Maliseet Mihku Paul tells stories as part of the “Glacier Stories” video series, presented by Art at Work.

The creative team behind the musical-theater piece “MAINEUSA: The History of Maine from the Ice Age Till Now,” which was supposed to debut last year as part of the bicentennial, has switched gears and produced a series of short videos of Mainers telling stories, singing songs and speaking poems about their personal connections to the history of the land and water.

The videos, “MAINEUSA: GLACIER STORIES,” are available for viewing for free through the Art At Work website. Art At Work is a Maine-based nonprofit that uses creative projects to deepen community connections.

“Glacier Stories” features nearly two dozen everyday Mainers sharing stories from their lives. They were filmed last year in the parking lot at Evelyn’s Tavern in South Portland’s Ferry Village on a make-shift set that included a replica of a large glacier made from used boat shrink wrap. “We had to postpone the live performance, but we still wanted to share the history that doesn’t show up in history books,” said Marty Pottenger, executive and artistic director.

The project is supported by a grant from the Maine Bicentennial Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

She created a glacier as a backdrop to reinforce the idea that Maine history is much older than 200 years. Storytellers include Maliseet Mihku Paul, who reminds us that people have loved Maine for thousands and thousands of years as she tells of all-night drumming rituals to lure the pollock to the shores of Penobscot Bay; Ellen McKenzie, an eighth-generation Black Mainer and great-great granddaughter of Charles Eastman, who was active in Portland’s Underground Railroad; and former South Portland Mayor Claude Morgan, who talks about the “lost and found” history of Ferry Village going back generations to World War II, when a large portion of the thriving neighborhood was replaced with a ship factory for the war effort.

Pottenger lives in the neighborhood and created the videos as a way to stay connected during the pandemic while also telling stories that relate to Maine history.

“This is Maine history told by regular Mainers,” Pottenger said. “All along, I have wanted ‘MAINEUSA’ to be a production that working-class Mainers can claim as their own. I want everyone to claim it, but I don’t to lose the fact that this is a working-class state with a significant working-class history. That’s why I wanted stories from everyday people. I wanted to start very local, so I asked my neighbors if they would tell stories.”

Other videos include the musician Maya French, who speaks of sailing along the Maine coast, the artist Michael Shaughnessy, who talks about the Presumpscot River, and Alain Igiraneza, a Casco Bay High School student who sang the national anthem at Gov. Janet Mills’ inauguration, who shares a favorite hymn from his childhood in Burundi.

Pottenger sees “Glacier Stories” as an offshoot of the larger musical-theater production. A distilled version of the theater piece, “MAINEUSA: EVERYTHING,” will be performed the weekend of May 21-22 at Waterman’s Community Center on North Haven. Pottenger is hopeful a fully staged version of the final piece will be possible in the fall, or whenever public health guidelines permit. That piece will include a life-size blue whale as a central theme, much like the blue glacier in “Glacier Stories.”

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