Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick has canceled its performance season, joining a long list of arts organizations in Maine that have scrubbed summer programming because of the coronavirus and placing public safety above financial risk.

The theater has presented musicals at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus since 1959 and has never canceled more than an occasional single performance because of a power outage. “This is a big first,” said Carol Marquis, director of communications and marketing for the theater.

Curt Dale Clark, the theater’s artistic director, said Maine State was on track to sell more tickets this year than any other season, and could face dire financial consequences. “Bottom line, we’re looking at a $3.5 million loss,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday. Clark is asking subscribers to help offset that loss by converting their tickets into tax-deductible donations to the newly established MSMT Lifeline Fund to sustain the theater until it can sell tickets again. Information about the fund is available at the theater’s website.

Maine State also operates a lucrative costume-rental business, but that revenue has disappeared because no theaters are renting costumes, Clark said.

The theater sells about 60,000 tickets to Broadway-style musicals from June to August. Unlike other theater companies that have flexibility with their schedule, Maine State is locked into Bowdoin’s academic calendar, and the theater faces a hard end to its season in August. The theater also canceled its youth productions and concerts. The main stage series included “Titanic,” “Mamma Mia!,” “The Sound of Music” and “Something Rotten.”

It previously canceled a summer co-production with the Public Theatre in Lewiston. A co-production of “Ring of Fire” with Portland Stage, scheduled to open in Portland in August, was still on.

Maine State hires more than 200 theater artists each summer, bringing them to Brunswick from New York and across the country and housing them across the region. The economic impact of the theater on the midcoast hasn’t been measured in years. In 2003, the last time a survey was conducted, the economic impact was $5.2 million annually, Clark said.

Public safety outweighed the financial costs to the theater and the midcoast community, he said, adding that the decision to cancel is consistent with current recommendations by the Maine and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a video message on the theater’s website, he said, “We are the current shepherds of MSMT and are responsible for protecting all that has transpired in the past. That said, we also have a responsibility to the present and the future. There is simply no path to safely execute our season while protecting our patrons, employees and the Brunswick community.”

Health concerns have forced arts organizations across Maine to cancel their seasons, including the Celebration Barn in South Paris, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. The Ogunquit Playhouse has suspended ticket sales and delayed the start of its season, which extends into October.

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