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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 – Bangor’s professional theatre company is getting ready to kick off the 2019-2020 season.

Penobscot Theatre Company is launching into its 46th season in just a couple of weeks. The company has been a mainstay of the region’s cultural scene since its very beginnings back in 1973 – nearly half-a-century ago – growing right along with myriad other aspects of the city’s vibrant evolution.

For year 46, Artistic Director Bari Newport and her team have put together another interesting, engaging season – one aimed at connecting with all manner of audiences.

“We pride ourselves on doing a wide variety of work,” Newport said. “And next season is a perfect example. The wide demographic that we reach, both geographically and in terms of interest level. ‘I like comedies.’ ‘I like to bring my family.’ ‘I like new work.’ ‘I like musicals.’ ‘I like historical pieces.’ ‘I like dramas.’ We truly reach a wide variety of different types of people and I want our season to reflect that.”

It is a wide-ranging season, to be sure – from musicals and dramas to farces and one-woman shows, this program has got them all. If the mission is to try to come up with something for everyone, it seems clear that this is mission accomplished.

“We've been really focused on being distinctive,” said Newport. “And I think that we are. I think that our work is very much our own. I think it’s vibrant and optimistic and colorful – energetic. We try to really dig in to every aspect.” 

Let’s take a closer look at PTC’s 2019-2020.

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

ORONO – It’s another big year for the CCA.

The Collins Center for the Arts is heading into its 34th season of exceptional arts programming on the campus of the University of Maine in Orono.

The CCA – formerly known as the Maine Center for the Arts – has been a vital hub for the performing arts in the region ever since the Bangor Symphony Orchestra christened its stage all the way back in 1986. The iconic building has played host to memorable acts large and small over the years, bringing a wonderful variety of arts and entertainment to our area.

The Collins Center is a foundational piece of the region’s cultural community; for over three decades, they have been a key part of the scene, offering quality programming at affordable prices year after year.

The 2019-2020 season is no exception, with a wonderful variety of music, theater and dance aimed at audiences of all ages. As per usual, the powers that be at the CCA have managed to ensure that there really is something for everyone. No surprise there – accessibility has always been a watchword for the organization.

Danny Williams, the CCA’s Executive Director, and Associate Director Karen Cole sat down with The Maine Edge to discuss some of the highlights of the upcoming season. Williams hit the ground running with a story about the performer officially opening the CCA season on Sept. 13, the legendary Chubby Checker.

Published in Cover Story

STONINGTON – The love story behind one of history’s greatest love stories is currently playing out on the stage of the Stonington Opera House.

Opera House Arts is presenting Lee Hall’s acclaimed stage adaptation of the 1998 Oscar-winning film “Shakespeare in Love.” The show – directed by Julia Sears – runs through July 28.

Traditionally, OHA has presented one of Shakespeare’s plays, but as part of the celebration of their 20th season, the choice was made to mix things up. Thus, a play not BY Shakespeare, but rather one ABOUT him. It’s a clever pick that accentuates OHA’s usual strengths while also offering a chance to engage with something a little bit different.

It doesn’t hurt that it’s a fantastic story – a tale of one man’s desperate desire for greatness, on the page and in matters of the heart alike, and the woman whose own greatness may prove to be both blessing and curse. All of it set against a backdrop of backstage shenanigans as a handful of rogues and ruffians try to get their acts together long enough to put on a show – a show that’s still being written. Oh, and an unwanted marriage. And a queen. And a dog.

The wildest part of all? It’s even better than it sounds.

Published in Style

BREWER – The winter of our discontent shall be made glorious summer, courtesy of Ten Bucks Theatre Company.

TBT’s latest installment of their Shakespeare Under the Stars series is “Richard III,” which played last weekend in Brewer’s Indian Trail Park. Subsequent performances will take place at the Orono Public Library’s amphitheater (July 25-28) and at Fort Knox in Prospect (Aug. 1-4).

Directed by Daniel Hanchrow, it’s the story of one person’s twisted plan to usurp the British throne and their willingness to indulge in whatever vicious acts, terrible deceptions and base betrayals necessary to achieve that single-minded aim. Featuring fluid casting, stripped-down production values and some bold aesthetic choices, it’s a production that is both unique in the annals of TBT’s history with the Bard and very much of a piece with some of the big swings of Shakespeare past.

Seriously – with women cast in men’s roles (in a reversal of the tradition of Shakespeare’s day) and a visual palette inspired by the ‘90s gangster oeuvre of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Guy Richie, this is outdoor Shakespeare the likes of which you don’t often see.

