After Years of Neglect, the Waldo Theatre is Back in the Limelight

The historic theatre is finally welcoming patrons back for films, theater productions, live music, and the Maine Fall Fiddle Festival.

the stage at the Waldo Theatre
By Will Grunewald
Photographed by Tristan Spinski
From our October 2022 issue

In the mid-20th century, architect Ben Schlanger had a hand in seemingly every major theater construction — his New York Times obituary, from 1971, made mention of the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Montreal’s Place des Arts, and the Sydney Opera House. It did not, however, touch on the 400-seat Waldo Theatre, in the midcoast town of Waldoboro. In the 1930s, a New York lumber magnate with local ties hired Schlanger to design the Waldo, which might not have possessed the scale of some other projects — the Sydney Opera House has more seats than Waldoboro has people — but nonetheless became an interesting piece in his ample oeuvre.

Most notably, Schlanger endowed the Waldo with a split personality: the Greek Revival facade blended into downtown, while the Art Deco interior felt sleekly modern to opening-day audiences. More recently, though, the theater fell into disuse. Five years ago, when a group formed to revive it, it needed a new roof, plasterwork, and insulation, plus a new projector and audio system. After a pandemic delay, the Waldo finally welcomed patrons back in-person for films, theater productions, and live music last year. “It’s a beautiful venue,” Waldo board president Keri Lupien says, “and we wanted to be able to show that to our community again.”

The Waldo hosts its Maine Fall Fiddle Fest on October 21 and 22, with a concert ($30 in advance, $35 at the door), workshops ($15, preregistration required), and a drop-in jam session (donations appreciated). 916 Main St., Waldoboro. 207-975-6490.