1. How long have you been a part of the CLT family?
I have been with CLT since 1989 when I was the rehearsal pianist and pit conductor for West Side Story.
2. How many shows have you been a part of at CLT?
I’ve lost count of the actual number but it’s around fifty.
3. What first got you involved with CLT, and what keeps you coming back?
I had been teaching at St. Dom’s and directed and music directed for the Drama Club. I had just started graduate school and met John Blanchette and Eileen Messina at a Lewiston High School production of Oliver. I also met Scott Powers when we played for Lewiston High School’s previous production of The Wizard of Oz. So all of these people were kind enough to think of me when they need someone for the 1989 CLT production of West Side Story. I was later asked by John to be the music director of the 1990 summer production of 42nd Street. That was my first MD position. Later, I was asked to direct Fiddler on the Roof for a January 1994 production. I keep coming back because of the challenge of each show whether it’s from the development of the actors’ perspectives on stage, the creation of a sound from the orchestra, or just working with a good group of people. Usually, it’s the combination of these three along with many more reasons.
4. When you are not involved in a production, what else do you enjoy doing?
Most people know that I read a lot of books, so that’s a given. I also direct a couple of choirs for the Prince of Peace Parish and play for the services. I also must do the New York Times Crossword puzzle every day!
5. Can you tell us something about you that most people may not know?
I won the Industrial Arts Award in the eighth grade for outstanding student. Now anyone who knows me would find this ridiculous as I don’t know which end of a screwdriver to use to pound a nail.
6. Is there one show (or more) that you could be a part of that you would never get tired of?
There are several that I wouldn’t mind doing for a long period of time. As Musical Director, I wouldn’t get tired of A Chorus Line, Chicago, Little Shop of Horrors, The Fantasticks, and Spamalot. As Director, Avenue Q, Annie, and yet to be done, Something Rotten.
7. Why do you feel theater is an important part of a community?
The theater has always provided a creative outlet for people to either participate on stage in or appreciate from the audience. The process of any production brings people of different backgrounds, talents, beliefs, cultures, and knowledge to work and play together in creating a visual experience from a bunch of lines on pieces of paper. The audience participates as well when it suspends its own sense of reality to allow the performers to take on various roles, whether serious or comical, to break out into song for no apparent reason and dance a number without necessarily moving the show the next logical point. Theater can provide solace and comfort during difficult times such as the one we’re presently experiencing. When this pandemic becomes part of our history, there will be more of a need to get back to the old brick building and put on a show! In fact, I am sure that there are future works being created right now that may someday be presented on the CLT stage that address the present state of affairs.
8. Will we be seeing you again in the future?
Well, before the pandemic hit, I was in line to be at the theatre for most of the next year. As soon as things get back to normal (in 2025?), I plan on being somewhere directing or behind the set, conducting.
Paul G. Caron (Director and Musical Director) with cast members of CLT's 2019 ANNIE!
I love Dunkin Donuts coffee. I have a coffee maker at home and rarely use it because I like DD better. I also try to be frugal because as a single parent with a child in college and another on the way to college, I don’t often indulge myself – but coffee is a must. Every mornin g I have a “Medium- Hot- Regular cream and sugar”.
$2.68 5x a week = $13.40 4 weeks a month = $53.60
But when I think about it, let me be honest – I will grab a cup on weekends also, and if heading to the theater for meetings or rehearsals, I will also grab one, so maybe that 5x a week (including weekends and odd meetings and such) is really closer to 9x a week.
That would make me $24.12/week, $96.48/ month on average.
$1,157.76/ year. No, I’m not writing a blog post about Budgeting, or about breaking my caffeine addiction. I’m writing this blog because of CLT.
I don’t think it’s outrageous for me to say that I may well be the longest continually active member of CLT, having moved here at age 7 and both my parents dived right in, having done theater both professionally and non-professionally for their whole lives. As have I now, and my siblings. During CLT’s 75th Anniversary Gala I speculated that I may well have spent more of my life in the actual CLT building than I have at my own home!
I was a part of the Auburn Parks and Recreation Theater (A.P.A.R.T.) with our dearly loved Judy Walker for 5 years (8-13) – along with some of our best and brightest now. I also taught dance for Lois Camire for years and we did all of our recitals at CLT; I was the building manager for about 5 years as a part time job which meant I was the technician for all outside groups as far as lights and sound, and also had the privilege of cleaning the theater including shampooing rugs and scrubbing toilets and making sure everything was stocked and garbage taken out. When Judy retired from the APART program she handpicked me to follow her, and I continued it for 3 more years till the funding was cut. That was every day from 9am-12pm in summer. When he Summer Youth Theatre started, I was a part of that program until age 22, and we literally spent almost all free hours at the theater as we were responsible for teaching ourselves how to build sets, hang and focus lighting, make props and costumes. We simply lived at the theater. I can’t tell you how many things I missed in school, dances, events, trips, because I’d rather stay and run spotlight, or be in a show, or run props. The things you love are important and the time given doesn’t seem a hardship. As an adult, I have directed a dozen shows here, not counting at other theaters and schools, and have choreographed countless more. The point being, I know this building like the back of my hand. Even to the point of a final, late-nigh walk through of the building the night before the entire west wing was demolished. So CLT is in my blood.
