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When Sumner Kinney of Thomaston retired from property management, he didn’t expect to become involved in theater, but when his neighbor Ben Griffin suggested he would enjoy it, he decided to audition for a local production. HIs 9-year-old granddaughter, Rachel, was also interested, so together they are having their first experience as players in Watts Hall Community Players’ production of “Pirates of Penzance,” opening June 29 at 7 p.m. in Watts Hall on Thomaston’s Main Street.

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“It’s been fun to meet and work with some new people,” Kinney says of his involvement. While he is finding memorizing lines and learning dance steps challenging, he is happy to be participating. “We should all try something unfamiliar once in a while. By putting yourself out there, you may discover something new about yourself,” he says.

In contrast, James Cook, a professor of sociology at the University of Maine at Augusta, had his first experience with theater at age five. He grew up in New York state, where his dad, an English teacher, was involved in theater and took James along whenever he could. In his first walk-on part in “The Swamp of No Return,” he played a cave dweller and had one line: “Then we will eat you!” Cook was hooked and participated in supporting roles in musicals during high school. Last year, he played one of the brothers in Watts Hall’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” This year he plays the Pirate King in “Pirates of Penzance.”

Cook describes his experience with theater as a “massive trust fall. You have to put yourself out there and interact with others you may not know well at all, but when you do and others respond, you support them and what was scary becomes exhilarating.” And he loves being part of a community of people creating something together.

Cook says being a professor demands a certain amount of theater. “When you are leading a class for one, two or sometimes three hours, a little theater comes in handy to keep students interested.” The musical opens on Friday, June 29 at 7 p.m. and will be performed again on June 30, July 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. On Sunday, July 1, there will be a matinee at 3 p.m. People are encouraged to buy tickets early since the Watts Hall Community Players’ summer musical often sells out. Tickets are on sale at Athens Pizza, Thomaston; the Grasshopper Shop, Rockland; The State of Maine Cheese Company, Rockport or online at wattspirates.eventbrite.com. They will also be sold at the door.


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