THE LATEST FROM OUR TOWN…

Midcoast Actors’ “Skylight” is a New Beginning for Historic Court Street Building

ChurchMidcoast Actors’ Studio’s current production of Skylight (running through May 31) is being performed at the newly named Court Street Theater in Belfast. The rich history of the building is as interesting as the history of Belfast’s search for a performance space.

Here are some highlights in the history of the Court Street Theater building, taken from Joseph Williamson’s History of the City of Belfast (2 vols.) and History of Belfast in the 20th Century by Jay Davis and Tim Hughes. In 1839 Universalists constructed the church at the corner of Court and Spring Streets. In 1851 a new bell, weighing more than 1500 pounds, was installed.  This bell is still in place.

The entire church structure was raised six feet in 1870 and a new lower level was added. By 1929, after years of “sporadic services,” Universalist services completely stopped. In 1955, Evangelical Bible Church began holding services in the old Universalist Church building. Having changed their name to the Emmanuel Baptist Church, they bought the building in 1973. They left in 1987, at which time the Belfast Maskers began performing in the church building. More recently the building was bought by the National Theater Workshop for the Handicapped, where an elevator was added. After they stopped using the building it was purchased by a private owner.

In 2013 Midcoast Actors’ Studio’s Artistic Director Jason Bannister began speaking with the current owner about using the space to perform in. In its short history, MAS has performed in borrowed spaces, such as Troy Howard Middle School and Mary Weaver’s Playhouse. When the Maskers waterfront theater space was closed in 2011, Belfast was left with no dedicated space for theatrical performances. Groups have worked to change that sad reality, looking at converting the Mathews Brothers building downtown into a large performing arts center, as well as repairing the Belfast Opera House and the former Crosby School. These projects may happen someday but for Bannister, they are not soon enough.

“It’s always been my vision for MAS to have our own dedicated theater space,” Bannister says. “Someplace similar to the old Maskers space, where we can paint the walls black, put in fixed raised seating, and not have to worry about sharing with a school or other groups.”

Whether the Court Street Theater is that space remains to be seen. The building would need to be bought, either by an MAS capital campaign, or through the city, or some large grant or private donor. Even then it would need to be rented out to other groups for performance in order for bills to be paid. Bannister has no problem with that.

“If MAS were able to make CST our permanent home, I would love to open it up to other performing arts events and groups. It’s an intimate theater space that the cultural thread of Belfast desperately needs.”

Midcoast Actors’ Studio’s production of Skylight continues to run through May 31, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 4:00 p.m. at the Court Street Theater, 17 Court Street in Belfast. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students/seniors. Call 370-7592 or email midcoastactors@gmail.com for reservations. Visit midcoastactors.org FMI and like them on Facebook.

Our Town Belfast is Hiring! Submit Materials by April 1st, 2015

board_collageOur Town Belfast Administrative Assistant Job Description:   The Our Town Belfast administrative assistant will be part of an enthusiastic team working toward the revitalization and promotion of Belfast’s historic downtown area, following the National Main Street Center’s proven four-point approach to improving communities.

This is a part-time, ten hours per week position with the potential for increased hours seasonally. The administrative assistant will be responsible for general office tasks such as answering phone calls and email inquiries at the “info” address, as well as organizational tasks including filing, tidying the office, and preparing materials for various meetings. This person will have an additional focus on promotional assistance and will work with the executive director to publish regular editions of the Our Town Belfast e-newsletter, prepare and have distributed posters and press releases, manage social media pages, and upload content to the Our Town Belfast website. Pre-existing skills in these areas are expected, with additional training offered to the successful candidate.

We are looking for someone with a professional demeanor who is friendly and enjoys helping others, as they will be one of only two paid staff persons representing the organization to the public. Our Town Belfast is proud of its team-based organizational culture – working with many volunteers on various committees to carry out our mission – and as such the administrative assistant is expected to work well in group environments in addition to being able to carry out tasks independently as needed.

Applicants should submit a cover letter and resume by April 1st to bre@ourtownbelfast.org or by mail at 171 High Street, Suite 6, Belfast, ME 04915. The position begins May 1st, 2015.

