Published Sunday, June 9, 2013

BRUNSWICK — Curt Dale Clark has his plate full. If all goes well, it soon will spill over. Clark, who has spent eight summers at Maine State Music Theatre as an actor, occupies the big chair, serving his favorite summer theater as consulting artistic director. The job is temporary as the theater sifts through the fallout of the departure of the previous artistic director, Steve Peterson, who left to pursue a rekindled passion for performance.

Clark wants this gig on a permanent basis. In addition to a long career as an actor, singer and dancer, he has extensive experience as a theater administrator, and can’t think of any place he would rather use his skills than Brunswick.

“Since the first day I set foot here as an actor, I fell in love with this community, this theater and this region,” he said. “There is something incredibly special about this place, and the opportunity to lead it makes me tingle all over.”

With Clark at the helm – and with a big assist from interim executive director Stephanie Dupal – the theater began its four-show mainstage season earlier this week with a knock-out version of the musical “Dreamgirls.”

Clark is also directing a concert version of “Hair” on June 17, and will star as Javert in “Les Miserables,” which opens with a full production on June 26. He’s sung the role six times before, so he knows it well.

With all that, Clark faces a summer of juggling starring roles on stage, running the theater and directing shows – all while auditioning for the job on a permanent basis.

All of those tasks are important, but none is more important than running the theater. Clark’s administrative priorities this summer involve three things:
Uphold the artistic standards of the theater and ensure that this summer’s shows are as strong as they can possibly be.

Clark has accomplished much of that already with his casting decisions. Peterson put the current season together before the theater brought Clark on board, so he’s executing someone else’s vision, and doing so with the same commitment as if it were his own.

Plan the 2014 season before “Mary Poppins” opens on Aug. 7 so he can tell patrons about it and get them to commit to tickets. Next year will be his vision. He wants it to sparkle, and he wants people to get excited about it.

Bring people back to the theater – patrons and sponsors alike.

Attendance has been OK in recent years, and ticket sales are strong for this summer, he said. But he’s got a folder on his desk full of names, phone numbers and addresses of people he must reach out to, asking them for their renewed or continued support.

Not everyone is thrilled with the direction of the theater, and Clark wants those who have questioned their commitment to give Maine State another shot.

“Some people have turned away from the theater for one reason or another,” he said. “I’ve got to find out why, and I’ve got to make it right.”

Clark grew up in smalltown Pecatonica, Ill. He studied Spanish and sales and marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

He loves baseball, gardening and animals – horses and dogs, specifically.

And theater.

Clark got the bug at a young age, and has been acting full-time for almost 25 years.

He and his partner, Marc Robin, operated a 900-seat house outside Chicago for 13 years, then moved to the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pa., where Robin currently serves as artistic director.

Robin is no stranger to Maine State, either. He directs up here once or twice a year, and will be back this summer to direct “Les Miserables” and “Mary Poppins.”
Because of those connections, there is a history of collaboration between Fulton Theatre and Maine State. That is certain to continue.

“Dreamgirls,” which opened on Friday and is up through June 22, is a co-production with Fulton Theatre. It played down there earlier in the spring with the same cast and sets.

Given his management experience, Clark feels he is ready for the responsibility of running Maine State, and he hopes to prove his value this summer.

He still acts, and will continue to act. But he is ready to transition out of full-time acting and into administration.

“This business is 24/7,” he said. “You cannot get away from it if you are successful. I have an insane passion for acting. But after 24 years, it will be nice to not have to do it every single night.” And there is no place he’d rather move into the next phase of his career than right here in Brunswick.