For more than 40 years, Penobscot Theatre Company has grown in the heart of Maine. Its current vitality is a credit to the vision of the founders, the hard work of all those affiliated with the organization over the years, and the generosity of the community.
Penobscot Theatre Company has its roots in the Acadia Repertory Theatre, founded in Bangor in 1973 by George Vafiadis and Lou Collier. Acadia Rep presented 97 productions in Bangor before Penobscot Theatre Company was incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 1983. The School For Wives was the first play officially produced by the nonprofit. Acadia Rep still operates on Mount Desert Island as a separate entity, while Penobscot Theatre Company is the only year-round, professional regional theatre in Northern Maine.
George Vafiadis oversaw the theatre’s early development, serving as producing director from 1983 through 1990. Joining him was Kenneth Stack, artistic director from 1983 to 1989. Bangor’s historic parish house at 183 Main Street was the first site of the theatre’s performances and operations. In 1986, the organization raised $160,000 for the purchase and initial renovation of the property. Penobscot Theatre Company sold the parish house to Merrill Bank in 2004.
Joe Turner Cantu became artistic director in 1990 and remained in that position through 1992, when the board of directors named Mark Torres producing artistic director. Torres led the theatre for the next 13 seasons. During his tenure, the theatre reorganized to operate with paid professionals, tripled the budget and increased attendance to more than15,000 annually. Torres also broadened the theatre’s activity to include the annual Maine Shakespeare Festival, which performed on the banks of the Penobscot River for seven summers.
In 1997, the company acquired the Bangor Opera House, which now serves as its base of operations. Built in 1920 and located at 131 Main Street, the Bangor Opera House, is the last remaining theatre in downtown Bangor, a community that supported seven such venues in the first part of the 20th Century. The Opera House is an early example of Art Deco/Egyptian Revival architecture.
In 2005, the board hired Scott R.C. Levy as producing artistic director. Under Levy’s leadership from 2005-2011, Penobscot Theatre Company toured productions throughout the state of Maine, created the Northern Writes New Play Festival, and restored the façade of the Bangor Opera House.
Upon Levy’s departure, the board instituted a dual leadership structure, and hired Marcie Bramucci as managing director and Bari Newport as artistic director.
Today Newport leads the company as producing artistic director in partnership with Mary Budd, executive director. With the board, they are charting the course for continued growth through sound management, strong programming, adherence to the highest professional standards, and the development of enduring community-based partnerships.