Midcoast Actors’ Studio announces its first production of the 2015 Season, Venus in Fur, February 13 – March 1st at The Playhouse, Church Street in Belfast

Vanda (Johannah Blackman) sets the tone with Thomas (Tyler Johnstone). Courtesy of Leah Elizabeth Darcy

Vanda (Johannah Blackman) sets the tone with Thomas (Tyler Johnstone). Courtesy of Leah Elizabeth Darcy

Venus in Fur focuses on Thomas Novachek (Tyler Johnstone), the writer-director of a new play opening in New York City. This play-within-a-play is an adaptation of the 1870 novel Venus in Furs by the Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch and happens to be the novel that inspired the term Masochism. The play begins with Novachek on the telephone lamenting the inadequacies of the actresses who have showed up that day to audition for the lead character, Wanda von Dunayev. Suddenly, at the last minute, a new actress, Vanda Jordan (Johannah Blackman), bursts in. At first it’s hard to imagine that she will please this very particular and exasperated writer/director: She’s brash, vulgar and unschooled. But she convinces him to let her audition for the part of Wanda, with the director/writer reading the part of Severin von Kushemski. Much happens during this dynamic reading, as lightning flashes and thunder crashes outside, with a highly emotional, erotically-charged script adapted from one of the raciest novels of the 19th century. They talk, plead, argue, caress and more.

“When I read the play, I realized that it took the battle of the sexes to a whole new level,” says director Robin Jones.
 
“It was the most provocative Twilight Zone episode that Rod Serling never did and it was the exact opposite (two people, one simple set, one act) of, yet just as challenging than, my previous production for MAS, August: Osage County (13 characters, 3-story set, 3 acts). Yet, just as before, cast and crew have brought about a story from which you can’t look away. The production is being hailed as “The Hottest Thing in the Coldest Month”. Costumes are being provided by City Drawers and Man on Main with special participation from The Gothic. Midcoast Actors’ Studio Founder and Artistic Director Jason Bannister is excited about Venus and the upcoming 2015 season.
Venus is a great, provocative play to open our 4th season. We are stepping up our game this year, with three weeks of performances for each production, rather than our usual two. This will allow audiences more opportunity to see our cutting edge work. In the past word, by the time word got out of our shows, it was too late for people to see them. Now theater-goers along midcoast Maine have 9 performances to choose from.”
Midcoast Actors’ Studio’s Eastern Maine premiere of David Ives’ “Venus in Fur” will be performed February 13 – March 1st at The Playhouse 107 Main St. in Belfast. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday Matinees at 5:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for those over 65. This production is intended for mature audiences only and limited seating is available. For tickets call the box office at 370-7592, email midcoastactors@gmail.com, visit midcoastactors.org or like them on Facebook.
Photo caption: Vanda (Johannah Blackman) sets the tone with Thomas (Tyler Johnstone). Courtesy of Leah Elizabeth Darcy

PRINT STUDIO ART SHOW JANUARY THROUGH MARCH AT WATERFALL ARTS

Monoprint image courtesy of MJ Viano Crowe

Monoprint image courtesy of MJ Viano Crowe

Waterfall Arts’ new Print Studio saw a lot of use in 2014 and many of the artists and students who made work there are showing it in the new Corridor Gallery show, now through March 13th.  Local artists participating include Cathy Melio, Daniel Rocha, Jeff Jelenfy, Anne Marie Nolin, Dyan Ross, Kathy Weinberg, Shawn Brewer, Julie Rose, Dina Petrillo, Gwen Tetro, Karin Otto, Mary Jean Crowe, Daniel Anselmi and others.

Throughout 2014, the studio hosted Maine artists who taught different printmaking techniques: screenprinting, monotype, etching, white line woodblock, photo transfer, aquatint, gelatin printing and more.  Free studio demo sessions will be held this year on Thursdays: January 15, February 19 and March 19.  Those new to printmaking and those with experience are welcome to attend, try out new methods and equipment and get acquainted with the lovely printmaking community.

Gallery hours for the show are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 to 5 from now until March 13th, or by appointment.  Since 2000, Waterfall Arts has served as the midcoast area’s non-profit community art center, offering innovative classes, exhibitions, artist residencies, studio rentals and community events.  The organization is supported by the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, foundations, local businesses and contributors.  For more information call the office at 207.338.2222.  Waterfall Arts is located at 256 High Street in Belfast.

Belfast Sets Example on “Maine Calling” 2015 Economic Forecast

Jennifer Rooks, host of "Maine Calling" on MPBN

Jennifer Rooks, host of “Maine Calling” on MPBN

Transcript From the MPBN radio show 1/5/15 episode of ‘Maine Calling’ on the 2015 Economic Forecast.  Host: Jennifer Rooks, Guests: Amanda Rector (Maine State Economist, Governor’s Office of Policy and Management); Charlie Colgan (Professor of Public Policy and Planning at USM’s Muskie School of Public Service)  LISTEN TO AUDIO HERE.

