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BREWER - What began a little more than six months ago as a fun exercise in a Brewer basement at the outset of the pandemic now involves recording contracts, a record label, a new YouTube show due to launch soon and even “American Idol.”

The Facebook group Quarantine Karaoke has become a global sensation, and no one is more surprised and gratified than its creator.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, Joseph Meyers, then a resident of Brewer, sought a therapeutic outlet, and like he usually does, he turned to music to make him feel better.

“I was in the living room with my wife, and things were getting shut down, and the hits just seemed to keep coming,” Meyers said during an interview with The Maine Edge.

Meyers had been a member of Bangor area top-40 cover band Trendy Robots, and prior to that, a progressive alternative band that focused on original music called Most of Us Can Stand.

Seeking a positive outlet to channel his feelings about the grim pandemic news, Meyers decided to go to his basement where he has a piano.

“I regularly go down there to play and record music, it’s just part of who I am,” he said.

Meyers recorded a song and posted it on his personal Facebook page with the status: “Quarantine Karaoke.” As he walked up his basement stairs, he realized that he felt better, calling it a “therapeutic event.”

“When I woke up the next day, I had the thought that more people should do that, it really does help you cope with things.”

That was the moment he created a Facebook group called Quarantine Karaoke, then uploaded the first video, and encouraged people to join, share and record themselves singing their favorite songs from home. Within the first 24 hours, 10,000 people joined his group.

“All I did was click a button and say ‘go.’ It really blew up from there,” said Meyers.

Mill towns. There are plenty of them here in the state of Maine, towns that sprang up around the paper mills that dotted the landscape for decades. These towns have uniquely symbiotic relationships with the mills at their centers – relationships that aren’t always fully healthy.

Author Kerri Arsenault’s new book “Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains” (St. Martin's Press, $27.99) takes the reader inside one such Maine town. Mexico and neighboring Rumford have been defined for over 100 years by the paper mill. Over that time, the mill has been the primary employer, providing a good living to generations of residents and serving as the economic backbone of the town.

But there are other aspects of these relationships as well, caveats and consequences that spring from the realities of the bargain being struck.

Arsenault was kind enough to answer some questions about “Mill Town,” the process of writing it and what the many complexities that come with telling a story about where you come from.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020 09:02

Digitus Theatrum: A different kind of season from PTC

Written by Allen Adams

BANGOR – Adapt. Adapt. Adapt.

That’s what so many performing arts organizations have had to do over the past few months. The pandemic has completely upended the model, leaving thousands of people scrambling to figure out how to go forward in this new landscape.

And that’s what Penobscot Theatre has done: Adapt.

PTC has officially announced their 47th season. Titled “Digitus Theatrum,” the 2020-21 slate was shared with the public by Producing Artistic Director Bari Newport via a virtual town hall event held Aug. 17. It is the most unique schedule in the history of the company, a collection of online offerings that are unlike anything many theatregoers have ever seen.

From a haunted audio adventure to a holiday puppet extravaganza, from a homegrown collection of solo works to an avant-garde theatrical adventure, Digitus Theatrum isn’t the theatre to which we are accustomed. It is something different, a collection of ideas that is somehow both pragmatic and ambitious.

PTC will be offering a variety of subscriptions and a wealth of programming for audiences of all ages over the course of the season, with their mainstage bill of fare enhanced by a variety of new and different kinds of creative entertainment. For information about ticket and subscription options, contact the PTC box office at 942-3333 or visit the theatre’s website at www.penobscottheatre.org.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020 15:34

Couchbound cinema: The best movies of 2020 (so far)

Written by Allen Adams

The movie world – much like every other aspect of our lives – was radically altered by the coronavirus pandemic starting in mid-March. Instead of sharing the cinematic experience with our fellow moviegoers, we were watching films from our homes.

But there was still plenty to watch.

While there were a handful of noteworthy movies that hit big screens in the first couple of months of the year – “The Invisible Man,” “Emma,” “The Way Back,” “Onward,” even the surprisingly solid “Bad Boys for Life” – I’ve chosen to focus on films that made their debut via streaming service or video on demand.

(Note: I went back and forth about including “Hamilton” on this list. It’s definitely one of the best things I’ve seen during all of this, but it’s not REALLY a movie. A technicality, sure, but I needed to make some cuts. Anyway, see “Hamilton” on Disney+ if you haven’t or see it again if you have.)

Sure, we haven’t yet seen the year’s scheduled blockbuster offerings (though it looks like that’s going to change in the coming months, at least to some extent), but there have still been some excellent movies to watch. From big-budget action films to indie dramas to powerful documentaries, these selections run the gamut.

And so, here are some of 2020’s best films (so far).

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It’s probably safe to say that none of us have ever experienced a summer quite like this one.

