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Artsmash Critic Tim Smith covers classical music, theater and visual arts in Baltimore and beyond
Center Stage, Everyman among recipients of Shubert Foundation grants

The Shubert Foundation, Inc., announced Thursday that it has bestowed $24 million to 488 nonprofit arts organizations in 46 states through its grants program for 2015. Recipients include Baltimore's two Equity theater companies, Center Stage ($185,000) and Everyman Theatre ($35,000).

The 70-year-old foundation is sole shareholder of the Shubert Organization, Inc., which runs 17 Broadway and six Off-Broadway theaters. The foundation's grants program has awarded more than $360 million since its launch in 1977. This year, grants ranged from $10,000 to $325,000.

Other Maryland organizations on the 2015 list: Imagination Stage ($50,000) and Round House Theatre ($40,000), both in Bethesda; and Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo ($30,000).

Grants are made for "general operating support," Shubert Foundation president Michael I. Sovern said in a statement. "We are convinced that talented artists and administrators are best able to decide how to use the funds we grant."




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Everyman Theatre closes season with Noel Coward classic

When the Blitz descended on London during World War II, Noel Coward decided to forgo writing until the conflict was over.

"Of course, I cannot guarantee that the time will not come in the war when something goes snap," the playwright said, "and cascades of bright witticisms tumble out of me like coins from a fruit machine when the three lemons come up together."

He hit that jackpot in 1941 when, in the space of six days, he dashed off the comedy "Blithe Spirit," which is being revived by Everyman Theatre in a season-closing production that has preview performances Wednesday and Thursday and opens Friday. The show runs through June 28.

The plot of this "improbable farce," as Coward described it, revolves around a sophisticated writer, Charles Condomine. He hopes to gather material for a book by observing self-proclaimed medium Madame Arcati at a séance. The last thing he expects is the appearance of his late wife, Elvira, who only he can see and who takes a pronounced dislike to his current...

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BSO offers hearty night of German classics with Markus Stenz, Heidi Melton

If you are not rushing out of town for the holiday weekend, make room for the latest Baltimore Symphony program. The inclusion of Strauss' sublime Four Last Songs on the lineup is reason enough to catch one of the remaining performances.  

The paltry turnout Thursday night at Meyerhoff Hall proved disappointing (a bowling league could have operated without encumbrance in many a row of the rear-orchestra level), but the heart-healthy serving of solid German fare onstage hit the spot.

Although there was some ragged articulation during the evening, primarily confined to chords that needed smoother voicing by woodwinds and/or brass, the ensemble otherwise sounded in fine form.

And there was no shortage of expressive nuance from the players. They seemed firmly connected to the wavelength of principal guest conductor designate Markus Stenz, who revealed considerable sensitivity and imagination at every turn. One more sign that his association with the BSO -- the three-year principal guest tenure...

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Mandy Patinkin bails on BSO for second time; Sutton Foster to the rescue

Once was bad enough. But twice? After canceling a Baltimore Symphony pops engagement this year due to "scheduling conflicts," Mandy Patinkin has bailed again for the same reason.

"Mandy Patinkin: In Concert," rescheduled from last January to February 2016 as part of the BSO's centennial season lineup, will not take place. Instead, Broadway favorite Sutton Foster will make her BSO debut in a program of, well, Broadway favorites, conducted by Jack Everly. Performance dates are Feb. 18 at Strathmore, Feb. 19 to 21 at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Sutton won Tonys for her work in revivals of "Anything Goes" (2011) and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (2002). She also originated roles in such shows as "The Drowsy Chaperone," "Little Women," "Young Frankenstein" and "Shrek The Musical."

A first-rate substitution, I'd say.

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Concert Artists of Baltimore's 29th season to feature Dinnerstein, Graves, BROS

Count on Concert Artists of Baltimore to keep things interesting.

This combination of chamber orchestra and chorus, founded and directed by dynamic conductor Edward Polochick, typically offers programs that take intriguing detours from routine paths. The lineup for 2015-2016, which will be the organization's 29th season, is no exception.

In the space of only three full-ensemble programs, Concert Artists will perform:

-- "Mysteries of the Macabre," a suite from the opera "Le grand macabre" by the late, eminent Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti (Oct. 3)

-- Vaughan Williams' "Flos Campi" for viola, chorus and orchestra (May 7, 2016)

-- "My Shalom, My Peace," a choral piece based on children’s poems in Arabic, Hebrew and English, composed by the late rabbi Morris Moshe Cotel, who was a longtime teacher at the Peabody Institute before changing careers (Oct. 3)

-- And two 20th century American classics, David Diamond's "Rounds" for string orchestra and Randall Thompson's choral work "The Peaceable...

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Bold, eclectic 'Stinney,' new opera about 1944 execution of teen, delivers jolt

Operas have dealt with difficult, painful subjects for a long time, but perhaps not quite as difficult or painful as the topic of Frances Pollock's "Stinney."

Premiered over the weekend at 2640 Space, this work examines a stain on the American justice system -- the railroaded verdict and electric-chair execution of diminutive 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. in South Carolina 71 years ago. A posthumous exoneration, issued by a judge last December, hardly wipes away the dreadful record.

The case began when two white girls were found murdered (one of them raped) in the town of Alcolu one April day in 1944. Volunteering to the police that he had spoken briefly to the girls -- they asked him where they could find wildflowers -- was enough to get Stinney quickly charged with their deaths.

Pollock, who just earned her master's degree at the Peabody Institute, delves into the racist heart of this case and tries hard to make sense of it, as much through music as theater -- she wrote the libretto...

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