Published DateSince 1974, the purpose of Theatre North had been to promote and foster the literary, theatrical and cultural betterment of Coos County by sponsoring and promoting theatrical performances of literary value in which the community participated in the acting and production staff.
Theatre North was started by Andre Belanger, a friend Kathy Lyons, and Belanger's parents, in consultation with the high school drama teacher. At the time the high school theater department was very strong and putting on good plays and they felt "the community was starving for more creative venues," he explained. "We thought it would be a great idea for a summer play group to keep the momentum going."
The first show the group put on was "Jesus Christ Superstar," with Belanger playing Jesus. Ironically, 20 years later, it was Belanger's last role as well.
Since 1974, the organization has provided creative workshops and opportunities in theatrical productions.
At one time plays used to be entered into contests down state. "People were impressed with the professionalism," Belanger recalled.
But the group depended heavily on Bingo, which was held for years at St. Anne's Church. That began to cost more than the group was making, and Bingo was discontinued last June, board chairman Laura Jamison said. The group also depended on donations, also declining in recent years.
After a thorough appraisal of the organization’s financial situation, Theatre North voted on Wednesday, Feb. 6 to dissolve. It was felt the organization was now at a point where it could not sustain itself.
“We’ve come to this tough decision with those folks in mind. Over the past years, many measures were taken to reduce our organizational costs. Our own struggle with funding was exacerbated by the change in performing arts," Jamison said.
Belanger said he had not been directly involved for a number of years. "Work and family responsibilities guided me away. It takes time to do shows of that quality," he said.
"I'm sad to see it disband. I know the people at the helm had a very difficult decision to make, nonetheless the concept of high quality community theatre will be missed," he said.
While Theatre North, as a 501c entity, is disbanded, Jamison said there is some interest in a community theater group continuing under some other type of entity.
As for Horror Fest, the future for that group is unknown at this point. That board has not met yet since the Wednesday night vote. Jamison said Horror Fest has always been under the auspices of Threatre North, but is a separate group of people who own their own costumes and props.
"Theatre North would like to thank the Berlin community for 37 great years of supporting its mission through the transformative power of arts programming. Physical and remaining financial assets of the organization will be donated to another non-profit programs in the community," Jamison said.