This fall, the University of Baltimore’s Spotlight will join the local company, Stillpointe Theatre, to produce Steven Sondheim’s musical “Assassins.” Plans of staging a musical have been in the works since last spring 2014 when then Dean Laura Bryan suggested it to Spotlight’s Kimberly Lynne.
The decision to work with Stillpointe, however, was almost instantaneous. It turns out that Ryan Hasse, the artistic director of the musical, Batboy, has been working with Lynne for years.
Bringing in a company with experience producing several musicals means added expertise and vision. Stillpointe was founded five years
ago by Towson University alumnus Ryan Haase, and alumnae Amanda Rife, and Danielle Robinette. Since then, the company has remained small but added another six members: Zoe Kanter, Corey Hennessey, Jon Kevin Lazarus, Ben Shaver, Stacey Antoine, and Nolan Cartwright. They continue to put on classic, current, and original plays in a variety of spaces throughout Baltimore with the goal of pushing boundaries through diverse performances.
“We strive to provide groundbreaking, thought-provoking, wild art to our local community in the hopes of making our corner of the world a little brighter, bolder, and weirder,” explains Zoe Kanter, the marketing director for Stillpointe.
In her Spotlight office, Lynne explained how the collaboration between Spotlight and UB was formed. She spoke about April’s events, the pulling of the red line, and a summer of homicides. This conversation was, in many ways, a reflection of the goals that Lynne and Haase share for the upcoming production of “Assassins.” After the dean proposed that Lynne stage a musical, she thought immediately of Haase. He had worked as a set designer for UB productions and produced two of Lynne’s plays. And, of course, Stillpointe brings years of musical production experience. Ul- timately, it was a mutual interest in staging thought-provoking, relevant musicals that made it a no brainer for Stillpointe to agree to work with Spotlight.
“UB is committed to helping bring cultural and social diversity to the community in several ways,” explains Kanter. “Their theatrical productions are no different. We jumped at the offer.”
The decision to choose a particular show, however, was months in the making. This, Lynne explains, is fairly normal in theatre world.
Initially, Lynne and Haase had settled on a production of Sunday at the Park with George, a mutual favorite about the artistic process. It fit well into the curriculum, a goal that Lynne always strives to meet when she chooses Spotlight productions.
“Then April happened,” says Lynne. At that point, both Haase and Lynne agreed that whatever the musical, it needed to be relevant to Baltimore.
At first, it seemed right to go with the theme of revolution. They chose the quintessential revolution musical, “Les Miserables.” Then, in early August, there was another hitch – this time with the rights to the show and they were back at square one. “Meanwhile the situation changed in Baltimore and it started feeling at least to me less about revolution and more about guns,” says Lynne.
That’s when Haase came up with the idea of “Assassins,” the Sondheim musical that stages nine presidential shooters in a carnival setting. Lynne was thrilled. The play was relevant in Baltimore, and beyond it as well.
And, as always, Lynne is working to encourage discussion of the issues touched on during the piece. During the matinee performances, for instance, the Hoffberger Center will provide a guided discussion on gun control following each performance. The gallery space outside the theater, Lynne hopes, will display artwork or photography drawing from Baltimore’s recent events.
Stillpointe’s Kanter expresses that there is growing excitement over the coming collaboration.
“We are a company built on the merging of ideas, and collaboration is at the heart of all we do,” she says. “This venture with UB is the next logical step for us, giving us a chance to bring our aesthetic and ideals to a brand new audience with Assassins.”
Lynne’s knowledge of theatre in the context of the Baltimore City community is exactly what makes Spotlight so exciting and it is also the reason that Stillpointe agreed to jump in with their expertise and enthusiasm. UB’s coproduction with Stillpointe continues to create theater that joins and encourages important social and political conversations.