Eastport Arts Center

where creativity and community meet

EAC Prepares for Visiting Star Ed Asner

While the surrounding community hastily prepares for winter, with final garden harvests, wood chores and weatherizing, the EAC has been a hive of another type of activity. In preparation for the advent of actor Ed Asner, who’ll appear with local cast members in a political comedy on October 12 and 13, EAC staff and community members are hard at work building ‘Heaven’ as a stage set, since Asner’s show casts the star as God himself. Meanwhile, four local performers are preparing for ‘Heaven-sent’ roles opposite the 8-time Emmy award-winning icon. The production will be put together at high speed, with Asner arriving with his producer and director on Friday for opening night on Saturday. 
“It is indeed a quick turn around,” said Liza Asner, Ed’s daughter, assistant and the show’s producer. “The local actors have been rehearsing by the time we get into town and then do table reads while the director works on programming light and sound cues with local theatre’s tech director.” The show, which has been staged so far this year in small towns in Tennessee, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania and California, and which heads to Eastport after concluding a run in Montana, is headed next to Mabou, Nova Scotia for an October 18 performance. Each venue meets the Asner team midway, creating their own iteration of the celestial set, costumes and by finding cast members. “I thought it would be great to feature local actors in the show,” said Liza. “It adds a local flavor … and has been well received by the communities we land in.” And to the oft-repeated question, ‘Why Eastport,’ Liza replied, “I had reached out hoping to add a show before Canada and Chris Grannis jumped on it!” 
Pausing from stagecraft work with her husband Steve Grannis, EAC Director Chris Grannis noted with her quick grin some of the many volunteers who’ve stepped up to aid the production: Bernie Cecire will assist with sound; Colby Stoker will run the light board; Sally DeCicco has been working on costumes; and set dressers/painters will include the Grannises plus Cathy Adelman, Jude Kempe, and Lauren Koss. EAC’s Island Institute Fellow Mark Macey will fill in ‘for God,’ reading Asner’s lines as part of practices with local cast members Jenie Smith, Peter Frewen, Ann Cornelison and Brian Giles.
“I have had a crush on Ed Asner for decades now,” confessed Cornelison, who’ll fill one of two nonspeaking roles as an angel who doubles as a stage hand. “To say that this opportunity is a dream come true would assume that it ever occurred to me that it was even remotely within the realm of possible dreams.” Cornelison, who divides her time between Eastport and the Texas Hill Country, has enjoyed a career of mostly comic roles with Stage East. “I admire his acting and his activism, and I hope I do not dissolve completely in his presence. I guess God has that affect on people.” 
The other angelic performer will be “The Reverend” Brian Giles, a stand-up comic, educator and off-grid homesteader. “I used to do theater but have found it is so time consuming that I cannot make it, my kids, my job, and my chores all fit on the same schedule,” explained Giles. “This was a unique opportunity to do theater in a dine and dash fashion! No month-long rehearsal schedule, just four days of fun! Also, I am a fan of Ed Asner mostly because he is the most Santa a Santa can be. I dig Santa a bunch.”
“Mr. Asner has long been a hero of mine, both as an actor and as a progressive thinker,” noted Jenie Smith, who will portray a conservative opposite husband Peter Frewen, who’ll play a liberal. “What a gas for me to play counter to my own political bent, and fun for Peter to not be his usual ‘grumpy man’ role. We’re memorizing like mad in hopes that we will not make fools of ourselves in front of Mr. Asner and the rest of his company!” Smith and Frewen, familiar faces for Washington County theater-goers have appeared frequently on the EAC stage in Stage East and Magnificent Liars productions, as well as in musical performances. “An opportunity to learn from [Asner] is … unreal and awesome,” continued Smith. “After the ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ I was a ‘Lou Grant’ devotee, and his acting on that was a huge draw for me. Thereafter, his work for multiple causes towards making the world better has incurred my great admiration. We are grateful beyond measure for this opportunity.”
“This is a very interesting year ahead of us leadership wise. I think this show is wonderful, funny, topical and important,”
notes Liza. “It’s a way to open a conversation about that scary word, ‘politics’. Politics is in everything we do in life but the show is more about ethics, ethics that people refer to as politics, but are really ethics—instilled in us from youth.  And we will all feel differently about certain issues. We must come to an understanding that not everyone will agree on issues and the sooner we accept this, the more we will be willing to walk in each other’s shoes.”
Tickets for both performances are sold out at this writing. More information about programs of Eastport Arts Center, ‘where creativity and community meet’ may be found at eastportartscenter.org.

