GARDINER — Mike Miclon first went to Johnson Hall Opera House as a teenager to help renovate the first floor of the performance space in the late 1980s.

He apprenticed with Benny and Denise Reehl, vaudeville performers who were part of the group that founded Johnson Hall Performing Art Center, a few years before that.

Starting in May, Miclon will take a bigger role at the nonprofit arts organization: the new executive and artistic director.

Miclon, 45, brings 14 years of experience running the Oddfellow Theater in Buckfield, which he created and managed until closing it in 2011.

Miclon has performed in shows across the country and Europe as a professional entertainer. He describes himself as stand-up juggler, mixing physical and verbal comedy.

He and his colleagues held around 54 shows a year at the 150-seat Oddfellow Theater, many of which sold out, he said.

One of Miclon’s first goals is to double the number of shows held at Johnson Hall, he said. The venue usually hosts around a dozen performances each year. He also said he wants to make sure he’s filling the 125-seat downstairs theater for every show.

“My 14 years at Oddfellow Theater was really about creating a brand and building a fan base for that,” he said, “and I really think I’m going to be able to do that at Johnson Hall.”

Miclon also has served as the creative director and videographer for EepyBird since 2006, doing the work full time over the last couple years, he said.

EepyBird is an entertainment company best known for its viral videos of Diet Coke bottles erupting like fountains with the help of Mentos.

The laboratory-coat wearing duo behind the videos — Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe — first did the act in a skit at Miclon’s theater before uploading videos online.

The theater also served as a launching pad Grammy award-winning musician Ray LaMontagne, who performed his first 30 to 35 shows at Oddfellow Theater, Miclon said.

As executive and artistic director, Miclon will be in charge of all programming, finances and improvements to Johnson Hall.

“I think he’s going to be a wonderful addition to Johnson Hall,” said Nancy Davis, president of the organization’s board of directors. “I think he’s going to be a nice fit in the community in being able to create partnerships and collaborations with other city organization.”

The artistic and executive jobs used to be separate roles. Judy Lloyd resigned as executive director last fall, and Denise Reehl retired as artistic director at the end of last year.

Paul Pidgeon, president of the board at the time of Lloyd’s resignation, said the board members wanted to go in a different direction and focus on improving the current programming.

Miclon emerged as a candidate for the position only recently. The search committee interviewed seven candidates from 34 applications before narrowing it to two finalists. However, after two public forums in February with members of the community, the board decided neither finalist was a good fit for Johnston Hall, Davis said.

Then David Greenham, who has been interim director during the transition, learned of Miclon’s interest in the position.

“I went in and was very delighted after talking to the board,” Miclon said, “and they felt the same.”

Miclon, a former carpenter, also led the physical reconstruction of Oddfellow Theater — a skill that appealed to the board, Davis said.

The organization always has wanted to renovate the second and third floors of the 150-year-old building, including a 390-square-foot theater on the third floor, but the high price tag has been a stumbling block.

Preparations for a capital campaign in 2011 estimated renovation costs to be $5.3 million.

The plan now is to do the work in phases and work with the community to develop a plan for the upper floors, Davis said.

Miclon agrees with the step-by-step approach and said he also has renovation plans to make the first-floor theater more inviting.

However, his plan is still to renovate the upper floors.

“My goal would be to get us up there as soon as we can,” Miclon said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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