KENNEBUNK — MaineStage Shakespeare will return for a third consecutive summer, with the added perk of expanding performances to Kennebunkport, in addition to Kennebunk.
The theater company, whose cast includes 12 actors, one resident stage manager, one director and a handful of interns from Kennebunk High School, offers free productions of Shakespeare’s plays for public viewing in Kennebunk’s Lafayette Park.
Typically, Meg Smith said, there is an even mix of returning company members and new ones. Such is the case this year.
All of the actors this summer are in their 20s; the majority of the company hails from New York, but Virginia, Illinois and Massachusetts are also represented.
MaineStage Shakespeare was formed by Meg Smith, Chiara Klein and Stephanie Strohm in 2010. Smith, who serves as the educational director for the company, graduated from Trinity College in 2009. Since then, she has been working as a professional actor in New York City.
“This company is my first foray into the administrative side of theater. We are still excited at the idea of being able to create our own experience,” Smith said. “It happened through a lot of trial and error, but we learned and were hoping it can stick around for a long time.”
Smith and Strohm initially decided to open the summer theater in Kennebunk out of convenience — they both have summer homes in Kennebunkport.
“Kennebunk seemed an ideal place to have a theater, also because we already had two houses to house the actors in. It was an issue of bringing the company to a town where we thought we would be needed and welcomed,” Smith said.
Smith, Strohm and Klein work yearround to prepare for the upcoming summer.
“We work to fundraise, plan and compile what our season is going to be — the only time we’re together is here in Kennebunk for the summer,” Smith said.
“Various members of our company also worked on an education tour, which was a full production of “Macbeth” in New York and in Kennebunk,” she said.
In addition to receiving free housing, the actors are primarily paid through donations accrued throughout the summer and summer camp program fees.
“The majority of our money comes from donations from members of the town, businesses. We have experienced amazing support from the town of Kennebunk,” Smith said.
Kelly Pekar, who is a second-year member of the company, met Klein, who is the art director, through an off-Broadway play in New York City. She said her favorite part about MaineStage is getting to know the town of Kennebunk.
“I really enjoy getting to know the people of the town — it’s so beautiful and special to share Shakespeare from all walks of life. Connecting with the families and getting to know the town has been a wonderful experience,” Pekar said.
When asked if she plans to come back for another summer, Pekar enthusiastically said, “I’ll come back for as long as they will have me.”
MaineStage Shakespeare also offers four weeks of summer camps, called MaineStage Shake- STARS.
Session 1 begins July 15. A play is performed at the end of each session, on a Saturday afternoon, signifying a culmination of what the campers have learned.
The youngest campers, ages 5-9, also known as the Playgroundlings, write their own short play, which serves as the teaser before the larger production, Smith said. The older campers, ages 10-17, each have roles in the final production each week.
The play of choice at the end of each week of camp: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare”— abridged, obviously. Each session is $165 to attend.
Smith said the number of registered campers has increased considerably since the first summer.
“The first summer we had three campers during one of the weeks, which was a little tough. Last year, on average, we had about 20. This summer we have about 60 signed up for the whole summer,” Smith said. “It has definitely grown through word of mouth. Most who attended the first summer were there last season and are coming again this season.”
The campers have the option of attending for each of the four weeks, or for just one week.
“It is so exciting to see them get excited about Shakespeare, improvisation and stage theater. It’s also great to see new faces at every Saturday matinee,” Smith said.
Each show, just like the regular summer schedule, will be performed on the stage in Lafayette Park. In case of rain, productions will move to Kennebunk’s town hall.
In Kennebunkport, the company will offer productions every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Village Green and Colony Hotel.
The first production, “Much Ado About Nothing,” will take place during the Old Home Week Festival at 7 p.m. Friday, July 5 at Lafayette Park. The last production is scheduled for Aug. 10.
More information about MaineStage Shakespeare can be found at www.mainestageshakespeare.com.