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Baltimore's Best

Baltimore Sun’s Best: Readers’ Choice 2022 activities & arts

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.

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For more categories, go to baltimoresun.com/best.

Best Theater Company

Baltimore Center Stage

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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.

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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.”

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“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

Honorable mentions:

Patterson Bowling Center

Forest Hill Lanes

AMF

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Casino: Maryland Live! Casino

Honorable mentions:

Horseshoe Casino Baltimore

Hollywood Casino Perryville

Charity/nonprofit: Caroline Center

Honorable mentions:

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Hampden Family Center

Archdiocese of Baltimore

Second Chance Inc.

College/university: Towson University

Honorable mentions:

Loyola University Maryland

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Johns Hopkins University

Morgan State University

Dog park: Patterson Park

Honorable mentions:

Canton Dog Park

Burdick Park

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Perry Paw Dog Park

Golf course: Pine Ridge Golf Course

Honorable mentions:

Mount Pleasant Golf Course

Bulle Rock Golf Course

Greystone Golf Course

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Museum: American Visionary Art Museum

Honorable mentions:

Baltimore Museum of Art

The Walters Art Museum

B&O Railroad Museum

Park: Patapsco Valley State Park

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Honorable mentions:

Patterson Park

Oregon Ridge Park and Nature Center

Druid Hill Park

Private school: Loyola Blakefield

Honorable mentions:

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Calvert Hall College High School

Mercy High School

St. Louis School

Suburb: Ellicott City Historic District

Honorable mentions:

Towson

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Lutherville

Catonsville

Theater company: Baltimore Center Stage

Honorable mentions:

Toby’s Dinner Theatre

Baltimore Rock Opera Society

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Baltimore Choral Arts Society (tie)

Single Carrot Theatre (tie)

Tourist attraction: American Visionary Art Museum

Honorable mention:

National Aquarium

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

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The Avenue Hampden

Trail: Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail

Honorable mentions:

Gwynns Falls Trail

Dish Baltimore

Dish Baltimore

Weekly

Get the scoop on that new restaurant, learn about chef changes and discover your favorite new recipe. All your Baltimore food news is here.

Herring Run Park

North Park Loop Trail (Joe K’s Trail)

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Wedding venue: American Visionary Art Museum

Honorable mentions:

The Cloisters Castle

The Elm

Baltimore Museum of Industry


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