New Portland Performing Arts Festival offers sneak preview Friday night (videos)

In case you’ve missed it, this summer Portland will play host to a four-day extravaganza of performing arts, with music, poetry, dance and drama. On Friday, during the city’s regular First Friday Art Walk, folks will get a one-night glimpse of the festivities to come.

First, a little catch-up on the festival, in the off chance this is the first you’ve heard of it.

From June 28 to July 1, Portland Performing Arts Festival organizers promise to “transform Portland’s Arts District into a hotbed of creative activity,” bringing in nationally renowned performers to mingle with a selection of talented locals.

Here’s how festival president Kara Larson describes the four-day public gala in a comment posted on the festival website:

We hope to create a sustainable and distinctive festival that brings regional residents and cultural tourists to Portland’s vital downtown. By combining visiting artists from around the world with performances by Maine artists and collaborative work with Portland’s arts organizations we hope to create a world-class event that is uniquely Maine’s. … If, in a year or two, it becomes an even larger week-long event, it will have more potential to draw audiences from New York, New England and Canada (and eventually further away).

So, in short, the new Portland Performing Arts Festival will be a big deal in the city this year, and could grow into one of those celebrated annual Maine events that people mark on their calendars months in advance, like the Yarmouth Clam Festival.

A Severe Joy album art

For a teaser, Portland Performing Arts Festival organizers are holding a slate of performances at 488 Congress St. Friday night, where they’ll be selling tickets and passing out information about the summertime events. Friday night’s fun will include concerts by The Dark Follies, A Severe Joy and Dead Man’s Clothes, as well as spoken word performances by Pippa Curran and Ann Tracy.

The early roster of performers for the June 28-July 1 itinerary includes classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, well-known choreographer Alison Chase’s new dance company, and the guys from Eepybird, whose elaborate “Coke & Mentos” video went viral and made them worldwide Internet stars. Click here for more artists, as well as links through to find out when and where they’ll be performing during the summer festival.

To whet your appetite, here are some videos from the performers slated to anchor the festival lineup.

Sharon Isbin:


Alison Chase dance:

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.