To succeed in musical theater, one must be able to sing, dance and act. Not many such performers also possess the ability to direct. And even fewer people who can sing, dance, act, and direct also have the leadership skills to oversee a superb regional theater. And how many among that rare breed possess the courage, stamina, resiliency and wisdom to guide a theater through a pandemic, a challenge for which there is no playbook, no script?

Curt Dale Clark, artistic director at Maine State Music Theatre, and Marc Robin, executive artistic producer at the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are two such extraordinary people. This immensely talented duo first met 40 years ago; they exchanged rings 25 years ago; and they were married six years ago.

I decided it would be interesting to learn more about the close collaboration between MSMT and the Fulton. I have come to know and admire Curt over the years, but I’d only met Marc once. Right after we sat down in a booth at the Kopper Kettle in Topsham, Marc asked, “David, how’s your heart?” Wow, I discovered in the very first minute why Marc Robin inspires the loyalty of those who work with and for him

MSMT and the Fulton had established a close partnership well before the pandemic closed down both theaters. In recent years, MSMT’s first musical of the season has been transported directly from the Fulton: same cast, director, scenery, costumes, props, etc. Conversely, MSMT’s last musical has been transported to the Fulton. This deal saves money for both organizations.

The two theaters have combined to offer nine annual trips to London, much to the delight of all attendees. Moreover, MSMT has sponsored five trips to the Fulton, and the Fulton has sponsored five trips to MSMT..

They host joint auditions in New York City every year, an arrangement which benefits both theaters. Curt and Marc said that they generally agree when it comes to selecting acting and musical talent. They’re both committed to creating absolutely superb theatrical experiences, and that devotion shines through, show after show, year after year at both venues.


The two men merged creative talents to write the book, the music and the lyrics for “Treasure island,” which had its world premiere at the Fulton in 2008. They’ve written 13 children shows and are currently working on two Mainstage shows.

MSMT and the Fulton often tap into each other’s strengths. MSMT has a more extensive costume department, for example, so the Fulton often rents costumes from MSMT rather than make their own or rent from another source. The Fulton, in turn, has more capability in set and scenery design, and MSMT benefits directly from that expertise.

COVID hit both theaters hard, just as it did theatrical organizations around the country. Curt, supported by his board, had to close down MSMT’s 2020 summer season. He, along with his staff, were forced to take cuts in salary. Fortunately, most season subscribers contributed the value of their tickets back to MSMT.

Marc faced an even tougher ordeal, given that the Fulton Theatre is a much larger organization. In addition to cutting his own salary by half, he had to let go of 70 percent of his staff, a deeply personal and painful experience.

For over a year, the two men have faced immense challenges that would bring down lesser souls. They’ve had to soothe disappointed audiences. They’ve had to maintain the enthusiasm of donors at a time when the major reason to give (supporting live theater) remains silent. They’ve had to abide by the guidelines of the Actors Equity Association, a group with rigid bylaws not designed to accommodate a pandemic. Through it all, they’ve had to maintain their organizations viability while not doing what they love to do: put on live theater for appreciative audiences. Both theaters held fundraisers to ease the financial burden and streamed events to maintain interest.

Fortunately, both MSMT and the Fulton were in fine shape before COVID struck. Subscriptions and donations were at record levels. MSMT was making bold plans to expand its presence around midcoast Maine. The Fulton was nearing the end of a successful major capital campaign.

Happily, Curt Dale Clark and Marc Robin remain optimistic about the future of their respective organizations and the power of their partnership.. They have no intention of stepping down or pulling back. Fans of both MSMT and the Fulton can rest assured that under the leadership of these two consummate professionals, the shows will go on.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns.

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