Between Everyman Theatre’s new space, Center Stage’s innovative direction under Kwame Kwei-Armah, and Single Carrot Theatre’s successful relocation, the local theater scene is enjoying quite a revival.
So, no better time for the Howard County-based Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC) to expand into downtown Baltimore, kicking off its season September 20, and cementing the area as a bona fide theater district.
“We had always stayed away from Baltimore because we didn’t want to conflict with the other company in the city,” says CSC’s founding artistic director Ian Gallanar, pictured, left, referring to the erstwhile Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. “But when they folded [in 2011], it became clear that this is where we want to pursue our expansion.”
For 12 years, CSC has performed outdoors in Ellicott City (which it will continue to do in the summer), but once Gallanar got a glimpse of the old Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company building, he knew this was the company’s new home. “The building is evocative and reminds one of the configuration of the Globe Theatre,” he says. “It’s an intimate, vertical theater where the furthest audience member is only 20 feet from the stage.”
While the theater is reminiscent of an Elizabethan playhouse, it has modern amenities, like a side family room where kids can settle down during shows. The season opens with A Midsummer Night’s Dream followed by Richard II and will include non-Shakespeare works like A Christmas Carol around the holidays. Additionally, matinee showings of Romeo and Juliet will be performed for school children starting in the spring.
“We’re anxious to bring our kind of Shakespeare to town,” says CSC managing director Lesley Malin, pictured, right. “It’s informal, quirky, and fun—very right for Baltimore.”