Hackmatack Cancels Season, But Will Run Camp

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Hackmatack Cancels Season, But Will Run Camp

Hackmatack Playhouse announced this week it is cancelling its main stage productions for the summer of 2020 for the first time in 47 consecutive summers of providing theater from a barn on a farm in Berwick.

"With a heavy heart I am announcing the cancellation of our 2020 season, "said Michael Guptill, Hackmatack's owner and son of the man who founded the theater on the family's 17th century farm. "We did not see a safe- or economically sound- way forward and the health and safety of our actors, our staff, and our patrons must come first," Guptill added.

The cancellation was announced after Guptill and his team reviewed state guidelines about public gatherings and considered the uncertainties and risks associated with the season ahead.

Maine's guidelines do, however, allow for day camps, so the theater plans to run the summer theatre camp weekdays from June 22 to July 3. This will allow campers ages 7 to 13 to have the run of the barn and fields as they play games and rehearse for "Schoolhouse Rock Jr.," an energetic, upbeat show that will be produced on July 3.

"We are happy we can still run the camp and in this way bring arts to children and their families during this period," said Sarah Hashem, the camp's director

Youngsters who want to attend camp at Hack-ma-camp, as it is called, will have the run of the fields and theater this year.

In a letter to supporters and in a facebook posting, Hackmatack acknowledged the challenge the theater is facing as a result of cancelling its three main stage shows.

"The current situation has put Hackmatack Playhouse in a very precarious financial situation," the letter said.

Preparation for a theatre season begins months before opening night and Hackmatack invested heavily in the 2020 season, the theater noted.

As a result Hackmatack is asking those who already bought tickets to choose between making e a donation, getting credit for next summer, or receiving a refund.

"Given our financial position at this point, this option may take some time," Guptill admitted, adding, "Hackmatack appreciates the generosity of so many folks over the decades, and we thank you so much for any additional generosity you might be able to provide in this time of crisis."

Artistic Director Danielle Howard acknowledged that this time of uncertainty "is a little scary and stressful" for the arts community.

We will all just do the best we can," Howard said. "We'll try to remain hopeful together and plan for our return-in whatever form it takes."

This year's season could be deferred so Hackmatack produces "The Foreigner," "Legally Blonde," and "The Spitfire Grill" next year, Howard said, but noted the future is still unclear.

"We will all have to see what happens- but we are hopeful that we will have the barn doors open again with an exciting return in 2021," she said.

The camp, which will run full days, costs $600. A $100 refundable deposit is necessary to hold a place in the camp, according to Hashem. Space is limited and enrollment is on a first come basis.
More information is available from the Hackmatack Box Office at 207-698-1807.

As he searches for a silver lining, Guptill says that a cancelled season may mean a once-in-a-lifetime trip with his wife.

"This will be an opportunity to take my wife on her first summer vacation for decades," said Guptill. But, he added, "of course there is nowhere to go."


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