Acorn Productions Teams with Maine Charitable Mechanics Association for New Performance Space

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Acorn Productions Teams with Maine Charitable Mechanics Association for New Performance Space

Acorn Productions, the 501(c)3 organization that operates the Naked Shakespeare series, has entered into a collaborative agreement with the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association (MCMA), the non-profit organization that owns and operates Mechanics Hall, located at 519 Congress Street, to complete the final stages of renovations to the third floor ballroom space so that the venue can be licensed for public performances.

This partnership not only provides the MCMA with an experienced collaborator with a proven track record in the community of developing new performance arts venues, but also holds the potential of relocating Naked Shakespeare's monthly shows to the Congress Street Arts District corridor, which would allow them to reach a long-held goal of offering performances for the public during the First Friday art walks.

Under the terms of the agreement, Acorn plans to begin weekly private workshops at Mechanics Hall this fall for professional actors wishing to deepen their ability to work with the Shakespeare's text, while working with MCMA to raise the funds needed to meet required fire and safety codes in order to receive a public assembly license for the space.

Anyone interested in more information about MCMA and Acorn's renovation campaign, or actors interested in participating in Naked Shakespeare's fall workshop series should contact Acorn Productions at www.acorn-productions.org or acornacting@gmail.com.

Over the past year, MCMA has been working behind the scenes to make improvements to the Mechanics Hall ballroom space in order to make the space as flexible and accommodating as possible to a wide variety of uses and patrons. The non-profit organization has narrowed down their list of work needed to receive a public assembly license to the point where a final push should allow the venue to open sometime during the 2014/15 arts season. Acorn and MCMA plan to announce soon the details of the campaign to renovate the space, which will not only address accessibility and code issues, but also raise funds to purchase some of the equipment needed to host events iincluding theatrical performances, musical concerts, grand balls, contra/folk dances, workshops, dramatic readings, lectures, and films just to name a few. Portland finds itself in the enviable position of being a city long on arts organizations but short on venues, and the location of Mechanics Hall in the arts district means that the proposed 50 to 300-person affordable and classy space should find many users. Over time, MCMA's ballroom venue will become a cultural, social, and educational center for its members and the community.

In addition to Acorn's collaboration with MCMA, the company has two exciting events planned for the fall of 2014, both of which take place in October. As Naked Shakespeare has often done, the company brings its unique performance style of speeches and short scenes to the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) on October 16th at 6pm and October 18th at 11am. Presented in conjunction with the PMA fall show Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection, the performance features teams of actors in three different locations throughout the PMA presenting the environmentally-staged pieces that have become the company's trademark. Acorn's other fall performance is another edition of the Walk Among the Shadows presentation that is co-produced with Spirits Alive! at the Eastern Cemetery. This year's show centers around the year 1807, and once again features 8 actors bringing to life stories from Portland's past after dark between October 23rd and 31st. Acorn is currently auditioning actors and writers interested in being a part of this celebration of Portland's history; interested artists are asked to contact Acorn for more information.

For the past ten years, Acorn's Naked Shakespeare ensemble has trained dozens of actors, brought the words of the Bard to schools, libraries, and retirement communities throughout Greater Portland, and helped catalyze interest in the works of William Shakespeare. For five of those years, the company presented a monthly series of shows at the Wine Bar on Wharf Street, attracting a loyal base of audience members along with many visitors from out of town who remarked on the innovative nature of the troupe's work. During this period, the company created a home for itself in the Acorn Studios in Westbrook, where actors met weekly to rehearse and train, as well as developing their performance pieces. In April of 2014, while in the process of making the difficult decision to relinquish the company's studio in Westbrook, Acorn's Founder and Naked Shakespeare Director Michael Levine began meetings with board members of the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association (MCMA) regarding their ongoing work developing Mechanic Hall's third-floor ballroom into a performance space and rental hall. These meetings developed into an agreement to collaborate on space renovations as well as hosting a new series of training workshops open to any professional actor in the Greater Portland area.

Acorn Productions' mission is to invigorate the community of performing artists in Southern Maine. Acorn seeks to nurture new performance pieces, develop artist collaborations, train new talent, and make the arts accessible to a wide spectrum of the general public. Acorn offers public performances, educational programs, and provides an entry point for individual artists seeking to become more active members of the performing arts community. Acorn Productions presented its first show in September of 1995 under the umbrella of Oak Street Theatre. The company became an independent 501(c)3 company in August of 1998. During the 2000/2001 season, Acorn Productions collaborated with Friends of St. Lawrence on renovating the parish hall of the St. Lawrence church and opened the new theatre with a presentation of Much Ado About Nothing in May of 2001. This experience renovating a historic structure into a performance space provides Acorn staff with invaluable experience in this new collaboration with Mechanics Hall. More information about Acorn's plans for the fall of 2014 is available on the company's website www.acorn-productions.org or by emailing Michael Levine, the company's Founding Producing Director at acornacting@gmail.com.

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