Washburn dinner theater aims to keep August Festival going

  • March 19, 2024

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Courtesy of The County News

WASHBURN, Maine — When costs outweighed income for last year’s Washburn August Festival, the town’s Rotary Club wanted to do something unique to raise money.

The club will host a dinner theater starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, at Washburn District High School. There will be a meal, a dessert auction and a one-act play featuring local residents.

Rotary organizes the annual summer festival, which this year will mark 44 years of community spirit and bringing alumni back to town. But funding fell short last year, so members need to raise funds to help keep the festival going. They decided a gathering with good food and good humor would draw a lot of people, so they’re putting on their first play in a dozen years.

“Our budget last year was $3,000 short and we were in the hole after it was all over, so the Rotary Club had to dig into our project savings,” said Rotary President Keith Brown. “We decided to do something outside the box this year to raise money for the August Festival.”

It hurt to dip into that account, because that’s how the club gives funds for scholarships and municipal betterment projects, he said. For instance, the group wants to build a pavilion in the town park. 

The evening is not a Rotary fundraiser, but will raise money only for the August Festival, he said.

None of them are experienced actors but they’ve had fun rehearsing and enjoy working together, he said.

The dinner theater program will start with a meal at 5 p.m., catered by local chef and Washburn resident Rob Ottaviano. A dessert auction will follow with auctioneer Randy Lee, and then the curtain will rise on “Almost Murder.” 

The group wanted to embrace the same fun, neighborly spirit that the first August Festivals created, she said.

“It’s true in every community up here. There’s a sense of people getting together and coming home,” she said. “We don’t want to lose that.”  

“Almost Murder” is a one-act readers theater play, meaning it’s royalty free and can be changed as needed. It’s been adapted liberally with changes to fit Washburn, Londa Brown said.

The play focuses on George and Sybil, who are joined by five women in the home who are related to the couple in various ways. Intrigue surrounds a special speaker who has come for the evening.

Years ago Londa Brown directed senior class plays at Washburn District High School. She said working with the community actors has been a treat.

“I have laughed hysterically,” she said. “I tease them that I don’t direct them, I herd them.” 

Tickets are $25 for the dinner, auction and performance, or $10 for just the play. See any rotary member, contact the Washburn Town Office at 455-8405, or visit washburnrotary.org for information.

Keith Brown hopes the evening raises enough money to keep the summer event as large as ever.

“We want to use the community spirit of the August Festival in this fundraiser by enlisting as many townspeople as we can to help put it on,” Keith Brown said. “Likewise, we’d like to have many people who have supported the festival in the past continue to support it by attending our dinner theater."



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Keith Brown

Washburn District High School
Washburn Town Office
Washburn  ME  04756