1959: Brunswick Summer Playhouse
Victoria Crandall, affectionately known as Vicki, opened her summer playhouse in the Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus in 1959 with a production of The Song of Norway. It was an adventurous undertaking in many ways: Vicki was a woman working in a field dominated by men and she was producing nine shows, one per week, all with full sets, costumes and chorus. The following year she reduced the number of productions to seven, running two shows for two weeks at a time. Vicki’s audiences were building rapidly.
1967: A subtle but significant title change: Brunswick Music Theatre
By the late ’60s, Maine was filled with summer playhouses. In fact, the entire New England area was saturated with theatres that made up the Straw Hat Circuit, as The New York Times called it. Many of these playhouses featured TV and film stars in romantic comedies, but few were exclusively musical theatre houses.
1970s: Our theatre becomes non-profit
Changing the Theatre to a non-profit organization focused its commitment to develop and expand an intern program that would educate and train young artists in theatre crafts. By the mid-’70s, the Theatre had reduced the number of productions to five, running four of these shows for two weeks and one musical for three weeks.
1988: A name for then and now
In 1988, Brunswick Music Theatre celebrated 30 years of bringing professional musical theatre to the people of Maine. Governor John R. McKernan presented an award to founder Vicki Crandall citing her for this significant achievement. In that year our name changed to Maine State Music Theatre to reflect a patronage which had grown significantly beyond the mid-coast region. By the late ’80s the number of Equity theatres in the state had dwindled to half what had existed in the early ’60s. There were few exclusively musical houses remaining nationwide, and none as intimate as Pickard Theater.
MSMT celebrated its 40th birthday in 1998. Beginning in the fall of ’98, an $11 million renovation project of Pickard Theater was undertaken and completed just in time for our 2000 Summer Season. While retaining its historic elements, the theater was thoroughly modernized from within. Air-conditioning was installed along with new seating and other amenities to make the theatergoing experience even more pleasurable.
2000s: Stay tuned!
Challenging years faced MSMT with an escalating housing crisis prompted by limited availability and prohibitive costs. When the Theatre was given an opportunity to move to the Gorham Campus of the University of Southern Maine, the Board of Trustees made a strong commitment to the community of Brunswick and is now forging ahead with ambitious plans to make this option viable for the long-term. The most important development is the purchase and renovation of a beautiful permanent home for MSMT. The building at 22 Elm Street houses the administrative offices as well as technical and rehearsal space. Solidly rooted in our art and in our community, we look confidently ahead to a bright and exciting future – not to mention a number of very exciting events and programs to mark our 50th anniversary in 2008!