Summer stock theater gives actors a chance to perform and entertain. Sometimes it also gives them an introduction to a whole new part of the country.
“It’s more farmland and a lot more open space. quiet and peaceful,” said Stephen James Potter, 24 of New York City, who is appearing as a featured dancer in “All Shook Up,” at Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick.
For seven of the 18 actors appearing this month in this play based on the music of Elvis Presley, coming to Hackmatack is also an introduction to the country’s most northeastern state.
Besides crossing the river into Vacationland, the actors are living in an historic New England mansion and performing in a barn, surrounded by fields where bison roam, and on a stage opposite the stalls that once housed Elsa and Dottie, the cows.
“I’m pretty sure there are no barn theaters in Alabama,” said Teyonna Johnson, 21 of Troy, Alabama, who had never been to New England before.
Performing in the barn “feels more homey,” said Potter. “It creates a different kind of environment, more focused on the cast and performance rather than on a big Broadway production.”
For Johnson, a recent college graduate who is playing the part of Lorraine, being in northern New England also means being African American surrounded by almost exclusively white people.
“It’s very noticeable,” she said. “This is a very small town with mostly white people.”
About 20 of the actors this summer are staying at the historic Goodall Mansion, a 18-room house built in 1871 for the family that brought Sanford booming into the industrial age.
“It helps the cast bond and it’s gorgeous,” said Potter.
“It’s very fun because we work together 10 to 12 hours, but then we get to go home and have free time to goof off together,” said Johnson, noting that in most theaters there is little time left for socializing after work.
“All Shook Up,” which will be at Hackmatack through July 21, tells the story of an Elvis-like character who comes into a conservative town in the midwest and shakes things up.
While Maine is new for seven of the cast, almost all of the actors are making their debut on the Hackmatack stage.
"We only have a handful of actors here this summer who have worked with us before,” said Artistic Director Crystal Lisbon. “It's exciting for us, and our audiences, to bring in new talent to Hackmatack."
Among the newcomers to Hackmatack was one person who was no stranger to Maine.
“At the first rehearsal I walked in and figured they were going to treat me like a kid, which is ok because I am a kid,” said Kaia Lontin-Kearson, a high school student from nearby South Berwick. “But it’s been super cool. They all treat me like I’m a professional, too.”
"All Shook Up” will show at 8 p.m., Wednesdays to Saturday, July 18 to 21 as well as 2 p.m. Thursday, July 19. More information and tickets available at www.hackmatack.org or by calling 207-698-1807.