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Around The Grange
Maine Playhouse To Feature Grange Hall Drop in Production

By BroadwayWorld.com (6/22/11)

  JUNE 29, 2011 --

After sorting through years of props and memories, Maine's Hackmatack Playhouse stumbled upon a goldmine: a rare early 20th century painted drop that originally hung in the North Berwick Grange Hall, once one of the most socially active places in town for local farmers and their families. The Guptill family, who own The Playhouse, was active in the Grange as local farmers in the area.

"It's not only a piece of local history, but a piece of Americana," said Royal Cloyd, 86, president of the North Berwick Historical Society. "I've never seen the likes of it."

Salvaged from one of two North Berwick Grange Halls, which burnt down many years ago, the drop features a beautiful painted landscape with some colors still as bright as they were in the early 1900s.

"It's absolutely wonderful and amazing that it's in as good of condition as it is," Cloyd said. "Whoever painted it knew what he was doing and wanted to make it last."

Lining the bottom are advertisements for about 25 businesses around the North Berwick area, many of which are no longer around. Some, however, still exist today, including H.E. Hayes Funeral Home, now Johnson Funeral Home. Cloyd said there are descendants of about a third of the businesses still living in North Berwick today.

"There was no television, no iPods, no radio," Cloyd said. "If you had a business and you wanted to advertise, you had to go where the people were. In those days, the Grange Hall was the place to go."

Members of the Grange would see the drop and its advertisements before events held at the hall, which ranged from dances and theater, to various band performances from local musicians.

At its height, around 1900 to 1920, the Grange had millions of members throughout the country. Now, just shadows of what they were, Grange Halls reflect the national, social and political movements of America when it was primarily an agricultural country.

The historic drop will be featured at The Playhouse this year in "Ten Nights In A Barroom," which opens June 29 and welcomes back Hackmatack legend, Blaine Pickett as Harvey Greene. The prohibitionist drama was performed during the theater's premier season in 1971 and returns for its 40th anniversary celebration.

To admire a piece of American history and order tickets for the show, which runs June 29 through July 2, visit hackmatack.org or call the box office at 207-698-1807.

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