Company Diary: Portland Stage Raises Funds for Renovation

Portland Stage, Maine’s largest fully professional nonprofit theater, kicked off the public phase of its fundraising campaign June 21 with a cocktail reception, a joint discussion with playwrights John Cariani and Monica Wood, a presentation on plans renovation and a champagne toast on his stage.

“The fundraising campaign is a great opportunity for the Portland Stage building to match the way we engage in the community,” said Todd Nicolson, North Yarmouth Board Member. “The renovation will improve access both physically and artistically. Part of what we’re doing is sprucing up the building – and, of course, we’re really excited about the elevator.

Portland Stage produces seven mainline plays and an annual co-production with the Maine State Music Theater, in addition to a series of studio and development works and children’s theater programs. It all takes place in part of a former Odd Fellows Hall on Forest Avenue built in 1910.

“I started working here eight or nine years ago, and we’ve been talking about a renovation ever since,” said general manager Martin Lodish.

“This is an important step,” said Fred Farber, a Falmouth trustee.

The remodel will nearly double the space on the ground floor, move the ticket office to the front, dramatically improve accessibility with a new elevator, add gender neutral restrooms and “make an entrance” (the campaign theme) with a marquee and canopy featuring a light sculpture designed by Pandora LaCasse.

“It’s about accessibility, safety and being the gateway to the arts district in Portland,” said artistic director Anita Stewart. We are a theater and should look theatrical.

The fundraising campaign launched in 2019, and long-time donors, corporate sponsors and subscribers have already raised 75% of the $6.4 million goal.

“Tonight is the start of the public phase,” said fundraising campaign co-chair Malcolm Poole of Scarborough.

“We hope that by this time next year we will have reached the fundraising goal,” said development director Beth Given. “Construction begins next summer and we hope to have the renovations completed by our 50e season in fall 2023.

The fundraising campaign has two parts: facility upgrades and an endowment for statewide education programs.

“Hordes of young people are seeing their first play here,” said Monica Wood, whose debut play, “Papermaker,” was the highest-grossing show in Portland Stage history.

For John Cariani, who grew up on Près Isle, a school visit to Portland Stage in 1986 changed his life. The first play he wrote, “Almost, Maine”, became one of the most frequently produced productions in the United States.

For more information, including how to donate, visit

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]

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