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Chesapeake Shakespeare Company sets 2015-2016 season, new seating policy

Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
Gore, greed, drollery and sewing "Wild Oats": just part of Chesapeake Shakespeare's 2015-2016 season.

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, which has been enjoying a well-received inaugural season in its comfy downtown Baltimore digs, will offer the light and dark sides of the Shakespearean cannon during its second season there.

A late-18th-century comedy and a revival of the company's Baltimore-centric version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," which was unveiled this season, are also on the 2015-2016 lineup.  

"I like the variety, with lots of different stuff going on," said Chesapeake Shakespeare Company artistic director Ian Gallanar.

The season will open in September with "Much Ado About Nothing" in a staging that updates the action to the World War I era. "It will appeal to Shakespeare fans and 'Downton Abbey' fans," Gallanar said. 

He will direct the bloody "Titus Andronicus," opening in October. The production concept can be described as "rock 'n' roll by David Lynch," the director said. "It's not for the kiddies. We like to do do family-friendly shows, but there's no way to make mutilation and gang rape family-friendly."

Rounding out the Shakespeare side of things will be "Macbeth," opening in April 2016. No details yet on how it will be staged.

In addition to the holiday offering of "A Christmas Carol" in December, the company will present a 1791 comedy by Irishman John O'Keeffe, "Wild Oats," in March 2016. It's about a troupe of strolling players headed by a fellow who speaks in quotations by Shakespeare and others.

"It sat on a shelf until the Royal Shakespeare Company discovered it in the 1970s," Gallanar said. "I've wanted to do it for years and finally decided we have the place and time. It's a really funny play."

One thing that won't be offered next season at the company's home venue is unreserved seating. When the theater opened, only the center section of seats on the first two of three tiers was reserved. Next season, all seats will be reserved.

"We discovered people didn't want choice," said managing director Lesley Malin. "They want to know where their seat is."

The company, with a $1.6 million budget, expects about $30,000 people to come through its doors for performances by the time the inaugural season ends ("Romeo and Juliet" is the final 2014-2015 show, opening next month).

"We're very happy with the numbers," Gallanar said. "We're doing better than expected. But we're trying not to get overly optimistic." 

The company, which primarily staged works outdoors each summer at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City before getting a home in Baltimore, has maintained that practice (the summer 2015 production is “The Comedy of Errors.”)

Next season, "Romeo and Juliet" will be offered in the company's popular "movable" format in June 2016 (the audience follows the actors from spot to spot on the park grounds). A dramatization of "The Three Musketeers," in a traditional staging, will also open that month.

Subscriptions to Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's 2015-2016 season go on sale May 31.

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