The concessions stand at St. Lawrence Arts on Portland’s Munjoy Hill. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The idea that communities thrive when they have access to meaningful resources is the driving force behind the nonprofit St. Lawrence Arts.

The Friends of St. Lawrence Church are proposing building a performance hall with 400 seats on the church’s property at 76 Congress St. in Portland. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Housed in the restored historic Parish Hall Theater in St. Lawrence Church on Portland’s Munjoy Hill, it provides those resources in several ways – from the productions it rolls out to the stage and space it provides to its upkeep of the landmark.

That encompasses the threefold mission of Friends of the St. Lawrence: to be an affordable and accessible venue for diverse offerings of performance arts, from theater and dance to music and workshops; to add cultural enrichment and social interaction to its neighborhood and Greater Portland; and to revitalize the landmark itself.

An architecturally important design in the Romanesque, Queen Anne style, created in 1897 by Arthur Bates Jennings, the church needed help. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the structure suffered from disrepair until 1996, when the Friends of the St. Lawrence stepped in to rebuild and rehabilitate the building, opening the 110-seat Parish Hall Theater in 2001. Currently, there is a plan for a $10 million expansion, still in the financing stage.

In the meantime, the shows all go on: St. Lawrence hosts several performances through the end of summer into October, while its theater in residence sets up shop to present its first show, “Admissions,” in October.

Alexandra Hall is a longtime New England lifestyle writer who recently moved to Maine.


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