College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Summer Music, Theater Productions Highlight University of Southern Maine’s Community Connections

PORTLAND, Maine – Local residents and tourists may want sunshine and lobsters when summer comes to Maine, but they also want music and theater to round out their Pine Tree State experience. 

University of Southern Maine students, faculty and alumni once again this summer made sure there were plenty of both by contributing their time and talent to several key musical and theatrical productions.        

More than 80 USM community members affiliated with the university’s School of Music and Department of Theatre, both under the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, have taken part in highly successful PORTopera and Maine State Music Theatre summer productions, plus other notable music and theater companies in the region.        

In a significant example of the “metropolitan university” concept of contributing to community endeavors, USM provided actors, singers, chorus members, musicians and technical staff to a broad spectrum of local organizations.        

While the USM relationship provides an important resource to these regional art organizations, the annual, high-quality productions also give both USM students an exceptional training experience and USM faculty and alumni the opportunity to showcase and hone their skills.

“The robust arts culture of Southern Maine is a tremendous resource for our students, and our students and faculty are an excellent resource for these organizations,” commented Alan Kaschub, School of Music interim director. “This is, in essence, the USM advantage.”

“Not only does the USM community exchange vision and skills with professionals in longstanding Maine artistic institutions, but we also are key to starting and maintaining new traditions, such as the wildly popular PortFringe, New England’s only theatre fringe festival, which expanded to five venues over six days this summer,” said Assunta Kent, USM associate professor of theatre and department chair.        

“I am constantly amazed at the things that are being done by the USM community,” said Manuel Avalos, CAHS dean. “This is a profound example of how we are connected to and how we reach out to all our surrounding communities and beyond. I applaud the efforts of our students, faculty and alumni who engage and participate directly with these music and theater productions. What they do affects tourism and our economy, our cultural life and the vibrancy of the arts in Maine.”        

PORTopera, Portland’s premiere opera company under the direction of Dona D. Vaughn, artistic director, this summer presented Verdi’s “Rigoletto” for several performances. The classic production was staged as a 1920s tragedy. A total of 38 USM community members took part in the presentation. 

USM was represented by six alumni and current students as chorus members and rehearsal pianist, plus School of Music professor Robert Russell, chorus master; two alumni and one student in feature roles; and 12 faculty and alumni playing in the orchestra, including associate professor Robert Lehman, concert master, and professor Thomas Parchman, orchestra contractor and clarinet.        

The technical crew included two Department of Theatre faculty, assistant professor Shannon Zura, production manager, and Perry Fertig, technical director, as well as nine alumni and four students.

At the Maine State Music Theatre (MSMT) in Brunswick, USM community members were part of three summer productions. In June, MSMT performed “Chamberlain: A Civil War Romance,” about the Maine Civil War hero, and later governor, Joshua Chamberlain. Three alumni and two students were included in the ensemble and one alumni performed on the drums.        

In July’s rousing production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” newly retired Department of Theatre professor Charles Kading created the entire set, placed in the giant forests of the Northwest. Playing in the feature roles of town musicians were a USM alumni and a student. Musicians included USM lecturer and vocal coach Edward Reichert, conductor, and two alumni and two students.        

The MSMT intern show, entirely performed and produced by the organization’s summer interns, was a concert production of  “Godspell.” Two USM students and three alumni performed key roles in the production, while two alumni and one student were musicians for the show.        

Looking ahead, a USM School of Music alumnus, Josh Newton, will have his award winning composition performed later this month. Newton, of Farmingdale, is the first composer from Maine to win the international Portland Chamber Music Festival Composers Competition. His piece, “Twenty-Three Skidoo” for viola, clarinet and piano will be presented at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 23, Abromson Center, Portland.        

The list of USM participants for various summer productions, and their hometowns when available, include:        

PORTopera’s “Rigoletto”        


Robert Russell, USM professor, chorus master;
Tina Davis, USM student, chorus rehearsal pianist, Bucksport;
Aaren Rivard, USM student, South China;
Brian Tingdahl, USM alumnus;
Jesse Wakeman, USM alumnus and current master’s student, Portland;
Matt LaBerge, USM student, South Portland;
Josh Miller, USM alumnus;
Daniel Pendergast, USM alumnus;        


Sara Sturdivant, Giovanna, USM alumna;
Sable Strout, A Page, USM student, Richmond;
Joshua Miller, An Usher, USM alumnus;        


Robert Lehmann, USM associate professor, concertmaster;
Deirdre Oerhtmann, USM alumna;
Julie Eiten, USM alumna;
Krysia Tripp, USM artist faculty, alumna;
Thomas Parchman, USM professor, orchestra contractor;
Wren Saunders, USM artist faculty, alumna;
John Boden, USM artist faculty;
Elizabeth Rines, USM artist faculty;
Mark Manduca, USM artist faculty;
Thomas Michaud, USM alumnus;
Jobey Wilson, USM artist faculty;
Nancy Smith, USM artist faculty. 


