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All of Howard County is a stage in new theater season

By Mike Giuliano

6:39 PM EDT, September 28, 2012

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If you're not quite ready to head indoors for the fall, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has just the show for you. Think of it as a way to partake of an early offering in the new theater season in Howard County while watching that show under the stars.

Shakespeare's "Richard III" is being done Oct. 5- 28 at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park high above Ellicott City. This intrigue-laden historical drama is often updated to a more modern setting, so it isn't surprising that Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is setting the play during World War I. What's striking about placing it there is that the Patapsco Female Institute's various uses over many decades included serving as the Maryland Women's War Relief Hospital from 1917 to 1920.

Shakespeare's text remains the same, of course, but the company hopes that updating the setting will make this bloody play's complicated military scheming a tad easier to understand today.

"I hope to clarify the action for a modern audience. A lot of the politics does not translate to an American audience, though a British audience has a fighting chance," says Chesapeake Shakespeare artistic director Ian Gallanar. "I chose the World War I era, not to recreate it, but to have the visuals as a palette."

He adds that both Shakespeare's play and the political scenario during World War I involve squabbling wealthy families who go to war. Slide projections will be used to convey the World War I era; and the set design will include a room decorated to resemble what's shown in an old photograph taken when this former girls' school briefly served as a military hospital.

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company moves indoors for the winter with "Two Gentlemen of Verona" Feb. 22- March 17 at the Other Barn in Columbia. Then, after the weather warms up next year, it goes outdoors at Patapsco Female Institute for "Antony and Cleopatra" and "Taming of the Shrew," being performed in rotating repertory June 7-July 28.

Looking way ahead, the company recently announced that it will be moving its indoor productions to a 250-seat theater to be constructed within a former bank building in downtown Baltimore. It's slated to open in February, 2014.

"We're expanding into Baltimore, but will always do the summer" shows at the Patapsco Female Institute, the company's communications manager, Sandra Barton, assures Howard County theater-goers.

For information about Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, call 410-313-8874 or go to http://www.chesapeakeshakespeare.com.

Other theater companies in the county also are getting ready to raise the curtain on a new season.

Silhouette Stages, which does its shows at Slayton House Theatre in Wilde Lake Village Center, has three big musicals planned for that relatively modest stage: "Rent" Oct. 25-Nov. 4, "The Producers" March 1-10 and "The Full Monty" May 10-19.

These Broadway hits, which should prove equally popular here on a local stage, all involve themes and language that may raise the occasional eyebrow; and "The Full Monty," yes, has nudity at the end, although razor-sharp lighting and blackouts mean you'll see more in your imagination than on stage.

Silhouette Stages president Mo Dutterer observes that his company has done shows in recent seasons, including "Blood Brothers" and "Avenue Q," that were meant for an adult audience. In fact, so many adults turned out for "Avenue Q" that this puppet musical was a box office hit for his company.

"I don't think the shows (in the upcoming season) are any more edgy than 'Avenue Q.' I want to do new things that sometimes are a little edgy and topical," Dutterer says.

For information about Silhouette Stages, call 410-997-4896 or go to http://www.silhouettestages.com

Speaking of "Avenue Q," which Silhouette Stages did as recently as last March, Red Branch Theatre opens its season with that very same show.

"Avenue Q," which will boast Red Branch-commissioned puppets made just for this production, runs Oct. 5- 21 at Red Branch Theatre's office park location at 9130-I Red Branch Road in Columbia. It's followed by the kid-friendly "Bunnicula" Oct. 26-28 and "Pinocchio" Dec. 8-16. Spring offerings in 2013 include "Alice in Wonderland" in March and the oddly titled show "Title of Show" in April.

As for Red Branch Theatre's recently announced plans to open a new 200-seat theater near its present location, marketing director Karen Sterling says that there have been "construction-related delays." She says the company "plans to move in 2013," but does not have an exact date.

For information about Red Branch Theatre Company, call 410-997-9352 or go to http://www.redbranchtheatrecompany.com.

Howard Community College's Rep Stage, which got a jump on the season with the already-closed "The Temperamentals," continues with J.M. Barrie's "Mary Rose" Oct. 31-Nov. 18, Samm-Art Williams' "Home" Feb. 27-March 17 and Marc Camoletti's "Boeing Boeing" April 17-May 5.

For more information about Rep Stage, call 443-518-1500 or go to http://www.repstage.org.

Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia has "The Color Purple" through Nov. 11, "A Christmas Carol" Nov. 15-Dec. 30, "Hot Nostalgia" Dec. 31-Jan. 27, "Fiddler on the Roof" Jan. 31-April 28, and "In the Heights" May 3-July 21.

Toby's Youth Theatre has "Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day" Oct. 16-Dec. 21, "Ben Carson M.D." Jan. 7-Feb. 15 and "The Diary of Anne Frank" Feb. 19-April 19.

For information about Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia, call 410-730-8311 or go to http://www.TobysDinnerTheatre.com.