@ 13:15 – Amanda Rector: . . . and certainly the parts of the state that are going to succeed in the future are the parts of the state that are able to see the value in bringing more people to their area, and using their resources to help make it an attractive location for both businesses and individuals to reside there.

Amanda Rector, Maine State Economist

Amanda Rector, Maine State Economist

@ 13:33 – Jennifer Rooks: Are there any places that you would point to who as, they’re getting it right, and this is what Maine needs to be doing, this is the state Maine needs to be looking at or the region Maine needs to be looking at, when we do our planning?

@ 13:47 – Amanda Rector: I think there are a few places around the state that have done a pretty good job at identifying the fact that if they don’t turn things around, they’re going to see some hard times.  The one that comes to mind for me is Belfast.  I’m from the midcoast area originally, and so I’ve seen Belfast go through some really hard times and then turn things around and really become a more robust economy, bringing in a lot more businesses and individuals and young workers and becoming a much more vibrant location than it had been for quite some time really.

@ 14:30 – Jennifer Rooks: What did Belfast do that other states can learn from, other cities and towns and communities can learn from?

@ 14:35 – Amanda Rector: I think they had a number of different things going for them.  Certainly the fact that they had MBNA come in and build some pretty substantial infrastructure that they were then able to reuse later on for different companies after MBNA had left, and I think the fact that they were able to revitalize their downtown area, they have the harbor area, where they’ve been able to utilize that particular infrastructure and bring in companies that work on ships and utilize that existing infrastructure there building off of what they had and trying to find new ways to utilize that so they can sort of join the 21st century and continue onwards, and then you know, making sure that they, they have a lot of amenities that young workers find appealing in terms of the downtown, and the restaurants and the arts that are going on and so being able to attract workers with those additional amenities in addition to these jobs is I think is a good play on their part.

CABIN FEVER SALE FEBRUARY 7th and 8th, 2015!

Check out Belfast's newest shop, "Patina," at the Cabin Fever Sale!

Check out Belfast’s newest shop, “Patina,” for great deals on antique and vintage goods at the Cabin Fever Sale!

What could be more cheering in the dreary winter months than a big sale in a favorite downtown!? Belfast businesses are offering great sales the weekend of February 7th and 8th, with items for the entire family.   TREAT YOURSELF!: to clothing, housewares, toys, books, food and more. A day or two downtown will be just what the doctor ordered!

Download sales flyer here.

SATURDAY ONLY SALES

  • Bay City Cargo* 50% off sale for Saturday, February 7th on a huge selection
  • City Drawers RED & PINK 20% off PLUS lots of new items on the Sale Rack
  • MacLeod Furniture 50% off of regular price furniture & 30% off regular price appliances
  • Vinolio 20% off storewide

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY SALES

  • Belfast Bicycles 10% off marked price on in-stock bicycles
  • Coyote Moon Sale on winter clothing and accessories
  • Eat More Cheese 20% off storewide, excluding wine
  • Fiddlehead ARTISAN SUPPLY 20% off storewide
  • Heavenly Socks Yarns 20% off storewide
  • Katwalk FREE Alex and Ani bangle ($28 value) for any purchase of $100
  • Minnows* Up to 50% off select items
  • Nautical Scribe Books* 15% off throughout store
  • Out on a Whimsey 25% storewide, with in-store specials up to 50% off
  • Patina 20% off on items marked $30 or less and 10% off of everthing else, Belfast’s newest shop!
  • Quench* 25% of select merchandise
  • Rollie’s Bar & Grill 10% off and 10% to Our Town Belfast with receipt from any other downtown business
  • The Green Store Discounts throughout the store, from 10-50%, on clothing, housewares, stationery, water bottles, LED lighting, and more! Deepest discounts on an eclectic collection of one of a kinds…
  • Yo Mamma’s Home 50% off jewelry and leather bags, 40% off selected rugs, all pillows, including the handmade velour Quebecois pillows of animals, and all colorful small children’s chairs and stools

* Explore beyond Main and High Streets – be sure to check out these businesses on Beaver and Church Streets as well!*

Enjoy new downtown shops like Patina, offering antiques and vintage goods, and Quench, featuring small items for home and person, and handmade jewelry by Quench Metalworks. And don’t forget to visit Belfast’s hidden gems a bit more “off the beaten path” on Beaver Street, Church Street, Front Street and elsewhere off of Main and High.