EAC Welcomes Mark Macey, Island Institute Fellow

EAC is thrilled to announce its selection by the Island Institute, a Rockland organization that works to sustain island and remote coastal communities of Maine, as host site for Island Fellow Mark Macey. The Island Fellow program places recent college graduates in communities for one to two years, with objectives to meet community-stated needs through project-based work; increase capacity for local management of cultural, natural, historical, economic and informational resources; and assist local research, planning, education and technology projects. 
Macey is EAC’s third Island Fellow; he was preceded by Tarah Waters and Naphtali Fields. He is a performance and theatre artist who works across disciplines. A graduate of Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, he also holds a BA in Theatre Studies from the University of Utah. He is the founder and producer of Suckerpunch, a performance research collective whose productions range from multimedia installations to short films.
Macey’s tenure in Eastport will aim “to enliven theater arts in the area with Stage East and the EAC,” said EAC Director, Chris Grannis.
“The performing arts are where we come to share ideas and experiences and gain perspective,” noted Macey. “I believe in a theatre that not only entertains its community but offers it a place to see its hopes, concerns, and contentions played out. To me, theatre should be by, for, and about the community it serves.”

Life Drawing Workshop Seeks Models

Models/performers are sought to pose for EAC’s Life Drawing Workshop. Each drawing session begins with a series of short poses, ending with an hour-long pose. Those interested in modeling need no previous experience, as the workshop facilitator will discuss with them what is needed in advance of the drawing session, and there is a generous fee for the two hours of modeling. Also, photography of the models is not permitted.
Those interested in modeling, or seeking more information about the drawing workshop should email Hopkins at anneshieldshopkins@gmail.com. Eastport Arts Center is at 36 Washington Street, Eastport, and is fully handicapped-accessible.

EAC, Stage East Featured in Podcast Series by Harvard Grad Quinn Rose

Setting the Stage is a four-part narrative podcast that tells the true story of the Stage East theater in Eastport. It features interviews with members of the Eastport community and Cornerstone Theater Company. The story begins in 1990, when a group of idealistic theater majors arrived in a sleepy fishing village with one lofty goal: to create a theater that could sustain itself in a rural, economically disadvantaged, and socially divided community. This is the story of Eastport, Maine, Cornerstone Theater Company, and the decades that followed.
Interviewees include: Jean Wilhelm, Joyce Weber, Barbara Smith, Jay Skriletz, Ann Skriletz, Brian Schuth, David Reiffel, Lynn Mitchell, Meg McGarvey, Chris Grannis, Lou Esposito, James Bundy, Alison Brennan and Greg Biss.
Listen online or download episodes at settingthestagepodcast.com.

Setting the Stage creator Quinn Rose (Quinn Sluzenski) was born and raised in Charlotte, Maine, and started attending EAC programs regularly when she joined Eastport Strings in elementary school. She played with the orchestra until her high school graduation in 2014, and came back to the EAC as a publicity intern in the summer of 2015. In the summer of 2018, Quinn wrote for the Quoddy Tides and interviewed a dozen members of the community to produce Setting the Stage.
Quinn graduated from Harvard College in 2018 with a degree in sociology and a minor in theater, dance, and media. She currently lives in Chicago, IL, where she works as a freelance podcast producer and editor, and spends a lot of time thinking about and watching theater. Learn more about Quinn’s work at aspiringrobot.com.

Annual Follies Revue Seeking Talent

Auditions are ongoing for Eastport Arts Center’s 15th Annual Moose Island Follies, to be held as two performances, 4 and 7:30 pm, on Wednesday, July 3, as city-wide Fourth of July festivities are coming to a peak. Acts should be two-to-eight minutes in length and may consist of any type of performance—music, dance, physical stunts/comedy, theatrical scenes or skits, recitation, vaudevillian arts—truly, anything goes. To arrange an audition, email Chris Grannis at chris@eastportartscenter.org or call (207) 853-4650. Video submissions will also be accepted. The Eastport Arts Center is at 36 Washington Street, Eastport, and at www.eastportartscenter.org, and is handicapped-accessible.

Muster for Spring Cleaning Party

Community members willing to push up their sleeves and help with an EAC-wide spring cleaning effort are invited to join in for a work party. For details, please email Chris, chris@eastportartscenter.org.

