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Maine’s mainstages: A 2019 summer theatre preview

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Once again, summer’s arrival is upon us. The weather is warming up and the days are approaching their greatest length. People near and far are going to descend on our state’s beaches, mountains and forests; people are going to swim and hike and boat and generally experience the outdoors in a fashion that one can only achieve in Maine.

But there are other summertime perks, too.

For those who love live theater, there are loads of options. Companies near and far are bringing exciting work to stages all over the region; no matter where you might be, there’s a good chance that you’ve got some excellent theater happening nearby.

Some of these companies are stalwarts of the scene, having been around for decades. Others are relative newcomers, bringing a new energy to the proceedings. Bangor, Belfast, Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Brooksville – they’ve all got something for you; Orono and Ellsworth and Stonington too.

It’s well worth your time to experience some of what our area’s summer stages have to offer. Here’s a look at just some of what’s to come.

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Penobscot Theatre Company

Mamma Mia! (June 13-July 14)

We’ll start right here in Bangor with our own Penobscot Theatre Company. One of the more exciting changes that Artistic Director Bari Newport has brought to PTC is the inclusion of a surprise seventh show for summer audiences.

This year’s installment in that slot is the musical “Mamma Mia!” After veering to comedy with last year’s “Shear Madness,” PTC has returned to the realm of the song-and-dance spectacle. “Mamma Mia!” is a delightful tale of love and laughter set on a Greek island, with a story told through liberal interpretation of songs by Swedish pop supergroup ABBA.

With book by Catherine Johnson and music & lyrics by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, this production is directed and choreographed by Amiee Turner, this show runs June 13 through July 14 at the Bangor Opera House.

(Tickets or more information about “Mamma Mia!” can be found on PTC’s website at www.penobscottheatre.org or by calling the box office at 942-3333; you can also find them on Facebook.)

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Ten Bucks Theatre Company

Richard III (July 18-Aug. 4)

One of the area’s most beloved cultural traditions continues as Ten Bucks Theatre Company once again renews their commitment to outdoor performances of the works of the Bard.

This summer’s offering is “Richard III,” the tale of a power-mad king driven to commit unspeakable acts in the name of expanding his influence. This gender-swapped production – many of the traditionally male roles (including the titular Richard III) will be played by women. The show is directed by Dan Hanchrow.

The show will unfold over three weekends at three different locations. They will be at their traditional home in Indian Trail Park in Brewer from July 18-21. Next up is the amphitheater at the Orono Public Library from July 25-28. And finally, Ten Bucks will bring Shakespeare to Fort Knox once more, running Aug. 1-4.

(For more information about “Richard III,” visit the TBTC website at www.tenbuckstheatre.org or find them on Facebook.)

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True North Theatre

Eurydice (June 21-30)

They’ve only been around for a couple of years, but True North Theatre has rapidly established themselves as a company to be reckoned with in the area’s theatrical scene.

Their offering this summer is a production of “Eurydice,” by Sarah Ruhl. It’s a marvelous take on the classic myth, a reimagination of the tale of Orpheus as relayed through the experience of its heroine. It’s a smart, thoughtful modernization that will doubtless be well-rendered by the talented True North crew.

Directed by Tricia Hobbs, True North’s “Eurydice” will run from June 21 through June 30 at the Cyrus Memorial Pavilion Theatre on the University of Maine campus in Orono.

(If you’re looking for more information about “Eurydice,” visit the website of True North Theatre at www.truenorththeatre.org or find them on Facebook.)

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Some Theatre Company

Next to Normal (Aug. 16-25)

We’re past the point of referring to Orono’s Some Theatre Company as a “new” company – they have been producing quality work for several years now. And they’ve never been ones to shy away from challenging, interesting pieces.

Their summer offering is no exception. STC will be revisiting a show with which they had considerable success previously, a nontraditional musical unlike any you’re likely to have seen (you know, unless you saw STC’s version).

It’s the musical “Next to Normal,” with music by Tom Kitt and book & lyrics by Brian Yorkey. It’s a sharp, thought-provoking rock musical with great songs and a compelling message. It runs August 16 through August 25 at the Keith Anderson Community House in Orono.

(For more information about “Next to Normal,” you can visit the Some Theatre Company website at www.sometheatrecompany.com or find STC on Facebook.)

