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Quinn: Eastport, Maine is a small town that’s made entirely of islands, with a population of only about 1300 people. It has a large annual Fourth of July festival. Once a very successful trading port, after the fishing industry declined the city went bankrupt. Fishing is still the primary industry in Eastport, which tells you a little bit about how economically bustling the town is. Indeed, in the 2010 census the median age was 54.5 years old. It’s a typical small town story in America—it was reliant on an industry that no longer supports the town. The population is aging. The only feature that makes it stand out is its claim to fame as the eastern most city in the United States, and that’s just a geographical fact. It’s also a geographical fact that I grew up right next to Eastport.
You can imagine my surprise, then, to discover the name of this unassuming little town in my college homework. That was when I learned that Eastport is part of a story much larger than itself. On one level, it’s the story of Cornerstone Theater, a theater company that started as a group of idealistic college students traveling the country and building theater with different communities. On another level, it’s the story of community arts in America, and why they are in more trouble and are more important than ever before. But even beyond that it’s the story of what rural America is, and why a fishing town with 1300 people is full of love, and pain, and hope.
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Joyce: And the arts commission said “oh you wouldn’t want to go there, there’s nothing there. It’s just a fishing, shipping town.” And they knew immediately that was where they wanted to go because that’s what they were looking for, a place where there wasn’t theater.
Brian: You know I talk about doing theater here, I try to tell people who I feel like don’t understand what a gift it is, not just to have a community theater, but to have a community theater in a place like this.
James: And so the theater seems to me to be a place where we get to embody that reality and abstraction and come to grips with it and find consolations and joys in that problem. Whether comic or tragic. But it’s an art form that requires us all to embrace our humanity and share it with each other in real time. And that’s what makes it miraculous, right? And why it will never go away.
Lou: It certainly has been a hugely satisfying thing in my life for all these years, I can’t imagine life without it.
Quinn: Eastport is part of a story much larger than itself. This podcast is telling that story. I hope you’ll come along with me.
Meg: There are a lot of wonderful places we have yet to go, I feel like we’re just getting started.