The Theater at Monmouth, a “Saucy Little Opera House” in the Winthrop Lakes Region of Maine

By
Real Estate Agent with Anne Plummer and Associates

Located in the heart of the Winthrop Lakes Region is the crown jewel known as the Theater at Monmouth.

In 1899, Dr. Charles M. Cumston of Monmouth commissioned Harry Cochran, an accomplished painter, writer, composer and musician, to design a building with an opera hall, caucus room and town hall. Today, Cumston Hall continues to tower dramatically over Main Street. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and houses the 250-seat opera house, town hall and public library.

This is the 41st season for the Theater at Monmouth or TAM as it is known locally. In 1970, Richard Sewell and Dr. Robert Joyce established the theater as a professional summer theater to produce Shakespeare's plays and the classics. The mission is "to bring innovative approaches to Shakespeare and other classic plays through professional productions which enrich the lives of people in Maine at historic Cumston Hall, Monmouth and throughout the state." In 1975, the Maine State Legislature named TAM the Shakespearean Theater of Maine.

About 45 professional artists and college-age theater students from Maine and all around the country perform multiple roles in several rotating shows each summer. Many return for several seasons or more. David Greenham is the Producing Director. Jeri Pitcher and Bill Van Horn are the Associate Artistic Directors and Dennis A. Price is the Company Manager.

This season's shows include the following: Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors" and "Pericles, Prince of Tyre," Mark Twain's "Is He Dead?" George Bernard Shaw's "Misalliance," and an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost." The fall performance will be Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance." Throughout the year, Theater Workshops and Residency Programs are also offered.

The Monmouth Community Players, founded in 1992, also performs at TAM. Their mission is to "provide a positive and affordable theater experience for adults and youth in the Winthrop Lakes Region by presenting exciting productions and talented casts under skilled directing."

Hallmarks of the theater include excellent acoustics and sight lines. Stained glass windows, stenciled murals, ornate trim and plaster ornamentations set TAM apart from other summer theaters in Maine. A long-term restoration project has been completed. Tony Castro, an accomplished painter, had been hired to touch up some apple blossoms. In the process, he discovered something underneath and through using a photo to do some detective work, discovered a strip of ornamental banding that once spanned the entire theater. It's thought that during the Depression, they covered the ornate strip with something easier to maintain.

Back in 1979, Kenneth S. Rothwell of the University of Vermont wrote an article in the spring issue of Shakespeare Quarterly entitled "Shakespeare in Northern New England: Monmouth and Champlain." "The Theater at Monmouth (Maine) offered a variety of surprises. As a start, there was the saucy little opera house concealed inside the sparse but elegant Victorian-Gothic Town Hall."

This summer, you might want to take in a show or two at the "saucy little opera house," set in the classic New England town of Monmouth. And before the show check out lakefront property on Cobbosseeconte Lake, Annabessacook Lake, Sand Pond, Cochnewagon Lake and Wilson Pond.

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