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After an unprecedented blow, Maine State Music Theatre looks to get back on its feet

Cancelling the 2020 season “is very scary for us”

PORTLAND, Maine — The roots of Maine State Music Theatre go back to 1959, when Victoria Crandall produced nine shows at the breakneck pace of one a week at what was then called the Brunswick Summer Playhouse. A tradition was born.

Now, six decades later, the show biz motto has been broken: the show must not go on. Because of the coronavirus and the risk of spreading disease in a crowded theater, MSMT has cancelled its 2020 season. “This was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do,” says Curt Dale Clark, the theatre’s artistic director. “Our sponsors and advertisers and loyal subscription base—it just kills me not to be able to give them the four shows that we planned to give them this summer.”

Eighty percent of MSMT’s revenue comes from ticket sales, and while many people who had bought tickets for this summer have generously told the theatre to keep the money, the financial hit from the loss of the entire season is staggering. “The bottom line is probably we’re still going to be a couple million dollars short by the time it’s all said and done,” Clark says. “Which is very scary for us.” Two million dollars isn’t a lot of money for a big theater on Broadway. It’s a huge sum for a moderate-sized theater in Maine with a season that lasts just three months.

So what’s the outlook for 2021? Clark sounds determined to return to normal. He wants to light up the stage with music and dancing, laughter and applause. “As long as in terms of public health everything is OK,” he says, “it is our goal to come back and be Maine State Music Theatre again.”

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