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Main Street's leading lady is muscle behind theater, business group

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It's been more than a decade since Maureen Rogers helped relocate the Burtonsville Players — a nonprofit theater group that's performed in the Laurel area for more than 35 years — to the Laurel Mill Playhouse on the west end of Main Street.

Well established on Main Street for her networking as the little theater's public liaison and artistic director, Rogers has taken on another job toward the other end of the street. Last year, she was hired as administrator of the Laurel Board of Trade, and works in the group's small, tucked-away office on Main Street.

This year, Rogers agreed to be the chairwoman of the Laurel Board of Trade's Main Street Festival, set to transform the main thoroughfare of Old Town into a mardi gras-themed fair Saturday, May 10 drawing upwards of 100,000 people.

Rogers finds her two roles, as business group administrator and small theater liaison, to be similar.

Often, she said, she closes up the LBOT office at the end of the day and walks down the street to the Playhouse to continue working.

"I love helping people and making them happy," she said. "Resolving issues with business people, helping them to build confidence, is similar to working with directors and actors at LMP."

Big day on Main

Rogers said her role as administrator and festival chairwoman, a paid position, are separate. Former LBOT administrator Gail Reinhardt, who died in 2012, had also chaired the festival and Rogers said she strives to emulate her.

"I first met Gail when she reached out to support Laurel Mill Playhouse and encouraged us to participate in the Main Street Festival parade," Rogers said.

Traditionally held on the Saturday before Mother's Day, the Main Street Festival comprises a huge undertaking for the Board of Trade, according to Rogers.

The event will kick off as usual at 9 a.m. with a marching band and parade coordinated by honorary Board of Trade member Jim Cross and his wife, Laurel. About 60 local community organizations, businesses, churches and ROTC groups participate in the parade.

Close to 300 vendors and services will line both sides of the street and three stages will host live music and entertainment until the festival wraps up at 4 p.m.

John Spearman, president and COO at Laurel Regional Hospital since 2012, will officiate as grand marshal for the first time. And Rogers said she is pushing for more variety in food and arts and crafts.

Rogers' husband, Marvin, a member of the Laurel Board of Trade's Board of Directors, has kicked in to help by documenting vendor information and hand delivering vendor application forms to Main Street merchants.

"We do everything as a team," Rogers said.

In 2001, Rogers was a community actress and serving as treasurer when the Burtonsville Players lost its rental space in a Laurel Lakes storefront. The executive board acquired a mortgage on an antique shop, and Marvin Rogers, spent almost two years renovating the historic storefront and building the stage.  

Laurel Mill Playhouse opened in 2003 as the permanent home of the Burtonsville Players, tucked between what are now Olive on Main and Sean Patrick's Pet Spa.

In 2004, Broadway producer John Driver commuted to Laurel from New York City on weekends to help with the Playhouse's production of "Ride the Winds," a musical that Driver wrote in college and Rogers was producing, and she welcomed him into her home as a houseguest.

Rogers was awarded Best Actress as Mary in "This Play Sucks" at the Maryland One Act Festival 2008, and she earned a Maryland Theatre Guide Reader's Choice Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Sara Turing in "Breaking the Code" at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory last fall.

Since the Playhouse opened, Rogers has headed various committees and served as president, treasurer, producer, artistic director and public liaison.

Laurel Mill Playhouse actors in costume have marched in the Main Street Festival parade for nearly 10 years. Mary Dodd, who took over organizing LMP volunteers for the parade four years ago, said her relationship to Rogers hasn't changed since Rogers took on her Board of Trade job and became festival chairwoman.

She said Rogers has always marched in years past, and is helping to coordinate costumes.

"We can usually count on the current cast to participate, but we encourage everyone who's been associated with Laurel Mill Playhouse to come out for a day of fun," Dodd said.

 'A perfect blend'

Rogers occasionally calls on Laurel city staffer and long-time friend and colleague Carreen Koubeck in her work for the Board of Trade. The two first met while performing for the Laurel Community Theater some 16 years ago.

Koubeck said she's provided Rogers referrals to appropriate city staff depending on a wide range of scenarios, and that Rogers is wonderful to work with.

"I am so happy to have Maureen at the forefront of the Board of Trade," Koubeck said. "She brings a perfect blend of experience."

The Laurel Board of Trade has more than 100 small business members and partners with the city of Laurel, Prince George's County and the state of Maryland to advocate for local merchants. Board Treasurer Jan Able said the Main Street Festival is the organization's primary fundraiser.

"The festival has just grown and grown with vendors coming from up and down the east coast," she said.

Able also said that revenue from vendor rental spaces will go to presenting business forums, running the Laurel Farmers Market, supplementing the City's funding of the Backpack Program, supporting Riverfest, organizing the Trick or Treat on Main Street, and aiding the Special Olympics and various first responder groups in Laurel.

She said she plans to help man the Board of Trade booth at the Festival.

"When we have a good day weather wise, the Main Street Festival is a fabulous hometown experience," Able said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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