Monica Wood of Portland talks about her new play called “Saint Dad,” which will premiere this fall at Portland Stage. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Monica Wood wanted to laugh, and not just in front of the TV in her own home. Especially after the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, she wanted to laugh in a room full of people.

“My last play, which is called ‘The Half-Light,’ it dealt with grief and some really serious, deep subjects,” the Portland writer said. “There were also some lines that, I would be sitting in the back and the whole place would be cracking up. I thought, ‘I want more of this. I’m gonna write a comedy.'”

Wood’s third play, “Saint Dad,” is just that. It opens Oct. 25 at Portland Stage, the first show there after a months-long renovation. Local theaters will stage a wide range of works this fall, but most programs include comedy. The Public Theatre in Lewiston starts the season with a play that the artistic director described as “a modern-day Steel Magnolias,” both funny and heartbreaking. Footlights Theatre in Falmouth and Good Theater in Portland will both stage rom-coms. Mad Horse Theatre Company will present a farce about women who work in the White House.

Theaters said they hope patrons share Wood’s desire to laugh as they keep trying to bring audiences back after the pandemic.

“The news is depressing enough,” said Brian P. Allen, executive and artistic director at Good Theater. “I think theater is a great place to change your mood.”

Wood is the author of beloved memoir “When We Were the Kennedys” and several novels. Her first two plays – “Papermaker” and “The Half-Light” – are the two best-selling shows in Portland Stage history. “Saint Dad” is set in a Maine mill town on a quiet lake that was once mostly populated by locals. Three siblings decided to sell their family camp while their father was dying – and then he made a miraculous recovery. The wealthy new owner from Boston has completely renovated the place, and the area has suddenly been discovered by out-of-staters who are buying camps of their own.


“She’s created these really, really fabulous characters,” said Anita Stewart, artistic director at Portland Stage. “So I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for audiences. She’s such a good writer of dialogue, and the play just really works.”

Wood said her family did not own a camp, but she grew up visiting those of friends near her western Maine hometown of Mexico and now spends a few days every summer on Moosehead Lake. She has seen the ritzy homes going up next to traditional camps and the multimillion dollar condos going up on the Munjoy Hill street where she lived when she first moved to Portland years ago. So “Saint Dad” is also a story about a changing state. There’s a lot of laughs and even a gaffe with a moose head, but the play also explores themes of family, class and gentrification.

“I wanted to be light,” she said. “But that’s just not the writer I am. So it got a little more meaningful as it went along.”

Still, the story does not have a villain. It was “a little bit mean at first,” Wood admitted. But she decided the characters needed less snark and more nuance. The woman who buys the camp could easily be a caricature of a person from away, for example, but Wood tried to give her more depth.

“In my opinion, what her mistake was is not fully understanding where she landed, and she makes a really compelling case for herself in the play,” said Wood. “As a writer, my job is empathy. I have to empathize with everybody in this play – the from-aways and the big rich buyers, and also these laid-off mill workers, these machine tenders who had just sold their family camp because they needed money for nursing care for a horrible father they don’t even like. People are complicated.”

“Saint Dad” runs Oct. 15 through Nov. 19. For more information and tickets, visit


Mad Horse Theatre rehearsing their first play of the fall, the show is “POTUS, or Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive.” From left, Savannah Irish as Bernadette, Allison McCall as Jean and Marie Stewart Harmon as Dusty. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Mad Horse Theatre Company in South Portland will start the season with two satires.

The first is “POTUS, or Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive” by Salina Fillinger (Sept. 21-Oct. 15). The play takes place behind the scenes in the White House, although the president is an amalgamation and no one directly says which political party is in charge. Allison McCall, who is on the company’s leadership team, saw this play last spring in New York City and laughed so hard she cried.

“Comedy leaves us on some hopeful notes,” she said. “I think that it’s a really important vehicle for challenging topics in that even if you still fee a little muddy or confused, you can still walk away with that sense of hope instead of that sense of fear or anxiety or dejection. Right now, it feels like such an important way to start this season.”

The second show of the season is “White” by James Ijames (Nov. 16-Dec. 10). McCall said the tone will represent a distinct shift from “POTUS,” but still describes this play as ” a dark comedy.” A white artist hires a Black actress to pretend to be the creator of his work and get it into a major exhibition for artists of color. The company was eager to take on a work by Ijames, a Black playwright who has won a number of awards in recent years, including the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Fat Ham” (an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”).

McCall said this play takes on challenging themes such as racial and gender identity.

“Comedy can make you feel uncomfortable,” she said. “It can still give you some challenging things to think about, but because it has that release of laughter, it lets us process things in a different way. We’re not holding stress in the same way, and I think it opens our minds a bit.”


For more information, including details about the theater’s pay-what-you-decide ticket model, visit

The Public Theatre in Lewiston will also begin its season with a play that features an all-female cast. “Paint Night” by Carey Crim (Oct. 20-29) takes places at a paint-and-sip studio where six women gather for an evening out. The theater did a play by the same writer last year called “Morning after Grace,” and co-artistic director Janet Mitchko said Crim creates roles “that are juicy and fun” for characters of all ages. She said “Paint Night” is modern and topical in the way it touches on work, parenting and mother-daughter relationships.

