From artistic directors coming together to country singers so close it’s like they’re sisters to blood bothers working in unity, “dynamic duos,” is the theme of this week’s Backstage.
Baltimore and D.C. theaters collaborate for ‘Ain’t No Mo’
What Maria Manuela Goyanes and Stephanie Ybarra have achieved in bringing ”Ain’t No Mo,” to Washington’s Woolly Mammoth and Baltimore Center Stage before its Broadway debut is a feat in itself.
“It’s actually really unheard of. It’s a really big coup,” said Ybarra, artistic director and interim managing director of Baltimore Center Stage.
“Ain’t No Mo,” written by Jordan E. Cooper and directed by Lili-Anne Brown, will make its regional premier at D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth this week. Once the show closes, the same cast will head north to Baltimore Center Stage for a run from Oct. 27 to Nov. 20.
Goyanes, Woolly Mammoth’s artistic director, was first interested in doing “Ain’t No Mo” after seeing it at the Public Theatre in New York City in 2019. Collaborating with Ybarra was a natural next step after having worked with the fellow artistic director years before at the Public.
“I called Stephanie and said, ‘What do you think about doing, ‘Ain’t No Mo’ and trying to actually ensure that it happens in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, which are historically Black cities, with a community that’s literally written for them in mind?’”
Goyanes wrote a carefully crafted letter asking for rights to the show, addressed to Cooper and Lee Daniels, who is producing the Broadway production.
“‘I know that there are bigger ambitions for the piece. I know this is probably going to be a movie one day. Who knows? But I also know that the audiences that Stephanie and I serve need to laugh, need to feel like a community, need to bear witness to the things they have been living through, and sort of thinking about it, in their communities on our stages,” Goyanes explained in her letter.
Now, with combined rights to the show, the artistic directors said the collaboration is an example of “better together.”
“We do more together to support the artists and the production, than either organization would be able to do on it’s own and that feels really good,” Ybarra said.
Ybarra and Goyanes are hoping the satirical show, which draws from sketch comedy and challenges in the Black community, resonates with audiences from both cities.
“It is serving these incredibly hard topics, with a form and style that feels, not just digestible, but joyfully so,” Ybarra said. “It’s unapologetically theatrical, it is unapologetically Black in its art form, and unapologetically biting and irreverent — it is knee-slapping, pearl-clutching, hand over the mouth, hand over the eyes, ‘Oh my gosh, can’t believe they just said that’ kind of stuff. ”
The artistic directors said the show is “so sophisticated in its approach,” audiences might not understand all of the moments in one sitting.
“Audiences going to see it in D.C. and Baltimore, and then going to see it on Broadway, would be the best way to experience all that ‘Ain’t No Mo,’ has to offer,” Ybarra said.
Maddie & Tae heading to Charm City after new album release
Country music singers Maddie Font and Taylor Kerr, better known as Maddie & Tae, release a new album Sept. 23 and a day later headline the “CMT Next Women of Country: All Song No Static Tour,” at Baltimore Soundstage.
“It’s celebrating the women of country, but also, we haven’t done a headlining tour in seven years, so this is a big deal for us,” Font said.
With 10 years in the industry, the dynamic duo has formed a bond that shines through their music leading to such opportunities as headlining the 17-city tour and receiving the Group/Duo Video of the Year award at 2022 CMT Music Awards.
“I think our sisterhood and our harmonies is what carries us through the most,” Font , 27, said. “I mean you would think we’re really blood related, but it’s just with our souls.”
Audiences get a piece of the singer’s souls, in their new album, “Through the Madness Vol. 2,” with songs such as “Well in Your World,” and as they bop to the beat and take in the storyline in “Drinking to Remember.”
“When a Maddie & Tae song comes on the radio, you know you’re going to hear the truth, and I think that’s just a common thread throughout our career as a consistent theme,” said Kerr.
The duo said audiences can learn even more about the singers’ truths when they perform in Baltimore.
“We’ll tell you stories behind the songs,” said Kerr, 26. A little sneak of what goes behind the curtain. And just a lot of fun between each other and our band.”
The singers, who said they always have a fun time performing in Baltimore, said fans should expect a high energy show with lots of moments to and keep the audience on their feet.
“You are not going to be bored and you’ll most likely end up dancing because that’s just how we roll,” Font said.
For tickets visit ticketmaster.com.
‘Fate of a Sport’ to air on ESPN
In late July, we went behind the scenes with Owings Mills native Philip Byron as he wrapped up the new documentary “Fate of a Sport,” which chronicles Maryland-born brothers Paul and Mike Rabil as they face highs and lows running the Professional Lacrosse League.
Since Aug. 29, the film has been airing on ESPN+. It will debut on ESPN Sept. 15 at 7 p.m, and on ABC on Sept. 18 at 1 p.m., before the PLL Championship Game.
Byron, vice president for unscripted series and documentaries at SpringHill Company and Uninterrupted (owned by basketball star LeBron James), said “Fate of a Sport,” is already garnering a lot of views and love from those tuning in on ESPN+.
With lacrosse being the official team sport of the state since 2004, lacrosse star and league owner Paul Rabil said Marylanders will particularly appreciate the documentary.
”Our film is as much about the birth of lacrosse as it is about the future of it. It’s an inspirational story about resilience, grit and uncertainty,” Rabil said. “It’s about two brothers who grew up in Maryland, who want to help fix the future of their home-state’s sport.”