Huge 'Hackmatack' Sign in Berwick Celebrates 45 Years of Theater

Huge 'Hackmatack' Sign in Berwick Celebrates 45 Years of TheaterWhen you see the big wooden "H" and the nine letters that follow sitting high on the hill, you might think you made a wrong turn somewhere along the continental divide.

Except that the sign says "Hackmatack" not "Hollywood." And there are bison, not buildings nearby. And grass on the ground, not pavement.

But like the letters overlooking the West Coast's entertainment mecca, Hackmatack's giant letters visible from Route 9 in Berwick tell of the bevy of talented actors performing in their shadow.

Built this spring by tech director Dane Leeman, the eight-foot foot blocks celebrate the 45th anniversary of Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick. They were the brainchild of Hackmatack's owner, Michael Guptill, who is always eager to shout from the highest rooftops when it comes to celebrating his family theater.

"I wanted to commemorate our 45 years in existence with a little whimsy," said Guptill, whose father started the playhouse in 1972.

Leeman spent two days this spring banging and cutting the lauan and two-by-fours.

"Dane sketched it into his notebook last winter and brought it to life this spring," said Guptill. The tech crew helped erect the letters in an event reminiscent of a entertainers' barn-raising.

Leeman is always imaginative and always willing to take on an off-beat projects," Guptill noted. "This was right up his alley."

And apparently visitors have been appreciating Guptill's sense of fun.

"Everyone loves it!!!" he reported, un-categorically. "And it's a conversation piece that leads to talk of our 45th anniversary."

Founded in 1972 by a family of farmers, who also happened to be entertainers, Hackmatack Playhouse has been offering theater every summer since. The playhouse in a barn that once belonged to the cows, Ethel, Dottie and Lil, is now showing "Steel Magnolias," the heart-warming story of three generations of women in a beauty salon in Louisiana, and will end this year's season with "The Fantasticks", a show it produced its first summer open and never again since, until now.

Popular as the sign is, Guptill plans to take it down in the fall, "maybe never to go up again," he rued.

But, fans need not despair. Guptill is considering another future for his letters.

"I do have a secret plan to put them up somewhere else as a sort of guerilla advertising campaign," he said. "The beach? The lawn of Ogunquit playhouse?" Perhaps, he suggested, visitors can offer ideas for their next resting spot.

"Steel Magnolias" opens Wednesday, July 26 and runs through Aug. 12 "The Fantasticks" opens Aug. 16 and runs through Sept. 2. All shows are 8 pm Wednesday to Saturday with matinees at 2 pm Thursdays. For more information and tickets call 207-698-1807 or go to

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