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BANGOR – We’re all intimately familiar with the story of the Grinch. We all know about his disdain for Christmas and his malicious attempts to steal the joy of the season from the innocents of Whoville and, yes, his subsequent change of heart.

But what happened after that?

Penobscot Theatre Company looks to answer that very question with their production of Matthew Lombardo’s “Who’s Holiday,” running through December 26 at PTC’s secondary space at 51 Main Street in Bangor. However, you should be warned – while the original tale was aimed at kids, this show – directed by Cheryl Snodgrass and starring A.J. Mooney – very much is NOT.

What’s the show about? Let’s try to tell it like the maestro would, shall we?

Published in Style

ORONO – A unique theatrical experience featuring a collaboration spanning half the globe is currently taking place in Orono.

The show in question is “Anon(ymous),” by Naomi Iizuka; it will be running at the Cyrus Memorial Pavilion on the University of Maine campus in Orono through October 24. The production’s directors are Rosalie Purvis and Debaroti Chakraborty. Now, it’s not that unusual for a theatrical piece to have two directors, but in this case, the circumstances are unusual indeed. You see, these directors – and performers – are separated by thousands of miles. Purvis is the Libra Assistant Professor of Theatre and English at the University of Maine. Chakraborty is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Performing Arts at Presidency University in India.

They have come together – along with casts on either side of the world – to create this multimedia experience. Combining live performance and video, this show – a modern reimagining of Homer’s classic epic “The Odyssey” – unites students from both institutions in an effort to tell a story both familiar and unexpected, a tale of desperation and hope and, ultimately, of one person’s efforts to find their way home.

Published in Buzz

BANGOR – One of the region’s most steadfast and beloved cultural institutions is gearing up to get back onstage.

Penobscot Theatre Company is on the verge of getting back to live, in-person theatre. The company announced their upcoming season with a virtual town hall event last month, but now that we’re approaching that first opening night, it seemed appropriate to do a full-on season preview.

While PTC did a wonderful job of finding ways to pivot into the digital realm last season, crafting a thoughtful and high-quality season in “Digitus Theatrum” that found ways to maneuver around the multitude of obstacles raised by the circumstances of the pandemic, there’s no question that they – and theatre lovers in Bangor and beyond – are eager to take their seats at the Bangor Opera House and be transported by the special magic of live performance.

This new season marks the company’s 48th, if you can believe it. For nearly half a century, Penobscot Theatre Company has been a cultural cornerstone for the region, the northeasternmost professional theatre company in the United States. It is a foundational piece of our area’s creative fabric, one of the many incredible organizations that bring the arts to life in this place that we call home.

There’s a lot of great stuff coming. From a beloved holiday classic to a Maine playwright’s premiere, from a pair of one-woman shows to a romantic two-hander to a big, bold musical, PTC has put together a collection of offerings that will feature something for just about every theatregoer out there.

And there have been changes in the organization as well, the biggest being the ascension of Tricia A. Hobbs, longtime PTC staff member, to the position of Acting Artistic Director of the company following the departure of previous Artistic Director Bari Newport earlier this year. Hobbs has worn numerous hats during her time at PTC – she has worked as a scenic designer and director, as well as serving as production manager and technical director. Her hands-on experience with so many facets of the theatrical experience make her a worthy choice to steer the ship during this turbulent time.

Now, this is a much later kickoff to the season than we usually see from PTC, with the first show opening in mid-November rather than early September. Rather than rush the process, the team opted to take careful steps as they moved forward, taking into account still-shifting situations. That said, these folks are definitely ready to get back to it.

So what should people expect? I spoke to Hobbs and PTC Executive Director Jen Shepard about what the upcoming season will hold – both in terms of what audiences will see and how they will experience it.

Published in Cover Story

BANGOR - Penobscot Theatre Company has announced its 47th season, an assortment of plays and musicals professionally produced and staged at the company’s historic home.

After the unexpected curtailment of the current season, Penobscot Theatre Company looks forward more than ever to lighting-up the marquee and welcoming patrons to the historic Bangor Opera House for the 2020-21 Season. Performances are set to begin just after Labor Day and extend into early July. 

“We have great confidence in the future of Penobscot Theatre Company and we’re eager to share an extraordinary line-up,” said Producing Artistic Director Bari Newport. “By subscribing, you’re committing to Penobscot Theatre Company - to our institution, to the artists you’ve grown to love and to the value of theatre in our community. Of course, the health and safety of our artists and audience are our highest priority, and we’ll remain closely attuned to public health guidelines in the coming months.  Improvisation is at the heart of our craft and if we must adjust our plans, we will; but at this time, based on all the information at our disposal, we’re proceeding cautiously but optimistically.” 

Published in Buzz

ORONO – They say opposites attract … but do they really? And for how long?

True North Theatre is bringing a Neil Simon classic to the stage with their production of “The Odd Couple.” Directed by Angela Bonacasa and starring TNT regulars Tellis Coolong and Tyler Costigan, the show runs through Jan. 19 at the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre on the campus of the University of Maine at Orono.

