Come October, there will be a lot more room in Baltimore to be funny.
The Baltimore Improv Group (BIG), bringing unscripted laughs to Charm City since 2004, will be moving from the intimate confines of Howard Street's Single Carrot Theatre, where their performance space had a capacity of about 50, to the former Everyman Theatre space in the Station North Arts District. The move, scheduled for October, should increase BIG's total space about tenfold, officials say, and enable the group to stage its classes and performances in the same building.
"It's just going to allow us to do so much," said BIG managing director Terry Withers, an alum of New York's Upright Citizens Brigade who signed on with BIG last year, with an eye toward increasing the group's footprint and visibility in the city. "It's at least 10 times bigger than the space we're in now."
Currently, BIG holds many of its classes in rented space at the Bolton Street Synagogue building on Cold Spring Lane. Most classes should stay there for at least another six months, Withers said, before moving to Station North.
James "Buzz" Cusack, operator of the nearby Charles Theatre, said he welcomes the return of live theater to the building. "It was really sad when Everyman left, so it's nice to have something back in that space," he said. "It's a very good thing."
Amelia Rambissoon, interim executive director of Station North Arts & Entertainment Inc., agreed, saying, "I'm glad that we're getting another theater back into Station North. … It's awesome that that building is getting used again."
Besides a larger theater and classroom space, Withers said, BIG plans to incorporate a lounge area, possibly with windows fronting Charles Street, and community meeting space into the building. It's time, he said, that BIG and its performers had a substantial space they could call their own.
"My group of performers has felt that they were in very cramped spaces," he said. "It's very exciting to offer them a home where they can spread out their legs, have a green room, really feel at home."
This marks the second move for BIG in less than a year. After spending much of its life as a vagabond, offering shows at the Mercury Theatre in Station North, Theatre Project on Preston Street and Meadow Mill near Hampden, the group moved into Single Carrot last fall. "They've been a terrific host for us, and they've helped us develop our audience," Withers said. "But this move will allow us to do a bunch of things we can't do currently."
The former Everyman space, on Charles Street just north of the Charles Theatre, has been largely empty since Everyman left in October 2012 to move into the old Town Theatre on Fayette Street. Withers said the group has some work to do on the space; although some small-scale performances and classes could take place as early as next month, he said he's looking for an official opening as early as October.
"There's a lot of things we need to do with this space," he said. "It's exciting, but also, of course, expensive. We're going to need to raise money in the next month or two to pay for all this."
Withers would not say how much BIG will be paying in rent for the new space, but said that combining its performing and teaching into one building helped make the move "very affordable."
Withers estimated that the group would have to raise about $30,000 to build a raised stage within the building, make improvements to the lighting grid and reconfigure the existing space to allow for classrooms and other facilities.
The group is ready to begin a crowdsourcing campaign and to seek benefactors willing to contribute to the cause, Withers said. "This is a great call to arms for us," he said.