Rep Stage to premiere play about Baltimore's famed Cone sisters during 25th anniversary season

Tim Smith
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

The famed Cone sisters of Baltimore, pioneering collectors of modern art in the early 20th century, will be brought to life in the world premiere of Susan McCully's "All She Must Possess" during the 25th anniversary season of Rep Stage.

That 2017-2018 season will also be the company's first under the sole artistic directorship of Joseph Ritsch. Co-producing artistic director Suzanne Beal is retiring at the end of the current season.

In addition to the world premiere, Rep Stage will offer three 20th-century American works next season: Wendy Wasserstein's "The Heidi Chronicles," Lanie Robertson's "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill," and Sam Shepard's "True West."

The art-amassing history of Claribel and Etta Cone, who snapped up works by Matisse, Picasso, van Gogh and other greats and donated the bulk of their collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art, might be enough material alone for a stage work.

But in "All She Must Possess," which opens in February and will be directed by Ritsch, playwright and University of Maryland, Baltimore County faculty member McCully also puts the spotlight on the personal story of the quiet Etta, a lover of Gertrude Stein. This production will be Rep Stage's contribution to the second Women's Voices Theater Festival, being held in the Washington area next year.

Winner of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award, "The Heidi Chronicles" takes a humor-filled look at a woman balancing career and relationships. It will open the Rep Stage season in September, directed by Jenna Duncan.

"Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" imagines a 1959 performance by jazz luminary Billie Holiday in the sad final months of her life (Audra McDonald earned a Tony for her 2014 performance in a Broadway revival of the 1986 work). Danielle Drakes will direct the November production. The musical director will be Cedric D. Lyles, who has done notable work with Baltimore's ArtsCentric company.

Shepard's "True West," from 1980, centers on the reunion of estranged brothers who are perpetual rivals. Everyman Theatre artistic director Vincent Lancisi will direct the Rep Stage production in April/May 2018.

For more information on the 2017-2018 Rep Stage season, call 443-518-1510, or go to repstage.org.

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