A new/old home for the Belfast Maskers

Aug 03, 2018
Photo by: Carol Samuels In acquiring the former church on Court Street, Belfast Maskers has a permanent performance space where the troupe got its start.

Belfast — Belfast Maskers will open the doors of its new Basil Burwell Community Theater at 17 Court St. on Thursday, Aug. 16, with a rollicking production of Mark Twain’s “Is He Dead?”

Originally built in 1839 by the Christian Society of Universalists, the building was its meeting place for nearly 100 years. In the 1950s, the church hosted services by the Emmanuel Baptist congregation, which eventually purchased it and stayed there until 1987, when it built a new building on Lincolnville Avenue. The little church on Court Street was rechristened the Belfast Community Center and was the original home of Belfast Maskers.

Founded in 1987 by retired theater arts professor Basil Burwell, The Belfast Maskers has entertained and engaged audiences and volunteers with quality community theater productions for more than 30 years. After performing in the church for five years, the troupe, with help from the City of Belfast, converted the former Belfast Moosehead Lake railroad terminal into a theater that would house the company for the next 19 years.

In 2011, the city had to close the Maskers railway theater building. Since then, volunteers have transformed parks, warehouses and church social halls into temporary theaters. This summer marks the beginning of a new era for the Maskers, as it becomes the owners of the same Court Street building that fostered some of the troupe’s earliest years. The building will provide a permanent home for the Maskers, as well as a space for other small groups to perform and grow.

“Is He Dead?” was originally penned by American icon Mark Twain. The hilarious farce was rediscovered by a Twain scholar about 10 years ago and adapted by David Ives for its Broadway premiere in 2008. It concerns brilliant French painter Jean-Francois Millet who, along with his friends, has fallen on hard times and is deeply in debt to an art dealer — who also happens to be his romantic rival. When his zany friends hatch a crazy scheme to reverse all their fortunes, the results transform Millet profoundly.

Performances will be Thursdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., Aug. 16 through 26. Tickets will be $15, $10 for children younger than 13. To buy tickets, or find more information, visit belfastmaskers.com. Belfast Maskers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.