Portland Stage, Maine’s largest fully professional nonprofit theater, launched the public phase of its capital campaign June 21 with a cocktail reception, a joint discussion with playwrights John Cariani and Monica Wood, a presentation on renovation plans and a champagne toast on its stage.

“The capital campaign is a great opportunity for the Portland Stage building to match the way we’re involved in the community,” said board member Todd Nicolson of North Yarmouth. “The remodel will improve access both physically and artistically. Part of what we’re doing is beautifying the building – and, of course, we’re really excited about the elevator.”

Portland Stage produces seven main-stage plays and an annual co-production with Maine State Music Theatre in addition to a studio and developmental works series and Theater for Kids programs. All this happens out of part of a former Odd Fellows Hall on Forest Avenue constructed in 1910.

“I started working here eight or nine years ago, and we’ve been talking about a renovation since then,” said Managing Director Martin Lodish.

“This is a big milestone,” said Fred Farber, a trustee from Falmouth.

The remodel will nearly double the ground-floor space, move the box office to the front, dramatically improve accessibility with a new elevator, add gender-neutral restrooms and “make an entrance” (the theme of the campaign) with a marquee and awning featuring a light sculpture designed by Pandora LaCasse.

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“This is about accessibility, safety and being the gateway to the Portland Arts District,” said Artistic Director Anita Stewart. We’re a theater and should have a theatrical appearance.”

The capital campaign was launched in 2019, and longtime donors, corporate sponsors and subscribers have already raised 75 percent of the $6.4 million goal.

“Tonight is the beginning of the public phase,” said the capital campaign’s co-chairperson, Malcolm Poole of Scarborough.

“We’re hoping that by this time next year, we’ll have met the fundraising goal,” said Development Director Beth Given. “Construction begins next summer, and we’re hoping renovations will be complete for our 50th season in the fall of 2023.”

The capital campaign has two parts: the facility upgrade and an endowment for statewide education programs.

“Hordes of young people see their first play here,” said Monica Wood, whose first play, “Papermaker,” was the highest-grossing show in the history of Portland Stage.

For John Cariani, who grew up in Presque Isle, a school visit to Portland Stage in 1986 was life-changing. The first play he wrote, “Almost, Maine,” has become one of the most frequently produced productions in the United States.

For more information, including how to donate, go to portlandstage.org/capital-campaign.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]


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