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: 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 to Brunswick Music Theater: By the late ’60s, summer playhouses saturated Maine. In fact, theaters sprouted across the entire New England, making up what the The New York Times called the “Straw Hat Circuit.” Many of these playhouses featured TV and film stars in romantic comedies, but few were exclusively musical theatre houses.
1970s • The Theatre becomes a 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: Brunswick Music Theater 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 significant growth beyond the midcoast 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.
1998 • MSMT turns 40: 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 • Solidly rooted in the Midcoast – MSMT moves to 22 Elm Street: Faced with an escalating housing crisis, MSMT was given an opportunity to move to the Gorham Campus of the University of Southern Maine. Instead, the Board of Trustees made a strong commitment to the community of Brunswick and purchased the Maine Line Bus Garage at 22 Elm Street, renovating the space as the beautiful permanent home for MSMT. The building houses the administrative offices as well as technical and rehearsal space.
2010s • Building a Better Future for the Arts in Midcoast Maine: Maine State Music Theatre announced the public phase of their three-year Capital Campaign at the opening night of Young Frankenstein, the fourth and final show of their 2015 season. The purpose of the two million dollar campaign is multi-faceted: Fulfilling commitments to our partner and lessor, Bowdoin College, MSMT will pay for replacement of carpeting and seats, as well as upgrades to the hearing system in Pickard Theater; providing housing for theatre professionals; and attending to the repair and maintenance of current properties used for housing, administrative offices, technical shops, and studios.
Stay tuned as we celebrate our 61st season during the summer of 2019!