BANGOR, Maine — Not too far in the distant past, the 92-year-old Bangor Opera House’s balcony was jammed with live theater fans and moviegoers.
Now, the space that used to be able to seat nearly 1,000 people is jammed with rows upon rows of uniforms, costumes and other wardrobe items arranged around a minimountain of theater seats that were unbolted and piled into a corner to create more storage and work space.
“We would like to use that upstairs space for other things like building sets and office space,” said Bari Newport, Penobscot Theatre Company’s artistic director. “Our offices right now are in a building next door, which is kind of frustrating, but our primary, most pressing need is to have a place to build our sets.”
Like private box seats to a sold-out show, storage and set-building space is at an all-time premium for the Penobscot Theatre Company, which largely explains why Newport is a bit frazzled these days.
“Our lease for the house we’ve been renting from John Bapst High School to build sets and props runs out Aug. 31 and our new season starts Sept. 5,” said Newport, a Los Angeles native who took over the PTC director’s job Jan. 1 this year. “We have to move out by the end of June because John Bapst needs the house to convert it into student housing.”
On top of that, the PTC’s next production — “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” — will publicly debut May 30.
“Ideally, we could use a place with 16- to 18-foot ceilings and 6,000 to 10,000 square feet of space so we can also move and store almost 40 years’ worth of costumes,” Newport said. “What we really need is someone in this community who cares deeply enough about supporting the only year-round theater serving northern Maine to donate space, ideally to have it all in one spot.”
For the last three years, the PTC has rented a building on Somerset Street from John Bapst for $1 a month plus utilities, used storage space at the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department, and every available nook and cranny at the opera house for storage.
“We’re literally maxed out in terms of available space,” said Aaron Noble, acting technical director. “It would be great if we could someday get to the point where we can actually add seating. This place used to be able to seat around 2,000.”
Currently, the theater’s capacity is 322.
Newport, Managing Director Marcie Bramucci, and other PTC staff members are also in the process of planning a “community day,” open-house type of event for the theater on Saturday, June 30.
“We’ll have a public barbecue and be giving tours all day, showing movies and hosting a cabaret,” Newport explained.
It’s all being done with an eye toward the company’s 40th anniversary coming up in 2014.
“With so much history in this building, it would be great if we could find a long-term solution to our current space needs,” said Newport. “There must be someone out there who can help us out. We hope this helps them find us.”
Anyone who would like to help with the nonprofit Penobscot County Theatre’s space crunch can call the PTC’s office at 947-6618, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the PTC administrative offices on the fourth floor at 115 Main St. in Bangor.