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Baltimore center stage
700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, centerstage.org, (410) 332-0033
Congratulations to Baltimore Center Stage! You certainly don’t look your age for a 60-year-old theater company.
As it celebrates six decades of live theater production, the Maryland State Theater — like many regional theaters across the country have chosen — might choose to get a little staid, a little smug. As the largest and oldest professional theater company in the Old Line State, it has filled its seasons with yesterday’s classics and proven crowd favorites.
It could coddle the audience instead of challenging them. But then it wouldn’t be Center Stage.
Founded in 1963 by visionary Peter W. Culman, the company has never been afraid to experiment and take risks since its inception: directing financially risky new works, accepting color-blind casts, and introducing audiences to voices and perspectives unfamiliar.
Over the past three decades, the theater’s commitment to shaking things up has been refined and sharpened by former artistic directors Irene Lewis and Kwame Kwei-Armah, a trend Stephanie Ybarra, who has led the company since 2018, is eager to continue.
“I want to build on what Irene and Kwame have achieved,” Ybarra said.
It’s not like Center Stage shys away from the classics. The final show of the 2021/22 season was The Bakkhai, an ancient Greek tragedy first recorded in 405 BC. was listed. But two major themes in this 2,400-year-old work are gender fluctuation and the dangers of a mob mentality — issues that dominate today’s headlines.
Ybarra also seeks to strengthen Center Stage’s ties with the city and state in which the theater is located.
She launched a series of “Baltimore Butterfly Sessions,” which combine music, poetry, literary excerpts, and talks on issues such as climate change, racial violence, and media portrayals of Baltimore.
She opened the theater’s lobby for an American Red Cross blood drive and worked with the NAACP to sponsor a debate between gubernatorial candidates.
Next season will also see a new “locally grown” festival of Baltimore artists exploring diverse forms of storytelling, from music to spoken word to visual arts.
If the 60th anniversary season is going to have a unifying theme, Ybarra said, it will be “Our Town Baltimore.”
“We’re going to look at how our city works,” she said. “We will look to the past, but we will also look ahead to ask what Baltimore and Baltimore Center Stage can be for generations to come.”
Bowling: Mustang Alley’s Bar, Bowling & Bistro
Patterson Bowling Center
forest hill paths
Casino: Maryland Live! casino
Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
Hollywood Casino Perryville
Charity/Non-Profit: Caroline Center
Hampden Family Center
Archdiocese of Baltimore
Second Chance Inc.
College/University: Towson University
Loyola University Maryland
Johns Hopkins University
Morgan State University
Dog Park: Patterson Park
Canton Dog Park
Perry Paw Dog Park
Golf Course: Pine Ridge Golf Course
Mount Pleasant Golf Course
Bulle Rock Golf Course
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Museum: American Visionary Art Museum
Art Museum Baltimore
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Park: Patapsco Valley State Park
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Druid Hill Park
Private school: Loyola Blakefield
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Suburb: Ellicott City Historic District
Theater Company: Baltimore Center Stage
Toby’s Dinner Theater
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Tourist attraction: American Visionary Art Museum
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Way: Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail
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Herring Run Park
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Wedding location: American Visionary Art Museum
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