Margit Ahlin and Al D’Andrea didn’t intend to turn around “Anything Helps God Bless” so quickly.

The creative team behind Snowlion Repertory Company presented a workshop-version of the new play about the Portland panhandling situation this past winter. Nine months later, they’re back with a fully staged version of the play that explores the community’s consciousness surrounding a divisive issue.

“Anything Helps God Bless” opens Sept. 29 at Portland Ballet Studio Theater, highlighting the fall theater season in Portland.

“We had such a strong audience response to the workshop,” said Ahlin, the company’s producing director. “People were saying, ‘You have to take this national, you have to do this,’ so we knew we had to turn this around fast. We made changes based on the workshop and audience feedback.”

They reorganized the second act to make it flow better and cohere more, but the bulk of the script and the framework of the story remain the same. Of the 11 cast members, seven are back. Among them, they play about 50 roles.

Ahlin, working under her writing name, MK Wolfe, and D’Andrea co-wrote the play in response to the city of Portland’s attempt to ban median-strip panhandling and the ensuing court fight. The City Council passed an ordinance in 2013 prohibiting people from sitting or standing in street medians. In spring 2014, a federal judge ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional, and that ruling was upheld in 2015.

“Anything Helps God Bless” rehashes the story. Among the newsmakers who appear in the play are now-former City Councilor Ed Suslovic, Maine ACLU Legal Director Zachary Heiden, Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, U.S. District Judge George Singal and Preble Street Executive Director Mark Swann.

“Anything Helps God Bless” explores median-strip panhandling in Portland. Photo courtesy of Snowlion Repertory Company

As part of its work on the play, the cast interviewed people involved in the case, including “signers,” or panhandlers, and members of the media who covered and wrote about the story.

“Anything Helps God Bless” is the first of three plays in the Snowlion season. All of them are set in Maine.

The second show of the season is the New England premiere of “The Conquest of the South Pole,” a German play that Snowlion is setting in Rumford. It’s about four unemployed mill workers who try to empower themselves by enacting Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s trek to the pole in an attic full of white sheets. In the process, they discover what is at the heart of their predicament and how to conquer their own limitations.

Snowlion closes its season with “A Cherry Orchard in Maine,” an adaptation of Chekhov’s classic, set in Knox County. “The comedic drama is a perfect fit in this state, featuring characters more and more familiar to a changing Maine – a Somalian housekeeper, an old-time ‘Mainah,’ a fervent Bernie supporter-type, a non-binary character, to name a few – and the issues presented are recognizably relevant to our lives while exploring eternal dilemmas of the human condition,” Ahlin said.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.