Monday, April 15, 2013

Hold on Molly! by Elizabeth Richards

Photo by Francine Morrissette
The Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish comes full circle this weekend, opening its 25th season with “Hold On, Molly”.  The show, written by Schoolhouse founder Hank Beebe and based on true Maine historical events, was the very first production at the theater when it first opened in 1988.

Beebe had a successful 26 year career in New York theater before relocating with his wife, Nancy, to Maine.  While they were ready to give up the fast track, Beebe said, they did not want to give up musical theater.  The Beebes brought musical theater to a variety of stages, including churches, the City Theater in Biddeford, the State Theatre and even in their home.  In 1988, they discovered the Johnson School in Standish, which had once been the high school.  The location worked well, Beebe said, because it not only had a space for the theater in the gymnasium as well as classroom space, but also a huge unused baseball field.  This solved a common problem for community theaters – that of where patrons will park.

Photo by Francine Morrissette

The theater has gone through ups and downs over the years, but Board President Kristen Watson says they are on stable ground now. When she discovered the Schoolhouse Arts Center in 2010, she gravitated toward the board, which is the group that makes sure all the work gets done.  “I fell in love with the place and haven’t left,” she said.  One of her responsibilities as president is to keep things running smoothly and in a forward direction.  Watson said she hopes to accomplish this by generating excitement for volunteering, in whatever capacity people wish.  “I don’t want anybody to do anything that they’re not going to be happy doing,” she said.

Terri Plummer, general manager of the Schoolhouse Arts Center, said the theater is moving in a good direction.  However, she said, she knows that could change in a heartbeat with a few poorly attended shows or an unexpected major repair.  “We are in an old building, anything can happen.  When we have those major repairs that are five or ten thousand dollars, that’s what could really put us under.” There are some big capital expenses on the horizon, including painting the building, paving the parking lot and some interior repairs.  The theater has a fundraising committee that is looking at ways to fund these projects, including seeking out grants, corporate sponsors and special events.
Watson wants to get the surrounding communities excited about the theater, and its location in Standish.  “This is the community’s building,” she said.  “We’re here for them, they’re here for us, and we all win.”  Participants are welcome from all surrounding communities, and no experience is necessary to get involved.  “It’s a really great place to bring kids, it’s a family place.  We have a lot of families who are in shows together,” Watson said.

Plummer originally became involved nine years ago, when her children were auditioning for a show.  She auditioned as well and has been there ever since, serving as education director for several years before becoming the general manager.  “It’s a community, and it’s just a wonderful thing to be involved in,” she said.

“Hold On, Molly” director Harlan Baker has been involved in local theater for many years, but this is the first show he has directed for Schoolhouse Arts Center.  Through a lot of hard work, the show is shaping up nicely.  “There’s a lot of people who are very enthusiastic about doing the show,” he said.  “It’s a very fun show.  You can’t dislike this show.  It’s impossible,” he added.

Both Watson and Plummer are excited about being part of the 25th anniversary season.   Plummer said she’s seen volunteers come and go, but currently there is an enthusiastic, hard working group on the board.  “That makes all the difference,” said Plummer.  “It’s nice to have the new energy and new enthusiasm from a bigger board.”

Beebe said it’s wonderful to see the Schoolhouse Arts Center still in operation after all these years.  “These people have gotten the bug, they love the theater and they have kept things going and built upon what we started.”  The theater has grown substantially, and offers a lot more opportunities for children, he said.  “One of the things I love is when I go up there, children show me around,” he said.  “The children feel like they own it, it’s their place.”

“Hold On, Molly” opens on April 12 and runs for two weekends, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday Matinee at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors.  For reservations, call 642-3743 or visit

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