The Shakespeare Theatre Association, with an international membership of more than 100 companies, will hold its annual conference in Baltimore early January 2017. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, which inaugurated its acclaimed Baltimore home in a renovated bank building last year, will host.
"We're thrilled, as you would expect," says Ian Gallanar, artistic director of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. "We've always dreamed of hosting this conference, but without our own space, that was an impossibility. Now, we are in a perfect place, surrounded by hotels. And Baltimore is easy to get to from around the world."
Gallanar and Chesapeake Shakespeare managing director Lesley Malin returned over the weekend from the theater association's 25th annual conference, which was held in San Francisco.
Conferences typically draw about 200 people and offer guest speakers and seminars covering a variety of artistic, administrative and educational topics facing Shakespeare-centric companies. Gallanar says that diversity is "a hot issue right now," as well as bringing Shakespeare performances in prisons.
"The conference is the most important professional development I do every year," Gallanar says. "It's enormously reinvigorating."
Member companies in the Shakespeare Theatre Association cover a wide range of locales and budget sizes, including, in this region, Washington's Folger Theatre, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, Annapolis Shakespeare Company, Delaware Shakespeare Festival and Harrisburg Shakespeare Company.
Among current members from abroad: Shakespeare's Globe in London, Shakespeare Western Australia and Prague Shakespeare Company.
The association maintains the early January time slot for meetings because many theater companies are dark at that time. It mean there can be weather-related travel problems, however.
"But we've met in Lenox, Mass., and Stratford, Ontario," Gallanar says. "Everyone is used to the possibility of snow."
In a statement released Monday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she was "honored and delighted" that the Shakespeare Theatre Association has chosen the city for the 2017 conference and added:
"When the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company relocated to Baltimore last year, we knew that the theater would not only contribute to our city's renaissance, but also further showcase Baltimore City as a world-class travel destination. We look forward to showing off our city, and its flourishing arts and cultural scene, to patrons of the arts from around the world."
Kirby Fowler, president of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, also weighed in: "The exposure that Baltimore will receive by hosting two hundred or more theatre professionals is not something you can buy. It's invaluable."