By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun
December 17, 2011
Two pioneers from different eras of Baltimore's theater scene have joined forces to create Baltimore Open Theatre, which will offer free performances by contemporary theater and dance companies from the region, nation and abroad, starting in the fall of 2012.
It's the brainchild of Philip Arnoult, 70, who founded the Theatre Project four decades ago, and Buck Jabaily, 27, who co-founded the Single Carrot Theatre in 2007 and who will step down next month as director of Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.
"I've been a mentor to Buck on a lot of levels," Arnoult said, "and this man needs to be in the theater. He's absolutely perfect at this time for this project. We're so tuned into what we think this is about."
Several possible locations for Baltimore Opera Theatre are being considered, with attention focused on the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and Baltimore's Westside, where Everyman Theatre will become a neighbor to the Hippodrome next year.
Arnoult and Jabaily plan to curate productions of cutting-edge work from a wide variety of groups, especially those who have not appeared before in the area. The 2012-13 inaugural season of Baltimore Open Theatre is scheduled to showcase companies from South America and Eastern Europe.
"In Baltimore and most of America, I'm going to see well-made plays with a beginning, middle and end, with a protagonist and antagonist," Jabaily said. "Most of our work will not be like that."
In addition to presenting four or five international companies, two weeks at a time, future plans call for as much as 20 weeks of local and regional work each season.
"That will include Baltimore companies," Jabaily said. "We also may find artists who want to get together to work on a show, and we will be able to take off some of the pressure for them and help them get it done."
A grant of $50,000 from the Deutsch Foundation has made it possible to launch Baltimore Open Theatre. The foundation has also committed to a $150,000 challenge grant to support the organization.
Arnoult is a longtime advocate of free access to theater, which was the original policy at the Theatre Project. He now runs the Center for International Theatre Development.
"What I'm seeing for the past 20 years in Poland, Russia, Bulgaria and Hungary is an evolution of young audiences coming to their theaters," Arnoult said. "America has an aging audience. That has got to change."
Plans call for a lean staff and an essentially paperless operation, with communication done primarily via the Internet and social media. The company's website is not yet operational.
Removing the price barrier is only one goal for Baltimore Open Theatre.
"We want to consider how to deepen the theater experience," Jabaily said. "A theater event is really the center of a three-act play. This first act is about evoking intrigue before the performance. And the third act is an exchange among artists and the audience; we're calling it 'post-consumable art.'"
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