TASTING EVENTS AT VINOLIO CELEBRATE LOCAL AND WORLD FLAVORS

vinolio_staffCollaboration is on the menu at Belfast’s own artisan olive oil and wine shop this winter and spring.  On February 11th, Vinolio and the Chocolate Drop Candy shop will be offering a “Bubbles & Chocolate” event from 4:30-6:30pm.  There will be samples of sparkling wines and chocolate, a perfect tasting to prepare for your own Valentine’s celebrations.  Then on April 9th, Vinolio & Moody Dogs will offers a “Dogs & Duoro” event with samplings of Spanish wines and gourmet locally-made hot dogs.

In addition to these excellent foodie collaborations, new “Taste of Vinolio” events are happening from February through June and are limited to 10 persons attending.  Reserve your spot in advance by calling the shop at 338-8466.  Menus will be posted in advance; in general there will be an appetizer, salad and main dish with an aperitif, white or red wine and port wine.  There will be a suggested donation for each event.  Look for “Taste of Vinolio” on February 26th, March 26th, May 21st, and June 21st, from 5:30 to 7pm at 74 Main Street in Belfast.  

More information at www.vinolio.com and on their Facebook page.  Vinolio is a proud partner of Our Town Belfast and we thank them for their support!

Habitat for Humanity hosts Valentine’s Day Fundraiser

habitat_logoHabitat for Humanity of Waldo County invites you to “Hearts for Habitat” on Saturday, February 14. For one night only, the Waldo County Shrine Club, located on Northport Ave. in Belfast will be transformed into a delicious restaurant and speakeasy. Guests are invited to bring their favorite beverage and a date and enjoy some delectable goodness. The menu will consist of roast beef, roast pork, and veggie lasagna along with vegetable sides, salad, and a delicious dessert bar.

Wise men say that only fools will miss this event as there will be a special guest providing entertainment for the evening. He may or may not be wearing blue suede shoes, but he will get guests all shook up with his sweet serenade.

Be sure to join us on Valentine’s Day at the Shrine Club in Belfast. Happy hour will start at 5 pm and the meal will be served at 6 pm.  Join us or you may find yourself at Heartbreak Hotel!

Tickets are $20 each, and are available at Mailloux and Marden Law Offices, 151 High St., Belfast; Camden National Bank, 156 Main Street, Belfast, or by calling the Habitat office at 338-2344. For more information contact mandie@waldocountyhabitat.org.

All proceeds from this event will benefit Habitat for Humanity of Waldo County and our 2015 construction efforts.

SCHOOL VACATION ART CAMP: ART MEETS MUSIC WITH BRIDGET MATROS

ArtMusicCampArt Meets Music for a week of painting, collage, constructing and creating, all inspired by music!   Camp will meet Monday through Friday, February 16th through 20th from 9am to noon at Waterfall Arts on High Street in Belfast.  Musical instruments, songs of all sorts, and live music will make this a one of a kind experience for any artist! From painting the blues, to jazz collage, DIY album cover making, and recycled instruments – there will be more than great memories to take home at the end of our awesome week.  Led by artist and musician, Bridget Matros, and featuring additional volunteer musicians.  The cost for art camp is $130 plus a $10 materials fee and camp is open to ages 7 through 12. cholarships are available!  For more information, contact Waterfall Arts at 338-2222 or visit waterfallarts.org.

A Winter Update on the Activities at Our Town Belfast

To all friends of Belfast, near and far:

I wanted to share an update with you all on the activities at Our Town Belfast, work being done here in the office and with our various committees and volunteers.

During the Holidays:

