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ORONO – There’s something inherently fun about outdoor theatre. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it; it’s more a combination of things. The sun, the fresh air - it just feels like a nice mix with theatre in general and Shakespeare in particular, at least to me. Watching people tell you a story while the sun sets is a heck of a way to spend an evening.

Now, our current circumstances have made it a bit more difficult. Take the University of Maine School of Performing Arts, for instance. Their plan was to present an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy “Twelfth Night, Or What You Will” in the Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden on the UMaine campus in Orono. Unfortunately, the ever-changing pandemic dynamics meant that they could not perform for audiences.

Well … not LIVE audiences, anyway.

See, rather than let the situation defeat them, they went ahead and did the show anyway. They’re theatre kids, folks – you’re not going to stop them.

And so, the University of Maine School of Performing Arts is presenting their filmed version of “Twelfth Night” for streaming through May 9. Directed by Julie Arnold Lisnet, the show is available through the UMaine SPA website – just visit www.umaine.edu/spa/tickets and you’ll be on your way. Tickets are $12 for the general public and just $3 for UMaine students.

Published in Style

Teenage pressure is universal. It comes in different forms and flavors for every generation, but every generation must deal with it. And remarkably, for many, the memories of those pressures largely dissipate as we grow older, leaving behind gauzy memories of pleasant vagaries. We forget because it hurts to remember.

Being a teenager is HARD. And in many ways, it has never been harder than it is today.

The demands on their time, the unending deluge of activities and extracurriculars, all in service to a relentless pursuit of what comes next. You have to get the right scholarship to the right school. You have to fill your calendar to bursting, leaving nary a minute unspoken for, all so that you might have a shot at whatever brass ring of higher education you’ve spent the last decade grasping at.

The latest production from the University of Maine School of Performing Arts is a reflection and representation of that struggle. SPA is presenting Sarah DeLappe’s play “The Wolves,” directed by Marcia Joy Douglas; due to COVID-19 restrictions, the show cannot be performed live, but on-demand streaming is available through March 14. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased through the School of Performing Arts website at www.umaine.edu/spa.

The play looks at this omnipresent pressure through the lens of a girls’ soccer team. It is a sharp, darkly funny glimpse at the inner lives of teenagers who have spent their entire existence defined by expectations of the looming future. It is a world where adults are rarely heard and even more rarely seen, leaving the girls to play out all of their hopes and fears alongside one another, even as they play the beautiful game on the field.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 22 October 2019 13:33

‘Rumors’ a farce to be reckoned with

ORONO – There are a whole lot of doors being slammed and stories being spun on the University of Maine campus, courtesy of a classic Neil Simon farce.

UMaine’s School of Performing Arts is presenting Simon’s “Rumors” at the Cyrus Memorial Pavilion Theater on the Orono campus. Directed by Julie Lisnet, the show runs through Oct. 27.

It seems as though the region has Neil Simon on the brain these days – Ten Bucks Theatre just closed their production of the playwright’s “The Sunshine Boys” – but there’s a reason for that: he’s funny. His work is charming and clever and accessible, a perfect fit for just about any company. “Rumors” is a great example of that; it’s not top-tier in terms of Simon’s most well-known work, but it’s just a tick below.

And again – it’s VERY funny.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:34

‘The Curious Savage’ a satisfying surprise

ORONO – There are some curious goings-on currently afoot at the University of Maine.

UMaine’s School of Performing Arts is presenting John Patrick’s classic 1950 comedy “The Curious Savage.” The production, directed by Julie Arnold Lisnet, is taking place at Hauck Auditorium on the University of Maine campus; the show runs through November 18.

The show tells the story of a widowed woman whose deceased husband placed a lot of money in her care – money that her unpleasant stepchildren would like to get their hands on. They’re willing to go so far as to have her committed, but what they don’t count on is the strength and smarts of their stepmother – or the help she might find in unexpected places.

Published in Style

ORONO – A classic allegory is coming to animalistic life at UMaine.

The University of Maine School of Performing Arts (SPA) is presenting Orwell’s “Animal Farm” inside the intimate Al Cyrus Pavilion Theatre on the Orono campus. The show, directed by Alan Liam Estes, runs through Oct. 28.

Published in Style

ORONO – A beloved comedic classic is springing (or summering) to life at the University of Maine.

UMaine’s School of Performing Arts is presenting their production of William Shakespeare’s beloved “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Directed by Marcia Joy Douglas, the play runs through Nov. 19 at UMaine’s Hauck Auditorium.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 26 October 2016 11:42

'Big Love' a weird, wonderful time

UMaine School of Performing Arts presents challenging piece

Published in Style
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 13:44

Growing pains Spring Awakening'

UMaine production combines old story, new music

ORONO We live in a world that has become oversensualized in a lot of ways. When it comes to teenagers especially, it can sometimes seem like adolescence has become a race to the finish line of sexuality. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy they grow up so fast these days.

