BELFAST—If the Midcoast has a Theatre District, it’s most definitely centered in Belfast.
The Belfast Maskers are an organization for the performing arts that’s been in operation since 1987. In July, 2018, they made the old Church at 17 Court Street their new home. And like any working not-for-profit, improvements have been continual, dependent on the support of the community and grantors.
On Friday, Feb. 21, the doors opened to the public for a tour of the newly developed theater—The Basil Burwell Community Theater, nicknamed “The Bazz” —an intimate jewel box theater with raked seating for up to 100 people.
Visitors were invited into a vibrantly painted lobby, and stairwell created by local artist, Krista Odom of Alpha Libra.
The Belfast Maskers have come full circle in the community in terms of their new home. In the mid-1990s, they had a city-owned building down by the waterfront and operated from that until the building fell into disrepair and the organization had to leave in 2011. After, that they became a wandering troupe of performers, staging their shows in a variety of venues until the old church came up for sale. At one point, the downstairs apartment was owned by a couple who periodically rented the upstairs performance space. But after the last tenant left, the building sat dormant for about 10 years. In the last year and a half, the Belfast Maskers have transformed the downstairs apartment area into several useful rooms, such as a dressing room, a hair, and makeup room, a fully functioning kitchen and a living room/community space. The theater has been built upstairs in this historic building.
“Essentially the downstairs is ‘The Green Room,’ said Sasha Kutsy, President of the Board of Directors. “Also, it’s a place where all of our community events take place. For example, we have a group of teen fiddlers and guitar players that meet on Mondays; we have an improv group that meets here and other groups as well.”
The purpose of the Open House was not only to showcase all of the improvements to the building and performance space, but to let the overall community in to see what potential it has for them.
“It’s a way to invite people who maybe haven’t been to a show before and see what the space is all about and let them know it’s accessible and economical to rent out either the theater or the downstairs community space,” said Artistic Director Meg Nickerson.
The Belfast Maskers currently produce five shows per year staged at the new Basil Burwell Community Theater. The rest of the year, the organization is open to other traveling theater groups, performance groups, or any group that wants to rent the space for creative endeavors or meetings.
“We’re working really hard to create this resource for the community of musicians, performers, artists to use it,” said Kutsy. “We’ve had so many improvements, we want people to see how that could benefit them.”
“We have rented the downstairs space to groups that have work meetings here and fun things like dances, classes, celebrations and movie nights,” said Nickerson. “It’s a place for seniors, children, and everyone in between. It’s also the place to see some amazing, live theater.”
“With The Crosby Center down the street, Belfast really now has a ‘Theatre District,’” said Kutsy. “What works very well is that we’re both different performance spaces. The Crosby Center seats 350-plus people, so that’s appropriate for some productions. And for some productions that are smaller and only want 100 people in the audience, this is the more intimate space with great sightlines from every seat.”
Currently, the organization is busy rehearsing and building sets for the upcoming play As You Like It, re-imagined in 1960s Woodstock March 12 to 22. For more information about the theater itself visit: Belfast Maskers
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org