Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s certainly safe to say that neither was Waterman’s Community Center on North Haven. But for thousands of years before the Romans built their vast network of highways, people were walking roads and forging paths, getting where they were going whether there were cobblestones laid down yet or not. Before the doors officially opened at Waterman’s, before the seats were installed in the theater, the lights hung and the maple flooring down in the community room, the community members were forging a path.

The doors to Waterman’s first opened unofficially last August with an open house that showcased islanders’ talents. No sheetrock had yet been nailed down, but that didn’t stop anyone from moving forward. By December, Waterman’s was a hubbub of excitement yet again with the production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, adapted by John Mortimer and with music by Nigel Hess. With over 90 minutes of music, 100 roles and 55 cast members involved from the North Haven and Vinalhaven communities, putting on this play was no small feat.

Rehearsals began in October in the school’s music room since there was no heat in the Waterman’s building and the stage was still a construction workspace. Space in the music room was limited, acoustics were horrid with so many people, and blocking the play was an impossibility.

In early December, two weeks before opening night, the cast was given the go-ahead to rehearse on the stage. Who can describe the thrill each cast member felt, not to mention their director, John Wulp, and musical director Kris Young, upon rehearsing for the first time a full production on the Waterman’s stage? The lights were still not hung, the curtains were at that moment being cut in New York, but there was no denying we were standing on a stage in a real theater. In fact, it wasn’t until the following week that the lights were hung (on Tuesday), the curtains (on Wednesday), the tech rehearsal occurred (on Thursday) and the show opened on Friday. Everyone barely dared to hope that these details would come together in time. Finally, all bid a not-so fond farewell to rickety bleacher seating and to the days when a stage, or the idea of a stage, was created on the gym floor, sometimes with no more than a cloth sheet on the floor, or a circle drawn around the cast.

Englishman John Mortimer’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol was very faithful to Dickens’ original story, from the traditional characters Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Herb Parsons) to and the Spirit of Christmas Present (played by David Cooper) to the lesser known character of Robinson Crusoe (played by Tyler Chilles). The large chorus of community members sang traditional and original Christmas carols and narrated the story, using Charles Dickens’ own words.

Since it’s winter on North Haven and the population is only about 350 people, having 55 community members on the stage often raised the question, “who’s going to come watch the show?” They need not have worried. Members of the audience came from as far away as New York to see the opening production, and the home contingency was very well represented.

At the end of the play, cast members took the stage again to thank the numerous people involved behind the scenes for their involvement. Of course, a huge thank-you went out to all of the donors who made the Waterman’s project so successful. Additionally, recognition and thanks went to MBNA for its grant supporting the production of A Christmas Carol.

The long-awaited official opening of Waterman’s Community Center is planned for February. We invite all Working Waterfront readers to come see our state-of-the art facility. Come in for some coffee, read to the children in the childcare room, or come to hear a concert or enjoy a play. We’d love to have you!

Keeley Felton is an Island Institute Fellow on North Haven.