BATH — A local literacy nonprofit is presenting a special, one-time online event this weekend featuring local actors reading two children’s books aloud and acting out all the parts.

Midcoast Literacy, a Bath-based organization that provides free literacy programs for Lincoln, Sagadahoc and northern Cumberland counties, is presenting Readers Theater at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12. A group of five local actors will be reading and performing “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Henkes and “Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree” by Robert Barry.

Don Lader, the nonprofit’s executive director, said he had heard about the concept being used elsewhere in the country to promote literacy, and had been contemplating doing a similar event locally for more than a year now.

“I was really intrigued by it,” he said.

Typically, Lader said, such an event is held in person, with actors performing live on stage. The pandemic is making that impossible, but it occurred to him and the nonprofit that such an event might work virtually.

“When COVID hit, it seemed like the perfect idea to roll out,” Lader said.

The event is free, but attendees are asked to pre-register, which they can do by visiting the nonprofit’s website at midcoastliteracy.org, or by contacting Midcoast Literacy at [email protected] Once registered, viewers will get a link to Saturday’s performance. Burson said the event will be live, and is not being recorded. In a statement, Lader said if this performance goes as well as expected, Midcoast Literacy may produce similar events in the future.

During the event, the nonprofit will also be accepting donations to support its Read Together program, which provides free, one-on-one tutoring for students ages 6-14 who are reading below grade level.

Dan Burson is the office manager for Midcoast Literacy, but he also serves as art director for the Maine Playwrights’ Festival and is the former literary manager for the Portland Stage Company. He said the concept of readers theater has been a popular tool for literacy programs and theater groups for years.

“It’s definitely a way to share books that are out there,” he said.

Burson called it a “hybrid” art form — more involved than parents reading books aloud to their children, but less complex than a full-blown stage production. The actors will be reading straight from the books, as opposed to memorizing their lines, he said. They will be wearing simple costumes and adding their vocal talent to the readings.

Burson said the actors have already conducted a rehearsal, and said he is looking forward to Saturday’s event.

“I think over Zoom will be really exciting,” he said.

Zac Stern, 26, of Windham, an actor who will be performing on Saturday, said he has done readers theater events before, but this is the first time he’ll be doing it in front of a lens instead of an audience.

“It’s essentially voice acting,” he said.

Losing that personal interaction with the audience will be difficult, he said, but he welcomes the challenge to present a theatrical performance in a new way.

“That’s the beauty of theater,” he said. “It’s always adaptable.”

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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