The Baltimore Sun’s readers have voted on what’s the best in the region, from antiques to veterinary practice. This year’s winners include people and businesses recognized for outstanding service and customer satisfaction over the last year. Several businesses stood out from the crowd despite the downturn in commerce due to the pandemic.
Winners of the Readers’ Choice ballot were selected by readers in May.
For more categories, go to baltimoresun.com/best.
Best Theater Company
Baltimore Center Stage
700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, centerstage.org, (410) 332-0033
Happy birthday to Baltimore Center Stage! For a 60-year-old theater company, you sure don’t act your age.
As it celebrates six decades of producing live theater, Maryland’s state theater could choose — as many regional theaters nationwide have chosen ― to become a little staid, a little complacent. As the largest and oldest professional theater company in the Old Line State, it could fill its seasons with yesterday’s classics and proven audience favorites.
It could coddle audiences instead of challenging them. But then, it wouldn’t be Center Stage.
From its earliest days, the company founded in 1963 by the visionary Peter W. Culman has never been afraid to experiment and take chances: by staging financially risky new works, by embracing colorblind casting and by introducing audience members to unfamiliar voices and perspectives.
In the past three decades, the theater’s commitment to shaking things up was honed and sharpened by former artistic directors Irene Lewis and Kwame Kwei-Armah, a trend that Stephanie Ybarra, who has guided the company since 2018, has every intention of continuing.
“I want to build on what Irene and Kwame have accomplished,” said Ybarra.
It’s not that Center Stage shies away from the classics. The final show of the 2021-22 season was “The Bakkhai,” an ancient Greek tragedy first performed in 405 BC. But two major themes in this 2,400-hundred-year-old work are gender fluidity and the dangers of a mob mentality — issues that dominate today’s headlines.
Ybarra also is attempting to strengthen Center Stage’s ties with the city and state in which the theater is located.
She started a series of “Baltimore Butterfly Sessions,” that combine music, poetry, literary excerpts, and conversation around issues ranging from climate change to racial violence to media representations of Baltimore.
She threw open the theater’s lobby for a blood drive conducted by the American Red Cross and she collaborated with the NAACP to sponsor a debate between candidates for governor.
Next season also will feature a new “locally grown” festival of Baltimore artists engaged in different forms of storytelling, from music to spoken word to the visual arts.
If the 60th anniversary season will have a unifying theme, Ybarra said, it will be “Our Town Baltimore.”
“We’re going to be looking at how our town works,” she said. “We’re going to be looking to the past, but we’re also going to look ahead to ask what Baltimore and Baltimore Center Stage can be for generations to come.”
Bowling: Mustang Alley’s Bar, Bowling & Bistro
Patterson Bowling Center
Forest Hill Lanes
Casino: Maryland Live! Casino
Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
Hollywood Casino Perryville
Charity/nonprofit: Caroline Center
Hampden Family Center
Archdiocese of Baltimore
Second Chance Inc.
College/university: Towson University
Loyola University Maryland
Johns Hopkins University
Morgan State University
Dog park: Patterson Park
Canton Dog Park
Perry Paw Dog Park
Golf course: Pine Ridge Golf Course
Mount Pleasant Golf Course
Bulle Rock Golf Course
Greystone Golf Course
Museum: American Visionary Art Museum
Baltimore Museum of Art
The Walters Art Museum
B&O Railroad Museum
Park: Patapsco Valley State Park
Oregon Ridge Park and Nature Center
Druid Hill Park
Private school: Loyola Blakefield
Calvert Hall College High School
Mercy High School
St. Louis School
Suburb: Ellicott City Historic District
Theater company: Baltimore Center Stage
Toby’s Dinner Theatre
Baltimore Rock Opera Society
Baltimore Choral Arts Society (tie)
Single Carrot Theatre (tie)
Tourist attraction: American Visionary Art Museum
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
The Avenue Hampden
Trail: Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail
Gwynns Falls Trail
Herring Run Park
North Park Loop Trail (Joe K’s Trail)
Wedding venue: American Visionary Art Museum
The Cloisters Castle
Baltimore Museum of Industry