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Historic Theaters

They can be big and grand, odd and gauzy or tucked neatly into the woods. Maine’s historic theaters are everywhere and many of them still play host to local performers, traveling musicians and even high-school graduations. Come see.

Opera Houses were all the rage in the late 19th and early-20th centuries. Even small Maine towns sported these grand edifices which, while not always hosting opera, provided big spaces for roving theater companies, lecturers and new-fangled moving pictures. Over the generations, many have closed as downtowns changed and evolved. A few, like those in Bangor, Camden, Stonington and Waterville, still host performances in the heart of their home towns.

Cumston Hall in Monmouth has been described as, well, unusual. That’s putting it mildly. The gaudy wooden confection looks like a cross between King Arthur’s Camelot and Santa’s North Pole workshop. It’s pretty wonderful. Equally wonderful is the theater inside, the long-time headquarters of the Theater at Monmouth, Maine’s official Shakespearean company.

Many of Maine’s historic theaters offer up shows in small towns every summer. Opened in 1936, Deertrees Theatre in Harrison sits on a former deer run and was built of rose hemlock cut on the property. The stately Lakewood Theater in Madison is even older, having debuted its first performance in 1901. The ever-popular Ogunquit Playhouse offered its first performances in a renovated Ogunquit garage in 1933. It moved to its current location four years later and has been hosting popular shows – and popularly known actors – since then.

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