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The Grand

Clue: The Musical (June 21-30)

Steel Magnolias (Aug. 23-Sept. 4)

The Grand in Ellsworth has made a clear commitment to reinvigorate their live theatre offerings recently and have done so with a great degree of success.

This summer sees them bring a pair of productions to their stage – one a musical and the other a comedy and both familiar names to theatre lovers everywhere.

First up is “Clue: The Musical,” with music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker and Vinnie Martucci, lyrics by Tom Chiodo and book by Peter Dipietro. Based on the classic board game, it’s a murder mystery with multiple possible endings. This show is directed by Leslie Michaud, with musical direction by Gina Schuh-Turner. The show runs from June 21 through June 30.

Next is the beloved comedy-drama “Steel Magnolias” by Robert Harling. This story of Southern women and the deep bonds formed through friendship is a modern stage classic. It will run from August 23 through September 4.

(For more information about either of these shows or other offerings at the Grand, please visit their website at www.grandonline.org or check them out on Facebook.)

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Midcoast Actors’ Studio

Into the Woods (Aug. 2-11)

Belfast’s Midcoast Actors’ Studio has been consistently producing exceptional work over the past few years, offering up a wide range of interesting and engaging projects.

This summer’s production is the classic musical “Into the Woods.” This imaginative exploration and reinvention of beloved fairy tales has long been a favorite, with some of the most revered songs in the musical theatre canon. With music and lyrics by the legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, this one promises to be a delight for the whole family.

Directed by Sarah Joy, “Into the Woods” runs at Belfast’s Crosby Center from August 2 through August 11.

(For more information about Midcoast Actors’ Studio and their upcoming offerings, please visit their website at www.midcoastactors.org or find them on Facebook.)

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Opera House Arts

Shakespeare in Love (July 18-28)

Avalon (Aug. 15-25)

The Stonington Opera House has played host to some of the most fascinating and eclectic theatrical selections of any group on this list over the past few years. The folks at Opera House Arts have regularly proven willing to think outside the box, both with their interpretations of classic works and their productions of new ones.

It’s an interesting pairing this summer. First up is “Shakespeare in Love,” adapted to the stage by Lee Hall from the screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman. It’s, well, exactly what it says – a love story featuring William Shakespeare. It’s a departure for Opera House Arts – this is their first time venturing outside Shakespeare’s direct canon for their annual Bardic celebration. Directed by Julia Sears, the show runs from July 18 through July 28.

This summer’s companion piece is an original work titled “Avalon,” written by OAH mainstay Meoldy Bates (her “Romeo & Juliet & Zombies” was a delight). Based on the Arthurian mythos and co-directed by Joan Jubett & Laura Butler Rivera, this piece was developed site-specifically as an effort to create a work that is more experimental and experiential in nature. This one runs from August 15 through August 25.

(For more information regarding Opera House Arts, visit their website at www.operahousearts.org or find them on Facebook.)

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Acadia Repertory Theatre

Ghost-Writer, by Michael Hollinger (June 25-July 6)

The Ice Fishing Play, by Kevin Kling (July 9-20)

Perfect Wedding, by Robin Hawdon (July 23-Aug. 11)

Agatha Christie’s Towards Zero (Aug. 13-Sept. 1)

Acadia Repertory Theatre has been bringing live performances to Mount Desert Island audiences since 1973 – that means this is their 47th year, if you’re counting. In that span of time, hundreds of productions have hit the stage in their home theater, a converted Masonic Hall in Somesville that is as lovely a summer theater space as you’ll find.

First up is “Ghost-Writer,” by Michael Hollinger. This piece is the story of a novelist who dies in the midst of dictation, but his secretary continues his work. What follows is her efforts to prove that her own ideas are worth exploring and are not an attempt to usurp the legacy of another. This one runs from June 25 through July 6.

Next is “The Ice Fishing Play.” Written by Kevin Kling, it’s the story of one Minnesota fisherman’s efforts to finally catch the big one – and we’re not necessarily just talking about a fish. Equal parts funny and poignant, it’s a tale of memories and more. The show runs from July 9 through July 20.

Following that is Robin Hawdon’s “Perfect Wedding.” This farcical rom-com revolves around a groom-to-be waking up on the morning of his wedding day next to an attractive woman who is not his fiancée – and he has no recollection of how she got there. What follows is door-slamming delight as he enlists his best man to take the heat, only to set in motion a series of hilariously tumbling dominoes. The play runs from July 23 through August 11.

