As Maine Grows...

By David Greenham
David Greenham and Dennis Price bring history to life during their As Maine Grows... performance in front of a Westbrook audience in April.
David Greenham and Dennis Price bring history to life during their As Maine Grows... performance in front of a Westbrook audience in April.
photo: diane hudson

Maine is at an exciting moment in history, don’t you think? Our state is changing so rapidly and in so many ways, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the progress. There is population growth in southern Maine and on the coast. Clusters of businesses are springing up in our downtowns and our rural communities. We’re making an effort to change the make-up of our school systems, hoping to find a way to provide all the services we want but spend less money doing it. Heck, for a while we even toyed with reducing the number of members of the House of Representatives. Our Governor wants us to become a leader in wind technology, we’re constantly searching for new ways to keep young people from leaving and older folks from being too bored with our limitations. We seek ways to be innovative and, at the same time, preserve the charm and friendly spirit of the past. It’s exciting.

Do you ever you wonder how we got here? How we arrived at this point where we seem to be going in every direction all at once? I wonder what they would have thought of our society back in the “old days”—nearly 500 years ago, say, when Giovanni da Verrazano first sailed into Casco Bay; or when George Popham and Raleigh Gilbert tried to create “North Virginia” at the mouth of the Kennebec. What would William King and the other heroes of statehood have thought just over 190 years ago if they knew what we know? It’s interesting to wonder. Just like it’s interesting to wonder what the future might hold 20, 50, 100, 500 years from now. What will our ancestors think about what choices we made?

This year, Dennis Price and I are touring Maine with As Maine Grows..., the fun, informative, “hair raising,” and thought-provoking story of Maine’s growth and development. It’s a 40-minute play, and it’s followed by a 30-minute discussion with the audience. We start with a history of our state, including some great stories of how we got here, and depictions of some of the important figures who helped determine our path. We talk about some of our modern efforts at controlling and planning for growth, and then, with your input and ideas, make an effort to look to the future.

Fun, informative? You bet. Thought-provoking? Sure. Hair raising? Well, wait until you hear some of the stories of our past efforts at planning and growth. Silly? Outrageous? Depressing? Insane? There’s a story in Maine history that fits every description.

If you didn’t get a chance to see our popular (and award-winning!) production of Taxing Maine—which you can still listen to right on the Maine Humanities Council website—you’re probably thinking that creating an entertaining and interesting play about growth and development is impossible. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s only a little bit impossible. We sure don’t touch on every issue of development that we could. But the goal isn’t to show you how much we know. We don’t know that much. The goal is to get us all talking about these important issues we’re facing and how we might want to address them.

As Maine Grows... is almost certainly coming to a community near you—check this online schedule for performance dates, times and locations. If it’s not coming near you, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do to get it to you and your community. At this moment in history, we need to embrace the past, marvel at the present, and, above all, consider the future. I promise that after spending an hour with us, you’ll have had fun, learned at least one thing you didn’t know before, and perhaps even started a conversation with your neighbors that will help your community.

Greenham and Price insert a good dose of schtick
Greenham and Price insert a good dose of schtick as they recall the state’s past.
photos: diane hudson