BRUNSWICK —  It’s not an exaggeration to say Curt Dale Clark is both the face and the voice of Maine State Music Theatre. For years, now, Clark has helped to guide the professional, nonprofit theater company’s course, both artistically and financially, all the while serving as its ambassador to the community.

Recently, Clark spoke with the Coastal Journal about Maine State’s impact to the Midcoast’s summer economy, the importance of partnering with other theater organizations and predictions for the next 60 years.

Coastal Journal: What are some of the goals for Maine State Music Theatre for 2019? What you’re most looking forward to this season?
Curt Dale Clark: Our goals for Maine State Music Theatre in 2019 are to keep the current momentum we have built moving forward. We are going on three straight years of record growth, and we would like to continue inching toward being 100 percent sold out for the season. We Have an amazing slate of shows with something for everyone. For the first time in many years, we have Duke Ellington s music on our stage in “Sophisticated Ladies,” which will be the largest dance show of the year with huge tap sequences and amazing costuming, not to mention Mr. Ellington’s awesome music.

Then we have the East Coast premiere of “Treasure Island,” an epic new musical that will make lovers of musical theatre and literature very happy. The show is complete with sword fights, treasure and dazzling sets and costumes; this brand-new musical will thrill audiences this summer. Also, the classic tale “Hello Dolly” will return to our stage after 17 years. Jerry Herman at his best and the show stars MSMT superstar and crowd favorite Charis Leos.

Then we saved the “Wizard of Oz” for the end of the summer to go out with a bang. Travis Grant will design a whole new set of costumes for this wonderful production. It will be the most colorful production of the year.

Coastal J: What are some challenges facing MSMT in 2019?
CDC: We are up against a wall as each of the last three years we have inched closer and closer to being 100 percent sold out. Sounds great, right? It is great, but that means the only way left to increase revenue is to raise prices or to beg or to spend less. We can’t do the latter, because over the years, our audience has come to expect the best of everything as far as sets, lights, costumes, props and more, so I have to go a-begging. Luckily for me, people in this area—whether residents or travelers—know how important we are to the summer economy here in Brunswick, so they are willing to help us. The housing piece is still our largest hurdle, and though we purchase new housing almost every year, we are still quite a ways from having all we need.

CJ: MSMT celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2018. Generally speaking, what can you envision the next 60 years looking like for the organization?
CDC: We are in the beginning of strategic planning, but I hope that in the next 60 years we will be able to expand the company to include a traveling educational theatre and also find a small second space to do smaller productions in conjunction with our larger summer theatre on the campus of Bowdoin College. It is also a goal of mine to be able to offer classes for the young and old alike.

CJ: The organization continues to bring big shows and plays to many people each year, which is obviously a very good thing. But how does all the success of MSMT make it tough to consistently be successful while balancing fiscal responsibility and the need to continue to grow?
CDC: The reality of the situation that is the crux of my job is that I must continue to give the public what they want—big, beautiful productions—but keep the company’s head above water. My partner Stephanie Dupal and I spend many hours trying to make sure the stuff we have to have done is paid for before we go to what I call the bells and whistles stages. Luckily we have many many people who loves us and take pride in what we do and are willing to help us accomplish this. It is always my goal to hear people leaving the theatre wondering how were we able to do this is Brunswick, Maine. Guess what? It happens.

CJ: How can partnerships with groups like The Public Theatre in Lewiston be beneficial to MSMT, and can it be used as a model for other local theater groups?
CDC: Partnerships with The Fulton Theatre, Portland Stage and The Public Theatre in Lewiston just make sense in todays economy. When two organizations share the costs of any project, you are increasing your chances for success and giving yourself more opportunities to win. There are also donors that want more opportunities to help. This also gives the audience from both organizations more ways to connect with the mothership, so to speak. It could be used as a model, but the reality is it is not easy. The ends justify the means in that the public, who pay our salaries and cover the cost of doing business, gets more of what they want—live theatre. We owe it to the people we beg for money from to do the most we can possibly do with it. These co-productions allow us to earn more and beg less. I think it is our job to earn what we need to produce the shows and use what people give us to grow the company. I’m not using unearned income to fix a lack of ticket sales. The proof is in the pudding. If you consistently need help to make your production budget, then you need to change your programming or find a new audience, and we both know which of those is the easier solution.

This company is, for many people, their only opportunity to experience musical theatre, and it has been that way for 61 years now. It is a tradition here in the Midcoast and will hopefully continue to be one for the rest of time.

Jason Pafundi is the Coastal Journal’s associate editor. He can be reached at [email protected].

Comments are not available on this story.