Originally published in The Weekly Packet, October 4, 2018
Local theater legend Bill Raiten recognized for lifetime achievement
by Anne Berleant
Crowning over 45 years of bringing theater arts to the greater Blue Hill community, Bill Raiten was awarded the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award by the Maine Arts Commission September 29 at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.
Founder, teacher and longtime artistic director of New Surry Theatre and Performing Arts School (NST), Raiten is the first recipient of the award in the commission’s inaugural awards event.
“The case that was made on his behalf and the support letters were phenomenal. They just told a story about Bill that was exceptionally moving and memorable and remarkable,” Maine Arts Commission Executive Director Julie Richards said.
Raiten opened New Surry Theatre’s first season in 1972, bringing Fiddler on the Roof to the stage. Throughout the years, he brought musicals and dramas to the stage in Blue Hill, along with acting classes, summer theater camps and programs for at-risk youth. In 1989, NST was invited to bring 25 NST actors to the USSR for a two-week “Performances-For-Peace” tour; NST brought their Russian counterparts to the United States the following year.
He credits his wife, Elena Bourakovsky, with much of NST’s success. “Without Elena, I don’t think these past 25 years we would have grown so much,” he said. “She brought something new that we didn’t even know we wanted to achieve.”
As his name was announced as recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award, Bourakovsky leaned over and whispered, “I told you so.”
He was presented with a basket crafted by celebrated Passamaquoddy basket maker Molly Neptune Parker, mounted on a pedestal.
Raiten stepped down as artistic director of New Surry Theatre last year and said next year may be his last as an acting teacher.
“My greatest achievement in the arts is having worked with more than a thousand people,” Raiten said. He believes that everyone should take an acting class: “Acting lessons are not to teach you to act but to [show you] how wonderful you are and how different you are, and that the difference is wonderful. I try to teach each student their feelings are absolutely right and wonderful.”