WATERVILLE — The vacant former Railroad Square Cinema building in Waterville is being transformed into a performing arts and cultural center and is to become the new home of the Aqua City Actors Theatre.

The theater, known as ACAT, lost its home two years ago when The Center was demolished to make way for the Paul J. Schupf Art Center at 93 Main St. in downtown Waterville.

Randy and Lisa Jones of Augusta bought the former cinema building at 10 Railroad Square last fall from Bill Bodwell of Brunswick. They have been upgrading the heating and fire alarm systems and preparing it for an official opening in the spring. An unofficial opening is planned for Saturday, when the Recycled Shakespeare Company is scheduled to perform.

Randy Jones has acted in many productions for ACAT and the Waterville Opera House, Gaslight Theater in Hallowell and Lakewood Theatre in Madison. He has been a member of the ACAT board of directors for seven years.

Jones and others associated with ACAT had long been seeking a new location for the black box theater, named so because it is a small, simple performance space with black walls.

ACAT was where many aspiring actors and directors got their start and learned the craft from the ground up. It served as a training ground for those aspiring to work on larger stages, such as the Waterville Opera House, and the space was more appropriate for smaller, intimate plays that would not work on a large stage, according to board members.


The last wish of ACAT board member Juli Brooks Settlemire, who died of cancer about a year ago, was that a space be found for ACAT. Those who knew Settlemire have been working to realize that wish. Randy Jones said a memorial wall is planned for inside the playhouse building, where Settlemire and Michael Jinbo, an  ACAT board member and director who died in 2022, are to be recognized.

New owners Randy and Lisa Jones stand Wednesday in the lobby that leads to performance space at The Playhouse at Waterville Station, formerly Railroad Square Cinema. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Randy and Lisa Jones have renamed the former Railroad Square Cinema. Now called The Playhouse at Waterville Station, it will house ACAT and can be rented for conferences, lectures, plays, small musical performances, comedy acts, open mic events and educational purposes.

“It’s at Railroad Square,” Randy Jones said, “so we wanted to keep the railroad theme, but sort of refresh it.”

Doree Austin, a founding member of ACAT and its artistic director, said the theater began as Bill Haley’s dream to bring community theater back to Waterville.

“We started performing in an empty space with only plastic chairs, and Bill paid for each show with his credit card,” Austin said. “We’re starting from scratch again, but this time we have real theater seats, so we’re already ahead of the game.”

ACAT, she said, fills a gap in the performing arts.


“We’re able to do the small, interesting, sometimes edgy plays that would never draw enough audience for the Waterville Opera House,” Austin said. “We’re a safe space for new actors, directors, tech crews to learn the craft. We keep our ticket prices low so people can experience live theater for around the same price as a movie.”

Lisa Jones looks through a window Wednesday that was part of the projection room at the former Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville. Jones and her husband, Randy Jones, are the new owners of the former cinema building, which they have renamed The Playhouse at Waterville Station. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Carl Morrison, also a founding member of ACAT and president of its board of directors, said many people are excited about the new space, including those in the community who have expressed enthusiasm that ACAT is returning. Members of the ACAT board have formed an ad hoc fundraising committee and plan to apply for grants and raise money for new theater lighting equipment, including a lighting console, LED fixtures and dressing room space.

Morrison said the Aqua City Actors Theatre is a 501(c)(3), meaning the IRS considers it a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. Those interested in making a donation apart from the nonprofit’s fundraising efforts can send contributions to: ACAT, 127 Cushnoc Road, Vassalboro, ME 04989.

Meanwhile, the restaurant space attached to the lobby of the theater building is also being renovated in the hope of leasing it to an eatery, according to Randy and Lisa Jones.

“We’d love to find someone who is excited about integrating with the whole playhouse theme, and maybe they would cater,” Randy Jones said, “but we’re open to all possibilities.”

Randy and Lisa Jones of Augusta, the new owners of the former Railroad Square Cinema building in Waterville, walk across the parking lot Wednesday. The couple have also bought the multiunit building to their left, which houses businesses, including Grand Central Cafe, Patkus Guitars, Somerset Violins, Massage Therapy and Wellness and Friends Consignment & More. The couple have renamed the complex The Playhouse at Waterville Station. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

He said that as an LLC, he and his wife would not profit from ACAT, but would serve as its landlord. Any profit from renting out spaces would be used to help pay bills for ongoing expenses, such as taxes, insurance, utilities and heat, he said.


The couple has also bought another Railroad Square building, from Richard Parkhurst, which looks like three attached buildings and is leased to several businesses, including Grand Central Cafe, Patkus Guitars, Somerset Violins, Massage Therapy and Wellness and Friends Consignment & More.

Randy and Lisa Jones said they plan to name that building Artisan Hall, and have discussed holding events where artisans and crafters can display their works in the large parking lot, which was also part of the property purchase.

Part of the couple’s larger vision, they said, is to have the property extend the arts, now prominent in the downtown area, to other parts of Waterville.

When Railroad Square Cinema, an entity of the Maine Film Center, closed and moved to the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, which replaced The Center downtown, the three cinemas at Railroad Square remained. ACAT is expected to occupy the large cinema space, while the medium and smaller-sized cinema spaces will be for other events.

Randy Jones, formerly of Waterville and a former computer science professor at Colby College, also owns Soar Technology Inc., an artificial intelligence business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that employs 100. Jones, who holds a doctorate and is a senior AI engineer, began the business in 1998.

“I dreamed of being an actor when I was 6, (and) never did anything about it until I was in my 40s and I auditioned for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at the Opera House in 2008. I played a Roman guard and a leper,” he said, adding that as a child, he had memorized the musical and its songs.


Randy and Lisa Jones of Augusta have bought the former Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville, which they have renamed The Playhouse at Waterville Station. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Lisa Jones is retired and works the couple’s farm and gardens. She said she is not a thespian, but loves the theater environment.

“I don’t belong to the whole acting thing,” she said, “but the entire acting community is just so intertwined, and it is just so magical.”

Randy Jones said he and his wife are invested in making their new venture, which is both exciting and terrifying, a success.

Added Lisa Jones: “I have nothing to do with theater. I’m just along for the ride. This is his dream completely and I’m supporting it.”

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