Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 23, 2016
Bagaduce Theatre showcases big works in a small, intimate space
by Anne Berleant
Tucked deep in Brooksville, at the end of Mills Point Road is the Bagaduce Theatre, a 60-seat performance space carved out of an 1850s barn, with fields and the Bagaduce River as its backdrop.
Now preparing for its second full season as a small, professional theater, Bagaduce Theatre is the creation, and passion, of actress Monique Fowler and stage production manager John Vivian.
On a wet fall afternoon, the married couple, dressed against the chill of the unheated barn and in the midst of renovations, took a look back at how the theater was born.
In 2015, Fowler adapted Some Letters of the Wasson-Tapley Families, published by Brooksville Historical Society, into Hattie and Robert: Letters in Our Pockets, and performed it in the barn as a fundraiser for the society.
Flash forward to spring 2016, and Fowler and Vivian began to prepare a performance space in the barn, complete with stage, backstage, curtains and lighting.
By mid-June, “we were full speed,” Fowler said, with actors both local and professional in rehearsals for its inaugural Summer Play Festival, featuring an evening of Shakespeare, and readings and plays, such as The Glass Menagerie.
Audiences ranged from local to visitors, alerted by word of mouth and a little public relations work by Fowler. “By the final weekend, we were packed,” she said.
Guests to the performances were treated to an intimate theater experience, with the front row separated from the stage by only a few feet, which “seemed to have great appeal for the audience,” Fowler said.
A 2017 production of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard will continue that experience, bringing the audience outside for one scene and turning them into party guests for another.
As a small professional theater in a small, Maine town, “I had to create a different model,” Fowler said. “It’s put together like a patchwork quilt.”
She added: “The thing that’s really important is to bring a diverse group of people together. That’s what the theater does.”
For 2017, Bagaduce Theatre is doubling its performances and live readings from last year, as well as working on a full production of Hattie and Robert: Letter in Our Pockets,” to help celebrate Brooksville’s 200th anniversary.
Fowler, an experienced stage, film and television actress was raised in a peripatetic upbringing, she said, but spent summers in Brooksville after her family bought what is now known as Fowler Farm in the early 1970s. Now she’s turning down auditions because of her commitment to the Brooksville theater, she said, while Vivian is using his stage production skills at home.
“This has been our life,” Vivian said.
A preview of the summer 2017 upcoming season will be held on December 18, 4 p.m., at the Blue Hill Public Library, in a reading of One Atlantic: Bishop and Lowell, which Fowler adapted from the letters and poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. For more information, call the library at 374-5515.