Ray Yamamoto in Lauren Yee's
Ray Yamamoto in Lauren Yee's "The Great Leap," which opens the fall season at Portland Stage Company, as a co- production with the Hangar Theatre Company. (Courtesy PSC/Rachel Phillipson)
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Portland-area theater starts its new season with some momentous social issues, several classics and adaptations of classics, and an array of intriguing puppet offerings.

The undoing of Roe v. Wade continues to ripple through American lives, so it’s both timely and vital that Mad Horse Theatre Company in South Portland launches its fall season with a show about women and their rights, “When We Were Young and Unafraid” (Sept. 29-Oct. 3). Set in the 1970s, the drama depicts a woman who shelters victims of domestic violence, one of whom brings radical feminist ideals into the household. 

"When We Were Young & Unafraid" at Mad Horse
Jared Mongeau, Christine Marshall, and Allison McCall in rehearsal for “When We Were Young & Unafraid,” a play about women’s rights in the 1970s, at Mad Horse Theater Company in South Portland. (Courtesy Mad Horse/Jennifer Battis Photography)

Later this fall, Mad Horse will consider identity from another angle in its next show, “Straight White Men” (Nov. 17-Dec. 11), in which a man and his three sons consider what it means to be part of their demographic.

A collision of identity and politics is also the engine of Portland Stage Company’s season opener, “The Great Leap” (Sept. 14-Oct. 2). A co-production with the Hangar Theatre Company, of New York’s Finger Lakes region, the show tells of the tensions that emerge when a Chinese-American basketball player travels to Beijing for a “friendship game.”

PSC then pivots to a detective classic with “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” (Oct. 26-Nov. 13), an adaptation of two of the sleuth’s most bracing cases. 

Journalism often makes for no less-gripping a career than mystery-solving, and Good Theater’s first show of the season involves an especially fraught aspect of the trade: truth. In “Lifespan of a Fact” (Oct. 5-30), a writer and a young fact-checker battle over one momentous essay.

Brian P. Allen and Stephen Underwood, founders of Good Theater
Brian P. Allen and Stephen Underwood, founders of Good Theater, which celebrates its 20th season in Portland this fall with “The Lifespan of a Fact” and “Carousel.” (Courtesy Craig Robinson)

Good Theater follows its opener with the beloved musical “Carousel” (Nov. 9-Dec. 4), which its artists will perform unplugged. These shows open an exciting anniversary season for Good Theater, which Brian P. Allen and Stephen Underwood founded in residence at the St. Lawrence 20 years ago this fall. (Here’s to twenty more!)

More musicals are on deck this fall in South Portland: Portland Players presents “Rent” (Nov. 4-20), Jonathan Larson’s formative 1990s adaptation of “La Boheme,” while Lyric Music Theater stages a pop-rock adaptation of “Jekyll and Hyde” (Sept. 16-Oct. 2).

If your taste in horror runs less to Victorian-era dual identities and more to the bloody terrorizing of writers circa the 1980s, you might opt for Threshold Stage Company’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel “Misery” (Oct. 21-Nov. 6), which runs at Kittery’s Star Theatre.

Aging can bring its own kind of horrors, but also its pleasures: In the Public Theater’s first fall show, “Morning After Grace” (Sept. 16-25) two aging Boomers meet at a funeral and wake up in bed together. The Lewiston theater follows its September show with “The Victorian Ladies’ Detective Collective” (Nov. 4-13), a murder mystery billed as a love-child of Sherlock Holmes and “Arsenic and Old Lace.”  

The comedic dating exploits of the aged will also be onstage to launch the 10th anniversary season of The Footlights Theatre in Falmouth. In “Cupid’s Arrow Strikes Again!” (through Oct. 1), by Michael J. Tobin, the theater’s executive and artistic director, a pair of romance seekers navigate the Silver Southern Singles dating app. Footlights follows up with the Halloween thrills of “Cries in the Night” (Oct. 20-Nov. 5), in which a couple finds untold horrors in their new home. And a husband-and-wife team of actors takes the stage in “And No More Shall We Part” (Nov. 17-26), a story of a longtime couple’s wrenching attempt to say goodbye.

If you’re looking for Shakespeare this fall, find it in Brunswick at The Theater Project, which will mount “The Comedy of Errors” (Oct. 20-30), followed by a youth production of a stage adaptation of “The Hobbit” (Dec. 2-11). 

"Tarot Theater"
A scene from the puppet show “Tarot Theater (The Major Arcana),” a musical journey though the deck (plus palm and tarot readings for the audience), created and performed by Rion Hergenhan, upcoming at Mayo Street Arts. (Courtesy Kaitlin Toto)

With winter on the horizon, the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine turns to a snowy tale for kids: In the bilingual play “Snow in the Jungle/Nieve en la jungla” (Oct. 8-Nov. 13), a young polar bear must leave her home in the arctic and move to the tropics. And next up for CMTM will be a detective story called “Three Little Kittens” (Dec. 2-30) in which the young cats must find where those mittens went.

Kids are often thought to be the chief audience for puppet shows, but this is not the case at puppet haven Mayo Street Arts, which is among several hosts of an international festival billed as “Puppets in Portland” (Sept. 20-25). Featuring puppet artists from the Czech Republic, Germany, Kenya, New York, and beyond, the festival will include Dafa Puppet Theatre’s “War Maker,” based on the true story of Palestinian visual artist Karim Shaheen, who lived through three wars over eleven years, and Lone Wolf Tribe’s “Body Concert,” a Butoh-inspired electro-acoustically scored meditation on life’s ephemerality.  

More cross-disciplinary puppet exploration comes to Mayo Street Arts in October with “Tarot Theater (The Major Arcana)” (Oct. 15). Following this musical, mystical journey through the Tarot deck, local bandleader and Shoestring Theater musical director Rion Hergenhan (who also comes from a long line of tarot readers) will also offer Tarot and palm readings for audience members. 

And toy theater can help you ready your Halloween game, as Tophat Productions presents a miniature-sized version of Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” (Oct. 21), with all the voices sung by classically trained singer David Worobec. The Demon Barber’s revenge-driven meat pies promise to be all the more harrowing for being dollhouse-sized.

Happy fall!

Megan Grumbling is a writer, editor, and teacher who lives in Portland. Find her at megangrumbling.com.

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