Founded in 1974 as the Profile Theater, Portland Stage is one of Maine’s largest fully professional, non-profit theaters. We are committed to providing the finest productions for audiences in a broad region of Northern New England.
Portland stage offers a variety of programming that is designed to meet the needs of a broad cross-section of our population. In producing this work, Portland Stage auditions both locally and in New York, and then brings the artists – actors, director, designers, and technicians – together in Portland to rehearse the show. Each production is created specifically for our audiences.
As a member of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), Portland Stage is committed to using actors who are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the professional actors union. Having a relationship with Equity is more than a commitment to hiring professional actors – it is one of the steps that Portland Stage takes to ensure the highest quality theater experience possible for artists as well as audience members.
Portland Stage plays a pivotal role in the life of our community by providing the experience of theater for our audience and by making that experience one which enlightens and adds insight into our world.
The leading professional theater in Northern New England, Portland Stage is committed to creating great art, passionate about using the theater to educate, and dedicated to enriching our community.
As a leading arts institution in our state, Portland Stage is a hub of creative activity. Our community takes pride in the theater and actively engages in its wide range of first-rate productions and transformative programs. Our nationally known, innovative education programs are built with the same rigor as our professional productions. Acknowledged as a gem by the field, our productions attract outstanding artists as well as a diverse audience, while our artistic programs incubate new work and inspire new artists. Our open and inviting building allows artists and audiences to connect around the work which is relevant to the community in which we live and sparks discussion and dialogue. We have strong financial underpinnings, an effective staff and Board which allow continued innovation and improvement. We are transparent in our objectives and collaborate with other like-minded institutions.
Our work is always evolving to stay relevant. We are entrepreneurs, innovating, asking questions, cultivating and incubating. From artists to audience, from long time subscribers to interns and students, our productions, as well as our education and artistic programs, continually evolve to meet the needs of our constituents, thus remaining relevant to our community.
Our work engages, connects and builds understanding. Through the intimate, personal exchanges that happen through live theater and hands-on programs, we help to shape our community and build greater understanding of the “other.” We interpret and share stories from around the world to better understand ourselves and our place in the world.
Our work is created in our community for our community. Building productions from the ground up, we combine the best local talent with artists from around the nation bringing our community into the process and building lasting relationships as a result. Our artists actively engage with students and the broader community.
June 3, 2020
Our country is reeling. While a pandemic has seismically changed our communities, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery confront us with the unending issue of racism that has plagued our country since its founding. Portland Stage mourns these tragic deaths—deaths that have been added to the all too many who have been abused or killed because of the color of their skin— and as an organization, we must face head-on the unjust, violent, unequal treatment of Black people in America. We must acknowledge our role in the problem, and we must work for positive change to the system.
Theater is about inclusivity; it is about walking in another person’s shoes, it is about building community. As such, the board and staff of Portland Stage must affirm that Black Lives Matter and that at Portland Stage, we continue to grow in understanding and lean into this truth. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Black artists, staff, board, audiences, students, teachers, and members of our community to say no more to white hate, no more to white indifference.
Portland Stage must fight against racism and oppression both inside and outside our theater. We need to look within, to make sure that we are living our beliefs and working to dismantle the systemic racism and oppression that is our country’s legacy. We must play our part in righting this wrong. As Sarah Bellamy of Penumbra Theatre Company in this beautiful American Theatre article articulates:
“Rather than white people feeling like, ‘How can I hold space for people of color?’ I want them to call other white people into their spaces and say, ‘We need to talk.’ Now more than ever, we need white folk to get their white folk.” – Sarah Bellamy of Penumbra Theatre Company
As a predominately white theater company in Portland, Maine, we need to educate ourselves and invite our community to join us as we seek to find ways to help change our world and learn to practice anti-racism. This must become part of our Strategic Plan. At our Annual Meeting in June, we will add this call to action to our Plan and set aside time to discuss the positive actions that Portland Stage can take.
Our productions are handcrafted from the ground by combining the best local talent with artists from around the nation. Each season, Portland Stage produces a Mainstage Subscription Series, a Holiday Show, Co-productions with other local and national theaters, Educational programs for children both in Schools and in our Theater for Kids store font space, a festival of new work, and numerous Affiliate Artist readings and events. Over the course of one season, PS creates over 250 live performances!
Two very important people on the Portland Stage team are Ted Gallant, our Technical Director, who oversees the build of each set design, and Susan Thomas, our Costume Shop Supervisor, who works with costume designers and oversees the creation of all of the costumes. In addition, our own Artistic Executive Director Anita Stewart is a set designer. Check out this article from Portland Magazine about Anita and her design process.
As the only LORT theater – LORT stands for League of Resident Theaters (the premier organization for regional theaters) – in the State of Maine, PS has a well-deserved reputation for producing high-quality productions and programs. We create live theater in Maine with the following:
This is handcrafted theater made in Maine, this is Portland Stage!
In 1973, a group of actors came together with a shared goal of creating a theater, one that produces compelling plays through artistic collaboration. Along the road together, this artistic journey led to the creation of a non-profit professional theater. Like the plays we produce, Portland Stage started as an idea and matured through major challenges by remaining true to its collective vision: to present illuminating plays that challenge, inspire, and reflect. Portland Stage is passionately committed to being a vital partner in the fabric of our community by building relationships through hard work, transparency, collaboration, and education.
