Cameo: Stephanie Ybarra

The new artistic director at Baltimore Center Stage shares her vision for the theater.

Lauren LaRocca - January 2019

Cameo: Stephanie Ybarra

The new artistic director at Baltimore Center Stage shares her vision for the theater.

Lauren LaRocca - January 2019

-Mike Morgan

You recently started as the artistic director of Baltimore Center Stage after spending seven years at The Public Theater in New York. What has it been like to transition from New York City’s theater scene to Baltimore’s scene?
New York is crawling—just crawling—with theaters, ensembles, and collectives of all shapes and sizes. It’s like a proliferation of them. It’s amazing, and it’s a lot to sift through. To me, Baltimore feels like a much more intimate and focused community of art makers, and that is really exciting. In New York, you can’t even keep track.

You’ve shown interest in sociopolitical shows and the relationship between theater and community. How, in your opinion, do they connect?
The intersection between theater and social justice, civic engagement, and community engagement really calcified for me when I went to a training a few years ago called Facilitation for Social Justice at the Interaction Institute for Social Change. I was the only arts and culture worker inside a room full of healthcare workers, educators, and social service providers. I thought to myself, ‘I might be in the wrong room.’

But a big chunk of the curriculum was spent breaking down the importance of narrative inside of social justice work. A light bulb went off in my head: stories! Our society is fueled by stories and the most compelling will change people’s hearts and minds for better or worse. They’ll influence entire communities of people; they’ll influences policies and laws.

What upcoming programming are you excited about at Center Stage?
[Former artistic director] Kwame Kwei-Armah and [executive director] Michael Ross worked to put this season together. This spring, Fun Home is a successful mainstream musical that puts the LGBTQ community at the center of its narrative, which feels revelatory. Indecent does the same thing from a completely different point of view, and so does How to Catch Creation.

Those are all subverting the dominant narrative in different ways. You can expect more of that as I am planning the 2019-20 season, and I am standing squarely on the shoulders of Center Stage’s rich legacy of inviting masterful storytellers to start to subvert and challenge who’s telling what story.

What is your vision for the future of Center Stage?
It goes back to the idea of community engagement. I’m really hopeful that the Center Stage building will become even more central to the civic life of Baltimore City and the surrounding areas. I’m equally excited to get out of the building— for our activities and programs to live just as fully outside of the walls of Center Stage.





You May Also Like


Arts & Culture

Poetic Justice

Baltimore City’s Youth Poet Laureate shares original work "What If..."

Arts District

History of Baltimore's Bygone Synagogues Captured in New Plein Air Art Exhibit

Collection of oil paintings on view at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation through October 28.

Arts & Culture

Book Reviews: September 2019

Featured reads from Rob Hiaasen and Sarah Pinsker.


Arts District

We Choose Explores Black Womanhood in Fells Point

The new exhibit features works by emerging black female artists at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum.

Arts & Culture

Summer in the City Photo Essay

From shooting hoops and splashing in pools to finding the perfect park bench, Baltimore knows how to cool off and chill out.

Arts District

Culture Club: Photography at The Walters; Lower Dens; A Year of Women at the BMA

Our monthly roundup of openings, events, and news from the art world.

-Mike Morgan

Connect With Us

Most Read


The Orioles Aren’t Moving Out of Town, But They Have a Long Way To Go: Putting a wrap on relocation rumors and the O’s predictable 2019 season.

Cardinal Art Walks Explore Works Outside of the Gallery's Bolton Hill Walls: The ongoing fall exhibition is meant to make participants see the city in a new way.

A New Production of 'The Phantom of the Opera' Is Headed to the Hippodrome: Go behind the mask with the tour's Phantom, Derrick Davis.

What the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s One-Year Agreement Means For its Musicians: After a tension-filled absence, the BSO’s 104th season will open this weekend.

New City Council Bill Could Ban Plastic Bag Use Across Baltimore: A vote next week could set in motion a bill that reaches the mayor’s desk.