I knew when I had trouble finding a parking spot that it was going to be a successful opening night. I was glad, as I walked through the crowded parking lot holding my umbrella, that I called ahead and pre-ordered tickets for Beauty & the Beast. This was a night I did not want to miss.
Center Theatre is a special place. It is an iconic landmark in the Dover-Foxcroft area, and it adds a uniqueness and charm to the downtown area. If you live in Piscataquis County, you’ll appreciate the fact that you don’t have to drive an hour or more to Bangor to see your favorite newly released movies, because Center Theatre gets them, too. It is a smaller theater than the cinema’s you’d find in larger cities and towns, but there’s something special about that. Concessions are significantly more affordable, as are ticket prices. Live events come to the theater as well, such as concerts, comedians, and recording artists – some widely known in the New England area, and some world renowned. The theater rents space in their lobby and theater area for local organizations who need to hold an event such as a fundraiser, a business meeting, or even something educational like a drawing class. For members, classic movie nights offer nostalgic films for families to enjoy.
All of this truly sets Center Theatre apart from others of its kind. But there is one thing that I believe makes it extra special. From elementary students to seniors, those who have a love for the arts and a desire for theater can be involved in live performances. But how many theaters would allow a student to run an entire theatrical event? How many theaters would give a young man with a passion and an unusually outrageous talent full reign over such an endeavor? Where else could someone be given an opportunity like that?
This young man, Mitchell Chasse, is the reason I was out on a rainy Thursday night. I had an opportunity to meet and get to know Mitchell after he joined the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and it was because of his involvement with that program that I committed to doing some promotion for his event.
I had no idea what this boy could do! The more I listened and learned, the more eager and excited I became to see this show. Walking into the theater, I actually felt nervous for him. But I was also thankful that he was here, in Dover-Foxcroft, at this theater, showcasing his talent in a place that celebrates talent in such an exceptional way. I am certain that growing up in a small community like Dover-Foxcroft has given Mitchell opportunities I believe he would not have otherwise had in larger cities. Center Theatre opens its doors affectionately to young talent, and local businesses sponsor and support the arts. Even in this rural community, everyone comes together to invest in young lives that love the stage, and make it possible for someone like Mitchell to gain all the experience he needs to follow his dreams, perhaps all the way to Broadway.
Putting on a theatrical performance is no small endeavor. From paying for rights to the story, to raising funds to cover expenses, to casting, stage production, design and build, costume design, 6 weeks of rehearsals, one week of tech, lighting, props, marketing and .. I am sure I am forgetting something! Typically, an entire team of people would be needed to pull something like this together, right? So how is it that this 17 year old student did it all, himself?
When I walked in to the lobby, I was immediately taken in by the decorations, the life-sized cardboard Belle, the fireplace mantel with the covered enchanted rose from the story. It was all amazing. And this was just the lobby! I saw Mitchell greeting someone, he looked so excited I thought he might jump out of his skin, but at the same time, there was a calmness and confidence that seemed to cover him. This would be Mitchell’s 35th show, and I had a feeling it would be his best one yet. Over two months of non-stop work, and here it was, opening night.
Mitchell fell in love with theater at the age of 6 when he attended a performance of Cinderella at Foxcroft Academy. Less than two years later, he starred in his first show. His love for the stage began with acting, with his first role as the lamp-keeper in a show put on at the end of a two week drama camp, entitled Lamps & Rings and Genie Things. It was 2006 and he was eight years old. From that point, Mitchell was never involved in less than two productions per year, and sometimes as many as six. His bio is extensive, and his roles diverse. From there, Mitchell became skilled in every area of theater and some might argue, a young ‘expert’ in what it takes to run a successful show. So much so that he formed his own production company in 2012, “Mitchell Chasse Productions”.
Those who have been with Mitchell through his journey know that this show is different, and very significant. Mitchell is a senior, so this could very well be the last production staged at Center Theatre. If it is, he can hold his head high at the final curtain call, having accomplished something magnificent. Mitchell hand-picked and cast each actor/actress, is the director of the show, stage manager, light designer, choreographer and costume designer/builder (yes, he actually created the costumes, 70 of them to be exact, with the help of his mentor and teacher, Rhonda Kirkpatrick), and also carried the responsibility of promoting the show.
What he did to prepare for this is hard to comprehend for most- not because young adults his age are not capable, but because, in my experience, they usually do not want to commit to something this big and this time consuming. It is unusual to see someone his age take on this much responsibility with so many people counting on him to succeed. As I watched him enter the theater, I couldn’t help but think about how remarkable it all was.
Then the curtain opened. The music began, the lighting, the smoke, the effects, and I was in. All in. These actors and actresses, ranging from 6 to 19, we prepared, excited, and very capable. Coming from a theater background myself, I can appreciate the creative blocking, the casting decisions, the choreography, the singing, and most of all, the costumes. These costumes looked like they took months and months to put together. When Belle first crossed to center stage in her golden gown, all eyes were on her, and it was an emotional moment. I literally heard and felt awe sweep over the audience and actually saw several folks wiping away tears. It was just… well, what’s the word? Oh yes, m a g i c a l.
I am a people watcher. I couldn’t help but look around the audience – the expressions were priceless. It’s rare to see so much enjoyment in one place at one time! Of all the expressions, my favorite of the night was the one on Mitchell’s face. He was standing in the very back of the audience, smiling wide and clapping during what I thought was the best musical number of the evening, “Be Our Guest”. He was completely satisfied and profoundly proud, and boy, was he having fun! This was his baby, and it was coming to life before his eyes, and it was very, very good.
I could not wait to come home and blog about Beauty and the Beast. I want to say so much more about it, but don’t want to give too much away; no spoilers here!
My wish is that you won’t just want to read about it, but you’ll want to see it. If you live in Piscataquis County, it’s a terrific night out, right in your own backyard. If you are in Newport, or Dexter, or Bangor, I promise it will be worth the ride.
I will list the remaining show times at the end of this blog post. If you cannot make it, then thank you for reading, and until next time, thank you for taking a Peek into Piscataquis. But, you should really, really try to make it. 🙂
Beauty and the Beast Jr.
Center Theatre, Dover Foxcroft
July 30 at 7 PM
July 31 at 7 PM
August 1 at 2 PM and 7 PM
August 7 at 7 PM
August 8 and 2 PM and 7 PM
To purchase tickets visit centertheatre.org/events or call 564-8943
Presales: $10 Adults and $8 for Kids
At the Door: $12 Adults and $10 for Kids