Of course, while it can be argued that kids today learn too much too soon, it can also be very easy to forget that not so long ago, young people were kept in the dark about basic emotional interactions and their very natural (and very human) sexuality. Too much knowledge might merit our concern, but so too does too little.

The musical 'Spring Awakening,' based on a century-old German play of the same name, offers an exploration of a time when the physical and emotional sensations of the youth were misunderstood unknowns. The University of Maine School of Performing Arts is presenting their own production of the musical, which features book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik. The show runs through Feb. 24 at Hauck Auditorium on the UMaine campus.

The action takes place in Germany in the late 1800s. Wendla (Hope Milne) is a young girl who is just starting to realize that there is so much about the world that she simply doesn't know. Her parents, rather than deal with her as an adult, instead insist on treating her like the child she no longer is.

Meanwhile, Melchior (Austin Erickson) is a young man whose intelligence and inquisitiveness make him a bit of a handful in the strict authoritarian schools. His classmate Moritz (Garrett Rollins) doesn't have Melchior's natural gifts, and so finds himself struggling both with the high academic expectations and the stern and harsh strictures of the system.

We watch as these teenagers along with their friends slowly begin to discover the realities of who they are. This self-exploration wends its way through a number of basic truths of growing up. However, these kids have not been equipped to deal with the realities of the world. Things like puberty and sexuality (hetero and homo alike), pregnancy and abuse (physical and sexual) are thrust into their lives, and they haven't the slightest idea of how to deal with them.

'Spring Awakening' ostensibly centers on Melchior and Wendla; Erickson and Milne ease us through a developing relationship that dances from sweet to unsettling to sad. Their interactions are the foundation on which the rest of the show is constructed. Strong voices blend with childlike innocence to create a jarring juxtaposition. Theirs is an engaging love, despite being doomed from the start.

Rollins offers a nicely awkward counterpoint to the more self-assured Melchior. His journey might be the most well-defined of them all; we are forced into empathy as he bears us along on his sad descent. The barefoot Bohemian Ilse, played with brash fearlessness by Blaise Collette, stands out as well. And Nellie Kelly as Martha, alongside Collette and the rest of the cast, belts out perhaps the most aggressively moving song of the entire show, the chillingly powerful 'The Dark I Know Well.'

Of course, at its core, this show is about the ensemble. The world of this play is an off-kilter one a 19th century story wedded to 21st century songs. Real investment from every player on the stage is needed for there to be any hope of verisimilitude. The young girls, the schoolboys, even the adults ranging from cruel to clueless all add their own unique facets to the tale being told.

Director Tom Mikotowicz deserves credit for assembling a quality cast and tasking them with such a challenging piece of work. The world of adolescent sexuality is a minefield from which many of these players aren't so far removed Mikotowicz strikes a balance between the subtle and the overt. Music director Craig Ouellette has assembled a first-rate octet of an orchestra, providing not only the tunes behind the songs, but the backbeat of the production itself.

Scenic designer Dan Bilodeau has created a set that manages to be minimal while still feeling epic a feat no doubt aided by Shon Causer's high-octane lighting design. The two designs elevate each other, combining into something much greater than either individual aspect.

'Spring Awakening' is the best kind of academic theater both challenging and entertaining; credit to the School of Performing Arts for mounting a show that can offer lessons to performers and audience members alike.

('Spring Awakening' is playing at UMaine's Hauck Auditorium through Feb. 24. For tickets or more information, visit the School of Performing Arts website at umaine.edu/spa.)

Published in Happenings

ORONO - The University of Maine School of Performing Arts theatre department opens their 2012-13 season with the award-winning play 'How I Learned to Drive,' written by Paula Vogel. The play opens on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m in the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre. Additional performances are Oct. 20, 26, 27 at 7:30 p.m. , Oct. 21 and 28 at 2 p.m. and Oct. 25 at noon. Tickets are $15 (or free with a student MaineCard) and are available online at http://www.umaine.edu/spa or at the door.

The play follows the strained, sexual relationship between Li'l Bit and her aunt's husband, Uncle Peck, from her adolescence through her teenage years into college and beyond. Using the metaphor of driving and the issues of pedophilia, incest and misogyny, the play explores the ideas of control and manipulation.

Published in Happenings
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 16:06

Johnny Baseball' takes the mound

New musical offers new look at old curse

ORONO It's Game Four of the 2004 American League Championship Series. The Red Sox are on the verge of being swept by the New York Yankees. A group of fans in the bleachers is living and dying with every pitch, sitting in fear of the fabled Curse of the Bambino.

Only it turns out it might be a curse of a different sort.

So begins 'Johnny Baseball,' the new musical being presented by the University of Maine's Summer Music Theatre Festival. Directed by Tom Mikotowicz, the show - with book by Richard Dresser, music by Robert Reale and lyrics by Willie Reale will run through Aug. 12 at Hauck Auditorium on the UMaine campus.

Published in Happenings
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