By Elizabeth McMahon
Twisted Melodies, a one-man show about a struggling jazz musician living in the 1970s, is running until April 16th. It is written and performed by Kelvin Roston, Jr., of Chicago.
Walking into Baltimore Center Stage presents an impactful moment. Before even seeing a minute of performance, a guest is tugged into the powerful story about the theater’s dynamic presence in Baltimore.
“We made this big open entryway, the Deering lobby, because our mission as a theater that comes from our artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah is the idea of access for all,” Lisa Lance, Baltimore Center Stage Public Relations Manager, told the UB Post. “We’re not just a theater where people who can afford to see the show go, but we’re part of the community. Having a much more open space reflects that philosophy.”
The focal point of the Deering lobby is a quote wall, which extends up to the second floor. Quotes from famous plays and playwrights, which were selected through crowdsourcing on Facebook and Twitter, are displayed in bright white light through a silver covering. The striking piece was designed by Abbott Miller, Baltimore resident, MICA professor and partner at Pentagram, a design firm based in New York.
Baltimore Center Stage, formerly called Center Stage, underwent a 28 million dollar renovation in 2016. The building reopened March 3, 2017, premiering its first play in the Head Theater, White Snake, written by Mary Zimmerman and directed by D.C. based Natsu Onoda Power. The redesigned Head Theater is both intimate and dynamic, with a convertible stage that can be arranged in eight different ways.
The theater has three stages in all, including a smaller 99-seat space that will be “used to show more cutting edge work and younger voices, for a different kind of audience than our members with season tickets might go to,” Lance said. Baltimore Center Stage is aggressively reaching out to all members of the community to get involved with their work.
“At Baltimore Center Stage, we believe that everyone deserves to experience high-quality theater,” said Managing Director Michael Ross. “To broaden our reach, we’ve expanded our artistic, community and educational programs.”
One of these programs is the Mobile Unit, which starting this spring will “bring professional theater performances directly to communities including the homeless, the elderly, the incarcerated and the underserved,” Ross said.
The Brown Education Center is a new space dedicated to workshops, summer camp, and an after school program. The theater will host the Young Playwrights festival on May 1, 2017, selecting plays written by elementary to high school students to be performed on their stage. “Art changes lives,” Lance shared, “and we want to get young people involved in the creation process.”
Baltimore Center Stage also has a community focused dramaturgy program. “Dramaturges are the literary consultants for plays, and we have a few different programs for new play development,” Lance explained. One of these is Wright Right Now, during which a playwright sits in the lobby of the theater before shows taking prompts from people for play ideas. The playwright takes the prompts and the contributors’ email addresses, and sends them each a 10-minute play 24 hours later.
Ross aims to “make the magic of theater accessible to young people in Baltimore and throughout the state.” This effort includes 20 dollar tickets for students with valid ID, and a “go pass” for theater-goers under 35, which offers discounted season tickets.
For students looking to get involved behind the scenes, Baltimore Center Stage has plenty of volunteer opportunities. They also have a one year internship program, the Katherine Vaughns Internship Program, which is still accepting applications. Information about both can be found on their website, centerstage.org.
Photo by Karl Connolly Photography