Shannon Zura, production, manager, USM associate professor;
Perry Fertig, technical director, USM Theatre faculty;
Emily Waller, props master, USM alumna;
Evan Cuddy, supertitle operator, USM alumnus;
Katie Foster, assistant costume designer, USM alumna;
Jamie Grant, lighting designer, USM alumnus;
Nick Cyr, assistant master electrician, USM alumnus;
Florence Cooley, design and tech, USM alumna;
Thomas Campbell, set construction, USM student, Cape Elizabeth;
Dalton Kimball, set construction, USM student, Benton;
James Futter, assistant tech director, USM student, Brookfield, Conn.;
Desiray Roy, set construction, USM alumna;
Corey Anderson, set construction, USM alumnus;
Bobby Wilcox, set construction, USM alumnus;
Elinor Strandskov, set construction, USM student, Brunswick.

Maine State Music Theatre (Brunswick)        

“Chamberlain: A Civil War Romance”
Melissa Bills, USM alumna;
Eileen Hanley, USM alumna;
Danielle Lane, USM alumna;
Matthew West, USM student, Farmington;
Cameron Wright, USM student, Ellsworth;    

Musician: Jacob Forbes, USM alumnus.        

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”
Liz Kershenbaum, Town Musician, USM student, North Andover, Mass.
Rebecca Beck, Town Musician, USM alumna;        

Edward Reichert, conductor, USM lecturer and vocal coach;
Sam Schuth, USM student, Eastport;
Sean Potter, USM alumnus;
Kinnon Church, USM student, Salem, Mass.
Jacob Forbes, USM alumnus;        

Charles Kading, set designer, USM professor retired.        


Cameron Wright, Judas, USM student, Ellsworth;
Melissa Bills, Melissa, USM alumna;
Eileen Hanley, Eileen, USM alumna;
Danielle Lane, Danielle, USM alumna;
Matt West, Matthew, USM student, Farmington;           

Alex Prezzano, USM alumnus;
Tony Palumbo, USM student, Saco;
Jacob Forbes, USM alumnus.        

Sarah Kennedy, wardrobe apprentice, USM alumna.        

Arundel Barn Playhouse
Orchestra (season)
Nick Allen, USM alumnus;
Nate Gowen, USM student, Westbrook.

“Legally Blonde”
Emily Davis, cast, USM student, Westbrook.        

“My Fair Lady”
Emily Davis, cast, USM student, Westbrook.        

“A Chorus Line”
Ali Sarnacchiario, cast, USM student, Saugus, Mass.
Rachel Grindle, cast, USM student, Portland.        

“The Marvelous Wonderettes”
Ed Reichert, director, USM lecturer and vocal coach;
Don Pride, orchestra, USM alumnus;
Rachel Grindle, cast, USM student, Portland;        

Fenix Theatre (Portland):

“As You Like It”
David Bliss, Silvius, USM student, Portland;
Karen Ball, Touchstone, USM alumna;
Ellen White, Celia, USM alumna;        

Nate Speckman, fight choreographer, USM alumnus

Ogunquit Playhouse
Perry Fertig, technical director, USM Theatre faculty;
Bobby Wilcox, tech crew, USM alumnus.        

Corey Anderson, co-founder, performer and design, USM alumnus;
Kirk Boettcher, playwright, USM alumnus;
Megan Tripaldi, playwright and actor, USM alumnus;
Nate Speckman, director and actor, USM alumnus;
Johnny Speckman, alumnus, actor, Cape Elizabeth;
Jacob Cote, actor, USM alumnus;
Kyle Dennis, actor, USM alumnus;
Anna Halloran, actor, USM alumna;
Erik Moody, actor, USM alumnus;
Troy Bennett, musician, storyteller, USM alumnus;
Eric Darrow Worthley, performer, USM alumnus;
Sage Landry, performer, USM student, Nobleboro;
Abra Mueller, performer, USM student, Portland;
Meghan O’Brien, assistant stage manager, publicist, performer, USM student, Gray;
Caleb Lacy, director, USM student, Durham;
Thomas Ian Campbell, performer, USM student, Cape Elizabeth;
Kelsey Michaud, performer, USM student, Windham;
Harlan Baker, performer, administration, USM adjunct faculty;
Karen Ball, performer, USM alumna;
MJ Emerson, choreographer, manager, USM alumna;
Emily Zack, dancer, USM alumna;
Gerry Shannon, choreographer, dancer, USM alumnus;
Allie Munier, dancer, USM alumna.        

City Theatre (Biddeford)
Kirk Boettcher, actor, USM alumnus;
Alyssa Rojecki, actor, USM student, Gorham;
Ryan Biggs, wardrobe, USM student, Steep Falls.        

MidCoast Youth Theater (Brunswick)
Caleb Streadwick, assistant director, USM student, Harpswell.        

For more information about the USM School of Music, go to        

For more information about the USM Department of Theatre, go to