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Portland Stage Kicks Off 2018 with BABETTE'S FEAST

Portland Stage is pleased to present Babette's Feast, running Jan 23 through Feb 18 on the Mainstage. This production of Babette's Feast was conceived and developed by Portland Stage Affiliate Artist Abigail Killeen in a process that began over a decade ago. The production is made possible by the generous support of Jennifer Carolyn King & Timothy Fredel, the Rugged Elegance Foundation.

A refugee transforms a closed religious community by sacrificing all she has to throw a lavish dinner party. Through her radical hospitality, this mysterious woman converts her guests' deeply held notions of scarcity and judgement and opens them up to give and receive abundant grace. This adaptation re-imagines the story you thought you knew about Babette's singular feast: deep, funny, dangerous, sensual, and beautiful.

Babette's Feast is an imaginative and theatrical examination of Dinesen's classic short story that brings us into the cloistered world of two loving and devout Protestant sisters and tells us how they came to let Babette, a refugee from a French revolution (and perhaps worse yet, a Catholic) into their midst as a woman they would later come to depend upon. It tells a story of grace, renewal, and the ways an outsider can truly change a community for the better if given the chance.

Babette's Feast examines, in part, the fears even well-meaning people have about outsiders in their communities. When Martine and Philippa meet Babette (an arsonist, a Catholic, and a refugee of a communist uprising in France) they weigh the risks and rewards of taking in an outsider. Over the years, the sisters grow to depend on Babette but they still fear the feast she's prepared for a celebration. Their minds jump to witchcraft, poisonings, and a sinful, gluttonous life of excess. Over the course of the show, audiences find what Babette really gives them is not a merely meal, but grace.


Abigail Killeen is a theater artist based in Portland, Maine. She is an Affiliate Artist at Portland Stage, Maine's only LORT theater, where she performs regularly, as well as with other New England theaters, specializing in new and developing theater projects. She is a company member with Compagnia de' Colombari, an international theater company based in New York. Abigail's particular interests include generating theatrical projects for women that investigate grace and transformation. Her original performance version of Virginia Woolf's "Mark on the Wall", created with Adrianne Krstansky, premiered in Chicago, she was awarded a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to produce a solo performance work as part of Portland Stage's Studio Series, and she will perform in this adaptation of Babette's Feast. Abigail has served on the theater faculty at Bowdoin College since 2008.


Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) was born at her family's estate near the town of Rungsted, Denmark in 1885. An imaginative and artistic child, she attended the Royal Academy in Copenhagen and also studied in England, Switzerland, Italy, and France. Blixen wrote in English and then translated her stories into her native Danish, resulting in unusually beautiful prose which emphasized her self-declamation as a fortaellerske - an oral storyteller. In 1914 she married Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke and traveled to Kenya where they started a coffee plantation. The marriage was difficult and the couple eventually divorced. While in Kenya she met Denys Finch Hatten and the two maintained a romance until his death in an airplane accident in 1931. Soon afterwards Blixen returned to Denmark and began to write in earnest. She was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and her memoir Out of Africa as well as Babette's Feast have been adapted into Academy Award-winning films. She continued to write until her death at the age of 77 in 1962.


Rose Courtney is a playwright and actor whose work has been seen at Keen Company, Cherry Lane Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Lark Theatre Company, George Street Playhouse, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Dorset Theatre Festival, and HERE Arts Center, among others. She was educated at Vassar College and received her theatre training at RADA, the Eugene O'Neill Center's National Theatre Institute and New Actors Workshop. She was an original member of Project 400 Theatre Group, where she collaborated on many new theatre pieces under the direction of Diane Paulus. A member of the Dramatists Guild, Rose resides in New York City and is currently working on a play called Varya.


Michelle Hurst has had an extensive career in theatre, film and television, playing everything from judges, lawyers, and doctors to irate mothers, ghostly slaves, and Henry James. Ms. Hurst's film credits in feature and independent films include Jean of the Joneses, Airheads, Sherrybaby, The Night We Never Met, Smoke and Frances Ha.

Theatre has always been her first love and she has performed at The Williamstown Theatre Festival, Long Wharf Theatre, NYSF/The Public Theater, Soho Rep, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, among others. She has also performed a one-person play, In This Place..., at the Downtown Arts Center (Lexington, KY); 651 ARTS and The Irondale Ensemble Project (Brooklyn, NY); The Kitchen Theatre (Ithaca, NY); and The Painted Bride Theatre (Philadelphia, PA).

Her television credits include major roles on BBC1's Last Tango in Halifax, Broad City, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods, multiple episodes of all three Law & Order shows, and Sex and the City. Soon she will be seen in Chris Piazza's film short "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home," as a former jazz singer battling Alzheimer's and ruthless realtors. Michelle is probably most recognized for her portrayal of Miss Claudette Pelage on the award-winning Netflix series, Orange is the New Black.


Portland Stage creates one-of-a-kind productions specifically planned for its community. Each season, Artistic Director Anita Stewart seeks a way to connect the plays with a thematic thread. For the 2017-2018 Season, that thematic thread is a sense of discovery about the characters. A viewer might believe they know who they are meeting in the first scene, but as the plays unfold, audiences discover that characters they thought they knew have an unexpected side. According to Stewart, these stories highlight the individuality of people. She hopes the community will see themselves in them, and will be able to relate experiences to their own lives, to their communities, and to their own family traditions right here in Maine. "It is always inspiring to have a group of people who see a body of work, start to finish. I greatly appreciate the willingness of our audience to venture with us on a wide range of theatrical journeys. I'm especially excited about the lineup for the upcoming 2017-2018 Season, which includes several new plays that I think audiences will like" says Stewart. There is a lot within this season to think about, experience and discuss.


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In this riveting two-person drama, Zoe, a biracial student, and Janine, her white professor, meet to discuss their differing views on Zoe's paper about slavery and the American Revolution. This polite clash of ideas soon landslides into an explosive discussion of race, history, privilege, and social justice.

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