FAYETTE — In her final remarks as a selectman, Mary Wright told fellow residents that she’s taking on a new challenge: a campaign to create a performing arts center at Maranacook Community School in Readfield.

At the annual Town Meeting in June, Wright said she had planned to work on the project with Stefan Pakulski of Wayne. However, Pakulski died in March at age 57. He was Hallowell city manager at the time.

Wright is determined to continue despite the loss.

Earlier this week, Wright said a larger auditorium is sorely needed in light of steadily increasing attendance at various performances at the school.

“Because the arts department, the drama, the plays, have been so incredible with Drew (Albert) at the helm, they are drawing more and more people at the theater,” she said.

Other communities in Maine have taken on similar projects regarding performing arts centers at high schools. For instance, four months ago, parents at Waterville Senior High School kicked off a campaign to raise a portion of the $421,000 estimate to renovate and enlarge the 53-year-old Trask Auditorium for both performers and audiences.

Wright’s project reprises an earlier effort by parents and community members to erect a large performing arts center on the Readfield site that houses both the high school and middle school.

In spring 2007, school budget voters approved 69-22 an article authorizing spending up to $30,000 toward a preliminary plan for that proposed performing arts center.

Plans were prepared for an estimated $10 million, 28,000-square-foot performing arts center featuring a 500-seat main theater and a 150-seat smaller theater.

Joe Kozak of Manchester, then chairman of the Performing Arts Committee, said committee members worked with architects — Don Hirsch Design Studio — to come up with the estimate for a performing arts center that would have a dance studio, music room, a green room among other things, and be available for community performances as well as school ones.

“We had sticker shock at the price of what we wanted to do,” Kozak said on Friday. “It’s a big number today, and it was a big number back then.”

He said the group approached potential large donors and could not get the backing needed.

“Quite frankly it was the economy at the time,” he said. “I don’t think anyone lost interest. We just looked at each other and decided we just couldn’t pull it off financially.”

He said he would be “100 percent supportive” of a move to revive that effort.

For her part, Wright said, “I think it’s time to revisit it. The caliber of productions have increased which has spurred an additional interest in all the kids. It’s time that the school has some kind of a great performance arts center.”

She has had discussions with Albert, who in turn brought it to Superintendent Donna Wolfrom’s attention during the music department’s final meeting of the school year.

“It would be very nice to have a facility like that,” Wolfrom said on Thursday, adding that such an undertaking would require backing from parents and others.

Wolfrom said she told the teachers at the music department meeting, “If you really want to move forward with this, we need to go before the board and get their blessing. We haven’t gotten any farther than that.”

The current auditorium has seating for 172, said Albert, who teaches both vocal and instrumental music at the high school and has also been theater director for the past three years. He works on musicals with Adam Scarpone, music teacher at Maranacook Middle School, as well as on the comedies presented in the spring.

“I would be happy to have an auditorium large enough to hold each one of our students and an audience in comfort,” Albert said.

Albert said the high school most recently presented six shows of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” to accommodate demand.

“The theater was intended to be a lecture hall,” he said. “There’s no wing space, no loge space. We have to be very creative with our shows.”

Wright listed some of the drawbacks with the current facility: “Not enough room on stage to bring the middle school in, not enough room in seating to bring parents and friends. When the choir and orchestra perform, they can’t fit it in the auditorium, so they do it in the gym,” she said. “It’s not comfortable for spectators, the bleachers are horrible, and the acoustics of the gym doesn’t do performances justice.”

A 2014 report of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, doing an assessment of Maranacook for accreditation purposes, noted, “The performing arts center remains very small and will not accommodate even half of the student body, while the physical education and industrial arts areas are also too small to accommodate the educational needs of students. In order to increase students’ opportunity to achieve the 21st century learning expectations and to maintain a robust curriculum, more resources are needed in order to fully access the library/media center, co-curricular programs.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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