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A season to be celebrated

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PTC marks 40th season PTC marks 40th season

PTC marks 40th season

BANGOR - Over the past decade or so, the city of Bangor has seen its arts scene blossom. The town is alive with more music, art and performance than at any other point in recent memory. New businesses and organizations that grow the creative community are springing up all over.

However, there are also some groups with very real and vibrant histories in the mix. Some have been around since long before this recent revitalization. These organizations form a cornerstone of this creative renaissance.

One such organization is the Penobscot Theatre Company, which is set to kick off its 40th anniversary season this fall. PTC is one of the central pieces of the downtown Bangor puzzle, offering patrons a chance to look back on Bangor's artistic legacy while still looking onward toward an increasingly bright future. From the theatre's beginnings with people like George Vafiadas and Ken Stack to more recent artistic leaders like Mark Torres and Scott R.C. Levy, Penobscot Theatre Company has long been a huge part of the Bangor community.

Add current artistic director Bari Newport's name to that illustrious list of luminaries who have kept the pride and power of professional theatrical performance alive and well. This 40th season Newport's second full season at the helm promises more of the onstage excellence audiences have come to expect from PTC. 

The Fox on the Fairway,' by Ken Ludwig (Sept. 5-22)

Anyone who has played golf knows just how ridiculous the game can be, so there's a good chance that 'The Fox on the Fairway' will ring true. Ludwig, perhaps best known for the operatic farce 'Lend Me a Tenor,' has struck gold again with this hilarious look behind the scenes of a country club feud. A battle between rival club presidents rapidly spirals out of control as an ill-considered wager threatens to become ruinous indeed. However, club president Bingham has a secret weapon in newly hired hand (and golf savant) Justin. But as with any farce, you just know it isn't going to be that easy; Bingham has to contend with betrayals and heartbreaks in an effort to come out on top.

It's just the sort of slapstick door-slamming love story that makes for a great start out of the gate, with laughs to be had for audiences of all stripes.

'It's a really funny golf farce,' said Newport. 'I think many of us in the room didn't even realize just how funny it was until we read it aloud. We're going to do things like have the best/worst golf pants, the best/worst golf sweater, a putting green in the lobby it's going to be a lot of fun.'

The Woman in Black,' by Stephen Mallatratt (Oct. 17 Nov. 3)

October means the Halloween season, and the Halloween season is a time for ghost stories. PTC does not disappoint in that regard, bringing this beloved scary tale based on the 1983 novella by Susan Hill to the Opera House stage. 'The Woman in Black' has been running in London since 1987, making it the second-longest running non-musical (after 'The Mousetrap') in the history of the West End.

With just two actors in the cast, 'The Woman in Black' is a play-within-a-play tour de force, transporting audiences to a mysterious small town in the English countryside. It follows a young solicitor who is pulled into a world of spirits and sickness against his will and forced to try and find answers to the eerie questions with which he is surrounded. Each seeming solution brings with it even more concerns; the deeper he digs, the more inscrutable the conundrum becomes.

'This is a really scary play,' Newport said. 'We're also going to be giving ghost tours of the Opera House after the shows. Historic tours as well we tried to give a lot more tours last year. This will be the window where we really open up the Opera House both with and without ghosts.'

Cinderella: A New Telling of an Old Tale,' by Kate Hawley and Gregg Coffin (Dec. 5-29)

Penobscot Theatre's holiday show has long been a highlight of Bangor's Yuletide season. For many years, tradition dictated that PTC would present some variation of the Dickens classic 'A Christmas Carol.' More recently however, the theatre has branched out with some new and different offerings shows like 'Annie,' 'A Christmas Story' and 'Plaid Tidings.' This year's offering continues in that vein.

This is the Cinderella story as Bangor audiences have never seen it before. The classic fairy tale gets worked over with music, dance, pantomime and burlesque. The story you know still serves as the foundation of the show you'll see, but there's so much more dancing bears, sassy sheep and stepsisters in drag, what have you and you can bet that the Opera House will come alive with songs and silliness like never before. 

