Artistic Director Linda Sturdivant talks with McKayla Prophett of Brunswick after Prophett’s audition Biddeford’s City Theater for The Marvelous Wonderettes May 11. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald Photo

Since March 2020, life has been vastly different. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way most of us lived our lives. Things we took for granted, going to the movies, going out to dinner, seeing family and friends stopped, and we learned to do without these simple pleasures.

But now, with many American’s vaccinated and many restrictions on what we can do and how we can do it lifted, Maine is going back to “normal” with masks no longer required and people beginning to participate in activities they haven’t done in over a year.

One of the things that is back is live entertainment, and in York County there are a number of places that people can go to see or listen to shows that they have gone without for a long time.

City Theater in Biddeford is one of the venues that will have at least one live performance this year. Though normally the theater produces several plays a year, Artistic Director Linda Sturtivant says she is happy she can put on at least one production this summer.

In a press release, Sturtivant said, “City Theater is thrilled to announce that we will be open to in person audiences July 23rd through August 1st. Our first show is going to be ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ written and created by Roger Bean. It is a cotton-candy colored, non-stop pop musical. It takes the audience to the 1958 Springfield High School prom where we meet the Wonderettes – four girls with hopes and dreams as big as their crinoline skirts and voices to match.”

Sturdivant says she is looking forward to putting on a play again at the former opera house.

“Cancelling last year was one of the hardest things I have ever done,” she said. “I shut down our show ‘Little Women’ 2 hours before we opened. As time went by and I had to cancel one show after another until our whole season was gone, things felt very bleak indeed. We kept ourselves busy and ‘semi’ opened by doing 3 virtual concerts and filming a documentary for the 125th anniversary of the theater. I learned a lot about film, virtual performances and the resilience of our theater community.”

With restrictions on the number of people allowed in indoor spaces lifted, allowing for theaters to operate at near or full capacity, “Finally, it feels like we are heading toward normal,” Sturdivant said.” I couldn’t be happier! Our reopening is being done with the utmost caution and strict adherence to COVID guidelines. We are in the process of planning a full 5 show season for the rest of 2021 and 2022.” Sturdivant said she isn’t ready to release details of what that will entail.

More live performances will take place at other venues in Biddeford.

Downtown business revitalization organization Heart of Biddeford will host Music in the Park, for 8 Wednesdays from June 23 through Aug. 11, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., HOB Executive Director Delilah Poupore said in an email.

“Music in the Park rotates around town so there’s music in four different parks,” she said. “These events are free and open to the public. We will follow all state guidelines, as at this point outdoor events are allowed. We will post the state’s guidelines and CDC recommendations as they apply. To increase people’s sense of safety, and because most young people aren’t vaccinated yet, we are encouraging people to spread out more. We’re bringing in a stage and larger sound system this year, so people can sit wherever they feel comfortable and still enjoy the music.”

After a challenging year and more, causing difficulties of operations for some businesses and some closures in  Biddeford’s downtown, “We are very much looking forward to smiling at one another, outside, while listening to music and enjoying the beauty of Biddeford along the Saco River,” Poupore said. “Many are excited to return to public events again and we are thrilled to be able to offer these events and draw new people and long-time fans into Biddeford’s downtown again!”

HOB will also again host River Jam on Aug. 20-21, an event it has put on annually for several years. There will be a block party on Main Street Friday night and a full day and evening of events on Saturday at Mechanics Park, Poupore said. Arts organization Engine will host the Fringe Fest on Friday night, La Kermesse will host fireworks on Saturday night, and there will be performances from bands from many backgrounds, and the Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center will coordinate a picnic with foods from many cultures.

Other places in York County will be hosting live events. In Saco, Saco Main Street will bring back their Annual Sidewalk Arts Festival on June 26, the Annual Classic Car Show on July 24 and Music in the Parking Lot at Dyer Library on Thursdays July 8 to Aug. 12.

The tourist town of Old Orchard Beach will host a number of events. It is bringing back its Thursday night fireworks, will hold a Fourth of July parade, is holding the 4th Annual All American Lighthouse Classic baseball tournament June 25 to 28, from Aug 19 to 21 the Annual Beach Olympics, and more.

In Berwick, one venue will be offering some live theater.

“The lights will be back on at Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick this summer,” according to a playhouse press release. “Thanks to new state guidelines for staying healthy, Hackmatack will not only hold its day camp, but for its 49th anniversary season will run the musical, ‘The Spitfire Grill,’ during the month of August.”

”The Spitfire Grill,” an uplifting musical set in a diner in Maine, will open Friday, Aug. 6, and continues with evening shows Saturday Aug. 7, and every Wednesday to Saturday in August after that. Hackmatack will also be offering matinee shows on Thursdays, Aug. 12, 19 and 26.

“The state increased indoor capacity to 100 percent, so the show can go on,” said Michael Guptill, owner of Hackmatack.

At the Arundel performance venue Vinegar Hill Music Theater, the full 2020 season was canceled on April 2, 2020, and on April 5 the  building was converted into an emergency food pantry for Community Outreach Services. Then that summer, Managing Director Sarah Dearing said in an email, “Vinegar Hill was put on the market and thankfully was purchased by a couple that wanted to keep the music alive. They rehired the operating directors to revision and reopen.”

“This season we have added a 16’x20’ outdoor stage & movie screen to our parking lot to add Drive Up concerts and movies,” Dearing said, “as well as added social distancing to our Limited Capacity Special Performances and added additional outdoor programing. Expanding our Sunday Chill at the Hill to feature a farmers and makers market and added partnerships with local wellness businesses including yoga in the garden with The Daily Sweat on Sunday mornings and The Fifth Om’s Wellness Tent to Sunday afternoons.”

“It has been a beyond difficult year with a silver lining of being able to come back with a fresh approach to not only presenting the arts but also being a community gathering place,” Dearing said. “We are elated to get back to presenting the arts in the Kennebunks and can’t wait to welcome our community and visitors back.”

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