top of page


Theater Review: Young, undocumented immigrants navigate life in "Sanctuary City"

Steve Fenney

The Portland Theater Festival production is playing at The Hill Arts through Sept. 3.

A city growing in diversity is attracting more diverse theater this summer

Megan Gray

Arts residency Hogfish opens "CarmXn" on Wednesday, and Portland Theatre Festival is in rehearsals for "Sanctuary City."

Theater Review: “Sanctuary City” — Hiding in Plain Sight

David Greenham

Sanctuary City by Martyna Majok. Directed by Bari Robinson. Scenic design by German Cárdenas Alaminos. Lighting design by Mary Lana Rice. Costume design by Savannah Irish. Sound design by Sam Rapaport and Nathan Speckman. Produced by the Portland Theater Festival, staged at The Hill Arts, Portland, ME, through September 3.

Staging coup: New theater festival aims to fill a seasonal niche in Portland

Eric Russell

Dave Register and his creative partners are betting big on the Portland arts community and its patrons.

After staging an outdoor theater production last year – largely to flex muscles that had atrophied during the pandemic – the founder of East Shore Arts has teamed with another local organization, Mayo Street Arts, for the first Portland Theater Festival this summer.

Theater review: Funny, thought-provoking ‘Body Awareness’ kicks off new festival

Steve Feeney

As a welcome addition to the usual summer selection of large-scale productions around the state, the first annual Portland Theater Festival is trying hard to prove that small can still be beautiful.

The organizers have said they hope to present diverse and challenging work with a “social leaning.” Potential ticket buyers who initially might feel an urge to brace themselves after that description, though, should know that at least the first offering of the three-play festival is quite engaging and funny, while also suggesting more than a few avenues for further thought.

On Stage: 'Body Awareness' is much more than skin deep

Megan Grumbling

Body Awareness Week is a chance to “just kind of check-in,” psychology professor Phyllis (Courtney Cook) eagerly tells students and faculty, in Annie Baker’s comedy “Body Awareness”:

“First, with ourselves, and our own bodies, and then with our thoughts and judgments about other people’s bodies.”

One of the week’s guest artists who deal with bodies is Frank (Whip Hubley), who photographs female nudes. He believes he offers his models “a way to reclaim their own body image.”

Phyllis disagrees, and not all that respectfully.

On Stage: Modern takes on classic tales in 'Pass Over,' 'Eurydice'

Megan Grumbling

On a desolate city block, near a mound of concrete, under a streetlight like a metallic tree, two Black men, Moses (Ashanti Williams) and Kitch (Jay Mack) are waiting. To pass the time, they bicker and reconcile, exercise, sleep, bemoan their sore feet, air their fantasies and fears, and play a game called “Promised Land Top Ten.”

What these men want to do, in Antoinette Nwandu’s “Pass Over” (onstage at Mayo Street Arts, as part of the Portland Theater Festival, under the superb direction of Bari Robinson) is to leave this block. They talk constantly about “passing over” into the promised land of food, beds, clean socks, and free movement through the city. But they don’t leave the block.

Exuberant and Wild: The Long, Evolving Ride of Sylvan Oswald's "Pony"

Miriam Felton-Dansky

It was 2005, and playwright Sylvan Oswald wanted to write complex, exciting roles for transmasculine actors. But it was 2005, and Oswald didn’t know that word yet. Instead, he was inspired both by what he saw on the American stage, and what he didn’t: by the performances of venerated queer actors like Peggy Shaw and Dominique Dibbell, and by a chance encounter with actor-creator Becca Blackwell during a street performance of Circus Amok.

Though it was less than two decades ago, the mid-2000s were a starkly different moment for trans visibility in American theatre. Few institutions were making notable efforts to cast trans actors in trans roles, and trans characters that did appear onstage were often the creations of cis playwrights.

Theater Review: “Pass Over” — A Disarming and Disturbing Play about Race in America

David Greenham

Raw yet perceptive, the 2017 script examines race in America, both past and present. The character names of Moses and Kitch are taken from an early 20th century South Carolina manifest of enslaved individuals. The story was created, in part, as a response to the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager in a hoodie who was shot in a gated community in 2012. Thankfully, there’s no lecturing in Nwandu’s script. Wisely taking her cue from Beckett, she lets the script’s language do its disarming and disturbing work.

The creative curators of the fledgling Portland Theater Festive have raised, with theater experiences like Pass Over, expectations that more challenging stage fare is to come.

On Stage: Theatre Festival's 'Pony' meditates on issues of gender, sex and love

Megan Grumbling

When Pony (Ian-Meredythe Dehne Lindsey) shows up in a small town, in Sylvan Oswald’s “Pony,” he’s looking for a fresh start. But he has some secrets.

For one thing, he’s recently been incarcerated. For another, he’s a trans man – a fact of special potential danger for him in this rural setting.

But it turns out the locals have their own ghosts in “Pony,” the vivid and vital final play in the first season of the Portland Theater Festival. A much-needed theatrical beacon in representing Portland’s trans and queer community onstage, “Pony” runs through September 4 at Mechanics’ Hall, under the sensitive direction of Jess Barbagallo.

On Stage: Portland Theater Festival opens another realm with "The Thin Place"

Megan Grumbling

When Hilda (Phoebe Parker) was a child, we learn early in Lucas Hnath’s drama “The Thin Place,” she played a special game with her grandmother. Gran would write a word on a card without showing it to her, and then “send” the word for Hilda to “hear.”

Now, years after her grandmother has passed away, Hilda explains how the game “opened a door” in her to another realm, one with different rules of life and death, hearing and listening — “a thin place,” she calls it.

After her mother disappears, Hilda longs to learn more about this place, and she finds herself entering the acquaintance and social circle of a psychic named Linda (Maureen Butler). Over the course of their conversations, storytelling and arguments, “The Thin Place” deftly circles an array of ideas about belief.

bottom of page