Deertrees programming cut back

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

HARRISON — The curtain will rise and the lights will shine at Deertrees Theatre this summer, but on fewer days this year.

A “strained economy” in 2011 left the Harrison theatre and cultural center in a financial hole forcing the Deertrees Board of Directors to significantly cutback on programming for the upcoming season.

“We are sorry that we are forced to have a reduced season this year, but we want to assure you that plans are well underway for an exciting 2013 season,” according to Al Glover, chairman of the Deertrees board. “We find the urgent need to take stock of all we undertake. Planning new programming and updating the facilities, in a way in which they will be sustainable, has to be our top priority.”

In a letter that now appears on the theatre’s website, Glover explained that Deertrees is faced with the “daunting task” of raising $200,000 to clear past commitments as well as to upgrade essential elements of the theatre and give the historic theatre “a financial base from which to plan the 2013 season.”

“This amount must be raised if we are to realize a vibrant and sustainable Deertrees Theatre,” Glover said.

Anchoring the 2012 line-up will be the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, which runs in July and August. Deertrees will also host the Lake Region Community Theatre production of Oliver in June. Glover says several fundraising events, to benefit Deertrees, will be held in July and August.

“There is no quick fix to the problems we face,” Glover said. “That is why we seek not only your (the public’s) indulgence, but your support in helping us create a stronger future for Deertrees.”

In past seasons, Deertrees offered a wide variety of high quality programming — from concerts to comedy acts to short plays — which filled nearly each day of the week through the summer months.

However, rising costs and lower turnouts due to a severe downturn in the economy put the theatre, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last summer, into a financial hole. Glover and his fellow board of directors see the fiscal challenge as an opportunity for the theatre to “revitalize its commitment to providing excellent entertainment for loyal, local patrons and the summer visitors.”

“We’ve hit a bump in the road,” Glover said. “We need to regroup.”

Part of the restructuring plan was the hiring of Andrew Harris as the interim executive director. He has been charged to “spearhead the theatre’s march to the future,” Glover said. Harris replaces Bill Felts, who served in the executive director’s capacity for two seasons. Harris, who was born and raised in England, is a respected actor, director and an experienced administrator. He serves on the Deertrees Theatre Board of Directors and is presently the production manager/intern coordinator for Portland Stage Company.

“Making a generous gesture toward launching the theatre toward the future, Andrew has forgone this year’s salary for the director,” Glover said. “His magnanimity is a model for us all — be it members of the board or loyal patrons who cherish what Deertrees has done and will accomplish in the future.”

Harris plans to “tap into the outstanding talent that exists in the Maine area” and to “develop an exciting theatre program that will appeal to young and new audiences, as well as serve more experienced theatre goers.” Harris will also schedule complementary arts and educational programs, again, utilizing the “abundant talent within the local area.”

Any future programs at Deertrees “must be fiscally sustainable in order to effectively preserve the historic building and to adequately serve both the local audience and seasonal visitors,” Glover added.

To keep the curtain up and lights on, Glover remains hopeful that patrons — old and new — will turn out to support the historic theatre in 2012.

“Thank you for being a part of the theatre’s past; we look forward to your being part of its future,” reads the final line of the website letter.

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