The historic building that houses the Saco River Theatre was built as a Universalist Chapel in 1897. In its early years, it appears to have briefly served as a silent movie house and arts center called Riverside Theatre. In 1908 the Maine State Grange bought the building, and it prospered for sixty years as the primary social center for Bar Mills. In the 1980s the building was used as an auction house. Following a renovation in 1990, the Saco River Theatre (then “The Saco River Grange Hall”) officially reopened as a cultural arts center on April 21st, 1990.
Since that time the Saco River Theatre has hosted over 400 concerts, many silent films with live piano accompaniment, 120 contra-dances, and over 70 full-scale theatrical productions by the resident professional theatre company, The Originals. In addition, the organization hosts art exhibits, education programming, dance, Yoga, and music classes, and private social functions. Today, five-thousand patrons attend events at the theatre each year.
In 2014, the Saco River Theatre became an Actors’ Equity Association Small Professional Theatre (SPT) organization, testimony to the professionalism of the work the theatre undertakes. Performances by The Originals at Saco River Theatre include a wide range of material from cutting edge dramas, to comedies, to full scale musical productions (click here to see the company’s performance history). Audiences from communities in a 40 mile radius and visitors from around the country have come to expect unusual and exciting material when they come to the theatre, which routinely presents Maine and Northeast premieres.
The multitude of artistic events at the Saco River Theatre over the years has not changed the quiet and picturesque feeling of the neighborhood. Now in the 26th year since its reopening, the historic building, beautifully reflecting Bar Mills’ rural history, has once again become a vital part of the community and promises to remain so into the future.