Closing the Acadia Repertory season will be “Agatha Christie’s Towards Zero,” the stage version of the iconic mystery writer’s 1944 novel. An ailing woman invites her ward for a visit; he insists on bringing along not just his current wife, but his former wife as well. That would be awkward enough … and then the murders begin. ART can always be counted on to give good Christie; this one runs from August 13 through September 1.

(For more information about Acadia Repertory Theatre or any of its summer offerings, you can visit their website at www.acadiarep.com or find them on Facebook.)

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New Surry Theatre

Dear Elizabeth (June 7-16)

The Diary of Anne Frank (July 12-27)

Nunsense (Aug. 9-24)

Blue Hill’s New Surry Theatre has been a mainstay in the Maine theatrical scene for nearly 50 years. For the past decade-plus, it has called the Blue Hill Town Hall Theater home.

First up this summer is Sarah Ruhl’s “Dear Elizabeth,” a play based on the decades-long correspondence between the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. It’s a compelling look at the relationship between two literary giants. This show runs from June 7 through June 16.

Next is “The Diary of Anne Frank,” the stage adaptation of the well-known tale of tragedy during World War II. It’s a heartbreaking work, one that has captivated audiences for over 60 years. This production runs from July 12 through July 27.

The next offering is a very different one. “Nunsense” – with book, music and lyrics by Dan Goggin – is a musical comedy experience unlike any other. After all, what’s funnier than nuns putting on a show to raise money for the interments of other nuns accidentally killed by the cook? This one runs from August 9 through August 24.

(For more information about New Surry Theatre, visit their website at www.newsurrytheatre.org or find them on Facebook.)

 

 

Bagaduce Theatre

Shakespeare Remembers: War and Peace (May 23-June 2)

Hay Fever (June 20-July 7)

The Glass Menagerie (July 25-Aug. 11)

This is the first time we have included the Brooksville-based Bagaduce Theatre in this annual feature. This year marks just their fourth summer season, but they have already developed a reputation for producing outstanding work.

First up (and currently running) is “Shakespeare Remembers: War and Peace,” a collection of Shakespearean scenes featuring some of the Bard’s most beloved and memorable characters, all revolving around the theme of war and peace. This show opened on May 23 and runs through June 2.

Next comes a production of Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever,” a classic comedy revolving around bad manners and weekend guests. Among the most famous works from the noted playwright, this one promises to offer up plenty of laughs. The show is set to run from June 20 through July 7.

After that comes another classic, albeit a very different one. “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams is considered to be among the greatest dramatic works of the 20th century. It is an iconic piece of American theatre produced by one of our finest playwrights. This autobiographical memory play will run from July 25 through August 11.

(Note: While Bagaduce Theatre’s final production of the season technically falls outside the auspices of the summer, we would be remiss if we neglected to mention their production of “Bird of Passage,” a Maine-set play written by Colby Halloran and based on the Lawrence S. Hall short story “The Ledge.” The show runs September 5 through September 22.)

(For more information about Bagaduce Theatre and their assortment of summer offerings, you can visit their website at www.bagaducetheatre.com or find them on Facebook.)

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Finally, as always, I’d like to draw your attention to one particular company that, while a little farther afield than the previous entries, is still worthy of your attention and will definitely reward you if you choose to make the journey – a company that is marking a momentous anniversary season.

Theatre at Monmouth

It might take you a while to get to historic Cumston Hall from the Bangor area, but it is always well worth the trip. The Theatre at Monmouth is one of the finest theatrical organizations in all of New England, with a reputation for quality that it has earned over the last half-century. That’s right – this is TAM’s 50th season. You should probably help them celebrate. Tickets and more info can be found at www.theatreatmonmouth.org.

(Please note: Shows at TAM are done in repertory, so there is some variation in scheduling. Be sure to double-check available dates.)

Murder for Two, book & lyrics by Kellen Blair and book & music by Joe Kinosian (June 25-Aug. 16)

The Merry Wives of Windsor, by William Shakespeare (July 4-Aug. 18)

Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (July 11-Aug. 15)

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (July 18-Aug. 17)

Intimate Apparel, by Lynn Nottage (July 25-Aug. 16)

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