SCARBOROUGH – A new play that opens tonight explores what it means to be a farmer, to be part of a community and the changing face of agriculture in Maine.

“Farms and Fables” will run through Sunday at Camp Ketcha in Scarborough.

Written with input from farmers and performed by a cast that includes actors and farmers, the two-act drama intends to foster dialogue about local agriculture, farming and the future of family farms in Maine.

It is the brainchild of Jennie Hahn, a Maine native who returned a few years ago after spending several years working in community-based theater in Los Angeles. Community-based theater aims to bring understanding between cultures through theater.

“We are seeing a lot of change in the state of Maine – demographic change, environmental change, land-use change,” said Hahn, who directs the play for her theater company, Open Waters Theater Arts. “We are hearing a lot of conversations about food and agriculture, and I feel that sometimes perspectives can get generalized. This play focuses on the people and the lives of the people involved in agriculture. I want people who attend the play to see that, so they have greater appreciation of the agriculture in their community.”

“Farms and Fables” has a cast of 11. Six of the cast members are actors. Five are farm workers.

Among them is Penny Jordan, whose family has operated a farm in Cape Elizabeth for several generations.

“I can never profess to be acting,” Jordan said with a laugh. “Am I in the play? Yes. Can I act? No.”

She got involved because she liked the idea of creating conversations among various elements of the community. She hopes that people who see the play will consider the role of local agriculture in their community, and the difficult decisions that farmers and farm families make when they choose to stay on their land.

“It really does take a lot of planning and passion,” Jordan said. “If you aren’t a family that is passionate about what your land has been and what you want it to be, then it isn’t necessarily going to remain a farm and a productive farm. It is either going to be land sitting there as open space or it is going to be houses.

“I think you really have to value your heritage in order that a farm carries on generation after generation,” she said. “If you value your legacy, you will ensure the legacy will carry on. It’s not about the money. It’s about the passion.”

Hahn and writer Cory Tamler created the play after two years of conversations with farmers. The theater artists also dug in, working internships on local farms. In addition to offering hands-on experiences, the internships gave the actors, writer and director the opportunity for real-world research.

Tamler wrote the play based on the farm experience and friendships made while working on local farms.

In addition to Jordan’s farm, the farms that participated were the Benson dairy farm in Gorham, and the Broadturn Farm in Scarborough, a farm that specializes in community-supported agriculture.

Tamler wrote a script, vetted it with the farmers involved and then rewrote it based on their feedback.

Eddie Benson, who runs the Gorham farm, appreciated the commitment of Hahn, Tamler and the actors.

“I’m not a very cultured person. I am just an old farm boy,” he said. “I admit, at first I was apprehensive about this. But they came out and worked hard to do all the jobs. They wanted to fully experience what life on the farm really was. They showed up early and worked as hard as they could.”

Does he think the play might make a difference? Will it help people who take farming for granted have a better, or different, appreciation for the work that farmers do and the role of farms in a community?

He isn’t so sure.

“Who knows,” he said. “There may be someone out there who sees the show and will in turn try to dig a little bit more into the agricultural aspects of southern Maine.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes