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Holiday happenings! Celebrate the season in 2020

December 7, 2020
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Let’s be real: 2020 has been a year like none other that we’ve experienced. So much about these past months has been different and difficult. Our celebrations of the holiday season have been and will continue to be impacted by the circumstances of this pandemic.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we are without ways to celebrate the season.

Sure, some of our traditions will have to fall by the wayside so that we might try to ensure the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. But many of our favorite things to do in this Yuletide season can still happen, albeit in ways that have changed considerably.

Area organizations have found ways to pivot, giving us the opportunity to enjoy versions of happenings and events that we’ve long loved over the years. Will these happenings be the same? Of course not. Will they still be welcome, wonderful parts of our seasonal celebrations? Absolutely.

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Light Up the Night

Festival of Lights Parade

The Festival of Lights parade has been a beloved Bangor tradition for many years. Obviously, given the current circumstances, there’s no way to safely do the event in the usual manner. However, that doesn’t mean that you Christmas light lovers can’t get your fix!

In lieu of the usual Festival of Lights parade, Rotary Club of Bangor is offering a fun, festive, and safe alternative for 2020. Instead of everyone gathering to watch the lights come to them, we’re all invited to go to the lights!

The Rotary Club has brought together dozens of businesses, organizations and residences, inviting them all to register their unique holiday displays for inclusion on a map that will lead participants all over the region to see some of the wonderful work that has been erected to light up the night with holiday spirit. People are encouraged to begin at West Market Square in Downtown Bangor in front of the City of Bangor Holiday Tree, newly decorated with updated lighting courtesy of Bangor Rotary Club.

The map, as well as a list of participants, can be found at festivaloflightscontest.com. This is also where folks are invited to vote for their favorite display. The four voting categories are:

Outstanding Non-Profit Display

Outstanding Residential Display

Outstanding Commercial Display

Outstanding Municipal Display

The display that receives the most overall votes from all four categories above will be awarded Best Overall/Fan Favorite and will receive a $500 cash prize. Plaques will be presented to all other winners.

There are a couple of different ways one can follow along to view the displays. You can go to the website and follow the entries in the order they’re listed, clicking on them individually, or you can go to the map link provided there and use that to plot the journey that best suits your needs.

In addition, the Rotary Club has a few housekeeping items on their website that they ask you to keep in mind. They are as follows:

  • Please travel safely! Drivers may become distracted when looking at the displays, so be sure to use caution at all times (and watch out for other cars doing the same!) If you must pull over to the side of the street or road, be sure to use your blinkers and pull well out of the line of traffic.
  • Please be respectful of participants’ property. In some cases, participants may have set up places for you to get out and snap a few photos; please be sure to maintain social distancing and adhere to masking guidelines as set by the State of Maine and CDC when enjoying these opportunities. Do not enter private property without the owner’s permission.
  • Due to the number of participants, especially in the commercial and residential categories, you may need to plan more than one outing if you wish to see them all. For this reason, it may be easier to vote for those in a particular category by following one of the mapped routes.

The competition began on December 5 and will run through January 2; winners will be announced the first week of January on the Bangor Rotary Club’s Facebook page.

Stillwater River Trail of Lights

Perhaps you’re looking for holiday light excitement that can be enjoyed on foot. If so, you’re going to want to head up to Orono and take a walk by the water.

Approximately 500 feet of the walking trail will be lit up this year, courtesy of the Stillwater River Trail Little Free Library. Public parking is available at Browns Beach on the Bennoch Road in Orono. From there, make your way down to the trail and take a left – that’s where the magic happens.

The Stillwater River Trail of Lights were lit for the first time this year on December 5 and will shine brightly every evening through New Year’s Day. The display clicks on at 4 p.m. This is free of charge. Participants are asked to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines.

Hathaway Holiday Lights

For several years now, many area folks have included the Hathaway Holiday Lights as part of their Yuletide traditions. This elaborate, computer-controlled display has been lighting up the night at the Hathaway family’s home on Hillview Drive in Bangor for some time.

This year is different. Due to the restrictions necessary to ensure safety in these trying times, the display has been moved to the Veazie Community School in Veazie. It has been set up to orient toward School Street and the adjacent parking lot in an effort to ensure that any traffic disruptions will be minimized. The display starts at 4 p.m. and runs until 8:30 through December 11 and until 9 through December 26.

When you get there, be sure to tune your car’s radio to 88.1 FM, so that you might hear the music with which the light display has been synchronized. This year, expect to see some 55,000 automated lights and a number of other exciting additions, including giant trees and snowflakes and some interactive elements as well. As always, donations to the Neonatal Unit at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center are accepted.

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Shows At Home and In Person

Penobscot Theatre Company

For many of us, holiday performances are as big a part of the seasonal celebration as anything. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as all that this year. Still, some area theatre companies are doing their best to keep that spirit alive with some delightfully non-traditional offerings.

Take Penobscot Theatre Company, for instance. They’ve got not one, but two shows available for digital consumption this Yuletide season, a pair of shows they’re billing as naughty and nice. There’s “Deck the Balls,” an interactive improv extravaganza for adults only that runs December 10-27, and a version of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” inventively told using hand-crafted marionettes and perfect for the whole family, running December 12-27. 

On the naughty side is “Deck the Balls,” courtesy of ImprovAcadia, the team who created last season’s bawdy, sold-out hit “A Kick in Your Dickens.” This world-premiere takes the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and gives it the improvisational business. Featuring belly-laughs galore, a multitude of improvised songs and opportunities for audience to change the trajectory of the show, it promises to be as memorable as it is raucous.