'This is a super super SUPER fun production of Cinderella,'' said Newport. 'It's my father's all-time favorite play that he ever saw me in (as Little Bo Peep). It's a vaudeville version of the show; totally family-friendly. It's called a British pantomime pantomimes are always done at the holiday season, so it's really perfect for the family holidays. There's going to be candy thrown to the audience and everyone will get a chance to try on the glass slipper. Truly a party.'

One Blue Tarp,' by Travis Baker (Jan. 29 Feb. 16)

PTC leads off 2014 with 'One Blue Tarp,' a new play written by Orono's own Travis Baker. Not only did the play win last year's Clauder Competition for Best Maine Play, but the piece was first workshopped on the Opera House stage as part of the Northern Writes Festival back in 2010. It's an opportunity to see a show that is not only about Maine, but developed in Maine as well.

'One Blue Tarp' tells the story of a Maine man's battle against the powers that be, a struggle to resist change and remain his own man. There's a good deal of powerful storytelling here, with plenty of colorful characters thrown into the mix as well. This is a play that celebrates Maine's attitude regarding 'the way life should be' and maybe has a little fun with it at the same time. This will be the world premiere production of this exciting new play.

'One Blue Tarp' is really cool,' Newport said. 'It has been great building that relationship with Portland Stage; we had a reading of the play down there in Portland. And they're also celebrating their 40th anniversary. It's really important to develop new plays especially ones with a big audience following like this one.'

God of Carnage' (March 12-30)

Few playwrights get at the underbelly of familial interaction quite like Yasmina Reza. 'God of Carnage' is a perfect example, showing a searing glimpse of what resides just beneath the surface in our seemingly normal, everyday interactions. It's the sort of small-cast drama that offers tremendous opportunity to the right performers; the PTC stable will surely prove up to the task.

Two couples meet in an apartment. There has been some sort of altercation between their respective children. What starts as an attempt to smooth things over between the kids turns into an outpouring of emotion and venomous criticism, with each couple waging war against not just the other pair, but each other as well. 'God of Carnage' illustrates the truth that words are powerful, and no matter the context, certain things cannot be unsaid. Especially when spoken by the ones we love.

'This is a Tony Award-winning play,' said Newport. 'And it probably has the best vomiting scene of all plays ever. [The show] is a real crowd-pleaser. It has really made the rounds regionally and we know that we'll be able to put forth a really great production of it.'

Our Town' (April 23 May 11)

Thornton Wilder's masterpiece remains one of the most exquisitely beautiful homages to small town life to ever grace the stage. Even now, after 75 years, 'Our Town' retains much of its impact. It has long been a favorite in the theatrical world; with its rich and robust supporting cast, audiences will get a chance to see a number of their local favorites and maybe a surprise or two to boot.

It's a glance into the world of Grover's Corners, a small New England town in the early part of the 20th century. It also tells the story of two young people George Gibbs and Emily Webb whose fates become intertwined as the tale of their town is told. There's good and bad to be found in every town, and 'Our Town' shows us a bit of both as we bear witness to the fates of George and Emily.

'This is going to be a really exciting version of Our Town,'' Newport said. 'Jacob Augustine, the singer-songwriter from Lincoln, is writing an original score for the piece as well as performing live which we're really thrilled about. It incorporates all kinds of community members; it's a real love letter not only to this community but and not to sound cheesy but to the human experience. The older you get, the more the play means. I love that most people read it in high school, but it only really makes sense 15 years later, 20 years later. We're calling it an Our Town' for our time.'

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All this, plus PTC will be offering more classes and a full slate of offerings from their Dramatic Academy. In addition, everyone's favorite harmonizing quartet the Plaids will be making a one-week-only return to their old stomping grounds on the Opera House stage. The show will run at the New Year; tickets will initially be available only to subscribers before going on sale to the public on Nov. 1. You'll want to act fast; you can expect this to be one of the hottest tickets in town.

PTC has also announced that they will be adding a seventh show to the upcoming season. What show, you ask? Alas, that information remains shrouded in mystery an announcement will be made at the beginning of 2014. This is where I'd drop a hint if I was confident that I wouldn't give it away; suffice it to say that it will be well worth the wait.

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