ALMOST MAINE A comedy for romantics

One of USA’s most produced plays, a series of stories that explores love in all its forms and angles, returns to Perth in Almost, Maine. Described as a “comedy for romantics,” the play was originally written by John Cariani, and will be hitting Fringe World this year with performances at Girls School from Tuesday, January 25 to Sunday, January 30. KWANWOO HAN caught up with Kristen Twynam-Perkins to find out how she came across the popular play and re-shaped it for a Perth setting.

Congrats on bringing Almost, Maine to Fringe World 2022! How does it feel to perform the show this year?

Thanks, I am very excited to be bringing Almost, Maine to Fringe World this year. Not only do I feel blessed to be able to perform, but also to bring this particular show to the stage. This is an engaging and heartwarming piece that the audience will recognise themselves in at least one character and scene.

You have over twenty years of experience in the theatre under your belt. Where did it all start and how did you reach this point?

I started dancing at a young age and that was my first love of theatre. At the age of 12 I started performing with the Perth Gang Show, a variety show put on by the scout and guide associations. My first foray into community theatre was in 1994 as Anybodies in Roleystone Theatre’s production of West Side Story. Since then I have been involved with over 100 productions in many different capacities. I have taken my passion for theatre and performing arts into my career as a performing arts teacher. Most recently I worked at the United Nations International School in Hanoi, Vietnam as a theatre and dance teacher.

Almost, Maine premiered in 2004, and has been performed many times since then. Why did you choose to perform it?

I have loved this play since reading it six years ago. There is something about the characters and stories in each of the scenes that I connect with and really enjoy exploring. I also really enjoy working with character-driven plays that are minimalistic in style so that you can focus on the story and emotion. I have been lucky to be involved with a number of productions in Perth and Vietnam, and even used this as a class text for performance assessment. What I really love about this piece is that it changes with each new person who looks at it and you will always find something new.

The show premiered in Portland in 2004, and has been performed all over USA since then. How did you come across it? 

One of my actors, Paul Treasure, and I have always discussed different shows and shared when we have found a new one. About six years ago he heard about this and sent me a synopsis, knowing I would love the style. I ordered myself a copy and couldn’t put it down the first time I read it. I was originally supposed to be directing it three years ago at Roleystone Theatre, but the space was closed for emergency renovations and we were unable to perform, so I kept hold of this script for when I returned home.

You’ve performed in and directed many shows over the years. How does Almost, Maine compare to those?

Almost, Maine has a very special place in my heart and always will. I have been lucky enough to work with many different performers and theatre groups over the years and every show brings back memories. I will never forget some of the shows I have worked on with my students because they were so magical; this is up there with them. That has a lot to do with the group of people that are my cast and crew. They are all outstanding and passionate performers and bring their talent to the fore with the different roles they take on.

You’ve directed Almost, Maine before last year in May at Roleystone Hall. Have you made any improvements since last time?

We have had a couple of cast changes this time around and the space is very different. I am replacing one of the actors in a couple of scenes, which means that I am taking on more characters, more lines to learn. The last time, we performed in the round so we were able to explore the cyclical nature of the play, with all the scenes happening at the same time on a Friday night, under the magic of the Northern Lights. This time we have a much smaller space and an ‘end on’ stage which means we have changed staging elements. Also, performing the play in the middle of summer rather than middle of winter means we have had to consider some of our costumes!

Who did you bring on board for the show and why are they a good fit for it?

I am so lucky to have so many amazingly talented people in my life that I am working with a group of people who are not only fantastic performers, but also my friends. Paul and I have known each other for over 20 years and have worked on many shows together, mainly at Roleystone Theatre. Joanna Tyler and myself were at uni together studying drama teaching and worked together on a production of Cloudstreet 12 years ago.

Sam Barnett and Alan Gill round out our cast and they were both supposed to be involved in the show three years ago. Alan was in the May season, but unfortunately Sam was not able to do it so it is lovely to have him on board this time. And we have Andre Victor, who is a well-known performer in Perth who is taking on Stage Management for the first time. We have worked really hard on developing relationships outside of rehearsals as well which shows in our performance.

Which of the original eleven scenes speaks out to you the most?

Scene seven is the one that I identify with the most, the story of a woman who has come back to her hometown to see the man who she left standing ‘there’ without an answer to a very important question. It looks at how you can hold onto your first love forever and sometimes the only thing is to go back home.

Describe your perfect romantic evening.

Maybe an outdoor cinema showing a classic movie, a picnic with wine and good cheese, dips and pate. Then to the beach to talk until the sun comes up. Whatever it is, it needs to include wine, snuggles and in depth conversation.

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