David Treadwell

David Treadwell

The Maine State Music Theatre 2017 season is drawing near — “Always Patsy Cline” opens on June 7 — so I thought it would be a good time to check in with Curt Dale Clark, MSMT’s Artistic Director.

Curt laughed when I asked what he’s been doing to prepare for the summer season. “I get frustrated when people ask, ‘But what do you DO in the winter?’,” he said. “My job is much easier in the summer when the shows are running!”

Here are just some of the challenges Curt and his staff face in the “off” season.

1. Lining up the shows. An artistic director can’t just decide to put on X, Y or Z show. Negotiations must be undertaken with the rights houses to see what’s available and when. The rights houses, for example, don’t want the same show to be playing in the same geographic area during the same period. Typically, the artistic director must negotiate payment for the rights, which might involve a flat fee or a percent of ticket sales or some combination.

2. Casting the shows. This past year, MSMT auditioned about 4000 equity actors to fill 78 slots for the season; most actors auditioned in New York City, but MSMT also holds auditions right here in Brunswick. Some actors perform in just one show, but most of them perform in two, three or even all four shows. Deciding who can play what part(s) takes artistic judgment and flexibility. And sometimes — here’s where Curt’s patience gets tested — an actor who’s been offered a role delays accepting it, meanwhile pitting MSMT’s offer against another theater.

Casting the eight student interns presents another creative challenge. About 1250 young actors auditioned for just eight slots for this season. “The interns bring real heart to the company,” notes Curt, “they’re eager and willing to do whatever we ask of them. I tell them that if they can make it here, they can make it in on Broadway.”

3. Arranging for costumes. MSMT’s costume rental office located in Fort Andross either makes the costumes or arranges rentals from other costume rental companies around the country.

4. Finding housing. And then there’s the small matter of finding housing for all the actors and interns. Happily, MSMT has begun to acquire properties for this purpose, thereby easing budgetary concerns.

In recent years, MSMT has developed a productive partnership with the Fulton Theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Fulton Theater provides the cast and costumes for MSMT’s first show; MSMT, in turn, provides the cast and costumes for MSMT’s last show to the Fulton Theater. Both theaters realize significant savings from this arrangement.

MSMT has developed a superb reputation around the theater world, thanks to the consummate professionalism of Curt Dale Clark and the entire MSMT staff as well as the extraordinary support of the citizens of midcoast Maine. “Actors love being in Maine in the summer. And the directors of other theaters constantly ask how we get such a high attendance rate, year after year.”

As can be seen, being the artistic director at MSMT presents many challenges, so I asked Curt about the rewards. “Nothing makes me happier than having someone from the professional theater world see a show and then come up to me and ask, ‘How can you DO a show like that in Brunswick, Maine?”

Regular MSMT audience members aren’t surprised when MSMT delivers top drawer entertainment year after year. They’ve come to expect the very best. Let’s all give a tip of the hat to Curt Dale Clark and his staff for doing what they do so well — throughout the year. And now….on with the 2017 shows! (Go to www.msmt.org for information on the upcoming MSMT season.)

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary or suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]


Comments are not available on this story.