While stages on Bowdoin's campus are consistently filled with impressive productions, there are certainly times that students crave some off-campus theater.

For those of you who find yourself in this situation, Portland Stage Company in down-town Portland should definitely be on your radar.

Founded in 1974, Portland Stage is Maine's largest fully professional, non-profit theater. With the mission to "entertain, educate, and engage its audiences" through "programs that explore basic human issues and concerns relevant to the communities served by the theater," PSC consistently provides both contemporary pieces and traditional crowd favorites.

To ensure that the company stays true to its mission and provides relevant and compelling productions, Portland marketing director Carole Harris explained that the theater is not a "presenting organization," meaning that it does not import pre-assembled productions. Instead, Harris said that the theater works under the philosophy that a "combination of a creative team produces the best product."

With that in mind, the theater auditions locally as well as in New York, casting actors and hiring designers from a diverse set of backgrounds. In doing so, the productions are consistently rethought and redesigned for the company's specific audience—one that draws from cities throughout Maine and across New England.

Portland Stage is especially dedicated to presenting new pieces. In order to present the community with contemporary, accessible subject matter, Harris said that Portland Stage makes a very "strong commitment to bringing new work to life."

One way that the company does so is by running the "Little Festival of the Unexpected," a week in which professional actors read emerging material. As a result of this festival, Portland Stage has begun work on Tony nominated actor, playwright and Maine native John Cariani's latest show, "Last Gas." This production will premiere next November.

Portland Stage also finds new pieces through collaborative work. Every year, the company works with the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

This collaboration draws authors from around the world to Portland for staged translations of their work, ensuring that fresh material continues to fuel Portland Stage's productions.

While mining new pieces is always important for Portland Stage, promoting theatrical tradition is never forgotten. For this reason, the company holds annual performances, including their renowned holiday production of "A Christmas Carol."

As students plan their weekends for the remainder of the academic year, it would be wise to keep in mind Portland Stage's spring productions.

Running until April 25, Stephen Massicotte's "Mary's Wedding" holds the stage.

"Mary's Wedding' is a gorgeous show...requiring the audience's emotional participation," Harris said. "Mary's Wedding," a two-actor show, is carried by its strong theatrics as well as its demanding sound and lighting effects. Following a dream sequence occurring the eve of the main character's wedding in which she reflects on a past love, the narrative takes the audience from the plains of Canada to the battlefields of France.

Following "Mary's Wedding," Portland Stage presents Itamar Moses's comedy "Bach at Leipzig" from May 4 to May 23. In this production, an all-male cast portrays a bevy of scheming candidates who vie for the position of organ master at the Leipzig cathedral.

In addition to hosting its own productions, Portland Stage also rents its space to other organizations. In the past, the venue has been used for dance performances and even a puppet festival.

Theater-eager Bowdoin students would be hard pressed to find a better deal for professional quality theater: students under 25 always receive a 50 percent discount off the regular ticket price. For the especially budget conscious, this price is reduced even more if students attend the preview performances, which are the first three nights of a new show. Additionally, groups of 10 or more people can receive a group discount when purchasing tickets.

To find out more about the Portland Stage Company visit http://www.portlandstage.org/.

Portland Stage Company

25A Forest Avenue