About Us: Hackmatack Productions 1972 - Present
Here's a list of every show we've produced over the years!.
About Us: A Brief and Interesting History
Hackmatack Playhouse was founded in 1972 by S. Carleton
Guptill. He envisioned a summer stock theatre that would showcase the talents
of professional and developing thespians from the regional area.
Many theatre goers have called Hackmatack one of New England's
most charming and quaint summer theatres. Some have even said that summer in
Maine is not summer without a trip to Hackmatack. Much of the allure of this
playhouse is its scenic location and historical presence.
Hackmatack Playhouse is located on the Guptill family
farmstead. The property was purchased by the first Guptill (then Gubtail) to
make the long trip to "New England" from native British Isles in the mid
1600's. Thomas Guptill built the first home, a log house which sat in the far
left of the present day field overlooking the irrigation pond. According to
family legend, this home was burnt down by Indians during one of the many raids
on the Salmon Falls river region. The present day farmhouse was constructed
between the years of 1716-2005 to appease the needs of an ever-changing diverse
and dynamic Guptill family. When it was first constructed, the house was a
large cape sitting endwise to the road. It was occupied at one point by two
Guptill brothers. The younger brother decided that he would like to have a
modern two story cape. His older brother in typical conservative fashion said
"the house is plenty good enough the way it is". The younger brother replied,
"My half is coming off". He then proceeded to saw his half off and tear it
down. He built his family a two story cape on the end of the original house,
parallel to the road, giving the house its shape. Minor reconstructions have
taken place since then to create a more modern and functional house for the
present day Guptills.
Prior to the year of 1972 when the theatre was established,
the Guptill family farm functioned like many other farms at the time. The barn
was the focal point of the farm. The current barn has an interesting story much
like the original house. One of the first barns was struck by lightning and
burned in July of 1934. Haying had just been completed for the season, and it
is thought that the heat from the newly cut hay attracted the lightning. Almost
immediately, Lewis Guptill began looking for the right barn to replace what had
been lost. He finally purchased a barn. It was a large old structure with
pegged timbers measuring fifty four feet long and forty two feet wide. It was
the perfect replacement for the old barn. However, there was one small problem,
it was located across the street.
Luckily, the Guptill's have always been known for their
ingenuity. It was with this cleverness that Lewis decided it would be easier to
move the barn rather than disassemble it and rebuilt it. The entire barn was
jacked up and rollers were placed underneath it. A cable was attached to one
end of the barn that ran though a large turnstile. An old white horse was
chosen for the job of slowly moving the barn. The horse was hitched to the
turnstile and the horse walked in circles, stepping over the cable on every
lap. The leverage was great and each time the horse made a circle, the barn
moved one half inch. Progress was slow. The entire operation took about three
days, a day of that was spent crossing Maine route 9. However, in 1934, Maine
route 9 was much less traveled, and everyone cheerfully watched or made their
own route around the barn.
After the theatre's first decade the barn was expanded to
the structure that you see today. An addition was added to the back, cement was
added to form the floor, and the stage was expanded. These changes made room
for the 218 seats the theatre houses today. It is rumored that back in 1972
patrons sat on hay bales to watch the show, however the original playhouse
actually had seats that were salvaged from a Durham New Hampshire movie
The grounds of Hackmatack Playhouse and the area surrounding
the theatre host many other buildings built and used by the Guptill clan over
the years. The yellow family of buildings just south of the theatre (now owned
by the Mills family) was originally built by Samuel Guptill in the early part
of last century. Known as the Forget-Me-Not, these buildings housed services
for early automobile travelers, including fuel for the autos, and food for the
hungry. Visitors could rent a cabin, and if they happened to be staying on a
Saturday night, they were in luck. On Saturday night there were always barn
The oldest building on the farmstead is the "woodshed" which
is just south of the house. This building dates back to the 1600's and has been
used for many purposes over the years. It has been used as a slaughter house
and for drying meat. It now is used for rehearsal space and prop storage.
The "mill" is across the orchard from the "woodshed". It now
houses the theatre's shop operations and its costume collection. However during
the years of self-sufficient farming, it was one of several lumber mills built
on the property by Lewis Guptill in the middle part of the 1900's. This was a
complete finish lumber mill powered by an Allis Chalmers tractor. If you listen
carefully through the whirr of the belts and the screech of the saws you might
just be able to hear Lewis and Almon Allen, and young Carelton Guptill, prepare a
load of lumber for the newest construction project.
The Guptill family has a long tradition of entertaining
locals and summer visitors in the Beaver Dam section of Berwick. Samuel's
weekly barn dances at the "Forget Me Not" were a favorite pastime during the
early decades of the 1900's. His son Lewis, a local and state Grange Master,
was also a master of many musical instruments. He had a passion for starting
bands and performing in Beaver Dam and across the state of Maine. His son
Carleton organized several theatre groups, first at the Beaver Dam grange, and
then at his barn now called Hackmatack Playhouse.
Every year thousands of people gather outside the Playhouse
with tickets to the summer's productions. Every year talented actors audition
for their chance to perform at Hackmatack Playhouse, and to experience the history
and excitement of being part of Hackmatack's family. The farm and its building
have many stories to tell. Perhaps 200 years from now Guptill great, great
grandchildren will be telling this story to aspiring actors nervously waiting
for their audition slot, and to friendly crowds waiting to take their seats; of
how the barn became home for the Hackmatack Playhouse.
After the death of the founder in 1995, the S Carleton
Guptill Memorial Fund was established to preserve and improve our historical
buildings. The fund also is dedicated to advancements of dramatic arts, both
for the participant and the community, and to the commitment of providing
quality family entertainment and drama at a reasonable price. Contributions are
always welcomed. We thank you in advance for helping us secure the future of
Hackmatack Playhouse for potential Hackmatackers.
Hackmatack exists because of the generosity of it's patrons, friends and those that appreciate the theater's contribution to local culture and community. It is committed to the advancement of dramatic arts and to providing quality family entertainment at a reasonable price.
We ask that you would consider a donation, and thank you in advance.
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