Phyzgig hit its stride when it chose to go exclusively with a vaudeville format.

The festival has provided end-of-year entertainment for Portland audiences for 15 years. Six years ago, artistic director and Peaks Island resident Avner Eisenberg narrowed the scope of the festival to feature vaudeville acts. Prior to that, the festival had more of general comedy feel and featured two or three acts at each performance, said Mike Levine, producing director of Acorn Productions, which presents the festival.

Now it’s more free-flowing, with one act following the other up on stage.

“Now we have the true energy of a traditional vaudeville show, with a juggler, then a magician, then a storyteller. It’s a lot more challenging for us to organize, but we really like the energy that’s created, and so do audiences,” said Levine.

The festival opens today and runs through Monday at venues in Portland and Westbrook. It includes children’s shows at Space Gallery in Portland, evening shows at Portland Stage Company and a more intimate show at Acorn’s performance space in Westbrook.

Each Phyzgig show is a mini-festival, showcasing the work of up to six performers.

Phyzgig’s primary venue is Portland Stage. Shows there will include the Matt Rock Pit Band.

The festival’s Phyzkidz series takes place at Space.

Among those who will perform this year is Maine resident Peter Boie, a magician. He lives in Arundel and tours around the country. It’s not often he gets to perform in his home state. This the first time he’s performed at Phyzgig.

“I tour the country doing a lot colleges. It’s always exciting to perform locally and be part of a bigger show with multiple acts,” he said. “It’s really different and fun.”

Boie performs four times, all at Portland Stage Company: 7 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Sunday and 2 and 7 p.m. Monday.

Levine tags this festival as the largest vaudeville festival in the Northeast. Maine has always been a good place for physical comedy, thanks to the presence of the Celebration Barn Theater in South Paris.

Celebration Barn attracts performers from all over the country to its workshops. Many fall in love with Maine and stay.

Phyzgig taps into that culture. In any given year, about half the acts performing at the festival are local, Levine said.

The festival has spawned offshoot festivals in Lewiston and Portsmouth, N.H.

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

bkeyes@pressherald.com

Twitter: pphbkeyes