Audience members at intermission during a show at Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick. Photo courtesy of Hackmatack

Summer stock productions by well-known repertory companies (see: Ogunquit Playhouse or Maine State Music Theatre) understandably get the lion’s share of the spotlight in vacation states like Maine. But when it comes to more community-oriented companies, which often focus on local artists and audiences and can be more quirky and arguably more daring in their productions, we’re blessed with an abundance of those, too.

Aram Guptill, Hackmatack Playhouse’s third generation owner (his grandfather founded it), says that the biggest difference is in how much audience members get involved.

“It’s a step further than the usual spectator-only experience,” he said. “It’s far more interactive.”

And that goes beyond what happens on stage, no matter how immersive a show might be. “They come in and enjoy the show, but we’re also a working farm,” he explained. “So people come earlier, bring their lawn chairs and hang out while they snack on homemade blueberry pie that my mom makes.”

And like him, many of the audience members have been participating for generations. “We have grandparents who’ve been coming for decades, and now they bring their grandkids,” he said. “And that’s a big part of what makes it so special for us.”

Here’s a look at a handful of community-oriented theaters and the productions they’re rolling out this summer.


A concert on the Hackmatack Playhouse stage. Photo by Ben Bagley


One part farm, one part theater and all parts community gathering spot, Hackmatack is run by the Guptill family, who’ve farmed the land for centuries and also founded it as a theater space more than 50 years ago. In addition to the playhouse, it’s also home to a farm store and plenty of community events – including live concerts on Sundays. This summer, look for runs of classics like “Into The Woods” by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, from July 5-20; “Proof” by David Auburn from July 25 to Aug. 10; and “Little Women,” based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Aug. 15-31.

538 School St, Berwick, 207-698-1807.

A crowd gathers to watch a Fenix Theatre’s Shakespeare production in Deering Oaks. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


Every summer, Fenix Theatre puts on Shakespeare in the Park in Deering Oaks, with free performances (though donations are encouraged). The group of local artists states its aim is to stage works “ranging from the beautiful to the brutal, that is always rooted in truth and lives where the creativity and commitment of the artist meets the imagination of the audience.” Look for just that this summer in Fenix’s production of “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” July 11 to Aug. 3, directed by Katelyn Manfre.

23 May St., Portland, 207-615-4020.



Housed in a nationally historic landmark building, Deertrees has been operating since 1936 as a place where everyone from theater students and aspiring local actors to big Broadway names have put on shows together. And the types of productions are just as diverse. This summer’s theatrical lineup includes everything from classic stories such as “On Golden Pond” (running June 28-30) to musicals like “The Producers” (performed July 26-28 and Aug. 2-4). There’s plenty of music, too – shows such as “Tartan Terrors: A Celtic Rock Invasion” (July 5 and 6) and “Susie Pepper Divas Concert” (Aug. 9).

156 Deertrees Road, Harrison, 207-583-6747.

Audience members take their seats at Lakewood Theater in Madison. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans


“Now let it be known, they do things well at Lakewood,” wrote The Boston Evening American in 1928. “No shoddy stock productions clutter the stage in the costly birch grove; no half-hearted, uninspired attempts to do something quickly and cheaply. The Lakewood Players have pride in their work.” The longest-running summer theater in the country, it’s now in its 123rd season. And that season is packed full. A heartwarming production of “The Prom” runs June 20-29; “Moonlight Sinatra” by Steven Keyes, a bittersweet comedy of human errors set in Iota, East Texas, July 4-13; “Over The Moon” by Steven Dietz, July 18-27; “Something Rotten!,” a musical set in the 1590s by Karey Kirkpatrick & John O’Farrell, Aug. 1-10; “Mrs. Parliament’s Night Out,” by Norm Foster, Aug. 15-24; “Sherlock Holmes & The Ice Palace Murders,” a whodunit by Jeffrey Hatcher, Aug. 29 to Sept. 7; and “Screwball Comedy,” set in 1938 by Norm Foster, Sept. 12-21.

76 Theater Road, Madison, 207-474-7176.

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