History: the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s

Successes and Setbacks

—Lewiston Evening Journal, September 3, 1963

After 20 years, by the summer of 1957, the Augusta Players had staged 60 Major productions and many fundraising children’s productions involving area students. Notable talents were Charmaine Herd, who had performed on Broadway, and Les Maxwell, who in 1952 had been cast in a production at Lakewood Theater (then a professional Theater in Cornville, Maine) in a production with Zasu Pitts.

The Augusta Players incorporated as a non-profit corporation with the State of Maine in 1953. In 1965, the Mabel Tarr Youth Theater was organized, with subsequenct children’s plays produced under those auspices.

The Augusta Players had clubhouses around Augusta and Hallowell, Maine where they rehearsed and built sets. Between 1964 and 1974 they performed at the (now demolished) Capitol Theater in Augusta. Although still producing plays, the group went through some changes, including financial setbacks, which resulted in the loss of their clubhouse and a change in the social structure.

Due to a house fire, archives from 1960 to 1980 are sketchy or non-existent, and we have been reconstructing history with the help of private scrapbooks. The Augusta Players did their 50th play in 1954, and their 100th Play, a production of Auntie Mame, in 1972.

In September of 1973, the Capitol Theater was sold to an owner who had other plans for it. The Players were able to lease it for only two more shows. Performance venues after that included the Reed Auditorium, on the Stevens School campus in Hallowell, the Little Theater at Gardiner High School and O.C Woodman School in Gardiner. In 1976, a fire set by arsonists heavily damaged the 111-year-old Capitol Theater. It was then torn down.

In 1979 The Augusta Players moved permanently into Hallowell, Maine and started producing plays as the Gaslight Theater.