What’s my point? We have the ability now to be recurring donors to CLT, and I am one. (ONE OF ONLY TWO, BTW). Yes, I am a recurring donor, but I realized the other day - quite uncomfortably:
I give more money to Dunkin Donuts in a year than I do to Community Little Theater, where I was raised and formed and where I have raised my own kids.
I have very mixed feelings about this building – as no one has more reason to be sentimental about it than I do, but I am not. CLT is not about this building and if (god forbid) the building was gone tomorrow no one truly thinks the group would disband in our 80th year, after going 60 of those years without a building of our own. I feel at this point, when I am honored to be acting Executive Director for now, that we are in thrall to the building. Our money concerns are no longer about making sure we have the money to produce the level of shows we want, but rather to keep the building standing over our heads. Our workshops on auditioning and stage craft have given way to Community Days where we work on keeping the building façade from crumbling or making sure the basement is up to building codes. There has to be a happy medium.
At the upcoming meeting on March 9 – we have members coming as well as patrons and sponsors, all are invited, and I’m going to put out a contribution basket. Not for HVAC or Community Days, not to go for heating oil or plowing, but for PROGRAMMING. I’d like to get some performers in for concerts and events who are willing to split the door proceeds. Anyone who wants to perform, open mike, trivia, spoken word, let’s do all of those things, charge $5 at the door, one night only for each so as not to interrupt rehearsals, and the proceeds go to future programming. I’m going to call this CLT Spotlight, Let’s see the Groover/McClure Family singers! Let’s see a Trivia night with Nathan White! Let’s see spoken word, open mic, and sing alongs. Toss me your ideas when you toss $5 into that basket ;-)
I’m also going to put out a plea for donors and recurring donors. ANY amount is helpful if you love CLT.
Honestly, I felt ashamed that I pledge more to Dunkin than to CLT.
So I’m going to both ask and challenge people to sign up as a monthly donor:
$10 a month automatically on your debit or credit card. $120 a year (for reference we average about 40 people at our meetings, if everyone gave only $10 per month we’d have an extra $5,000.)
While I’m trying to literally put my money where my mouth is (thanks Dunkin!) I’m asking others to join me in putting our money where our heart is: be a $10/month recurring donor with me.
See you Monday night!
Eileen M. Messina
Executive Director a L/A Community Little Theatre
1) How long have you been a part of the CLT family?
My first production with CLT was "Fiddler on the Roof" back in January, 1994... so that would make it 26 years, presuming this is published in January, 2020. However, I lived in Brooklyn, NY, from very late 2003 to not-quite-as-late 2008, so there was a period of almost five years where my participation decreased to zip, zilch, zero, and nada. Maybe those shouldn't count? I'll let you decide. (We decided he was “on hiatus”)
2) How many shows have you played for at CLT?
If my math and my recollection are good (to be clear, the math is fine; the recollection, well...), this past October's production of "Annie" was my 42nd show at CLT. I've done "Little Shop of Horrors" twice (once in the late 90s / early 00s (pre-NY), and again in April, 2016 (post-NY)). My notes indicate that I've played "Into The Woods" twice at CLT (in the same pre-NY / post-NY configuration), but I seem to think that the first time (late 90s / early 00s again) was one of those all student productions - and I further seem to think that it was the only time I actually saw the "pit" utilized as such. For what it's worth, those 42 productions represent about 25.15% of my musical theater career thus far, which puts it at #1 on My List of Where I Play Musicals (the #2 spot is only 13.77%, if that says anything)... so I guess CLT has always been my home base.
3) What first got you involved in playing in our musical pits, and why do you keep coming back?
This might not sound good, but I wasn't originally that "into" musical theater. I heard mostly oldies at home growing up, which led to my affinity for rock 'n' roll... and when I got to high school, I started listening to more classical - and, perhaps oddly enough, at the same time, to more jazz. I was aware that musical theater existed, but it wasn't something I actively listened to (my dad had an old vinyl record of "Fiddler On The Roof" that he played from time to time, and my mom occasionally played some songs from "My Fair Lady" on our piano, and I was familiar with "West Side Story", though I don't remember who introduced me to that).
Then, around my Junior year, a friend (who was vastly more cultured than I) showed me his collection of these new-fangled CD things, and played a few that he thought I would enjoy. One of them was the soundtrack to Cy Coleman's "City Of Angels", and it was great - all smokin' hot big band charts and such (remember I was getting more into jazz during this same time), and I had him dub me a copy onto cassette.
