Christopher Schario and Janet Mitchko didn’t begin the Public Theatre in Lewiston, but they are co-founders of the theater as it is known today.
They were hired in tandem in 1993 and promptly signed a contract with the Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors. In doing so, the Public Theatre became one of five theaters in Maine that could hire Equity actors.
As the theater opens its 25th season, Schario points to the Equity affiliation as the key moment in the theater’s history. “When we interviewed for the job, I told the board of directors, if they let us go Equity we would become an actors’ theater,” Schario said. “The quality of the acting is almost everything. Really good acting can overcome all sorts of other problems, but nothing fixes bad acting.”
Among the actors coming to Lewiston this season is Tony Award-winner Judith Ivey, who will direct “The Ladies Foursome,” opening in January. Ivey won Tonys for her work in “Steaming” and “Hurlyburly,” and appeared in one season of “Designing Women” and on “Will and Grace.”
“It means a lot that she would come here, because it says a lot about the professional actors from New York who come up to work with us,” Schario said. “She’s a big deal on the Broadway scene and in show biz, and she contacted us. She had heard about us and heard about the quality of our work.”
The theater sells about 17,000 tickets each season, and Schario said about 60 percent of the audience comes from outside Androscoggin County.
The fall lineup: “Wait Until Dark,” Oct. 16-25; “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” Nov. 6-8; “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 11-13. thepublictheatre.org
OTHER FALL THEATER HIGHLIGHTS
Portland Stage Company opens its season Sept. 29 with Brian Friel’s family epic “Dancing at Lughnasa.” The play weaves together the stories of five unmarried sisters in an Irish village, and is told through the memories of Michael, beginning with his childhood in the 1930s. South Portland actor and director Tony Reilly stars as Michael.
Reilly is co-founder of the American Irish Repertory Ensemble with his late wife, Susan.
Calendar: “Dancing at Lughnasa,” Sept. 29-Oct. 25; “The Mountaintop,” Nov. 3-22, a re-imagining of the night before Dr. Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis, Tennessee. The play is set entirely in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. portlandstage.org
In its Studio Theater, the Portland Stage Affiliate Artists present “The Amish Project,” co-produced by Abigail Killeen and directed by Carmen-maria Mandley, Sept. 24-Oct. 3. “The Amish Project” examines a 2006 schoolhouse shooting in Amish country and the community’s response of forgiveness and hope. Nov. 18-22, the Affiliate Artists present Bess Welden’s “Madeleines.”
Good Theater begins its 14th season Sept. 23 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland with the original musical revue “No Biz Like Show Biz,” a tribute to Mary Martin and Ethel Merman starring the trio of singers Marie Dittmer, Lynne McGhee and Jen Means. The revue focuses on the music of Martin and Merman in the Broadway shows “Girl Crazy,” “Leave It to Me,” “Hello Dolly” and I Do! I Do!” among others.
Calendar: “No Biz Like Show Biz,” Sept. 23-Oct 11; “Mama’s Boy” by Rob Urbinati, Oct. 28-Nov. 22. goodtheater.com
Mad Horse Theatre Company in South Portland opens Sept. 24 with the classic Greek play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes. The women of Greece withhold sex from their husbands to force them to negotiate peace. On stage through Oct. 11 at 24 Mosher St., South Portland.
Dramatic Repertory Company opens with the New England premiere of Mike Bartlett’s “Cock: The Cockfight Play,” Nov. 6-15 at the Studio Theater at Portland Stage. It’s about a guy in a stable gay relationship, who separates and falls in love with a woman. She and his ex are both prepared to fight for him, and things get complicated when someone else arrives on the scene. dramaticrep.org
Related, at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 Bartlett will read from “Cock” at the Music Hall Loft in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as part of a play reading series by the Kittery theater company Stage Force. themusichall.org
Stage Force presents a main stage production of “The Seafarer” by Connor McPherson Nov. 13-22 at the Star Theater in Kittery. stageforce.org
The Footlights Theatre in Falmouth presents “Steel Magnolias,” opening Wednesday through Oct. 1. Next up: “Whispers in the Dark,” Oct. 15-24. thefootlightsinfalmouth.com
The Theater at Monmouth welcomes fall with a creepy comedy, “Ruddigore, or the Witch’s Curse” by Gilbert & Sullivan. This is a collaboration between the professional company at the theater and community actors, and is on stage at Cumston Hall Sept. 17-27. theateratmonmouth.org
Cast Aside Productions presents Andrew Lippa’s “Wild Party,” which is set in the 1920s and tells the story of a vaudeville dancer and clown and their party to end all parties. It will be staged in the Main Charitable Mechanics Library in Portland, Nov. 12-13. castasideproductions.com
Ogunquit Playhouse closes its season with “Saturday Night Fever, the Musical,” Sept. 23-Oct. 25. ogunquitplayhouse.org