FREEPORT — When the Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble opens its new work “Caravan of Dreams” on Saturday, viewers members is not going to have to tax their imaginations to envision a sandy, windswept backdrop stretching so far as the eye can see.
That’s as a result of the efficiency is being staged at the Desert of Maine. There is sand actually so far as the eye can see. It’s not trucked or shoveled in. It’s a everlasting fixture.
Hosting theater and arts teams is amongst the many modifications put in place by owners Mela and Doug Heestand, who purchased the iconic 96-year-old vacationer attraction – 20 acres of rolling sand dunes surrounded by forest – in 2018. On Saturday, as an example, the venue may also be internet hosting a noon program that includes the Portland Bach Experience Orchestra, together with dancers from Ballet Bloom Project. The program contains ecology excursions and an interactive rationalization of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
Then in the night, after Desert of Maine is closed for the day, the “Caravan of Dreams” efficiency will happen out in the sand. With a solid of 14, the piece is a few mysterious prisoner who fights to save her metropolis from darkish forces. The efficiency has music, comedy, drama and a large puppet/beast as large as a automobile. It’ll run on weekends by June. A people music pageant is being deliberate at the Desert of Maine in July.
“We are trying to inspire people with the beauty of nature and the power of art,” Doug Heestand mentioned about the couple’s imaginative and prescient for the Desert of Maine. “It’s such a unique part of Maine’s history.”
The creation of the “desert” might be traced to the 1800s, when the Tuttle household farmed the land. Farming and soil erosion over the years uncovered a big glacial deposit of wonderful sand dunes underneath the soil. By 1926, totally uncovered, the Desert of Maine was opened as a vacationer attraction, not removed from Route 1. At the time, Route 1 was the major street into the state, and resorts and different vacationer sights sprung up close to it. The Desert of Maine has been run as a vacationer attraction enterprise ever since.
The Heestands have sought to make the place extra household pleasant, whereas specializing in education in addition to the arts, recreation and enjoyable. They need to assist folks perceive that the desert’s story isn’t just one of ecological devastation however of resilience. One instance of that could be a strand of timber that has sprouted in the sand, which the Heestands have left untouched.
Between the buy worth and renovations, the couple says the Desert of Maine has turn into a “multi-million dollar project” for them.
They have created the nonprofit Center for Arts & Ecology to promote education, crafts, artwork and music at the location. They have additionally constructed or are constructing new displays and options, together with an space the place duplicate fossils might be dug up, a labyrinth and a narrative stroll space for youthful youngsters. They’ve additionally constructed luxurious rental cabins in the current tent and RV campground and are turning a barn on the property right into a performing arts middle.
Later in June, they’re scheduled to open a miniature golf course, together with landscaping, waterfalls and sculptures. The golf course’s components and textual content assist inform the story of the space’s historical past.
The major attraction at the Desert of Maine is the sand itself, which individuals can discover on self-guided strolling excursions. There’s a loop path round the space with greater than 40 interpretive indicators that designate the geology and ecology of the place. Along the loop path are numerous sights to see, together with some buried timber that proceed to thrive, the new playground, a 65-foot excessive dune, the Gemstone Village (the place youngsters can dig up and take house gems) and a vernal pool, amongst different options.
There’s additionally a Twenties Model T Ford – a reminder of when the vacationer attraction opened – for folks to take images with.
A spring home – a construction masking a pure spring on the property – was constructed as half of the attraction, as a spot the place folks may drink the water. But since World War II, it had been lined with sand. The Heestands have dug it up, eliminated the crumbling construction and constructed a path down to the spring so folks can see it up shut. An 1800s farmhouse can also be being moved to the property from New Hampshire, to be used as museum commemorating the days when the Tuttle household farmed the land.
The efficiency of “Caravan of Dreams” can be the first reside theater occasion at the Desert of Maine. Stephen Legawiec, inventive director of the Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble, mentioned he wrote the piece particularly for the pure web site, with its large, open areas and rolling, sandy backdrop. The concept of writing a theater piece for the Desert of Maine was prompt by his spouse, Dana Legawiec, who’s government director of the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Freeport, after she visited the web site final yr.
The efficiency is about 70 minutes lengthy. People are invited to bring camp chairs or blankets to sit on. If a present is rained out, folks can use their ticket for one more efficiency.
The story is ready in “a world of our own creation,” mentioned Legawiec. The focus is on a lady who’s taken to the center of nowhere – which a desert definitely evokes – and has to discover a method to save her metropolis. Instead of watching characters strolling onto a stage from behind a curtain 10 or 20 ft away, the viewers can be ready to see characters or props coming from far off distances.
“We are going to play to the scale of the environment. There’s a lot of space to work with,” mentioned Legawiec, who moved his theater firm to Bowdoinham from Los Angeles in 2010. “I think it’s a really special space. As a person who has spent my entire life in the arts, I really love what they are doing, creating another space where people can enjoy the arts.”