her she said “sure” and here we are.

CG How challenging is this?

TW Very.

CG You have what, three weeks of rehearsal time?

TW Yes.

CG What’s that like?

TW Very difficult. It’s great for your muscles. It’s like football.

CG Unlike your work in film and television you can’t ask for another take.

TW No. So we made a lot of things up (laughs). No. It’s been great. Everybody has been very focused. We worked really, really hard and ran lines whenever we could. It’s summer theatre. You know what you’re getting yourself into. I had three months to work on lines before I started rehearsals. I was pretty much off book. I thought I was off book until we started and everything fell apart and I forgot everything. I broke it down and started up again.

CG (Turning to Aaron Costa Ganis who plays Richard.) Anthony Hopkins made his first film in your role as Richard. Those are tough shoes to fill.

TW How about this. I did Hair the movie. Hair was written by Jerry Ragni and Jim Rado. In the original production (stage) Jim Rado played Richard with Robert Preston as Henry. Philip, the King of France, was played by Christopher Walken. He and I worked together in Six Degrees.

CG Are you going to do more theatre here in the Berkshires?

TW Oh yeah. I’m back. I moved back and have been working with the Berkshire Playwrights Lab. I did a play down in North Carolina.

CG You did a reading for Williamstown Theatre Festival this past winter. (Shorts in Winter March 11 at Clark Art Institute.)

TW I did and I did a two day reading down in North Carolina with Athol Fugard (Born 11 June 1932 a South African playwright, novelist, actor, and director who writes in English. The film based on his novel Tsotsi won a 2005 Academy Award. Of his plays he is perhaps best known for Master Harold and the Boys, 1982.)

CG Was Fugard there?

TW Yes. He directed me. It’s a beautiful play called The Train Driver.

(The train driver, Roelf, is searching for the identities of a mother and child he unintentionally killed with his train. It is the final production in Signature's Residency One: Athol Fugard Series. Blood Knot and My Children! My Africa! preceded it.)

It’s a beautiful, haunting play. John Beasley and I did a reading of it at the University of North Carolina.

CG I vividly recall Fugard’s plays The Island and Sizwe Banzi is Dead (1972 from productions by the Charles Playhouse in Boston).

TW He’s a beautiful man and a wonderful playwright.

CG Today we don’t hear much about him.

TW He lives his life. He’s got a girl friend. He’s in his 80’s. He gets around. He’s writing beautiful plays.

CG Is he in South Africa?

TW I believe he’s between there and Los Angeles. He’s a wonderful man. We wanted to do something together and we will. It’s a matter of timing. It’s tough. I’m raising a teenaged daughter.

CG As a single dad?

TW No. With my beautiful wife in Vermont but it’s hard to get to New York to do things. It has to be something quite special.

CG I can’t stand the useless Royals. What’s redeeming about the characters in Lion in Winter?

TW What’s redeeming? They are us.

CG Back then the Royals actually seemed to do things.

TW They’re us. They’re a family at Christmas. That’s why I think the audience finds it funny. They’re a family. It’s really about a family at Christmas with all the problems that families have.

CG Most parents don’t lock the kids in the basement.

TW They happen to be royalty and it happens to be 1183. But they have all of the needs and sense of loss. There is the sense that they are dysfunctional in a way that all families have problems and issues.

CG Thanks for your time we appreciate it.