The cast of “Titanic” at the Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick. Photo by Jared Morneau Photography

As news broke Thursday afternoon about the deaths of the passengers aboard a submersible visiting the Titanic shipwreck, actors on a Brunswick stage played out the tragic story of the same ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage more than a century ago.

Parallels had been drawn between the two tragedies during the search this week for the tourist vessel that went missing Sunday, but for members of the audience at the Maine State Music Theatre’s production of the “Titanic” musical, the connection was palpable.

“It was gut-wrenching thinking about it,” Sandy Desjardins, of Hampden, said as she left Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus after the Thursday afternoon performance. “It made the show more realistic, we identified more with it.”

Maury Yeston, the Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist for “Titanic,” attended the musical’s Thursday evening performance, which he dedicated to the passengers aboard the submersible.

“As you know, there’s been a terrible tragedy undersea very, very recently. And unfortunately, all – right next to the Titanic – were lost. We mourn with great sadness those people. We strive. Sometimes we fail. We have to applaud the striving, and regret the failure. We continue to adventure,” Yeston told the Brunswick audience. “We dedicate this performance to the memory of those sad souls who lost their lives, tragically, on the site of the Titanic.”

Tony-winning “Titanic” composer Maury Yeston talks to the cast and audience at the Maine State Music Theatre on Thursday. Photo by Jared Morneau Photography

Yeston went on to point out that Wendy Rush, the wife of Stockton Rush – pilot of the Titan submersible and the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, which owned and operated it – is a direct descendant of Isidor and Ida Straus, who perished on the Titanic in 1912.


The 1997 musical, which opened at the Maine State Music Theatre on June 7 and finishes its run on Saturday, follows an array of characters on the Titanic, from different backgrounds and with different reasons for being on the ship. The second half is somber as it takes audiences through the demise of the infamous vessel.

Coast Rear Admiral John Mauger’s announcement that pieces of the Titan had been found coincided with the Thursday afternoon performance of “Titanic.” Mauger said that the debris suggested a “catastrophic implosion” and that the families of the five men on board were immediately notified, bringing tragic finality to the search that had attracted the worldwide attention. The shattered vessel was found about 1,600 feet away from the century-old wreckage of the Titanic, the exploration of which was the reason behind the Titan’s dive.

Curt Dale Clark, artistic director of the Maine State Music Theatre, declined to discuss the search for the submersible earlier this week but on Friday said that the theater “sends our condolences to all (people) affected by this tragedy.”

Audience members leaving Thursday afternoon’s show said that the submersible dominated their conversations on their way to Brunswick, and many said that it didn’t leave their minds during the production.

“I was thinking about it all the way through (the show),” said Kim Fast, of Wilton. “Wondering what’s going through their minds.”

Anne Tessari, of Hallowell, said thinking about it would make her cry. “I’m proud of myself that I didn’t ball through the whole thing,” she said.

For Sheila Polkow, of Scarborough, it did; she teared up during the show.

“I thought about it as I was watching,” she said, “how two horrific tragedies can coincide.”

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