  • Our Town Belfast coordinated a large cooperative advertising campaign promoting shopping/dining/enjoying Belfast during the holidays.  These ads ran from Thanksgiving week through Christmas and were on TV, radio, in print and online.  We hired Ned Lightner to help us create a commercial for Time Warner Cable that was played over 400 times.
  • santa_mailWe also hosted holiday events:  The Annual Tree Lighting (working closely with Norm at Parks & Rec) and our new Holiday Costume Parade, which was an encouraging success with more than 50 attending.  Finally, we held a holiday concert at the American Legion Hall on the Saturday after Christmas.  This raised a small amount of funds for OTB, but more importantly provided an excellent activity for all ages.  It felt like a big school or family reunion with so many folks home for the holidays in attendance and more than 220 people were there – many of whom patronized our restaurants and bars before and after the show.
  • In the retail word, we coordinated a Night Owl Prowl promotion on Black Friday and the annual Early Bird Sale the first Saturday in December, to encourage shoppers to come downtown for their holiday buys.
  • We purchased and arranged for the installation of the downtown wreaths (with volunteers again tying the 100 or so bows) by Sun Services, who will be taking down the wreaths sometime at the end of January.  Our Design Committee also decorated the Harbor Master’s Office with lights and garland.  For the first time, we hosted a Santa Mail box near the Belfast Post Office with hundreds of letters received and as many replies sent as our volunteers could write.
  • Coordinated a fundraising campaign in support of the Belfast Soup Kitchen, raising over $6000 through an online appeal and checks mailed to our office.  Campaign ran for under 4 weeks and the community outpouring of support was just incredible.  We delivered a huge check to the Soup Kitchen on New Year’s Eve.
  • fire_building_NYBBReceived more than 150 community submission for naming the park on Main Street.  Handrail installation was completed and new plantings, seating, and granite steps will be installed in the coming months.  The name “Park on Main” was approved by City Council and we will be working with Parks & Rec and Friends of Belfast Parks to have signage placed at the site this spring.
  • We assisted Mary Mortier with promotion and website work for New Year’s by the Bay.  We enjoy partnering with Mary on this event each year and were so pleased to see how well attended NYBB was.  It is truly a testament to Mary’s hard work and dedication, and I’ve said it many times that NYBB is on of the reasons I chose to live in Belfast.  I am sure I am not alone in this!

Current and Ongoing:

  • OTB_teamInternally, there is a lot of important activity happening at Our Town Belfast.  We are in the midst of two important board-assisted efforts:  An appeal for business donations in 2015, and development of our board and committees for our annual election and meeting coming up this March.  We are proud to announce our new list of business partners so far, while the board continues to visit businesses for input and financial buy-in.  We have raised $5050 so far in this regard and it is important to know that the businesses we serve see the value in supporting our efforts.  If board development continues on the path it is now, we will have new representation from downtown businesses, building owners, and community members for our 2015 board of directors.  Our current board is listed on the website.
  • In November, we received a check for a $5000 grant from the Bank of America foundation, a large step toward diversifying our funding sources and a great showing of faith from BoA as the money is for general support of our year-round programming.
  • I have been invited and approved by the board at the Maine Development Foundation to serve on the advisory council for the Maine Downtown Center ghost_of_paul_revere_AMERICAN_LEGIONbeginning in February, and in particular will be asked to advocate for and come up with ideas around youth engagement in downtowns.  This is particularly fitting as youth engagement is one of Our Town Belfast’s three goals on its strategic plan created in the spring of 2014.  I look forward to being even better connected to statewide downtown revitalization resources in this new role, which will require my attendance at a meeting in Augusta once every two months.
  • We are coordinating a Cabin Fever Reliever weekend with retail promotions downtown February 7th/8th.
  • map_display_imagePromotions Committee meets this  month to revisit the Belfast Maine Pocket Map and and plan other marketing and event projects for 2015.
  • Our Economic Restructuring committee has been working on a letter campaign, securing contact info for all downtown building owners and in January we will be sending correspondence (with follow up calls after) about the many ways in which Our Town Belfast can work with landlords to find new and fitting tenants when vacancies are upcoming in the downtown.
  • Our Town Belfast continues to provide support to the Downtown Revitalization CDBG committee for the Cross Street project as well as the Brownfield’s Task Force for clean-up of the Masker’s site on Front Street.
  • On a personal note, my husband and I recently found out that we are having a baby late this Summer.  The timing works well as after having met certain fundraising goals, we had planned to hire a very part-time assistant beginning in May and will look for someone who can assist more so during my short time away from the office for maternity leave.

It is an exciting time at Our Town Belfast, as we begin plans for the year ahead on our standing committees (promotions, design, economic restructuring, and organization).  I hope you will save the date for our Annual Meeting and Gratitude Gathering on the evening of March 26th at the Belfast Boathouse.  More information on this event will be forthcoming.

bre_mary_NYBBPlease do not hesitate to contact myself or any of our board members with questions about Our Town Belfast.  Thank you for your continued support.  To those as well who serve on our board or committees and participate in our events; your advocacy and partnership mean so much to the people and businesses who call downtown Belfast home.

Best,
Breanna Pinkham Bebb, executive director

(207 218 1158, bre@ourtownbelfast.org)