WESTROOK – Westbrook-based Acorn Productions will see some big changes in the next year as its producing director and only full-time staff member, Michael Levine, steps down, leaving room for a few new faces to step up.

“I’m the only full-time staff and the skill set we need for this role has become increasing challenging,” Levine said. “At one time I’m doing so many things, I’m directing Naked Shakespeare, I’m running theater camps, it’s all happening back to back. I told the board a few months ago I was taking a step back to reassess,” Levine said.

Levine, a co-founder of the organization, which is located at the Dana Warp Mill, said his plan is to take a seat on the board while returning to another love, teaching.

“As long as Acorn continued to be tied to my vision, it’s not as broad-based as it could be. It’ll be a challenge, but it’s important as an organization to move forward if they want to become a real long-term staple,” Levine said.

Along with being a founder of the company, Levine taught acting classes for both adults and children, he directed Naked Shakespeare, did most of the scheduling, produced, acted and was generally the face of the production company.

Michael Howard, a longtime actor and director, said he agrees that change will be good for Acorn. Howard will take over as co-director for the Naked Shakespeare productions, with Karen Ball. Both Ball and Howard have worked alongside Levine in the past.

“I think after working with any group for a number of years, it’s good to see if still you’re still committed to it. Can you commit to being here this year? Are you being turned on by it? Is your passion still behind it? Everybody needs a different change of venue at times,” said Howard. “He’s [Levine] worn so many different hats, he needs a break.”

Howard and Bell said they were excited to see what the future held for their new positions and how they could continue to expand and enrich actors and the production company through, what they hope will be, a big Naked Shakespeare production, in the near future.

In the meantime, Acorn Productions is looking at hiring three more people for part-time positions: a managing director, director of children’s programming and an artistic director for the Maine Playwright Festival, now in it’s 11th year.

Acorn, said Levine, is “permeated with my artistic perspective. It will be good to put a different stamp on the program.”

Levine will focus the majority on his time going back to the public education field; he is a certified secondary school English and theater teacher. He previously had been a teacher at Gorham High School.

“On a personal level, my focus is more and more in the education field. For myself personally, the school is calling my name right now. I felt it was time to re-enter the public schools as a staff member,” Levine said.

The founder also said his decision was based on the economic outlook at the production company. While this was the first year Acorn broke even, Levine said the company has back debt it needs to pay off. He said his full-time pay, including health benefits, was more expensive than the plan to have five part-time positions.

Michael Levine, of the Westbrook-based Acorn Productions, is giving up his job as producing director as the theater group undergoes changes.


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