2012-05-04 / People

Lisa Van Oosterum brings theater to SMCC and the community

By Kristy Wagner
Staff Writer


Lisa Van Oosterum Lisa Van Oosterum Lisa Van Oosterum adds a theatrical touch to the South Portland community. The New Hampshire native teaches acting at Southern Maine Community College and is currently in the process of organizing a fringe theater festival for the end of June to run at the same time as the Portland Performing Arts Festival.

Van Oosterum moved to Maine from the Boston area six years ago with her family.

“My first son was born in Boston and I quickly realized I wanted to be somewhere less crazy, but was urban enough that I could still feel some culture,” Van Oosterum said.

She is a graduate of the acting program at Emerson College in Boston. After college she spent much of her 20s acting.

“I was primarily an actor and, once I had kids, I stepped back and began teaching and directing,” Van Oosterum said.

A strong advocate for local theater and production companies, Van Oosterum immersed herself in the performing arts community of South Portland and the surrounding areas. She networked and gained a rapport with Stages in South Portland, Lucid Stage, St. Lawrence Performing Arts Center and SMCC.

“I began teaching at SMCC two years ago,” Van Oosterum said. “It’s the first acting class the college has had.”

Van Oosterum was hired to teach an acting elective after she was contacted by Jeff Badger, the department chairman of fine arts at SMCC.

Badger heard of Van Oosterum through networking in the local arts community.

“(Badger) had the idea to start a class and hired me to write the syllabus and come up with (a curriculum) that would be a good fit,” Van Oosterum said.

Van Oosterum teaches improvisation-based acting and feels it is suitable and fun for first time actors in particular.

“It’s very interactive, very fun and creative, so at the very least students walk away with a bigger sense of creativity and are more comfortable with people,” Van Oosterum said.

Van Oosterum said she enjoys the diverse student body at SMCC and the fact that many students take her class for many different reasons.

“A lot of my students come to class with no desire to be an actor, but have an interest. It’s great having all those different backgrounds together in one space,” she said.

Her current project is Port Fringe2012,afringetheater festival she is working on with the Portland Theatre Collaborative. Portland Theatre Collaborative is a community of designers, actors, directors and others who work together to bring ongoing theater to the southern Maine community. This is the first year the group has organized a fringe theater festival.

“The movement got started in December with a few people, who then looked to bring on a few more people,” Van Oosterum said. “I have been involved since the beginning planning stage.”

Van Oosterum is one of seven people who serve on the Port Fringe board. Each person spearheads a different area of Port Fringe.

She took on the role of venues and artists and has been the contact person for the three venues involved in housing the shows to be performed in the last week of June.

“I negotiated with specific venues to lock down the times and worked with budgets and things like that,” Van Oosterum said.

The venues to stage Port Fringe shows include Geno’s Rock Club, Lucid Stage and the St. Lawrence Arts Center. Each venue is located in a different neighborhood of Portland’s downtown area.

“It was submission-based and we accepted over 40 different acts,” Van Oosterum said. “The majority of them are local. Our goal is to bring the theater community together.”

Van Oosterum said many people are involved in the shows and almost all of them are from the Portland area. She said Port Fringe organizers were not expecting such a huge response to the call for submissions.

“They put in a proposal for an idea and if it fit, then we produced it for them,” Van Oosterum said. “It’s a great way for peripheral people to get involved; there are so many ways to be a part of the festival.”

Portland Theatre Collaborative pays for the venues and Van Oosterum said the festival is a great opportunity for local actors and theater groups who do not have access to a performance space.

“It’s great for anyone with an idea, but no budget for a venue,” she said.

Port Fringe will occur at the same time as the Portland Performing Arts Festival, which is a much larger downtown festival.

“(Port Fringe) is really a different type of festival. It’s a different demographic,” Van Oosterum said. “We can only work together so people coming out can find what they want. I think (running festivals simultaneously) only can enhance the experience for (festival goers).”

Not only is Van Oosterum involved in the planning of Port Fringe, she will also act in one of the shows.

“I will be in Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights and that show is also put on by Portland Theatre Collaborative,” Van Oosterum said.

Van Oosterum will perform at Geno’s on the Festival’s opening day June 26.

A busy parent, actor, teacher and director, Van Oosterum said she is fortunate to have theatrical opportunities fall into her lap.

“It’s just networking and knowing people,” she said. “This is how things always work out for me. I just put myself out there and things work out.”

Staff Writer Kristy Wagner can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 219.

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