As Director of Preservation since 1990, Norton Owen oversees all programs concerning dance documentation, exhibitions, and archival resources, and coordinates many aspects of the Audience Engagement Series, including talks, program essays, and curating Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive. He first came to the Pillow as a student in 1976, and has served in a multitude of positions, including Assistant to the Director, House Manager, and Director of Educational Programs. In short, Norton knows his Pillow Picks. Keep reading for this verifiable Pillow expert’s idea of the perfect Pillow day, and the history behind it all.
Norton Owen: Director of Preservation
Having now spent literally thousands of magical days here over the past 40 years, I know from personal experience that the possibilities are truly endless. In my opinion, the key ingredients for a memorable visit to Jacob’s Pillow include elements of both our colorful past and the vibrant present. And, of course, an enjoyable day like this will leave you wanting to come back again and again in the future!
My days here usually start between 9 and 10am, and I love experiencing the Pillow at this relatively quiet hour. The busy schedules of many students and performers are already underway by this time, and you can observe them in the studio or just find a comfortable place to sit outside on a bench or under a tree. It’s very atmospheric to listen to the music from class accompanists while observing the staff and interns buzzing around the grounds.
On most days, you’ll need to bring your own brown-bag lunch, and there are plenty of picnic tables scattered throughout the grounds where you can enjoy whatever you have imported. On Saturdays and Sundays (or one of the Thursdays when we have added matinees), you can also have lunch in the new Southfield Pub, cozily nestled inside a building that was originally constructed to house Pillow students in the 1950s.
Beginning at noon on any day of the week during the Festival, my advice is to spend some time getting lost in the Jacob’s Pillow Archives. If you’re new to the Pillow, you might enjoy starting off by settling in front of our big screen and viewing Never Stand Still, Ron Honsa’s award-winning documentary that captures the Pillow experience so beautifully. After that, browse through some of the 2500 books on our shelves, catch up with a PillowTalk you missed last season or revisit a favorite performance from 20 years ago.
If you didn’t think to bring your own picnic, check out the offerings at Old Inn On The Green at the Pillow’s new outpost on the Great Lawn, open for dinner at 5pm. It’s hard to believe that this was once the parking lot, as it’s now a totally idyllic spot and the view of the Ted Shawn Theatre can’t be beat.
Even if you’re not able to catch the Inside/Out presentation in its entirety, make it a point to stop by and enjoy whatever you have time to see. Watching dancers against the backdrop of the Berkshire Hills is one of the Pillow’s greatest pleasures.
Whichever show you’re planning to attend, make sure and get to the Pre-Show Talk starting a half-hour before curtain time. These presentations by our Scholars-in-Residence offer the perfect prelude to your theater experience, offering just the right information for you to feel “in the know” and maximize your enjoyment.
After the show is a good time to stop back by Blake’s Barn to prolong the Pillow experience just a bit longer. Many visitors avoid the post-show rush by strolling through the exhibits one more time or stopping by the Norton Owen Reading Room to discuss what they have just experienced. Please come in and let me know how this itinerary worked for you!
Norton's Perfect Pillow Day
The Jacob’s Pillow Archives document the history of the Festival and School and the artists who have taken part in these activities, with particular emphasis on Ted Shawn, Ted Shawn’s Men Dancers, and the Denishawn Company.Learn More
Observe the School
Visit The School at Jacob's Pillow and observe dancers in classes and rehearsals as they work with world-renowned artist faculty. Saturday evenings throughout the Festival, watch them perform as part of the Inside/Out Performance Series.Learn More
Enjoy these Berkshire-area establishments at the Pillow! The Old Inn on the Green offers table service with a lovely view of the Ted Shawn Theatre, offering full-service dining and specialty hand-crafted cocktails in a grand, open-air summer tent. The Southfield Pub offers lighter fare, including salads, wraps, and sandwiches, all available as takeaway meals to be enjoyed around the Pillow’s 220-acre campus.Learn More
Interact with artists and experts in the field at free in-depth discussions, moderated interviews, and film screenings onsite at Blake's Barn Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm.Learn More
Free Outdoor “Inside/Out” Performances
Bring family and friends of all ages to the Inside/Out series, offering free outdoor performances by emerging and established dance companies and presentations by dancers of The School at Jacob's Pillow every Wednesday through Saturday at 6:15pm during the Festival.Learn More
Visit the Archives Reading Room, which features newly-donated treasures and open access to videos, books, photographs, and other Jacob’s Pillow memorabilia.