Penobscot Theatre Company kicks off 47th season virtually

Donations helping to close the budget gap for 2020
Penobscot Theatre Company is going digital for its 47th season
Penobscot Theatre Company is going digital for its 47th season(WABI)
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 12:02 AM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Just days after celebrating its 100th anniversary in February, the Bangor Opera House had to close its doors.

While many venues across the county remain shuttered, the Penobscot Theatre Company is turning the lights back on digitally.

“Being an improviser, and an actor, and an artist, when you’re presented with a problem you don’t see it as the end,” explained Interim Managing Director Jen Shepard. “It’s, ‘How do I get over it, around it, under it? How do I embrace it?’ The moment we decided to go digital, the way opened for us.”

The Penobscot Theatre Company’s 47th season is unlike anything it has done before. Digitus Theatrum not only gives the community something to do, it’s also keeping some artists and staff employed. There’s a full menu of live and prerecorded virtual productions as well as audio-only formats.

Their efforts to stay open are filling a void, and capturing the attention of theatre fans across the globe.

"Airbnb Experiences picked up our “Ghost Hunting In Bangor, Maine,” Producing Artistic Director Bari Newport told TV5. “So that’s been exciting. We’ve had people from Japan [and] the UK take tours of the Bangor Opera House. Not to mention San Francisco, Florida.”

“We’ve had people buy tickets from Sweden, and I think London now, a lot of folks from California," Shepard said. "Some, of course, are people that we know, but a lot of them -- Bari will come and ask, ‘Do you know this person? Do you know this person?’ No! So it does seem like we’re getting some national and some international attention, which is great.”

According to Newport, 73% of the Company’s income comes from ticket sales. While digital subscriptions have surpassed expectations, it doesn’t come close to closing the gap for 2020. That’s were contributions from foundations and individual donors come in.

Another Downtown Bangor business, Novio’s, is stepping up to help. Restaurant owner Bob Cutler whipped up a special cocktail, Tartan Plaid, inspired by a past Penobscot Theatre Company production.

He’s donating $4.00 from each Tartan Plaid sold through the rest of the fall season.

“The community should be really proud of the effort and the pivot that they’ve done,” said Cutler. “So this is just a small thing that we can do to help one, publicize that, and two, give them, hopefully, an injection of money to help sustain those programs for years to come.”

“We’ve been just totally touched by the amount of support that has come from individuals from our region and beyond,” said Newport.

The Penobscot Theatre Company is in the midst of its Centennial Patrons Program. “We’re hoping that 100 private individuals or families will become Centennial Patrons by donating $1,000 or more to the Bangor Opera House/Penobscot Theatre Company,” the Company’s website says. Those who do so will have their names put on a plaque outside of of the Opera House.

If all goes well, the 47th season is scheduled to end back inside the Bangor Opera House with a surprise show next spring.

Copyright 2020 WABI. All rights reserved.

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