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Contact: Chris Melville, [email protected]

 Waterville Opera House to Produce World Premiere for NewPlayFest 2026

WATERVILLE, ME—The Waterville Opera House (WOH) is thrilled to announce its selection as a Producing Theatre for the American Association of Community Theatre’s (AACT) NewPlayFest 2026.

WOH is one of only six theatres in the nation to receive this prestigious honor. Each cycle, hundreds of playwrights submit original scripts for consideration. Following a rigorous three-tier review process, the Producing Theatres will select one finalist to produce, and the six plays are then announced as AACT NewPlayFest 2026 award winners.

Aligned with AACT’s mission of providing support and resources to community theatres, NewPlayFest addresses the critical need for new, high-quality plays for community theatre audiences worldwide. This unique playwriting competition guarantees that each winning play will be produced as a world premiere by an established theatre and published by Dramatic Publishing Company in an AACT NewPlayFest anthology. The winning plays will receive a full production by the Producing Theatres between June 2025 and December 2026.

“Theatres rarely have a chance to work hand-in-glove with a show’s playwright during the rehearsal process,” said Debra Susi, WOH’s long-serving stage and intimacy director and theatre educator, who will direct the NewPlayFest world premiere. “This award provides the Waterville Opera House with the rare opportunity for all creatives—designers, directors, and most importantly our talented Central Maine actors—to work directly with the playwright and play a significant role in the premiere of an award-winning play. It is a unique and exciting experience for our theatre community.”

Since its construction in 1902 to celebrate the city of Waterville’s centennial, the Waterville Opera House has hosted countless events, including plays, musicians, vaudeville acts, dancers, poets, circuses, and more. In 1973, the Waterville Opera House Improvement Association was founded with the mission of maintaining and preserving the space. The association raised millions of dollars for the theatre and eventually oversaw a massive renovation in 2012.

Today, as a division of Waterville Creates, the Waterville Opera House has a thriving community theatre program that produces four mainstage productions, offers three weeks of theatre camp for students, and presents four touring productions for school-aged children. In addition to their theatre programming, WOH also presents nationally touring musicians, comedians, authors, and other live performances, and hosts major screenings during the Maine International Film Festival, a project of the Maine Film Center.

“I am thrilled that the Waterville Opera House has been selected to be one of only six theatres nationwide to take part in the 2026 NewPlayFest through the American Association of Community Theatres,” said WOH Executive Director Michelle Sweet. “This is a tremendous honor and an exceptional opportunity for our volunteer performers, our Creative Team, and our community as a whole. I look forward to welcoming the playwright and many others to Central Maine and spotlighting our topnotch theatrical productions.”

In addition to Waterville Opera House, the selected Producing Theatres for AACT NewPlayFest 2026 are Westchester Collaborative Theater in Ossining, New York; Players de Noc, Inc. in Escanaba, Michigan; Theatre Salina in Salina, Kansas; Vortex Theatre in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Kenai Performers, Inc. in Soldotna, Alaska. Theatre33 in Bellevue, Washington serves as an alternate.

AACT NewPlayFest produces six original plays as world premieres across the country every two years. To date, more than 40 original scripts have been published, with productions licensed globally and receiving international acclaim. Visit for information on past winning plays and their productions. These plays are available to be produced through Dramatic Publishing Company. Visit for information on producing these new works.


About the Waterville Opera House

Waterville Opera House (WOH) has been bringing the magic of the performing arts to audiences of all ages since 1902. This beautifully restored, 810-seat theatre hosts high-quality community theatre, dance, concerts, and educational programming. As part of the artistic community working to make Waterville a key arts destination, WOH encourages an appreciation for the performing arts and its creative expression by consistently producing exceptional performances for residents and visitors. We firmly believe that art and culture have the power to enrich lives, strengthen community bonds, and serve as an economic engine. For more information, visit

About the American Association of Community Theatre

AACT’s mission is to help theatres thrive by providing them with networking, resources, and support. It represents the interests of thousands of theatres across the United States and its territories, as well as those with the U.S. Military Services overseas.

The AACT NewPlayFest world premieres are made possible in part by a grant from the Jack K. Ayre and Frank Ayre Lee Theatre Foundation. Created by the children of Frank Ayre Lee, this foundation honors their father and his cousin Jack, both passionate supporters of community theatre and new works.