Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

There are classic Maine resorts, and then there’s Quisisana Resort, which describes itself as an “all-inclusive musical theatre resort on Kezar Lake, Maine.” That’s true, but this nutshell description doesn’t begin to do justice to the beauty, the serene mood, the spectacular surroundings, and the doting staff that run this unique escape.

It’s set among 56 acres along the eastern shore of Kezar Lake, which is routinely named one of the most beautiful lakes in the state. Quisi, as it’s known, offers seven lodge rooms and 40 immaculately cared-for white cottages with names like Adagio, Harmony, Melody, Lullaby, and Toccata scattered under the tall white pines. There are two dedicated performance spaces, a lodge, a dining hall, a rec room, a couple of beaches outfitted with boats and water toys, and spectacular views of the White Mountains. The classic sunsets and the nighttime call of Kezar’s resident loons add to the magic.

It would be remarkable if that was all it offered, but the raison d’etre of Quisi is presenting musical performances that range from Broadway musicals to opera and classical concerts. Each week, guests attend nine performances that can stretch from Mozart and Bach to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, and Gershwin.

A unique wrinkle is that of the 85 staff members, half of them are also performers, ages 19 to 25, hailing from the New England Conservatory of Music, Oberlin Conservatory, Tisch School of the Arts (NYU), and other schools. When they aren’t rehearsing or performing, they work resort jobs during the rest of the day. So the star of “Shrek, The Musical” who was onstage that morning may well be serving you your steak sandwich at lunch while that pianist from the opera performance could well be your evening bartender mixing your sunset gin and tonic. It’s a profoundly friendly place but also offers you a rare opportunity to mingle with such performers.

Marshall Taylor is the long-time artistic director and admits that, yes, there’s a chance you might get to see a rising star on the way to the top. Among those who got their start at Quisi are Bridget Everett, the cabaret singer and Emmy-nominated actress; Denyce Graves, the operatic mezzo-soprano; David Miller, the operatic tenor; and Daniel Yearwood, who has performed as the lead in “Hamilton” on Broadway.

There’s no place like it. You might think of Interlochen, the famous music school in Michigan, or even the traditional resorts in the Catskills. They’re nothing like Quisi, which has become a haven for both theater performers and music and theater lovers alike.

It began with Kate Strauss, a wealthy woman from New York City, who bought acreage on Kezar’s eastern shore and built a home that she intended be a retreat for her friends in the music world in 1907. She called it “Quisisana,” a name derived from an Italian phrase that means “Place to heal oneself” or “a place for healing.” She borrowed the name directly from the Grand Hotel Quisisana in Capri, Italy. It evolved from a retreat to a music camp to a full-service musical summer resort. A succession of musically-minded owners followed, and the current era began when Jane Orans purchased it in 1984.

It grew under her inspired ownership; today, her son Sam and his wife Nathalie own it. As I learned on a recent visit, they’re deeply vested in the property and its history and infuse Quisi with an exceptionally high level of professionalism, care, and warmth. Having a devoted family at the helm is clearly the best recipe for a true family resort.

That welcome and sense of community are why Quisi enjoys a 75% guest return rate and why something like 40% of the performers return for another summer or two of musical performances as they pursue their careers.

As a guest, you’re committed as well. Based on a traditional Saturday-to-Saturday schedule, you can only check in for an entire week’s stay. Everyone is on the American Plan (three meals daily), and those nine musical productions are included in your rate.

There are 158 guests in residence at any time, and they hail from East Coast-centric locations like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington DC, places that Maine has long attracted with its cooler summers and pine-scented air. Quisi is open from mid-June through the end of August, and this is probably the best time of year to book for next summer. There’s no better way to spend a week under the pines, take a sailboat out, enjoy a White Mountains sunset and watch young performers spreading their wings in the company of fellow music lovers.

For more information, visit Quisisana Resort.

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