The roots of the Maine Drama Festival can be traced to the formation of
the NE Drama Festival in 1929. That year seven schools responded to the
invitation to come to Pawtucket, RI. In 1930 eleven schools entered plays,
and in 1931 there were twenty-one. With interest increasing, the directors
involved decided to begin individual state festivals in order to choose
two entrants from each state to participate in the New England Festival.
When individual festivals began in 1932, Morse High School principal,
Arthur Scott of the Maine Principal's Association (then the MSSPA) and
Professor Stanley Smith of Bowdoin College administered the first, with
Regionals at Morse, Winslow and Orono - and the finals in Bowdoin's Memorial
Hall. From a pool of approximately 25 schools, South Portland High School
and Hebron Academy were eventually selected to advance to New Englands.
With the exception of 1943 when WW II forced a cancellation, the Maine
Drama Festival has continued uninterrupted for over 50 years. From 1935-1966,
Bowdoin's Director of Dramatics, George Quimby, devoted himself to the
coordination of the Festival. When he retired, administrative duties fell
into the lap of the Maine Principals' Association Drama Committee.
In 1970, the Maine Drama Council was formed. Its membership made up of
directors participating in the annual Festival, the MDC assisted the principals
with the administration for the first few years until 1977 when the State
Principal's Association chose to leave the NE Council and to divest itself
of all NE- sponsored activities. The MDC requested that they be able to
run the entire Festival with continued financial sponsorship by the Principals'
Association. This arrangement existed throughout the 1980's, while the
number of schools entering continually increased. Following a marathon
1987 state finals of 14 plays, a three-tiered system was instituted in
1988 where seven Regionals selected three representatives each who competed
at two "semi-finals" - each choosing five schools to go on to
the finals. The advantage was that more schools advanced to a second level,
but the disadvantages of scheduling an additional weekend and other complications
never gave this format a chance.
With the number of schools in the Festival increasing, administration
became more difficult. Traditionally, the chairperson of the Maine Drama
Council, with input from the MDC Governing Board (then six, now twelve
members) handled the selection and assignment of sites and judges. In
1990, the principals hired a coordinator to assume administrative duties.
At the same time, the MPA decided that the three-tiered system was not
successful and instituted the current system of two divisions with small
or new programs in Division 2 and the well-established ones competing
in Division 1.
Currently, the MPA Drama Committee, the Festival Coordinators and the Maine
Drama Council work together to produce the annual Maine Drama Festival
and Competition involving nearly 80 schools and over 2000 students each year.
Some information from "A History of the Maine Drama Festival"
by John Stuart III (UMO 1976)