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Live theater at the mall?

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Live theater at the mall? (photo courtesy Ten Bucks Theatre Company/Andrea Littlefield)

BANGOR – An area theater company has moved into a new – and unconventional space in the Bangor Mall.

Ten Bucks Theatre Company will debut its new space – located in the former PacSun store – this weekend with a production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” The production – a three-man romp through the Bard’s prolific output – is directed by Ben Layman and runs Jan. 25-27.

The performance on Saturday, Jan. 26 will be preceded with a gala celebration, with food, drink, a silent auction and a tour of the new space.

The company, which has been looking for a dedicated space for some time, still has plenty of work to do, but they’re optimistic about where they are and where they’re going. Julie Arnold Lisnet, one of the cofounders of the group, took the time to answer some questions about the move and what it means for the company going forward.

“We've spent the last two years investigating and looking at a lot of spaces in the Bangor area,” Lisnet said. “Most of the commercial real estate is too cost prohibitive for a theatre company our size. When we first looked at spaces in the Mall everything was either too big or not large enough. We checked back with them last summer and a space opened up that was both the right size and price.”

The group has considered it a priority for some time to establish a new space in the area, something they’ve felt strongly about for years. “It means a great deal [to be back], said Lisnet.

Ten Bucks Theatre Company was founded back in 2000 (Editor’s note: The writer of this story is a cofounder of Ten Bucks Theatre Company). The group made its original home in the auditorium of the Brewer Middle School. When that venue was no longer available, the company produced shows in assorted smaller venues before eventually landing at Comins Hall in Eddington, which served as the de facto home of TBTC until this latest move.

“As wonderful and historic as the Hall is, it's seating capacity and distance from Bangor became problematic,” Lisnet said. “We knew that in order to get our audience base back and build on it we needed to be back in this area. Bangor has changed significantly in the last 10 years. There's so much more to see and do. We wanted to get back and be part of a vibrant and growing arts scene.”

But operating your own space definitely isn’t easy – there’s a lot of work involved. And it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to happen all at once.

“It's definitely a work in progress,” said Lisnet. “We've spent a lot of time tearing out some old fixtures, and cleaning. We moved two storage units of sets, costumes and props in and there's been a lot of organization around all of that. We just bought chairs this past weekend and will be able to seat 100 patrons.”

Another important aspect of the new space is its flexibility, according to Lisnet.

“The space is such that we can offer either standard proscenium or box shows or do shows in the round,” she said. “That's a very exciting prospect.”

The first major expense the company anticipates is for a new lighting system, something Lisnet calls “a major goal.”

A lot of consideration went into the selection of “Complete Works” as their first show in the brand-new space. Lisnet says there are many reasons that this pick was a good fit.

“It's a major crowd pleaser,” she said. “To see three guys perform a bit of all 37 of Shakespeare's plays in less than two hours – playing both male and female characters – is a delightfully funny roller coaster ride. The show works for where we're at in the evolution of the space.”

As for what to expect going forward? The same sort of quality that audiences have always gotten from Ten Bucks Theatre Company.

“The space allows us to spread out and strut our stuff more,” said Lisnet. “It frees us up to choose a much wider variety of shows and since we're no longer competing with other events, we can expand our season should we choose to.”

Lisnet added that the space could also potentially benefit the company’s annual summer Shakespeare performances. The shows – staged at Brewer’s Indian Trail Park, Orono’s amphitheater and Fort Knox in Prospect – now have an alternate venue in the event that weather forces them indoors.

It’s an unconventional undertaking by Ten Bucks Theatre Company, to be sure. And definitely an interesting one. The time has come for the company to raise the curtain on a new era. We wish them well.

Or in the vernacular - break legs.

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