The Bass Harbor-based Barn Arts Collective charmed an audience of youngsters at the Criterion Theater in Bar Harbor last weekend with their interactive musical play “We Run the Ship.” PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

Arts Collective sets sails to Criterion

BAR HARBOR — The Barn Arts Collective (formerly the Mohawk Arts Collective) sailed its colorful, musical ship to port here last weekend for the first of what promises to be a season full of fun at the Criterion Theater.

The Bass Harbor-based performance art company brought their interactive musical play “We Run the Ship” to the newly renovated art-deco theater, which has undergone great improvements with newly upholstered seats, fresh paint, new carpets and parquet floors and a marked absence of that musty old-theater smell.

This was the perfect group to demonstrate the Criterion’s commitment to presenting live performances in addition to movies. While many theatrical groups might receive praise for using the stage well in a performance, the Barn Arts folks used virtually the entire venue – the main stage, backstage, foyer, lobby, mezzanine, orchestra pit and movie screen – for their theatrical voyage navigated by a crew of enthusiastic children.

“We Run the Ship” starts with a great flood, which is represented by a watery scene projected on the movie screen. The children are then introduced to the captains of three ships, Tulip, Salamander and Bottle Cap, each of which needs a crew. The captains give the kids their musical recruitment spiel, and after each young audience member chooses which ship he or she wants to sail on, they’re off. The various groups scatter to different parts of the theatre where they are met with adventures and strange characters including a pair of talking shoes, a sassy singing plastic bag, an invisible dog and a miniature dragon.

Along the way, each ship’s crew learns a new song. When they reconvene in the main theater to share their stories, they discover lo and behold that they are all singing the same song in three-part harmony.

There is a gently presented ecological message to this show that the kids seemed to get, as well as the implication that they are in charge of their own destiny. Several of them were able to call out ideas and suggestions for the direction their voyage should take. The captains were Andrew Simon, Lucille Jan Turin and Carl Firm. There also was an odd assortment of puppet characters performed by Brittany Parker, Ben Moniz, Nicole Cardano and Brendan O’Keefe, all of whom are musically adept and able to handle with humor and aplomb the unscripted moments the kids tossed their way.

“We Run the Ship” will be performed every Saturday at 11 a.m. throughout the summer. Thursday performances at the same time begin on June 25. The collective promises new adventures with each voyage.

“We had planned to take “We Run the Ship” on tour in New York this spring,” said Simon, the Barn Art’s artistic director. But after the response to our shows this winter at the Common Good, we decided to stick around and commit ourselves to the MDI community.”

There also will be plenty of theatrical entertainment this summer back at the group’s home base in Bass Harbor, with 12 visiting artists-in-residence presenting musical fare, dance, interactive theater and their popular concert parties beginning June 5.

A schedule of events will be available soon at, and they also can be found on Facebook.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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