Val Crowley (left, Amy Roeder) talks with Fire Chief Chris Dove (Heather Astbury-Libby) about why she used drugs in Penobscot Theatre Company's production of "Safety Net" in March 2020. The production was the theater company's first that went online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Courtesy of Magnus Stark

After two seasons that were either cut short or moved entirely online due to the pandemic, the Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor has announced its slate of programming for the 2021-22 season — a season that finally will take place entirely in person.

This season, the company’s 48th, comes on the heels of what may be the most difficult period in modern history for many performing arts organizations across the globe — one that saw theater companies shut down operations entirely, and then scramble to reimagine performances for platforms such as Zoom and YouTube. The pandemic also wreaked financial havoc on performing arts organizations and Penobscot Theatre expects to see about $491,000 in recently announced federal relief to help it reopen its doors.

“It has been a long 18 months since we have had patrons fill our opera house,” acting artistic director Tricia Hobbs said. “While season 47 focused on keeping our community connected with our digital content, we are eager to welcome everyone back into our home for a memorable reopening.”

Penobscot Theatre will open its new season a few months later than usual with its holiday production, “Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play,” which will run Nov. 18 through Dec. 26. The holiday production, normally a separately ticketed event from season tickets, will be included in a season ticket purchase.

The next show in the season will be “Tell Me On A Sunday,” a one-woman show by Andrew Lloyd Webber, starring company regular Brianne Beck, which will run Jan. 6-23. It will be followed by “Maytag Virgin,” a new romantic comedy play by Audrey Cefaly, which will run Feb. 10-27.

In March, the theater will premiere a new play, “Hockey Mom,” written by Orono playwright Travis Baker, set for March 24 through April 16. The play, set in the fictional Maine town of Clara, tells the story of Cindy, a devoted hockey mom. Baker also wrote the plays “One Blue Tarp” and “Hair Frenzy,” both of which the theater produced in previous years.

The season will wrap up with “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” a holdover from the 2019-20 season that was canceled before it was supposed to premiere in April 2020. This time, the one-woman show about the iconic sex therapist starring the company’s executive director Jen Shepard will be performed May 5-22.

Additionally, Penobscot Theatre will offer four “add-on” shows sprinkled throughout the season. Running alongside “Miracle on 34th Street” will be “Who’s Holiday,” an adult parody of the story of the Grinch, set for Dec. 2-26 at the theater’s Dramatic Academy at 51 Main St.

Over the New Year, the company’s sister organization, ImprovAcadia, will offer three nights of long-form improv on Dec. 29, 30 and 31 at the Bangor Opera House. And for all five regular season shows, ImprovAcadia will offer an improvised show inspired by the play and audience suggestions, each on the second Sunday of the show’s run (Nov. 28, Jan. 16, Feb. 20, April 3 and May 15).

In one more holdover from the truncated 46th season, Penobscot Theatre will stage a summer musical, “9 to 5,” June 23 through July 31, based on the beloved movie starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. “9 to 5” was originally set to close out the season in June and July 2020.

The upcoming season will be Hobbs’ first as acting artistic director, after longtime artistic director Bari Newport left the company in the spring to run a different theater in Florida. A permanent replacement for Newport will not be announced until next year.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.