Acorn Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has been dedicated to nurturing and developing the performing arts in Greater Portland since 1998.
Performing arts are an integral part of a diverse and culturally rich society. Acorn Productions’ mission is to invigorate the community of performing artists in Southern Maine. Acorn seeks to nurture new performance pieces, develop artist collaboratives, train new talent, and make the arts accessible to a wide spectrum of the general public.
Acorn accomplishes these goals by mounting annual festivals that are open to a variety of artists as well as professional performances by local actors in both traditional and non-traditional venues. Ticket prices for these performances are maintained at an affordable level in order to lower economic barriers for potential audience members.
Acorn also offers educational programs, including acting classes and workshops, and offers fiscal sponsorships to grassroots organizations or individual artists seeking to become more active members of the performing arts community.
Acorn Productions presented its first show in September of 1995 under the umbrella of Oak Street Theater, and the company produced three seasons of four plays before becoming an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 1998. Throughout it history, Acorn has always served as a creative catalyst in the community, introducing scores of actors to life on stage, training dozens of actors to work with Shakespeare’s language, developing hundreds of new plays, and inspiring artists to create new collaborative projects.
The company was first organized under the corporate name “Acorn School for the Performing Arts” and operated an acting studio at 496 Congress Street for several years in the late 1990’s. During this time, Acorn continued to produce one show per season at the Oak Street Theater, offered “Acting for Ordinary People” classes at the studio and began to present the Phyzgig vaudeville festival and the Maine Playwrights Festival annually. When the Oak Street Theater announced its imminent closure in March of 2000, Acorn began to look for a new home, a search that resulted in a new partnership with Friends of the St. Lawrence, an organization seeking to build a theater in the Parish Hall of the old St. Lawrence Church on Munjoy Hill.
After a year long $185,000 collaborative campaign, the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center opened with Acorn’s production of Much Ado About Nothing in May of 2001. In December of 2003, the company formally changed its name Acorn Productions while continuing to produce Phyzgig and the Maine Short Play Festival, which became the current Maine Playwrights Festival in 2005. Michael Levine and Michael Howard founded the Naked Shakespeare Ensemble in the fall of 2004, and in the fall of 2006, the company moved into the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook, creating Acorn Studios, a low-cost complex of rehearsal and performance space for use by members of the performing arts community. Acorn successfully operated in that location for over seven years, with a small studio theater offering children’s theater productions as well as productions of several classic plays.
In April of 2013, Acorn Productions moved out of the Dana Warp Mill and began collaborating with the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association (MCMA) to renovate the third floor ballroom at Mechanics Hall in downtown Portland as a new home for some of Acorn’s programs. A fundraising campaign began in the fall of 2014 and raised enough money to make the necessary life and safety improvements that allowed the venue to open in March of 2015. Over the next few seasons, Acorn produced monthly First Friday productions of Naked Shakespeare in the ballroom along with offering acting classes and the 24-Hour Portland Theater Project. In the fall of 2018, Acorn began fundraising for a new venue of its own, which resulted in a move to our latest location at 528 Main St. in South Portland in February of 2019.
In all our work, we strive to engage members of the Southern Maine community in the performing arts by providing a bridge for involvement in theater through educational programs that inspire people to explore their creative selves. Our two signature programs are the ongoing series of Naked Shakespeare performances, and the Maine Playwrights Festival. The Naked Shakespeare series presents free performances of excerpts from Shakespeare’s work in non-traditional venues in a stripped-down, accessible style throughout the year. The Maine Playwrights Festival is an annual showcase of new plays by Maine writers that includes full productions performed in Portland and elsewhere, staged-readings of semi-finalists, and professional playwriting workshops. Both of these programs are fully accessible to anyone in Maine wishing to become involved. Additionally, our conservatory-style Acorn Acting Academy allows members of the community to learn and expand their theater skills, gaining self-confidence and a stronger awareness of their inner emotional lives, as well as deepening connections with others.
Support Acorn’s Growth
Acorn Productions is about to embark on an exciting new phase in our company’s history, and we are asking for your support to assist us in implementing these changes.
As you know, Acorn has spent the last 19 years training actors, collaborating with other non-profits to bring historic spaces into new uses, and building community between artists and theater producers. As part of our work, we helped to build the Parish Hall Theater at the St. Lawrence and more recently assisted in renovating and re-opening Mechanics Hall for public use. We have stimulated the creation of hundreds of new plays through the Maine Playwrights Festival and introduced dozens of actors to the joys of speaking Shakespeare’s language in performance.
We are pleased to announce that we have recently signed a three-year lease for a new studio space at 528 Main Street in South Portland. Over the past two years, offerings at our Acorn Acting Academy have expanded to the point that we have outgrown the classroom at Mechanics Hall. Renting our own space will provide us with the opportunity to offer even more programming for the community, including the re-introduction of classes for children and teens, along with the chance to partner with other theater companies in need of rehearsal space.
The new Acorn Studio space will benefit our company in many ways. First of all, by providing regular office hours and a dedicated business phone line, Acorn Productions will once again become a visible and physically presence in our community. The increased availability of the space will provide us with the flexibility to schedule more free events for the community, including intro to acting workshops, dramatic readings of new plays, and improv comedy jam nights. We will also be able to greatly increase the quantity of our class offerings by adding numerous short specialty workshops and mini-classes. Finally, the space will be available for use by other theater companies at an extremely affordable rate, addressing the need for affordable rehearsal space in our community.
We are asking for your financial assistance with this next step in the company’s development. Funds are needed to purchase equipment for the space as well as physical plant improvements which include opening up a wall between the two spaces to provide for a much bigger room. Since Acorn Productions is a 501(c)3 organization, all donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Thank in you in advance for your support!
President, Acorn Productions Board of Directors
Acorn Productions is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, so all contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law
Join Our Mailing List
Acorn Productions has many different programs for the community, and we keep separate email lists for each area of interest. All notices are sent via iContact and we do not sell or share your information.
- ACORN PRODUCTIONS EVENTS – notifications of all of Acorn’s upcoming events
- ACTORS – find out about auditions at Acorn and other theater companies
- ACTING CLASSES – be the first to know about upcoming training programs at the Acorn Acting Academy
- PLAYWRIGHTS – Acorn has an ongoing commitment to assisting local playwrights develop new scripts through public readings and performances
- NAKED SHAKESPEARE – Keep apprised of the activities of “Everyone’s favorite Elizabethan entertainment group”
Map and Directions
Acorn’s new classroom and rehearsal space is located at 528 Main Street in South Portland (near Cash Corner)
Looking for rehearsal space? Acorn Studio is available to rent at the introductory rate of $10 per hour. See availability and submit a request here.
P.O. Box 4644
Portland, ME 04112
Jared Culverhouse, Director of Training
Maine Playwrights Festival
Daniel Burson, Artistic Director
Sarah Barlow, Artistic Director
The Outer Edge
Megan Tripaldi, Artistic Director