August 18, 2019

Fun-filled Follies seeks performers EMMC Auxiliary show to aid hospital programs

BANGOR – Ever crave the smell of greasepaint and the roar of the crowd? Dream for your chance in the spotlight? Or is your niche behind the scenes, working with sound or lighting or sets?

Either way, Eastern Maine Medical Center Auxiliary is looking for you. And when it comes to the Follies, everybody’s a star.

The Auxiliary is gearing up for another edition of the Follies, one of its major fund-raising events held every two or three years. The 2001 production kicks off with Director’s Night at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Bangor Banquet and Conference Center on Hogan Road.

Besides the hors d’oeuvres, desserts and cash bar, Director’s Night offers a chance for potential Follies participants to meet members of the production’s artistic team and learn more about how they can be part of the 2001 event, according to Auxiliary President Sandra Blake Leonard. As was the case in 1998, Leonard is sharing producer duties with fellow EMMC Auxiliary members Peggy Youngblood and Jane Irving.

For Follies alumni – each production typically involves nearly 100 performers – it’s also a chance to catch up on events since the last show three years ago. People attending Director’s Night will learn how they can participate.

Auditions for stage parts have been set tentatively for June 10-11. Show dates are Oct. 20 and 21 at the Maine Center for the Arts on the University of Maine campus.

Though the story line remains a closely guarded secret, organizers hint that it will involve a legendary Bangor logger and some unusual visitors. The title? “A Follies Odyssey: Paul Bunyan and the Aliens,” according to Youngblood. Bangor’s Robert Libby, an actor and writer well-known in Maine’s performing-arts circles, has been tapped to write the script.

“This was my idea,” Libby confessed in a recent telephone interview. “I grew up in Bangor and obviously know Paul Bunyan.” Libby, who also wrote the Follies’ 1998 script, said he’s been intrigued since his childhood by stories that a time capsule is hidden somewhere inside or under the statue, which stands tall on Bangor’s Main Street.

Follies fans might recall that Libby, who won an Emmy for his work for Maine PBS, also wrote the script for “Steppin’ Out,” the 1995 extravaganza.

A major fund-raiser for the Auxiliary since 1972, the Follies has helped fund a wide range of projects at EMMC.

“It touches a lot of lives,” Leonard said.

The Follies has an extensive history, dating back as far as 1935 when it was an activity of the Bangor Junior League. In recent years, however, the production has acquired a polish and professionalism not often seen in local theater.

Leonard, who grew up in Bangor, is relatively new to the Follies, having moved back here in the 1990s. She attended her first Follies show in 1995.

“I was blown away,” said Leonard. “Just the professionalism. I just could not get over it.”

The past two productions – 1998’s “Steppin’ Out” and “Follies ’95 Salutes the USO” – raised about $50,000 each, Leonard said. Some of the health care areas the Follies has helped support are cardiac, pediatric and cancer programs.

The Auxiliary’s year-round fund-raiser is its gift shop on the ground floor of the Bangor hospital an operation run by volunteers. Revenue from the shop enabled the group to present a donation of $197,000 at its annual meeting in November.

“That’s pretty important and we honor those volunteers.” Beneficiaries included the Children’s Miracle Network, EMMC’s cancer, women’s health, cardiac-rehabilitation and diabetes programming as well as a project at The Acadia Hospital, another member of the Eastern Maine Healthcare family.

Organizers say that proceeds from this year’s performance will be dedicated to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU.

Michael Crowley, vice president of Eastern Maine Charities, said that the hospital and its various components are the focus of a space analysis. The study, which is being conducted by hospital officials and national-caliber consultants, will help give the medical center ideas on how the pledge would best be used.

One thing that already is clear, he said, is the fact that NICU is much in need of improvements. It was designed and constructed in the mid-1970s, when community needs were different; much of the then state-of-the-art medical equipment it houses is now obsolete. “I can tell us that the auxiliary has recognized the need and agrees that it’s critical to our mission to serve the health care needs of this area and the larger community the hospital serves,” Crowley said.

Correction: A comment in a Style story Friday attributed to Eastern Maine Charities Vice President Michael Crowley should have read that the equipment in Eastern Maine Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit is state-of-the-art but that the space it occupies is obsolete.

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