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New festival joins Portland performing arts scene

News, Lifestyle

New festival joins Portland performing arts scene

PORTLAND — A new festival launches in the city's Arts District this Thursday, headlined by Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin and Eepybird, the performance art duo made famous by their Diet Coke and Mentos experiments.

The Portland Performing Arts Festival also will include jazz, dance and theater from June 28 through July 1. It is partnered with the Portland Fringe Festival, which showcases local and regional artists and will run concurrently with PPAF at other locations in the Arts District.

Organizers hope the festival will capture everything Maine arts have to offer — except the long lines associated with summer tourism.

“Cultural tourism is a large and growing part of Maine’s economy, and for good reason. There are world-class arts and heritage resources all over the state,” festival founder Kara Larson said in a news release. “We put together a four-day festival of nationally recognized artists especially to draw visitors to Portland before the summer rush.”

The festival begins at 3 p.m. Thursday at One Longfellow Square with a guitar master class taught by Isbin and jazz/blues composer Doug Wamble, both of whom will perform later in the week.

That evening at Monument Square, Maine-based entertainers Eepybird will hold a live demonstration of their experiments, most notably the explosive combination of Diet Coke and Mentos, which founders Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe have used to create elaborate fountain shows and even to propel a rocket car

On June 29, Isbin will perform a solo concert at the Williston-Immanuel Church, 156 High St. Tickets are $20-$45, and available online.

On June 30, contemporary dance ensemble Alison Chase/Performance will stage the world premiere of a new show choreographed by the ensemble's namesake, Mainer Alison Chase. The show, at 7 p.m. at Merrill Auditorium, is inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "The Handsomest," and sets narrative dance to video and sound to tell Marquez's story. Tickets are $27-$47.

That night at 8 p.m. at the John Ford Theater at Portland High School, Celebration Barn Ensemble will present the world premiere of "Thumbs Up," a comedy play about "Maine's unique qualities and characters." Tickets are $15-$30

And on June 30 at 9 p.m., Wamble and an eight-piece ensemble will perform "Yoknapatawpha" at The State Theatre. The piece is based on the work of William Faulkner, and tickets are $20-$40.

The festival ends July 1 with a matinee performance of "Thumbs Up" and the festival finale, a piano concert featuring artists from the International Piano Festival performing works by a variety of composers, including Maine resident Elliot Schawartz. The concert will be held at 3 p.m. at the Williston-Immanuel Church. Tickets are $15-$25.

A representative of organizing partner the Portland Arts & Cultural Alliance said she hoped the festival would not only be a blast for Portland residents and visitors alike, but would boost the city's growing creative economy.

“As a rising cultural center nationally, Portland now has a chance to build on its strengths and attract new audiences that will increase the entire pie for our cultural community and economy,” PACA Executive Director Jennifer Hutchins said in a news release.

The Fringe Festival schedule, featuring acts curated and organized by artists from Portland and throughout Maine, is available online at portlandfestival.org. PPAF is sponsored by Portland Ovations, The State Theatre, Portland Conservatory of Music and Headlight Audio Visual.