It’s the best-known of Simon’s many theatrical classics, a story about the difficulties inherent to starting over and the importance of friends who will support you even as you drive them crazy. It’s also arguably his funniest, with the mismatched pair at the show’s center an iconic stage dynamic; their relationship laid the foundation for a hundred comedies – some brilliant, others derivative, but all undeniably inspired by Oscar and Felix.

True North gets it, featuring fine performances from that central duo and a general understanding of just how hilarious this script is - an understanding that is ulitmately executed wonderfully.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 10 December 2019 12:05

‘Matilda: The Musical’ a magical good time

BANGOR – The power and importance of storytelling is springing to life at the Bangor Opera House this holiday season, courtesy of one very special little girl.

Penobscot Theatre Company has opened their production of “Matilda: The Musical,” based on the classic children’s story of the same name by Roald Dahl, with book by Dennis Kelly and music & lyrics by Tim Minchin. The PTC production – directed and choreographed by Jeff Payton and Matthew Shaffer with music direction by Phil Burns – runs through December 29.

It’s a huge undertaking for PTC, with a massive, kid-heavy cast and a significant logistical load on the production side. It’s the sort of show where the spectacle of the thing is an integral aspect of the proceedings; the bigness of it all is baked in. And thanks to some great performances and bold aesthetic choices, this huge undertaking is a successful one.

Published in Buzz

December is here, and hence the holiday season is in full force. The snow has started falling, the lights have started shining and the shopping has started in earnest. Hopefully, you’re out there shopping local whenever you can – a thriving community depends on consumers buying from their neighbors.

But shopping local doesn’t end with retail. You should shop local when it comes to your Yuletide entertainment as well. And here’s the thing – you can do that, because there is an embarrassment of riches out there for locally-offered holiday performance.

Sure, you could sit at home and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time or run through your Christmas Spotify playlist. But where’s the fun in that?

Especially when you take into account that our region is absolutely jammed with possibilities. There are stage shows and concerts galore. There is comedy and drama and so much music. There are holiday classics and brand-new creations. All of it right here in your backyard.

Look, if you want to stay home and drink hot toddies in front of a roaring fireplace, that’s perfectly OK. No judgment – sounds like you’ve figured out what it is you want from the holiday season and life in general. But if you’re looking to be entertained, well … you’re in luck.

In recent years, it seems as though every December has had a wealth of options. But this year more than ever, it feels like there really is something for everyone out there.

Please note that this isn’t even close to everything out there. I’ve just chosen a handful of options that might pique your interest. Keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground, because there is just so much out there, with so many people celebrating with their own joyful noises.

Published in Cover Story
Tuesday, 15 October 2019 20:43

Let ‘The Sunshine Boys’ in

BANGOR – Vaudeville is alive and well (well … sort of) on a local stage.

Ten Bucks Theatre Company is offering up their production of the Neil Simon comedy “The Sunshine Boys” at their theater space in the Bangor Mall. Directed by Ben Layman, the show runs through Oct. 20.

It’s a tale of a friendship gone sour, featuring a pair of stubborn men whose once-intimate connection is long in the past, courtesy of a number of slights both real and perceived. It’s about what a monumental task it can be to forgive (even if age has made it a little easier to forget). A love of show business can run deep, but deeper than a friendship?

Depends on the friend.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 18 September 2019 08:53

Celebrating Lucas! A 2019-20 BSO season preview

BANGOR – The Bangor Symphony Orchestra, led by musical director and conductor Lucas Richman, is set to kick off its 124th season next month.

The BSO is one of the cultural cornerstones of our region. It has the lengthiest history of any of our area’s arts organizations. Indeed, it has one of the lengthiest histories of any community orchestra in the entire country, bringing music to the Bangor masses since the waning days of the 19th century.

The 2019-2020 season features the symphony’s standard selection of excellence, with the six shows of the Masterworks series taking place at the Collins Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Maine. Other BSO traditions will continue to be observed as well – their beloved partnership with the Robinson Ballet on a production of “The Nutcracker” will happen in December, while their annual Pops concert (titled “Music of the Knights” for reasons that will soon be made clear) has moved from its usual slot in March into late May.

It also marks the tenth year in the tenure of the BSO’s music director and conductor Lucas Richman; this season is intended to celebrate his time here in Bangor, with original works and performances from the man himself along with the usual excellence of the orchestra and its guest artists.

In addition, thanks to the symphony’s partnership with the Bangor Arts Exchange, the BSO is also providing a wealth of smaller-scale programming over the course of the year, with numerous events – many of them free to the public – taking place in the BAE building, located on Exchange Street in downtown Bangor.

Published in Cover Story

BANGOR – There’s another great slate of shows gracing the stage of the Gracie Theatre this season.

The Gracie Theatre – located on the campus of Husson University – will be presenting a wide range of entertainment over the course of this season, their eighth. Music and comedy and more will be offered up to arts lovers and cultural consumers of the region.

The Gracie has been a welcome part of the region’s creative scene for years now, one that has thrived over the past eight years, bringing a wonderful and diverse crop of performers to their Bangor stage every season. This year’s slate is no exception, featuring some fun new acts and a familiar face or two.

Jeri Misler, the managing director (and more!) of the Gracie, was kind enough to answer a few questions from The Maine Edge about the upcoming season and what it means to put a program like this together.

Published in Cover Story
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