Posts Tagged ‘OHMPAA’


Who Are They? Oxford Hills Region Part 5

March 29, 2018

Oxford Hills Music and Performing Arts Association (OHMPAA)

This blog post is part of a series that aims to bring awareness to the Maine Arts Ed blog readers about the many visual and performing arts venues and educational opportunities in the Oxford Hills. The Oxford Hills Region of Maine is a perfect setting for the arts as it is centrally located where the rolling foothills of the White Mountains and beautiful lakes regions intersect. Located 45 miles north of Portland, 35 miles east of New Hampshire, and 20 miles west of Lewiston-Auburn, the region hosts multiple year-round opportunities for learners of all ages and a thriving arts community. The Oxford Hills School District (SAD17) is Maine’s largest school district in geographic area, with nine community schools, a regional middle school, a comprehensive high school and the Streaked Mountain School, an alternative school for high school students. The Oxford Hills include the towns of Buckfield, Harrison, Hartford, Hebron, Mechanic Falls, Norway, Otisfield, Oxford, Paris, Poland, Sumner, Waterford and West Paris. A great big THANKS to Diana Arcadipone for writing this series of posts.

Dan and Shirli Allen founded OHMPAA in 1985 because they saw a need for a local venue for music, dance and theater in the Oxford Hills. At that time, the primary outlet for the performing arts was for students at the local high school. Except for Ragtag in Bethel, adults had no real performance opportunities. “Back then, we were bare bones and used the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School stage and any other place we could find,” says Jeff Orwig, member (and institutional memory) of the advisory board since the early 1990s. The early group performed works in the public domain and musical reviews because the royalty fees were minimal.

In early days, ticket sales covered all expenses: costumes, musicians, sets, props, and publicity. It has always been important to the group to produce shows that are affordable to the community. Early audiences of 50-75 enjoyed shows at a variety of locations. A local appliance store saved boxes for the sets and OHMPAA was able to produce at least one performance each year. When the high school stage was not available, OHMPAA performed in their then home at Paris Hill Academy.

In 2002, OHMPAA started doing shows in the Norway Grange #45, located at 15 Whitman Street in Norway, ME.  Jeff says “We felt like a moving company because we were doing winter shows at the Grange and summer shows at the Academy.” They eventually made an agreement with the Grange that it could become their home. Finally able to settle into a permanent space, OHMPAA upgraded the electrical service, built an extension onto the stage, and made numerous improvements. Today, OHMPAA cherishes this fine historic building and cares for it as if it was its own.

One pivotal display of community support was when local bookseller Erica Jed from Books N Things in Norway became a ticket agent as a courtesy to OHMPAA. She sold tickets for the past 12 years until recently when she sold the store. Thankfully, the new bookseller, Adrienne Cote, is opening The Tribune, and will honor this tradition. According to Jeff Orwig, this community gift has helped to expand ticket sales to the current capacity of 100 seats.

Jenny Adams, President of the Advisory Board, states the mission of the organization: OHMPAA is dedicated to the presentation of quality entertainment on a regular basis featuring the talents of local residents. On January 1, 2009, OHMPAA became a program of Norway Maine Opera House Corporation which is a 501(c)(3) organization. Today, the advisory board numbers 15 and represents a blend of performers, business and community leaders and audience advocates. Regulations have become more complex and members need to be able to navigate a wide array of complex issues however in the early days, board members were a group of artists who did everything. The board still chooses all of the programming and runs this non-profit organization as a break-even business.

Programming usually consists of two full length main stage shows — most often a play in June and a musical in November — 8 performances each. They also produce “extras” which are training workshops like Audition Workshop and Theater 101, which draw from a panel of local experts: Sally Jones of Norway (former teacher at OHCHS), Ethan Wright of Buckfield (teaches Music at Buckfield HS), Jamie Swenson of Portland and Kristen Short of Norway.

The program below is set for the 2018 season. Tickets sell from $8 to $12 per show and can also be purchased at the door or at The Tribune bookstore. OHMPAA accepts proposals from new directors for full length shows, one acts and children’s theater. The selection process takes place in the summer and two shows, plus extras, are chosen for the subsequent season.  TO LEARN MORE. For GENERAL INFORMATION or MORE INFORMATION. Or email

  • June 14-24              Noises Off  A farce by Michael Frayne
  • July 28                     This is what Happened; Backstage Stories compiled by Sally Jones
  • November 8-18       Little Shop of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
  • December 6-9         The Gift of the Magi  and The Happy Prince in four area churches NO CHARGE
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