Broadway on Chebeague
It’s a hot July evening, and bikes are strewn about the entrance to the Chebeague Island Hall. From the open windows, the sounds of teenage voices and Broadway music can be heard. Inside, everyone is divided into groups, some sitting on the piano, some on stage, singing in unison. Opening night beckons.
Summertime on Chebeague Island is not complete without at least one production from the Chebeague Children’s Theatre (CCT), with performances held at the white and green frame community hall. This year, the theater company will stage three plays.
The group of kids rehearsing at the moment is called the Chebeague Children’s Theatre Troupe, made up of older veterans of the theater program, ranging in age this year from 12 to 15.
Many nights, rehearsals run until 10:30 p.m. as the Troupe prepares for its first production of Fame, set to open tomorrow on July 28. In addition to Fame, the performers recently put on three productions of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brownwith as few as nine rehearsals. (There will be an encore fundraiser production ofCharlie Brown on August 13.)
Two years ago, due to the level of interest in the theater program, performers were divided into two groups based on age. Productions are usually put together in as little as four weeks, meaning long hours of rehearsals.
Last weekend [July 22 and 23], a younger Chebeague Children’s Theatre group, made up of children under 12, performed Oliver!
Despite record-breaking heat both nights, the kids played to a nearly full house. Reuben Olney, who is currently in his fifth year as a member of the younger theater group, says his favorite part about acting is, “being able to fool around with a part and changing everything about yourself for that part, and being funny.” Reuben played the Artful Dodger in Oliver!
Genevieve Dyer is acting in her 10th year as a member of Chebeague Children’s Theater and is the veteran of the Troupe. Her favorite role in the past was Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie, which the cast performed in 2009.
This year, she played the role of Lucy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, and will take on the role of Mabel in Fame.
For Dyer, spending time with the cast is as much fun as the performances. “We are all really close. We joke around a lot in practice, but at the same time we get a lot of work done and always have a successful production in the end.”
Heading the CCT is island-native Rachel Damon, who began acting on Chebeague at age six as a lost boy in Peter Pan. This will be her 23rd year as a member of the program, and her 14th year as the artistic director.
For Damon, the hectic production schedule is a mix of hard work and good times.
“We have a lot of fun together and laugh a great deal,” she says. “It is amazing how much we are able to accomplish in such a short period of time. I am continually astonished by their determination, but ultimately the fact that they are having so much fun is what makes for the most memorable and strongest productions.”
Damon will also conduct a musical theater camp August 8-12 for younger kids with some help from the CCT Troupe. At the end of that week, the campers will stage a small performance at 7:30 p.m. at the island hall.
Damon graduated from Greely High School, winning the Greely Drama Award, and attended Colby College, where she double-majored in American studies and theater and dance. Now, during the school year she works at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, where she is the drama program director. She says her group of 20 students there “are very enthusiastic and a joy to work with.”
Her love of theater rubs off on the kids. “I really like having the opportunity to work with the same kids year after year. It is amazing to see the change and growth in some of these kids over time,” she says.
In addition to providing summer theater on Chebeague, the CCT serves as an opportunity for year-round island kids and summer visitors to get acquainted, often resulting in long-term friendships.
Holly Glass, a first-year member of the troupe, is summering on Chebeague and lives in Wellesley, Mass. At age 12, she is making her acting debut in Fame!
“This year was my first whole summer here and I am making friends, which is probably the best part about it,” she says.
And that explains why, in the middle of the summer, the Chebeague Island Hall is full of young people acting. “Sure I’d like to go swimming if it was really hot,” says Glass. “But I’d rather be here with everyone.”
Fame will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday July 28, Friday July 29, and Sunday July 31. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children.
Chloe Dyer is a resident of Chebeague and a participant in The Working Waterfront Student Journalism Program.