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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
Monday, 23 November 2020 16:41

And the band played on – BSO goes digital

BANGOR – It’s an old adage in the arts – one of the oldest, really: “The show must go on.”

Artistic organizations find themselves putting that sentiment to the test these days, with everyone searching for ways to move forward even as the ongoing pandemic hinders their ability to do so. Everyone is adapting on the fly, searching for ways to continue their respective missions while also doing the right thing and keeping performers and audiences safe.

Suffice it to say, this wasn’t what the Bangor Symphony Orchestra intended for its celebratory 125th season.

And yet, even in the face of the these obstacles, the folks at the BSO have found a way to assemble a first-rate program for this auspicious anniversary, one that – thanks to tremendous effort and patience from many – looks to be an exceptional continuation of the orchestra’s ongoing mission.

Published in Cover Story

BANGOR – The playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” But as we continue to navigate the turbulent waters of the pandemic, artists and arts organizations have largely been left to find their own way.

The truth is that the arts – particularly live performance – were the first to go away and will likely be the last to return. What will it take to deal with this new reality?

Published in Cover Story

BREWER – When it comes to Ten Bucks Theatre Company’s annual Shakespeare Under the Stars production, the show must go on – pandemic be damned.

This summer’s offering – directed by Amy Roeder – is “The Taming of the Shrew,” with performances at three different venues: Brewer’s Indian Trail Park (July 16-19, 23-24), Old Town’s Hirundo Wildlife Refuge (July 25-26) and Fort Knox in Prospect (July 30-31, Aug. 1-2). All performances start at 6 p.m.

Due to the current circumstances, social distancing measures will be in place (including for the cast). Audiences will be limited to 50 people and the show will be presented without an intermission.

There are a lot of challenges that come with trying to mount a show right now. By all appearances, Ten Bucks has met all of them with enthusiasm and passion. This is a difficult piece to do well under ideal conditions, let alone now. Yet this intrepid crew has overcome the obstacles of circumstance. The result is a charming, engaging piece of theatre – one that might help you escape, if only for a couple of hours. These days, that’s a precious gift.

Published in Style

BANGOR – Silly schemes and sexy shenanigans are unfolding (and undressing) at the Bangor Opera House.

Penobscot Theatre Company’s latest production is the farce “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” adapted by Robin Hawdon from Marc Camoletti’s “Pyjama Pour Six.” Directed by Chris “Red” Blissette, the show runs through February 16.

It’s a madcap whirlwind of amorous misfortune and mistaken identity, with the questionable-at-best decisions made by a group of oversexed friends and lovers resulting in an ever-escalating spiral of lies that threatens to blow up at every turn. And with every untruth, the collapse comes closer. Will any of these relationships survive the night?

All of this playing out in a high-octane dance of entrances and exits and – of course – slamming doors galore, driven by a first-rate ensemble. It’s energetic and entertaining, a frothy bit of fun that will induce some warming, welcome laughter at this ever-so-cold time of the year.

Published in Style

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

BANGOR – There’s no business like show business. And when you have a show about show business? Well – the show must go on. And on. And on…

Bangor Community Theatre is presenting “Moon Over Buffalo,” a comedy by Ken Ludwig, on their home stage at the Bangor Grange Hall. The show – directed by Irene Dennis – runs through Nov. 24.

It’s the story of two aging actors, touring the hinterlands with a pair of classic stage plays in the 1950s. However, when an unexpected opportunity presents the possibility of a return to glory, the pair will do whatever it takes to make it happen – no matter what.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 22 October 2019 13:28

PTC’s ‘Gaslight’ lights up the stage

BANGOR – All is not as it seems on the stage of the Bangor Opera House.

Penobscot Theatre Company is presenting “Gaslight,” the 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton. This Victorian Era-set melodrama is directed by Bari Newport; the show runs through November 3. It’s a thrilling tale of deceit, a story where not even the evidence of one’s own eyes can be trusted.

This play – and the subsequent film adaptations – led to the inception of the term “gaslight,” defined by Merriam-Wesbter as follows: “To attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation.”

In this story, a woman whose grip on the reality of the world around her is steadily crumbling must confront the fact that there’s far more to her descent into madness than she could ever have imagined. She’s left with no idea who to trust and forced to come to terms with the notion that there are those close to her who may have sinister motives.

PTC is offering up some full-on back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead melodrama, with all the shadowy sumptuousness and flamboyant flourishes that that entails. It is big and broad and overtly theatrical, easily overcoming a somewhat-dated script with rich production values and wonderfully toothsome performances.

Published in Buzz
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