SKOWHEGAN — After 35-plus years as drama director at Skowhegan Area High School and seven trips to the New England Drama Festival, Robin Lisherness will, for a moment, stand alone in the spotlight.

Lisherness, 59, of Strong will receive the New England Drama Council lifetime membership award during ceremonies at this year’s New England festival in Falmouth, beginning Thursday. Richard Mullen of Cape Elizabeth also will receive a lifetime membership this year.

“In high school drama, it’s the biggest honor you can achieve,” Lisherness said. “I am definitely honored. I am also really pleased at how well the Skowhegan one-act (drama team) did this year. It’s just wonderful to carry on the tradition.”

Skowhegan itself will be represented at the festival, having won first place at the Maine Drama Festival with its one-act performance of “The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov.

Current director Maura Smith, of Skowhegan, who took over for Lisherness when he retired two years ago, was a student of Lisherness when she was in high school.

“Robin has an uncanny ability to relate to students in a ‘Pied Piper’ sort of way,” Smith said. “He knows how to make theater both fun and relevant. He understands that a quality theater program involves selecting good literature that makes both students and audiences think, and he is adept at using students’ individual strengths to their full potential.”

Smith said Lisherness demands quality from himself and from his students, and success naturally follows. “Robin has directed, studied and acted in many theatrical genres, including musicals, children’s theater and the classics,” she said. “Regardless of what type of show he does, he models a strong work ethic, generosity, the joy of collaboration, and an infectious love of the performing arts.”

The New England Drama Festival is a collection of performances by schools that already are winners in their state one-act festivals. Rockland District High School also is representing Maine.

“All the states are just showcasing the two best shows from each state,” Lisherness said.

Now, the longtime director and actor said, his role is different as a member of both the Maine and the New England councils.

“At this point, I’m still very closely aligned with Skowhegan, but I’m not competitive for Skowhegan,” he said.

Lisherness is a University of Maine at Farmington graduate and did postgraduate work for a master’s in elementary education at the University of Maine and at the University of Southern Maine.

He was an English teacher at Skowhegan for his entire career, also directing speech and theater programs.

Lisherness currently is a theater instructor at Mt. Blue Middle School and remains active with the Sandy River Players.


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