Outreach Program Brings the Arts to Area Preschoolers

Eastport Arts Center’s KinderArts program has received a Kars4Kids grant in support of expanded educational outreach efforts for the 2018/2019 school year. In collaboration with Theresa Fisk, District Early Childhood and Youth Coordinator for Washington County of the Cutler Institute, EAC has organized outreach visits of the KinderArts program for the Passamaquoddy Child Development Center, KidzFirst childcare center, Calais Head Start and Pre-K, Passamaquoddy Head Start and the St. Croix Early Care and Education Center. More than 60 local preschoolers have enjoyed learning yoga and meditation through dance, music and storybooks with instructor Caroline DiLio. Owner of Maine Moon Kids Yoga, DiLio is a certified children’s yoga instructor and a mother of three. She also leads the Tiny Yogis program at Eastport Arts Center, which will resume weekly starting March 21.
“Caroline’s quiet and patient presence when working with young children helps them to become fully involved in the activity.” said Marcia Rogers, Site Manager for Head Start at Child and Family Opportunities.
“The yoga and music experience can be relaxing and fun when the instructor is able to capture their interest. Caroline excels at this, which is evident in the excitement of our children when they learn she is coming to visit their classroom.”
Prior to receiving the Kars4Kids funding, EAC’s KinderArts program did a series of outreach visits to private home-based caregivers in Eastport and Perry, with support from the Crewe Foundation and the Maine Arts Commission.
“We reached out to area childcare centers because these children did not have the opportunity to travel to our center,” said Alison Brennan, EAC’s Education and Outreach Director. “Early arts learning is so important to the well-rounded growth of healthy children.”
Eastport Arts Center’s mission is to stimulate and nurture an appreciation of the visual and performing arts and the creative process and to provide a home and an environment within the community where they can prosper. More information may be found at eastportartscenter.org/education.

EAC Gift Certificates are ‘One Size Fits All’

Shop Local—from Home! What could be easier? Shop EAC Gift Certificates online, or purchase your certificate in person at the arts center. Certificates are redeemable at the box office for any EAC event, and make a perfect one-size-fits-all gift for everyone on your list!

EAC’s Festival of Trees Seeking Decorators

As you enjoy the diamonds on the water, the treasures on the beaches, the produce from your organic gardens, your stunning flowers, the shore birds, the boats on the water, are you gathering ideas and nature’s bounty to be one of the 25 decorators who participate in the 9th Annual Festival of Trees on December 8?
Back by popular demand: Tree-trimmers are welcomed to join the fun on Friday evening the 7th by joining with other decorators in the comradeship of decorating on-site after picking up their trees.
As for decorating ideas—feathers, flowers, vegetables and fruits that can be dried, sea shells, small pine cones, packets of seeds, inspirations that make you want to sing or paint or mold some clay, play a flute, dance or pick up a fiddle all present ideas to get you excited. Unable to get outdoors? Books, buttons and beads, jewelry, fabric scraps, the unusual shapes of small items headed for recycling, sheet music, or dreidels, playbills, fishing lures and bobs stashed on those shelves you have been meaning to clean off, tiny cars or boats or miniature lobster buoys or pots, aromatic teas or coffees in lovely little bags, cookies, treats for pets and wildlife and all the stuff of life can turn into a charming tabletop tree celebrating nature, the arts, hobbies and being alive in beautiful Downeast Maine.
Contact Marged Higginson at margedhigginson111@gmail.com with any questions or if you’d like to sign up for one of the 25 decorator slots. The Festival of Trees is an important fundraiser which helps ‘keep the lights burning’ all winter long at EAC. 

A New Perspective from Backstage

by Susan Coopersmith


I signed my 8th grade photo to my grandmother “Love your actress granddaughter”. Throughout high school I was active in drama club, playing the “spirit” in our senior production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. My plan was to go to UCLA to study acting. My parents, who were paying for my college education, had other ideas.
Fast forward four decades. I am not an actress, I am anthropologist who is returning to the US after living twenty years in Central and East Africa. 
“What are you going to do when you come home?” asks my now grown daughter. “I am going to write and I am going to be an actress,” I told her. “Good luck with that in Maine, Mom,” she encouraged me.
In 2016 I landed an acting role in Stage East’s New Year’s Eve production. Being back on stage was all I imagined it would be, but now I was more aware of all the people working to make the production a success. Nervously pacing backstage, going over lines in my head, I looked at the stage manager and stage crew and thought, “
Maybe I want to be one of them. It looks like they are having a good time.”
            Chris Grannis, a backstage pro and enthusiastic coach, started me off with small crew jobs. My first big test was running a dress rehearsal for the 2017 Moose Island Follies. I had to lower something onto the stage on cue. Chris and I ran through it several times but I still held my breath during the performance until I made it through that scene. Since then, I have crewed for several EAC productions including the Children’s Theater Workshop’s Macbeth.
When Stage East’s 2018 summer production, Neil Simon’s I Ought to be in Pictures (IOTBIP), was in the planning stages, I felt daring. Although ill prepared, I volunteered to be the production’s stage manager and they accepted me. As an actor I never thought about who was telling the sound and lighting people that I was in my place and ready to go. That was just the “magic of theater”. The music came on and the lights came up, I walked onstage and delivered my lines. The IOTBIP sound person, Bernie Cecire, and lighting person, John Morton, patiently taught me how those illusions come to life and that it is the stage manager’s responsibility to make sure it all happens at the right time.
So, with my newly developed skills, do I plan to stay behind the curtain forever? Not a chance. One of the amazing things about becoming involved with Stage East and Eastport Arts Center—when you want to be an actor, you can be an actor, when you want to be a stage manager… 

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The work of Eastport Arts Center is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. The work of Eastport Arts Center is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.