The Royal River Community Players in Yarmouth is christening its new playhouse with a production of “Narnia the Musical.” The show opens at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, at 304 Route 1. Contributed

YARMOUTH — Over the past four years, Royal River Community Players has evolved from an idea kicked around a campfire to a multigenerational group of actors who opened their own playhouse.

The players’ new home at 305 Route 1 was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting and open house Jan. 15. The playhouse is located in an attractive strip mall with a green roof and awnings, and is also home to Maine Coffee Roasters, professional offices and a hair salon.

The cast of “Narnia the Musical” at the Royal River Community Players in Yarmouth includes, clockwise from left, Mindy Skates, Moses Padwe, Lara Cakmakci, Elliot Alfreds and Valentine Sheldon, middle. Photo by Randy Billmeier

The theater space includes a green room that can double as community meetings space. Jesica Garrou, president of the theater group, also said the group has access to the basement, “where we can stash actors during performances.”

Brittany Strout, marketing director for the Royal River Community Players, said this week it’s been difficult for the group to find a space that “fits our always-changing needs.”

Throughout its young history, the community theater has utilized available space at the First Parish Church, the First Universalist, and the Old Meeting House, she said, but none of them provided the longevity the theater was looking for.

Strout said the new playhouse will primarily be used for performances and theater-related programming. She said funding to support the new space comes from a variety of sources, including grants from the Maine Community Foundation and Town & Country Federal Credit Union. The theater also does locally-based fundraising, as well, Strout said.

“Without the support from the community, our theater would not be possible,” she said, including the ability to stage a variety of shows ranging from “Dracula” to “Alice in Wonderland.”

Stout said the initial lease for the playhouse is for three years and having the space will “allow (us) to be able to produce the types of shows our director has envisioned. We (also) hope this space will be what our community feels like is their home too – a place to come see shows, to act, or volunteer.”

She said that community theater is special because it provides a place “where people from all walks of life and all different experiences, can come together. Some come to live out bucket-list dreams, while others are young actors just beginning to explore” their creativity.

The new Royal River Community Players theater is located in this strip mall off Route 1 in Yarmouth. Courtesy

To that end, Strout said Royal River Community Players tries to find as many shows as it can that offers “as many multi-generational characters as possible.”

Garrou, who’s also directing “Narnia,” said this week that “we envision the playhouse as being a space to bring cultural experiences to our area.”

“We also hope to provide a space for music and dance teachers to host recitals, a place to listen to a local band or watch a comedy act. (We want to) really become a center for the performing arts culture in the surrounding towns.”

With the new space, Garrou said the theater plans to expand its offerings from a few shows a year to include classes and workshops, staged readings and new play workshops, as well.

In addition, “because it takes so many types of talents to put on a show, we hope to offer classes not just in performance but also in sewing, painting, crafting, and even using power tools.”

“For a community theater our production value is really very high,” said Valentine Sheldon, the theater’s development director who’s also playing the role of Aslan in “Narnia.”

“We see the playhouse as being a really cool arts (venue) for the whole of Cumberland County,” he added.

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