Published in Buzz

BREWER – One of central Maine’s beloved cultural traditions is marking a milestone this summer.

Ten Bucks Theatre Company’s production of “Richard III” – running July 18-21 at Brewer’s Indian Trail Park, July 25-28 at the Orono Public Library Amphitheater and Aug. 1-4 at Fort Knox in Prospect – marks the company’s 15th outdoor production.

Since their first Shakespeare Under the Stars production – “Taming of the Shrew” in 2004 – Ten Bucks has produced a show almost every summer since, with 2008 being the lone exception.

Julie Lisnet is one of the co-founders of Ten Bucks Theatre Company and was there at the table when the decision was first made to set off on this Shakespearean journey.

(Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, I am also a co-founder of Ten Bucks Theatre and I was also part of the conversations that led down this path.)

“Hard to believe TBT will be 20 in 2020,” Lisnet said. “I’m getting old!

“So, it [Shakespeare Under the Stars] came about because in 2002, PTC shut down the Maine Shakespeare Festival. Most of us co-founding members – you, me, Catherine LeClair, Bob Libbey, Rebecca Cook, Ron Adams, Kenny Volock, Sharon Zolper – we had all been involved with Maine Shakespeare. After PTC shut it down and no Shakespeare was had in 2003, people started asking TBT to take up the mantle. So we did.”

What followed was the aforementioned “Taming of the Shrew” in Brewer’s Indian Trail Park and a long list of outdoor shows:

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2005); “Macbeth” (2006; “As You Like It” (2007); “Twelfth Night” (2009); “Romeo and Juliet” (2010); “Hamlet” (2011); “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2012); “The Tempest” (2013); “Julius Caesar” (2014); “Dracula,” the sole non-Shakespeare of the bunch (2015); “The Comedy of Errors” (2016); “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (2017); “Macbeth” (2018); and opening this weekend, “Richard III.”

Over the years, Ten Bucks has expanded into new venues. Early on, shows stayed put in Brewer, but subsequent productions have hit the road – the current run sees them play three venues in three weeks, starting at Indian Trail Park before spending a week at the Orono Public Library Amphitheater and then closing out the run with a week at Fort Knox in Prospect.

All of it done out of a love of Shakespeare and a passion for their craft. Scores of people coming together with a simple singular goal – to bring out the Bard.

In an effort to look back at this history, I spoke to six people who have been extensively involved with the outdoor productions of Ten Bucks. Joining Lisnet are Aimee Gerow, Katie Toole, Nathan Roach, Ben Layman and Adam Cousins. Each was invited to share thoughts and memories of their times on the outdoor stage. And share they did.

Published in Cover Story

ORONO – A modern take on a classic myth is currently washing over an Orono stage.

True North Theatre is presenting Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice” at the Cyrus Memorial Pavilion Theater on the University of Maine campus. Directed by Tricia Hobbs, this reimagining of the Greek myth of Orpheus is running through June 30.

This play demonstrates once again the artistic flexibility and creative range of True North. While the company itself is still young, the people involved bring a significant depth of experience to all facets of the theatremaking process. Whether they’re tackling American classics like “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” or broad British farces like “Table Manners,” True North almost always hits its mark.

That trend continues with “Eurydice,” a play that is demanding both performatively and technically. It’s a piece with a tremendous amount to say about love and loss and the sacrifice that leads to the latter is often made in full service to the former. It is also darkly funny and unabashedly weird. A challenging work for sure, but as usual, True North proves fully capable of rising to meet it.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 18 June 2019 19:19

Take a chance on PTC - ‘Mamma Mia!’

BANGOR – There’s a whole lot of fun in the sun happening at the Bangor Opera House these days, a wealth of dreams and dancing queens.

Penobscot Theatre Company’s latest production – the final one of their 46th season – is the musical “Mamma Mia!” It’s a jukebox musical built on the tremendous catalog of 1970s Swedish pop supergroup ABBA, with book by Catherine Johnson. This production – directed and choreographed by Amiee Turner, with music direction by Phil Burns – runs through July 14 at the Bangor Opera House.

It’s the story of a young woman on the verge of getting married who is hoping to get a better sense of who she herself is by learning more about her history – specifically, who her father is, something her free-spirited and hard-working mother never told her. It’s about how powerful love can be … and what it means to allow yourself to feel it, no matter how much time may have passed.

It’s a lovely (albeit a tough thin) story, but the real highlights are the singing and the dancing – and as far as those are concerned, PTC’s production is pure dynamite. It is one of the biggest, brightest shows to grace this stage in some time, shiny and sweet and downright spectacular.

Published in Style
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