July 13 2017 11:26 AM

The Downeaster Theatre puts down roots in Old Town

July 13 is the day that the Downeaster Theatre opens its doors for the beginning of auditions for its very first production.


Beginning at 7, adults can audition to be a part of the Downeaster Theatre’s production of “The Laramie Project.” This play is one of five shows in the adult season. The youth season will begin with auditions for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in August, being the first of four shows.

Kate Willis, founder of the theater, had been sitting on the idea of making her own theater for a while, but it wasn’t until she toured the former church on 1120 N. Pennsylvania Ave., that she turned her dream into a reality.

“It was a diamond in the rough situation,” Willis said. “When we toured this building, we knew there were auditions coming up and we were looking for a space. Then we found this and now here we are, painting and cleaning and holding auditions.”

Everything is happening fast, but that doesn’t mean Willis isn’t excited about it. “There are tons of hard work to do now, but it's going to pay off later,” Willis said.

The space is ready for the auditions and the rehearsals that will begin soon, but there are still renovations to be done. For instance, the creation of a livable space for a staff member in the theater.

Where did Willis come up with the name for her dream? A Billy Joel song called “The Downeaster ‘Alexa.’”

“This song is about a fishing way of life that's disappearing, so people work harder, go further, sacrifice more to do what they love—much like theatre,” Willis said.

The Downeaster Theatre does not host the plays, but is a space for practice and rehearsals. The preview of “The Laramie Project” will take place at the Renegade Theater Festival in August and the actual production will take place in October at the Robin Theatre.

The Downeaster Theatre chose October specifically because of the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death. “The Laramie Project” is based on a true story of Shepard who was beaten and tied to a fence post in October 1998 because he was gay. The play itself is about the true reactions of the town of Laramie, Wyoming. The play also examines the town’s recovery and how it comes to terms with what happened. “The Laramie Project” was written by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project by conducting more than 200 interviews of the actual townspeople of Laramie.

The Downeaster Theatre is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information on the theater and their other upcoming events, you can catch them on Facebook and Twitter.