ImprovAcadia owner-operators Jen Shepard and Larrance Fingerhut will team up Detroit’s Mike Shreeman to perform the show. Shepard and Fingerhut, legends within the improv world, have owned and operated IA for 17 seasons and know Shreeman from their days on cruise ships and at Second City.

As these are improvised live shows, each night’s performance will naturally be different. As part of Penobscot Theatre’s Digitus Theatrum season – the company’s 47th – “Deck the Balls” will be broadcast each night from the Fingerhut/Shepard home in Ellsworth. Their dining room has been re-outfitted into a TV studio complete with lights, three cameras and a green screen. The digital format will assist in taking audience from the Ellsworth dining room to the familiar streets of Potterville, all while audiences enjoy the best seats in the house – your house!

This adults-only show includes the opportunity for blue humor and as such is billed as adults only. Deck the Balls runs from December 10 -27.  Seating is limited to 40 households. Advance booking strongly recommended. All tickets are per household. Individual household tickets for Deck the Balls are $60.

As for what’s nice, well – audiences are going to get a chance to see a classic tale brought to life in a new way even as it is told in a familiar voice.

“A Christmas Carol” is a classic of the season, to be sure, but you almost certainly haven’t seen it like this before. Penobscot Theatre Company has commissioned the Atlanta-based theatre/film makers The Object Group to create an elaborately designed marionette film production of the beloved Dickens tale.

That’s the new. As for the familiar, well - this intricate film version follows a script adaption by the man who IS Ebenezer Scrooge to many local audiences. Ken Stack played the quintessential miser on the PYC stage for 13 years. Now he gives voice to not only Scrooge, but to every other Christmas Carol character in his own one-man version of the ultimate redemption story.  

At the helm of the visual elements (puppetry, storyboarding, directing and editing) for this one-of-a-kind Christmas Carol creation is Princess Grace awardee Michael Haverty. Haverty and The Object Group, have mastered the art of transferring characters from the page to visual interpretations. “As a puppetry artist I see every artistic form and medium as fair game,” Haverty says. “I yearn for surprises and momentum when I watch a piece of theatre or a film. A lovely thing about puppets is how easily they can inhabit either world.”

Haverty has brought together a team of skilled artisans to create thirty marionette puppets and backdrops, including artists who regularly work for the Jim Henson Company. All music, props, puppets, costumes and scenery have been created for this production. 

“I have done many variations of this story over the years,” says Stack. “But I think I’m most excited about this one. This is a very modern blend of creativity with technology, which will be pleasing for all audiences during a time when so many people are feeling a need to hang on to any familiar traditions we can find. The script stays true to the classic Dickens tale, while the unique approach to the production adds incredible vibrancy and new life.”

“A Christmas Carol” streams, on-demand from Dec. 12 – 27. All tickets are priced per household. Individual household tickets for A Christmas Carol are $40 for non-subscription households. 

(To learn more about ‘Deck the Balls’ or ‘A Christmas Carol’ tickets, holiday bundles or other dramatic gift ideas, please call (207) 942-3333 or visit www.penobscottheatre.org.)

Ten Bucks Theatre

PTC is not the only local company bringing a version of “A Christmas Carol” to life this holiday season. Ten Bucks Theatre is offering up their own unique and engaging take on the Dickens classic.

They’re calling this project “A Christmas Carol: At Home,” and not just because that’s where audiences will be enjoying it. TBT has broken up the original Dickens novella into 14 sections, with a different actor reading each section. These filmed narrations each take place in the home of the performer – another aspect of the “At Home” conceit.

Beginning on December 11, Ten Bucks will be loading a new video onto their Facebook page every day until Christmas Eve, giving audiences the opportunity to follow along at home. Essentially, it is playing out in a serialized fashion, much like the original work first appeared.

“I wanted to do a project using ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but less of a staged version so it was accessible,” says TBT President Aimee Gerow. “I love the original novella and the lovely, descriptive, Dickensian text and its a different experience reading it than seeing onstage.

“We're calling it 'A Christmas Carol: At Home' because it's welcoming people into their living rooms to enjoy the story. People have filmed in front of their Christmas trees, and bookshelves, and it's really lovely.”

Some Theatre Company

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a chance to see some in-person performance, then you’re going to want to see what Some Theatre Company is bringing to the table.

The company will be presenting “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” at their space located in the Bangor Mall. The show – directed by Becky Adams – runs December 10-13.

For those unfamiliar, the conceit is simple: three actors are sick of “A Christmas Carol” and want to do anything else – or in this case, EVERYTHING else. The trio decides to perform every Christmas story ever told, while also including Christmas traditions from around the world, seasonal icons from ancient times to topical popular culture and every carol ever sung. A real Yuletide romp that promises to be a heck of a lot of fun.

It is worth noting that many people have concerns regarding in-person attendance of events such as this one. That being said, Some Theatre Company has enacted robust safety protocols in order to ensure the safety of their audiences and performers. Those protocols can be found on the STC website at stcmaine.org.

It’s an interesting and entertaining alternative to some of the more traditional tales being told out there. Seating is limited, so as far as securing your seat – the sooner, the better.

(For tickets or more information regarding Some Theatre Company’s “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)”, visit the STC website at stcmaine.org.)

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There’s no disputing that the 2020 holiday season will be unlike any we’ve ever experienced before. However, thanks to the efforts of some great organizations and individuals, there are still plenty of opportunities for you and yours to celebrate the season. It won’t be the same, but these days, what is? There’s some great fun to be had, even in this trying time.

Here’s to a very merry (and very safe) Christmas.

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 December 2020 12:34

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