Big starts

2009 was full of newness + energy
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  December 22, 2009

LAUGHTER ON THE GRASS Fenix Theatre’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. CREDIT WHITNEY SMITH

I kick off my highlights of 2009 with praise for a theater company that has just finished its inaugural season: The LEGACY THEATER COMPANY, founded by former City Theater artistic director Steve Burnette. Performing at Thornton Academy's Harry P. Garland II Auditorium, the company began its line-up with Burnette's script Random Acts of Silly, and proceeded with Chicago; You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown; and an evening of David Ives short plays. Legacy brings a community-minded approach to its work, launching the "United We Weigh One Ton of Foodraising Campaign," encouraging patrons to bring food items to each performance. More than 2000 pounds of donations to the Saco Food Pantry later, Legacy ends 2009 with not just a successful first season, but an admirable model of how the arts can encourage good civics.

More 2009: The Year in Review

READ: Ken Greenleaf's " A special Maine feel: Exhibitions to remember from 2009 "

READ: Brian Duff's " In with the new, and with the even newer: The year in Portland food "

READ: Deirdre Fulton and Jeff Inglis's " 2009 had some redeeming qualities — really "

READ: Peter Keough's " 2009: The year in film: Men behaving badly "

READ: Michael Brodeur's " Best unsung albums of 2009: The cocky and the cock-blocked "

READ: Mitch Krpata's " 2009: Year in video games: Swimming in the mainstream "

My next salute goes to a portrayal of a man whose grasp of civics left a lot to be desired: The fallen Richard Nixon played by TONY REILLY, in the Good Theater's fall production (Frost/Nixon), was among the year's most compelling character studies. Physically transformed to jaw-dropping effect, Reilly gave a portrayal that was by turns weighty, funny, and profoundly sad.

ACORN PRODUCTIONS has been around in various incarnations since 1995, and growing in exciting ways since its 2006 move to a new home in Westbrook's Dana Warp Mill. The past year saw the opening of its own Studio Theater in the Mill, which they've used for performances, readings, and the incubation of new locally-written plays. It is also available for rent (cheap!), and provides a needed new performance venue for emerging theatrical endeavors. I look forward to seeing how uses for the Studio Theater develops over the next year.

I'm always thrilled to see established companies fertilizing their corps with new talent, and MAD HORSE deserves special applause for bringing eight high-school- and college-aged young men to the stage for its magnificent production of The History Boys. Leading the cast were Jason Badeau, with the carelessly arrogant grace of a young thoroughbred; Colin Thomas, both angelic and profane; and Philip Rogers, with watchful sensitivity. Supporting them in an excellent ensemble of classmates were Rick Blake, Danny Gay, Lucas Perry, Nick Reynolds, and Nate Speckman.

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