With the specter of COVID-19 still looming even as we ever-so-slowly try to find ways to ease back into something resembling normalcy, it can be tough to just get out there and have some fun. The ways in which we can experience summertime entertainment mainstays have been significantly altered – many of the out-and-about things we would ordinarily be doing aren’t as accessible to us right now. But it’s still summer, and we should do our best to find enjoyment where we can.

That’s where lawn games come in.

Nothing says summertime quite like being out in your yard with a frosty beverage in your hand and the scent of the grill in your nostrils. If you can add an element of competition to that, while also behaving responsibly with regards to the current circumstances, how can you go wrong?

There are plenty of traditional games that many of us have played since we were kids and will likely bring back fond (or not-so-fond) memories of summers gone by. However, there are also some more adult-oriented games that prove to be a lot of fun as well.

We’re going to take a look at a few personal favorites. We’ll revisit a couple of classics, but we’ll also bring some newer games to the table – some that you may have heard of before, others you may not have. And among these newer games, chances are good that you’ll find at least one that speaks to you in that so-special “crush your enemies and see them driven before you” summertime kind of way.

Plus, the majority of these games can be played while still adhering to best practices with regards to pandemic protocols. By simply maintaining awareness regarding placement and proximity, everyone can get out and have some fun while also being safe – an all-too-welcome combination in these trying times.

Check out some games that you can get out and play.

BANGOR – To think that it all started with a Facebook page.

Odds are good that if you live in or around these parts, you’re familiar with the work of Tim Cotton of the Bangor Police Department. You might not necessarily know it, but you are.

Cotton – or TC, as he often identifies himself – is the driving force behind the social media phenomenon that is the Bangor PD Facebook page. Over the course of a few years, Cotton built the page’s following into a genuine grassroots juggernaut, with literally hundreds of thousands of people checking in to see what TC had to say.

The page’s success hinged on TC’s unusual approach to social media. He eschewed every bit of conventional wisdom with regards to building a page’s profile. They say you should always have pictures; TC rarely includes them. They say you should keep posts short and sweet; TC stops when he’s finished and not a word before.

And yet – it works. It probably shouldn’t, but it does.

It works because Cotton brings a consistent collegiality to the proceedings. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor that manages to carry a little bit of snark without ever becoming mean-spirited – no easy feat. He is someone who is passionate about his work and his community – a passion that carries through everything that he writes. There’s nothing disingenuous here; everything comes from a place of honesty.

But now, it seems that he has written something a good deal longer than even his longest Facebook post – a book.

Cotton’s new book is titled “The Detective in the Dooryard,” published by Down East Books. It’s a collection of short pieces that do a wonderful job in encapsulating the TC experience. It is packed with the same genial storytelling that made the Facebook page such a success.

(It’s worth noting that the book is proving wildly popular. Be sure to reach out to your local bookstore to place an order if you haven’t been lucky enough to land your copy already.)

As you might imagine, TC’s a pretty busy guy right now, what with a book hitting shelves added to his duties with the Bangor PD. And yet, despite all of that, he was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions The Maine Edge sent his way. He discusses how the book came about and what his process is like, as well as the people and ideas that influenced him as a writer. 

(Check out our full review of the book here.)

Thursday, 02 July 2020 11:19

MIFF goes to the drive-in in 2020

Written by Allen Adams

SKOWHEGAN – Like many arts and cultural events, the Maine International Film Festival faced a difficult reckoning in 2020 thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Organizers were forced to look for alternative solutions. Luckily for area film buffs, they found one.

MIFF is going to the drive-in.

The festival has teamed up with the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre to present a scaled-down version of their scheduled slate. Running July 7-16, MIFF will screen one offering per night at the drive-in starting at 8:45 p.m. In addition, some programming will be made available for streaming for film fans from farther afield. For more information on programming, check out www.miff.org.

Saturday, 09 May 2020 11:32

State modifies reopening plan for rural counties

Written by Mike Fern

Mills to allow retailers and restaurants to open, keeps stay-at-home order in place

Click here for the COVID-19 Daily Update

AUGUSTA – Gov. Janet Mills on Friday announced a modification to her four-phase reopening plan. The plan, which will allow retailers to open Monday, May 11, 2020 and restaurants to open a week later on May 18, 2020, will roll out to the 12 counties in Maine where community transmission has not occurred.

Click here for the COVID-19 Daily Update

AUGUSTA – Maine lawmakers returned to the state capitol Wednesday to hold a hearing with Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman to address the ongoing problems with the state’s unemployment system and the Mills administration’s response to it. Fortman, who appeared along with Deputy Commissioner Kim Smith, spent the entirety of the hearing answering lawmakers’ pointed questions ranging from front-end website issues and denials of unemployment to the inability of Mainers being able to reach a live person.

Click here for the COVID-19 Daily Update

AUGUSTA – Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday extended her stay-at-home order with a new “Stay Safer at Home” executive order until May 31 and released a four-stage plan to begin reopening Maine’s economy starting Friday, May 1.

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