By David M. Fitzpatrick
OF THE WEEKLY STAFF
Many Brewer residents know that the new Brewer Community School has an auditorium. What many don’t know — and what people in the region might not know — is just how impressive it is.
The Brewer Performing Arts Center is a 487-seat auditorium with a stage, theater lighting, and a top-shelf audio system capable of 24-track recording. Size-wise, it has nearly as many seats as Husson University’s Gracie Theater and is an ideal smaller venue than the new Hampden Academy’s 900-seat auditorium. And according to PAC director Brady Harris, this jewel in Brewer’s crown will soon be shining a bit more brightly, especially since it appears to be an acoustic marvel.
“The sound in here is phenomenal,” Harris said. “The acoustics are amazing. We’ve had choirs of varying size… no matter where they are on the stage, you can hear them. They sound good.”
It’s not just his opinion. According to Harris, the audio tech for the Dave Mallett Band said that Mallett’s performance at the Brewer PAC was “perhaps one of the best performances Dave Mallett has ever sounded.” Last year, Rick Charette and his Bubblegum Band brought loads of audio equipment that they didn’t need this year; for Charette’s appearance in April, the PAC will handle most of Charette’s sound needs.
The PAC has seen a wide range of major acts so far, including Grammy nominee Judy Pancoast.
“She did a fabulous show for kids,” Harris said. “We’re looking to bring her back in the near future, because she does a Karen Carpenter tribute that, if you didn’t see her, you’d swear it was Karen Carpenter.”
March will feature Maine folk band Schooner Fare and legendary comedian Tim Sample. Locally, businesses such as the Thomas School of Dance and Bangor Ballet, as well as River City Cinema, have utilized the PAC, and Harris hopes to partner with more local entities. Another goal is to produce “genre” events, such as having events featuring blues, jazz, Celtic, and folk music.
“We’re really trying to do a grassroots effort of just having a variety of styles and opportunities for these kids and the citizens and those that want to see quality art performances,” Harris said.
One idea in the works is to open the hall to local bands; give them the hall for admission charges, and work a deal where the PAC will record the show and mix a live album with up to 24 tracks.
“When you record live, you’re capturing the essence of the moment,” Harris said. “By having an audience, that band’s going to play to the audience.”
The hall has many amenities that might not be noticeable. For instance, tickets are done easily online, and the PAC can provide everything that a visiting performer or act might want: ushers, a ready room, dressing rooms, lighting and sound technicians, a stage manager, and even a Clear-Com two-way-radio system. And the theater can accommodate guests who are hard of hearing by broadcasting audio to 20 listening-assist devices.
The sound and lighting controls are quite high-tech, and soon the equipment will be mobile. Technicians will be able to wheel it to the center of the auditorium, plug in a few lines, and go. Already, the audio can be remotely controlled from anywhere with software on an iPad, and soon the lighting will work the same way.
The PAC can show high-definition films in what makes a great movie theater (albeit without Surround Sound, but one thing at a time). River City Cinema has already showed a movie there. In the works is a 24-foot outdoor screen for movies that can move inside if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Meanwhile, Brewer students are reaping the benefits. Not only is the PAC a great place for concerts and plays, but students taking classes on lighting, audio, and stage management get real-world exposure.
“The kids are learning, firsthand, how to run a theater,” Harris said.
The more opportunities they have, the better, and that’s where marketing comes in. Harris said an upcoming survey will help determine what Brewer residents want in their PAC.
“This facility is for the people,” he said, noting that the PAC is becoming a centerpiece for community pride, which was echoed in the initial open house.
“A lot of people went through it, and… they liked what they saw,” he said. “We did the bicentennial event for Brewer; people got to witness firsthand what this place is capable of. They got to hear and see what’s going on. And the big thing now is they just need to know what’s going on.”
While the PAC will support its maintenance and operation, an endowment committee will pursue the creation of a long-term fund to support future upgrades. Raising money could start with naming rights to everything: the building, the hall, the light booth, the audio booth, the dressing room, and the stage.
But first: fill the schedule. There are currently three to four events per month on the 2013 schedule, and the PAC is already booking for 2014. Harris said that it would be nice to see five to six events scheduled every month. It’s a matter of time, patience, and effort — and bringing in good shows that draw people in so they can see what Brewer has to offer.
“Now it comes down to foresight, planning, and dreaming,” he said. “We have a beautiful facility, and we’re already looking to the future.”
Learn more about the PAC at www.brewerperformingarts.com.