I knew CLT existed, but since musical theater wasn't my thing, I didn't pay it much mind. But then somewhere in the spring of '93, that same friend informed me that CLT had announced their 1993-1994 season, and that "City Of Angels" was on the docket for the following May. I was interested, but I didn't really know what to do.
As luck would have it, another friend had been tapped to play alto sax in the August, 1993, production of "Grease" (by his teacher, who was playing tenor sax, if memory serves), and my at-the-time girlfriend really wanted to see it... so we went. After the show, I went up to talk to my friend, and he introduced me to Music Director Extraordinaire Paul G. Caron. At the time, I had just completed my Sophomore year at the University of Southern Maine (do they still call it that?), and my friend made mention of that. Paul asked if this meant I could play timpani and xylophone and bells, and I said yes, I was fairly competent at all of them. This seemed to please him, and he told me that he was Music Directing "Fiddler On The Roof" the following January, and maybe he would call me up for that if I was interested, as his "regular guy" was good with drums but didn't love all the percussion stuff as much.
It occurred to me that if I did a good enough job playing "Fiddler" (remember, now, that my dad had that record, so I was already pretty familiar with the songs), maybe Paul would ask me to play for "City Of Angels"... and to make a long story not quite as long, that's pretty much what happened.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself in pretty steady rotation at CLT... and here we are.
I keep coming back to CLT for a few reasons:
 There's always a good blend of familiar faces (the "regulars") and fresh talent (the "newbies").
 There's always a good mix of "classics" and newer material on the schedule.
 Everyone there is committed to the common goal of putting on the best possible show for the audience.
 It's close (even if I hit all the red lights, it's ten minutes from my house to the theater).
4) When you’re not backstage playing percussion, what else do you enjoy doing?
My drumsticks and I do get around a bit. I play at some other musical theater venues around the state, often with other musicians from CLT pits; I play fairly regularly with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, Bates College, Bowdoin College, the Maine Music Society, and the Maine State Ballet Orchestra (I recently determined that their 2019 production of "The Nutcracker" was probably my 25th time playing it - there's that iffy recollection again)... and I play in a wedding band with several regular CLT musicians (Mike French, Neil James, Rebecca Caron, Mike Plossay, Steve Barter, audio engineering guru Tom Anderson...). I also have a day job; I might not always "enjoy" it, but it's usually bearable. I really enjoy my family: my wife, Joni, and I have a five-year-old son, Silas; we like LEGOs and Thomas The Tank Engine and PJ Masks and Puppy Dog Pals and Paw Patrol and Hot Wheels and the Trampoline Park... I enjoy cooking, crossword puzzles, reading (whenever there's time), listening to music, attending concerts of bands I like (2019 was an especially good year for that: I got to see Joe Jackson, Dream Theater, The Winery Dogs, Snarky Puppy, Thank You Scientist, Periphery, Jonny Lang (that was more for the wife), The Pineapple Thief, and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones!). I've also composed music, in my younger days, and I have numerous unfinished pieces that I would love to work on... whenever I can carve out enough time for such an undertaking.
5) Can you tell us something about you that most people may not know?
My original "life plan" was to graduate high school, go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and get a job working for NASA - not as an astronaut, necessarily, but probably somewhere in Mission Control.
6) Why do you feel theater is an important part of a community?
For the performers and others involved in a theatrical production, theater provides an outlet for their creativity, a chance for them to be someone else for a period of time, an opportunity to showcase their unique talent(s) and ability(ies) that they might not otherwise have. For the audience members, theater provides an escape from the ins-and-outs of daily life - similar to a book, or going to see a movie. With a book, though, it's just the reader and the words on the pages - and sometimes that could be just what one needs; going to the theater, though, allows for a similar experience, but shared with a couple hundred fellow audience members - and they all laugh together, feel surprised together, get teary-eyed together, and clap together - there's that sense of belonging that one doesn't get with solitary reading. And while going to the movies may be similar to going to the theater, there's something more powerful, more immediate, more compelling about seeing the action unfold right in front of you with real, live people, instead of just watching images on a big screen. And for everybody, theater is important because it affirms that the arts are still alive and that they still matter... for are not the arts a very significant part of what makes us human?
7) Is there one show (or more) that you could play for over and over and never get tired of?
Hmm. This is a little challenging; there have been numerous shows that I've wished could have extended beyond their 7 / 8 / 9-performance run... but I wonder if I would feel the same way if I was playing those same shows day in, day out for months (or even years) on end. That said, I could see myself enjoying long runs of "Jesus Christ Superstar", "City Of Angels", "Pippin", or "West Side Story"...
8 ) Will we be hearing more from you during our 80th season?
Unknown at this time, but the possibility remains.
I am sad to report that I will not be heard during "The Drowsy Chaperone", as I am already committed to another show in another town.
Fingers crossed that someone calls for "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"; hopefully I'll see you all in August!!