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Levy bids a fond farewell to Bangor

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Artistic director leaves PTC after six years

BANGOR - Over the past decade, we have been privileged to witness a revitalization of creative culture in the city of Bangor. With a burgeoning music scene and assorted arts organizations springing up all across the creative spectrum, it's a wonderful time for artistically-minded individuals.

One of the cornerstones of that revitalization has been Penobscot Theatre Company. As one of the longest-tenured artistic tenants of downtown Bangor, PTC has always been one of the keys to artistic development in the region.

And the man who has held the keys to PTC for the past six years is saying goodbye.

Scott R.C. Levy, who has spent his half-dozen years serving as the Producing Artistic Director of the theater, has taken a position as the artistic director at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

It's been quite a ride for six years; Levy's decisions have revitalized the theater. Alongside his wife Joye, who has served as the theater's Director of Education, Scott has amassed a laundry list of accomplishments. They established the Northern Writes New Play Festival, now entering its fifth year, which has become a nationally recognized forum for the development of new works. They extended the season, adding a third weekend of performances to each show in order to expand the theater's chances to reach new audiences. They rebuilt PTC's youth theater programs, offering programs both during the school year and the summer to help area children discover and explore a burgeoning love of the stage.


From left to right: Scott, Gabe, Ellie & Joye Levy (Photo by Anne Schmidt Photography)

And perhaps biggest of all, they spearheaded an ongoing project to renovate the theater's home in the Bangor Opera House. Phase one of the project - a complete refurbishing of the Opera House marquee and faade - was completed last year.

Not bad for six years, right? But how did Levy come to be here in the first place?

"There came a point in my life in New York City where the price I was paying for admission just wasn't worth it anymore," said Levy. "Joye and I were starting a family, so we started looking for academic and artistic positions. So when the posting for the [PTC] position showed up in November of 2004, I applied.

"When I learned that I was going to have a phone interview, I decided that I needed to know just what this place was all about. I came up here in March of 2005 - in the middle of a blizzard. [That turned out to be] a good thing to do; I was able to articulate what I saw in the community."

Levy impressed the powers that be enough to become one of three finalists for the position. However, when the day came that he got the gig, it wasn't even the most exciting event of that day.

"As Joye and I were on the way to the hospital when she was going have Ellie, they called to offer me the position. Three weeks after she was born, we were here."

In an odd bit of symmetry, it turns out that Levy's departure date (June 1) is the same date that he arrived here six years ago.

When asked about his accomplishments at PTC, Levy - after a little bit of coaxing - revealed some of the developments of which he is proudest.

"The first place is with the level of programming," Levy said. "That's the heart of the mission. With mainstage productions, we've been able to expand [both] the quality of the shows we do and the audience that sees them. I was willing to take some risks with [play] choices, but I had to establish trust first."

Levy achieved that trust and rewarded it with one of the most vast and varied stretches of theatrical endeavors in the lengthy history of Penobscot Theatre.

"I'm thrilled that the new play development program has continued to grow into something both nationally and internationally recognized. We've even reached the point where we're able to present a world premiere production of a play that we helped to develop, a play called 'Ink.'"

Levy went on to laud the progression of the youth component of PTC.

"The educational life of the theater is so important," he said. "Joye and I both have master's degrees in theater education, so it's always been a big deal to us. Now, we're the biggest outsourcer of arts education in the state of Maine."

And of course, the tireless work spent trying to renovate the Bangor Opera House. It's clear that of all the parts of Levy's legacy, that one might just be the nearest and dearest to his heart. Well - that and his connection to the community that has embraced him.

"Early on, my desire to make the physical space we inhabit serve as an economic revitalizer for the downtown area definitely shaped a lot of my work," said Levy. "The faade restoration is the face of that.

"[And then] there's the work I did with the Fusion steering committee, the Convention and Visitors Bureau board, the Downtown Bangor board - always with the theater's interest at heart.

"It's all just as important as the memories we made on the stage."

Speaking of the memories of the stage, Levy's smile broadened into a straight-up grin when he started talking about some of the favorite moments of his tenure.

"There was something very magical about the opening night of 'Little Shop of Horrors,'" he said. "It was one of those moments when everything aligned all at once.

"Actually, I might point to that season (the 2007-2008 season; Levy's third) as the real turning point."

That season featured such widely disparate shows as "Driving Miss Daisy," "Peter Pan" and "Night of the Iguana," not to mention the aforementioned "Little Shop" and others.

While Levy's love of musical theater is obvious, his theatrical tastes also trend toward more dramatic work.

"As a director, I love working on dramas that have intense internal relationships at play," he said, citing "Night of the Iguana" and 2006's "Tuesdays with Morrie."

However, while he might have favorites, he has fond memories of each and every show. As he put it, "There were no productions that I wish we hadn't done." Six years of programming with no regrets? Not too shabby.

Still, while we might have enjoyed the past, it's time to move toward the future.

"Every experience I have is going to inform what I do [in Colorado]," Levy said. "The programming there is certainly going to be influenced by the productions we did here. One of the first things I have to do is listen to the community. I need to learn how to make them aware of what we do in the most positive way. Any leader of a theater in 2011 needs to know that audience development has to be at the very top of the list.

"The biggest change for me is the size of the population I have the possibility of affecting."

Change was the watchword for Scott R.C. Levy's tenure at Penobscot Theater Company. He and Joye both have made massive contributions to the overall health of Bangor's creative culture. And while Scott might be dealing with a bigger population base in Colorado, he's going to be hard-pressed to surpass the amount of change he wrought here in Bangor. His energy, his talent and his humor will all be sorely missed.

I was lucky enough to be involved both in the first show Scott ever directed here ("Picasso at the Lapin Agile" in 2005) and the last (April's "To Kill a Mockingbird"), with another half-dozen in the middle. He has shown himself to be a thoughtful director, a dynamic performer - and a very dear friend to many.

Bangor's going to miss you, Levys. I'm going to miss you. I'm honored to have been able to call you my friends.

You take care of these people, Colorado Springs. You're lucky to have them.

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 December 2011 15:30

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