The first full post-renovation season for the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine in Orono is kind of like the first few months with a nice new car. It’s got all kind of fancy features, it’s fun to be in, and it’s all pretty and shiny and new. Which is why the 2009-2010 season is, at first glance, much busier and more eclectic than previous seasons. Wouldn’t you want to drive your new car as much as possible?
“We can do so much more now than we ever could,” said John Patches, executive director for the CCA. “The advances in technology are huge. It opens so many more possibilities for programming. We’re more versatile than ever.”
The season kicks off at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20, with a performance from the Fred Garbo Inflatable Theatre and a children’s fair featuring the Maine Discovery Museum, naturalist Tony Sohns, balloon artist Kevin Duplisie and a number of UM student organizations. The official season opener is set for Oct. 3, with a gala concert featuring pop legend Neil Sedaka.
While returning favorites such as Arlo Guthrie, Sweet Honey in the Rock and touring productions of big-name shows like “Cats” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” are sure to please regular CCA patrons, the renovation has afforded the venue a chance to expand its offerings. After the Collins Center’s initial opening last February, CCA staff has worked diligently to purchase and install a high-definition projector, surround sound and a transmitter for a satellite feed, in order to both screen movies and to show the wildly popular Metropolitan Opera in HD series.
The Met in HD will now broadcast its entire nine-performance 2009-2010 live at the CCA, as well as at the Grand Theatre in Ellsworth and the Strand Theatre in Rockland. The first screening is set for 1 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10, and will feature the Met’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca.”
“Film has always been something we’ve wanted to expand into,” said Patches. “There’s a definite want in the community for both a film series, and for the Met in HD and other HD satellite broadcasts. We’re happy to finally provide for that, and to add to our already eclectic performance series.”
That film series Patches referred to is the brand-new Collins Center Film Series, which kicked off last night with a screening of the rock documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil.” The series, set for 7 p.m. each Thursday during classes, will feature independent, foreign and documentary features. Upcoming screenings include “In the Loop” on Sept. 24, “Il Divo” on Oct. 1, “Food, Inc” on Oct. 8, “Unmistaken Child” on Oct. 22 and “Moon” on Oct. 29. Admission is $6.
“I think it’s a natural, for a college campus and for a greater community that’s been starved for non-mainstream movies,” said Patches. “We want people to know that every Thursday night, you can come to the Collins Center and see a great movie you might not normally get to see, on a big HD screen with surround sound. And we bought a popcorn machine, the complete the experience.”
The cafe in the lobby will feature a large mosaic, created by Portland artist Joe Kievitt, and is set to open the first week of October. It will be run by Abe and Heather Furth, owners of two Orono businesses — Woodman’s Bar and Grille, and the brand-new Verve. The CCA Cafe will feature Verve’s California-style burritos, fresh smoothies, gourmet coffee and bagels and bakery items from Bagel Central in Bangor. The Furths will also run the bar operations.
The collaboration between the Furths and the CCA is a first for a University of Maine organization — an outside business having a space on the UM campus.
“I think the future of any arts organization lies in its ability to branch out, to collaborate and to work with other people and the community,” said Patches. “Abe and Heather are very good at what they do, and they are both UMaine grads. We’re glad to be working with them.”
Part of the purpose of the renovation was to make the CCA an all-inclusive experience. At a given event, you get to socialize in the lobby, have lunch, dinner or a drink in the cafe, and check out the art and artifacts from native cultures from all over North America at the Hudson Museum. And that’s before you take in the actual event.
“The cafe and the renovated lobby and museum really reinforce the idea that you’re not just coming to the Collins Center to see a show, and that’s it,” said Patches. “It’s all inclusive for an evening out. It’s a full experience.”
Sept. 20: Fred Garbo Inflatable Theatre and Children’s Fair
Oct. 3: Gala opening with Neil Sedaka
Oct. 10: The Met in HD — Puccini’s Tosca
Oct. 11: Bangor Symphony Orchestra opening night with Tchaikovsky
Oct. 15: Shaolin Warriors
Oct. 18: Parker String Quartet
Nov. 3: Circo Aereo
Nov. 8: Bangor Symphony Orchestra — Beethoven’s Violin Concerto
Nov. 18: Barter Theatre Company’s “Of Mice and Men”
Nov. 21: Arlo Guthrie and Friends
Dec. 5. Sweet Honey in the Rock Holiday Show
Dec. 13: Danu: Christmas In Ireland: An Nollaig In Eirinn
Dec. 19 and 20: BSO and Robinson Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
Jan. 9 The Met in HD — Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier”
Jan. 16: The Met in HD — Bizet’s Carmen
Jan. 17: Marc-Andre Hamelin
Jan. 24: Suzanne Vega
Jan. 29: Chee-Yun and Alisa Weilerstein
Feb. 6: The Met in HD — Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra”
Feb. 27: “Jesus Christ Superstar”
Feb. 28: Brooklyn Rider String Quartet
March 7: Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny
March 19: An Evening of Chamber Music
March 24: Tao: The Martial Art of Drumming
March 27: The BSO and CCA present the Classical Mystery Tour
April 9: Cherryholmes
April 18: The BSO — Mozart in Paris
April 20: Moscow Festival Ballet’s “Swan Lake”
April 22: “Cats”
May 1: The Met in HD — Rossini’s “Armida”
May 16: The BSO — Rachmaninoff Goes Green