Portland Stage is founded as Profile Theater, a touring company of young theater professionals was founded, with the mission to “entertain, educate, and engage its audiences by producing a wide range of artistic works and programs that explore basic human issues and concerns relevant to the communities served by the theater.”
The first Artistic Director, Ted Davis (1974-1976) led the company through performances in a wide variety of venues, but by 1976, Portland had become the company’s permanent home.
Ted Davis was followed as Artistic Director by Michael Rafkin (1976-1977) and Frank Goodman (1977-1978), and in 1978, the company changed its name to Portland Stage.
In the years that followed, under Artistic Director Charles Towers (1978-1981), Portland Stage earned a national reputation as a professional theater company, becoming a member of LORT (the League of Resident Theatres) and TCG (Theatre Communications Group) and signing a letter of agreement with Actors’ Equity Association.
In 1982, under the leadership of Barbara Rosoff (1981-1987) Portland Stage moved to its current home, a former Oddfellows Hall at 25A Forest Avenue in Portland, the then newly renovated Portland Performing Arts Center.
Portland Stage makes a commitment to offer student matinees of each show in its Mainstage season. Today, over 4,000 students from Maine and New Hampshire attend these performances each year, many of them getting their first exposure to professional theater at Portland Stage.
Under Artistic Director Richard Hamburger (1986-1992), the company launched the Little Festival of the Unexpected in 1990, a week-long annual festival that brings playwrights from around the country to develop new plays at Portland Stage. This festival has helped writers such as Mac Wellman, Nicky Silver, Douglas Carter Beane, Nilo Cruz, Quiara Alegria Hudes, Tom Coash, and John Cariani land productions both on Portland Stage’s Mainstage and in regional theaters around the country. Hamburger was followed as Artistic Director by Greg Leaming (1992-1996).
In 1996 the team of Christopher Akerlind and Anita Stewart become Co-Artistic Directors. Akerlind, a lighting designer, and Stewart, a set designer, were at the time the only designers to head a regional theater in the United States. Under their leadership, Portland Stage began a tradition of bringing an ensemble of students from our community into the theater to join our professional cast each season for a holiday show, first with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol each December and more recently alternating between A Christmas Carol and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
Chris Akerlind and Anita Stewart also continued the theater’s commitment to new work, launching the From Away festival in 1996, an annual collaboration with the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa that brings authors from around the world to Portland each fall for staged readings of their works in translation.
In 1998, with Christopher Akerlind left Portland Stage, Anita Stewart (1998-present) became the sole Artistic Director.
Portland Stage becomes the host of The Clauder Competition, New England’s most prestigious playwriting award. Created in 1981 by Jeb Brooks, every three years The Clauder Competition celebrates the distinctive voices of our region’s playwrights and brings their work to the attention of the greater theatrical community.
In 2000, Portland Stage purchased the Portland Performing Arts Center where it is located, a huge step towards long-term stability and a far cry from the company’s itinerant roots in the mid-‘70s.
Portland Stage is given the honor of curating The Clauder Competition, New England’s most prestigious playwriting award. Created in 1981 by Jeb Brooks, this triennial competition celebrates the distinctive voices of our region’s playwrights and brings their work to the attention of the greater theatrical community.
Portland Stage brings to the mainstasge, Maine native and broadway actor, John Cariani’s play Almost, Maine, after having been part of the 2003 Little Festival of the Unexpectexd. Almost, Maine became this highest attended show in Portland Stage history, went on to transfer to off-broadway and became the most produced high school production in North American.
Since taking ownership of the building, Portland Stage has dramatically expanded its audience base, formed an Affiliate Artists group of local theater professionals, and launched a second season of productions, the Studio Series, which debuted in 2007.
In 2010, the company took another leap forward in opening a Theater for Kids space to begin offering professionally-taught theater education programming for young people ages 4 to 11 for the first time.
Culture Club-Portland is formed. A consortium of Portland Museum of Art, Portland Ovations, Portland Stage, and Portland Symphony Orchestra was created to support cultural experiences for students in public schools. The consortium has the goal of providing a free arts experience in all four member organizations for every child in Portland Public Schools, for 5 years.
Portland Stage produces 1st play by acclaimed Maine writer Monica Wood. Papermaker 1st had a reading as part of the 2014 Little Festival of the Unexpected.
Portland Stage partners with Maine State Music Theater to begin an annual series of Co-Productions each year in the late summer.
Due to it’s success, The Clauder Competion changes from a triennual event to a biannual event. Created in 1981 by Jeb Brooks, The Clauder Competition celebrates the distinctive voices of our region’s playwrights and brings their work to the attention of the greater theatrical community.
The Corona Virus Pandemic interrupted the 2019-2020 season, during the run of Native Gardens. Portland Stage was able to tape Native Gardens and began taping all of the mainstage productions, readings, discussions and education programs. These were made available to patrons to watch from the safety of their homes.
Once the pandemic interupted in-person attendance, Portland Stage began to look into ways to keep patons safe while attending events at Portland Stage. With the expertise of W.H. Demmons, Portland Stage had a state of the art ionized air purification system installed.
Commissioned by Portland Stage and the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Collaborative to commemorate the centennial of women’s suffrage.
Portland Stage launched the public phase of Making an Entrance: A Capital Campaign for the Heart of Portland.
This campaign will raise over $6m to improve our space and increase our endowment.
We aim to create stronger connections to our community by improving entry to the theater and increasing access to our vibrant programming.