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NIU theater school opens season with ‘Almost, Maine’

Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance is going back to the place where many fell in love with theater – middle school.

The season-opening play in the Mainstage Series is “Almost, Maine,” by Tony Award-nominated actor John Cariani. It opens today and will be performed in the school’s new but temporary theater venue at Huntley Middle School Auditorium on South Fourth Street in DeKalb.  

Director Ryan Massie said there is a lot of nostalgia associated with performing at the middle school.

“Many of the cast and crew fell in love with theater when they were in this stage of their education,” he said in a news release. “It’s exciting to go back to that time.”

He said the show’s student cast is reminded of their own middle school days every time they walk out into the school’s halls and see the lockers covered with posters and event announcements. 

“Almost, Maine” is the story of a fictional town where residents find themselves falling in and out of love. The play is divided into nine short vignettes that explore the vastness of love, from its tribulations to its magic. 

“It’s love ... almost,” Massie said in the release. “It’s deeper than just, ‘Love exists and it’s a good thing.’ This play is a story about the work that love requires.”  

Although “Almost, Maine” has become the No. 1 most produced show in North American high schools this year (booting “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” to the second place spot), Massie doesn’t plan for this production to be anything like the usual productions. He said the setting is in an abandoned storage house, in order to get back to the skeleton of what the script is about. 

He also has collaborated with sound designer Jake Harbour to create transitional scenes with easily recognizable love songs that are distorted in some way. 

This production of the NIU School of Theatre and Dance is not affiliated with DeKalb Community Unit School District 428.

“Almost, Maine” will be performed today through Sunday and Oct. 24 through 26. Show times are 7:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays and second Saturdays.

Tickets cost $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students.

For tickets or more information, call the School of Theatre and Dance box office at 815-753-1600 between noon and 6 p.m. daily or visit

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