Theater at Monmouth’s “Aesop’s Guide to Friendship” features, from left, Reece Santos on Team Peacemaker; Tori Thompson on Team Prey; Sarah Goldman on Team Trickster; and Michael Rosas on Team Predator. Photo by Dawn McAndrews

Dawn McAndrews admits to feeling a little surprised the Theater at Monmouth is about to pull off a full season of live theater. That means opening seven shows in less than six weeks from mid-June to late July, all performed in repertory with an acting company of 10 and six interns.

At times, they will be rehearsing four shows while performing two. Given that McAndrews wasn’t sure the status of in-person performances until recently, it’s almost a miracle. “It’s been a little intense,” said the theater’s producing artistic director.

Sophia Mobbs plays Jerusha Abbott and Henry Hetz is Jervis Pendleton in the musical “Daddy Long Legs” at Theater at Monmouth this summer.  Photo by Michelle Handley

 

Founded in 1970, the Theater at Monmouth is among Maine’s cultural gems and has carried the tradition as the Shakespearean Theater of Maine since soon after its inception. It brings earnest, talented actors, directors and designers from across the country to the lakes region of central Maine for an immersive summer of theater, performed in the 250-seat performance space within historic Cumston Hall. This year, because of the pandemic, performances will take place inside the hall with reduced capacity, outside in a tent on theater grounds, and at a nearby winery with the new Wednesdays at WillowsAwake series, at the WillowsAwake Winery in Leeds.

Inside the theater, audiences will be limited to 130 to begin the summer, “and we will inch up as we see how things are going,” McAndrews said. The outdoor performances in the tent and the Wednesdays at WillowsAwake series are designed to appeal to audience members who are not comfortable returning to indoor theater, she said.

Dubbed “(R)evolutionary Redux,” the season includes some plays postponed from 2020 and others added to reflect the the zeitgeist of the United States this past year: Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” directed by James Noel Hoban; Mat Smart’s “The Agitators,” directed by Debra Ann Byrd; Maine playwright Callie Kimball’s “Sofonisba,” directed by McAndrews; “Age of Bees” by Tira Palmquist, directed by Eddie DeHais; Lynn Nottage’s “Crumbs from the Table of Joy,” directed by Chris Anthony; and the John Caird musical “Daddy Long Legs,” directed by Adam P. Blais. The family show is “Aesop’s Guide to Friendship,” written by McAndrews and directed by Ian Kramer.

Generally, the season is about empowerment – of women, of people of color, of the working class – the corruption of power, and the fear of environmental disaster.

“Aesop’s Guide to Friendship” opened last week and runs through Aug. 13, “Daddy Long Legs” opens Friday with performances through Aug. 20, and then there is a new show opening weekly: “The Agitators,” July 3-Aug. 20; “Crumbs from the Table of Joy,” July 8-Aug. 21; “Measure for Measure,” July 15-Aug. 22; “Age of Bees,” July 22-Aug. 19; and “Sofonisba,” July 29-Aug. 21.

Ticket prices range from $12 to $36; theateratmonmouth.org or 207-933-9999.

Deertrees Theatre in Harrison has opened a full season of in-person performances.  Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Theaters in rural communities are opening across Maine. Deertrees Theatre in Harrison has opened a season of in-person performances and will stage Christopher Durang’s comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” on Thursday through Sunday; “First Night,” July 1 and 2; a “Sound of Music” sing-along, July 5; “The Knotty Nite Play Readings,” Aug. 14; and “Always … Patsy Cline,” Sept. 3 and 4. For tickets, details and other events, visit deertrees-theatre.org.

Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick will stage the musical “The Spitfire Grill” in August. Courtesy of Hackmatack Playhouse

In Berwick, Hackmatack Playhouse will stage the musical “The Spitfire Grill” in August, directed by the theater’s new artistic director, Danielle Howard of Dover, New Hampshire. Howard has directed several shows at Hackmatack and was hired as artistic director in 2020 before the season was canceled because of the pandemic. “The Spitfire Grill” is the only show on the Hackmatack calendar this summer. It tells the story of a woman recently released from prison, who starts her life over in a rural community. Hackmatack is setting the musical in Maine. It opens Aug. 6 and continues Wednesdays through Saturdays, through Aug. 28. For tickets and details, call 207-698-1807.


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