The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures

Catharsis + rebirth

Portland theater's losses and gains since 1999
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  September 16, 2009


ACTUALLY, EVERY YEAR Good Theater's 2004 production of Same Time Next Year.

My own backward gaze over the last decade of local theater only takes in the second half of it, so I've consulted a few veterans: the exhaustively knowledgeable theater maven Muriel Kenderdine, since 1991 the publisher of the newsletter Cast and Crew; Michael Levine, producing director of Acorn Productions (which until 2000 operated under the Oak Street Theatre umbrella); and the venerable actor/directors Harlan Baker and Christopher Price.

More from the Portland Phoenix's 10th Anniversary:

We told you so: Ten years of being right

The 10 most influential bands of our first 10 years

A decade gone by

Portland: From a handful of restaurants to a restaurant town

Diversity times ten

Talking politics: The song remains the same

Marc Shepard: I remember when...

Portland’s art scene has changed quite a lot

First, let's get out of the way the decade's losses. Among these, as Kenderdine details, were the Arts Conservatory Theater and Studio, Vintage Repertory Company, and the Reindeer Theatre Company. The Children's Theatre of Maine lost its former home on Marginal Way (though it has reinvented itself charmingly in a merger with the Portland Children's Museum). Come and gone is the outdoor summer theater of The Stage at Spring Point. And perhaps most poignant to many in Portland's arts community, based on conversations I've had over the years, was the closure of the Oak Street Theatre.

But sometimes tragedy and catharsis lead to happier consequences. A whole slew of actors found themselves artistically homeless after the closing of Oak Street, but the subsequent "diaspora," as Levine puts it, seeded many new ventures. The result, he says, is that in the area we now have "a dramatically different theater scene than 10 years ago, a pretty remarkable diversity of venues, offerings, and companies."

Kenderdine and Baker join him in particularly noting the rise of two excellent companies: the Good Theater, founded by Brian P. Allen and Steve Underwood; and the American Irish Repertory Ensemble, at the hands of Tony and Susan Reilly. Christopher Schario took over Lewiston's Public Theatre and went Equity with it, Kenderdine adds, and newer companies include the Fenix Theatre Company, which performs high-octane Shakespeare in Deering Oaks Park; Saco's Legacy Theater Company; and Out of the Box Theater in Lewiston.

As for venues, Deirdre Nice's efforts to open the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center have paid off in a theater space used by both its resident company, the Good Theater, and many other local and touring groups. Portland Stage Company introduced its Studio Theater space, which has been used by Mad Horse and AIRE, and increasingly for PSC's own affiliate productions. Acorn Productions moved into its new home in the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook, and this month will present the first performance of its own new Studio Theater.

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Mixin' it up, Into new worlds, The second half of the season brings surprises, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Entertainment, Mad Horse, Players' Ring,  More more >
| More

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   HOW TO DRESS A WOUND  |  October 24, 2014
    Kayleen and Doug first meet when they’re both eight years old and in the school nurse’s office: She has a stomachache, and he has “broken his face” whilst riding his bike off the school roof. Their bond, though awkward and cantankerous, is thus immediately grounded in the grisly intimacy of trauma.
  •   TRAUMATIC IRONY  |  October 15, 2014
    A creaky old oceanfront Victorian. Three adult siblings who don’t like each other, plus a couple of spouses. A codicil to their father’s will that requires them to spend an excruciating week together in the house. And, of course, various ghosts.
  •   OVEREXTENDED FAMILY  |  October 11, 2014
    “I’m inclined to notice the ruins in things,” ponders Alfieri (Brent Askari). He’s recalling the downfall of a longshoreman who won’t give up a misplaced, misshapen love, a story that receives a superbly harrowing production at Mad Horse, under the direction of Christopher Price.   
  •   SOMETHING'S GOTTA FALL  |  October 11, 2014
    While it hasn’t rained on the Curry family’s 1920’s-era ranch in far too long, the drought is more than literal in The Rainmaker .
  •   SURPASSED MENAGERIE  |  October 03, 2014
    Do Buggeln and Vasta make a Glass Menagerie out of Brighton Beach Memoirs? Well, not exactly.

 See all articles by: MEGAN GRUMBLING

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2017 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group