“I think every woman who sees it will say, ‘Yes, that is my life. I understand that,'” she said.

The second show of the season is “My Witch: The Margaret Hamilton Stores,” written by John Ahlin and performed by Jean Tafler (Nov. 10-12). The play tells the story of the schoolteacher who went on to become the iconic Wicked Witch of the West and have a career as a popular character actress. Hamilton also had a connection to Maine; she summered on an island in the Boothbay region for years.

Mitchko said the theater seeks out shows that reflect the highs and lows of the human experience.

“Life has humor and pain, and we want to reflect the whole spectrum, not just the dark side and not just the silly side,” she said.


For more information, visit

The season at Good Theater at The Hill Arts in Portland will begin with a romantic comedy: “Fireflies” by Matthew Barber (Oct. 11-29). A retired and respected teacher who never married falls in love with the drifter who is fixing her roof. There’s a nosy neighbor and a young police officer to round out the cast of four. Allen said the play is a reminder not to judge people before we know them.

“You are never too old to find love,” he said. “And you often find love in the most unlikely of places.”

The next show will be “Broadway at Good Theater: The Twin Piano Edition” (Nov. 1-19). The show will feature 10 singers and two pianists performing Broadway classics. Allen will also take the stage as a narrator to share historic tidbits and personal stories (and maybe a little bit of gossip) about the featured shows.

Allen said four of six shows at Good Theater last year sold out, and only one did worse than he predicted. Especially as theaters struggle to recover from the pandemic, he attributed that success to “a pretty funny season.”

“People needed that,” he said.


“Being attuned to what’s going on in the world and how people are feeling is sometimes important,” he added. “Theater can give you something that you can learn from but you can also escape.”

Visit for more details about the schedule and tickets.

Jennine Cannizzo rehearses for “You Made Me Love You: The Judy Garland Story,” which runs through Sept. 16, Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Footlights Theatre in Falmouth. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Footlights Theatre in Falmouth has three shows on deck this fall.

The first is “You Made Me Love You: The Judy Garland Story” by Gary Upton (Sept. 7-16). Executive artistic director Michael J. Tobin said the theater has presented this piece before and brought it back this fall due to popular demand. It is “a one-woman tour de force,” he said, starring Jennine Cannizzo as Judy Garland with Charlie Grindle on piano. The musical will journey through the professional and personal life of the star of “The Wizard of Oz” through reminiscences and live performances of her classics, as well as photos and videos from her life.

Next is a comedy called “A Return to Love” by Kathleen Sobel (Sept. 28-Oct. 14). This new play about reconnecting with a first love tells the story of a couple engaged long ago and then reunited later in life. Tobin said this show is “90 minutes of fun and romance” as these former lovebirds reconnect.

The third show of the season will be “Inside / Out” (Nov. 2-18). Tobin wrote the play loosely based on the experience of a longtime friend, a transgender woman who transitions at age 70 after living life as a man and explores what it means to be true to oneself.


Theaters like Footlights are still fragile from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tobin said, and he tried to balance drama and comedy in the program to draw a wide range of patrons.

“In the fall, to get people back in, we’re offering a little bit of everything,” said Tobin. “I always liken picking the season to a big puzzle. Each show is a piece.”

The theater will also host movie screenings, play readings and an interactive Halloween experience this fall. For tickets and more information, visit

Ogunquit Playhouse ( is running “The Da Vinci Code” based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown until Sept. 23. The play premiered in the United Kingdom last year and is being presented for the first time in the United States. Then the playhouse will close its season with a production of “Tootsie” from Sept. 28 through Oct. 29. The musical reimagines the 1982 film in the world of modern Broadway.

Lyric Music Theater in South Portland ( will present “The Sound of Music” from Sept. 22 through Oct. 8. The award-winning musical is based on the true story of the Von Trapp Family Singers during World War II. Audiences will recognize beloved songs such as “My Favorite Things” and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” as well as the title number.

The Portland Players ( will start the season with a production of “Spamalot” from Sept. 15 through Oct. 1. The musical comedy is “lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The show won Best Musical at the Tony Awards when it debuted in 2005. The Portland Players Theater is located in South Portland.

The Theater at Monmouth ( will present “A Celebration of Gilbert & Sullivan featuring Cox & Box” Sept. 14-24. The event will begin with “Cox and Box; or The Long Lost Brothers, a Comic Triumveretta,” composed by Arthur Sullivan and written by F.C. Burnand. Then the show will continue with songs from popular operas such as “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Patience,” “Ruddigore,” “H.M.S. Pinafore” and others.

City Theater in Biddeford ( will bring “Love, Loss and What I Wore” by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron from Sept. 29 to Oct. 15. The play, which is based on the best-selling book by Ilene Beckerman, features monologues and ensemble pieces about women, clothes and memory.

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