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Save Healthy Holly from a hostage situation in a new interactive theater production coming to Baltimore this winter

In this March 2019 file photo, copies of then-Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's self-published "Healthy Holly" illustrated paperbacks for children are seen in Baltimore.
In this March 2019 file photo, copies of then-Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's self-published "Healthy Holly" illustrated paperbacks for children are seen in Baltimore. (Jerry Jackson/AP)

Where is Healthy Holly hiding? Single Carrot Theatre wants you to help them find the answer.

“Healthy Holly’s Hidden Hideaway,” is among the productions the innovative theater troupe has scheduled for its 2020-2021 season. It’s intended as a comic riff on two recent Baltimore controversies — the secretive removal in 2017 of four bronze Confederate monuments from their stone bases and the scandal over former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s books.

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Pugh was sentenced in February to three years in prison on a conviction of fraud and conspiracy related to the sale of her self-published books. According to federal prosecutors, she sold the books to the University of Maryland Medical Center while she was a board member and to other nonprofits that did business with the city, in total netting over $850,000. She double-sold and failed to print thousands of copies, and used the proceeds to illegally fund her mayoral campaign, prosecutors said.

The Confederate statues were removed in August 2017 on Pugh’s orders. She was trying to avoid a clash in Baltimore similar to the deadly one that had had occurred just days earlier in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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“We were all wondering where this mysterious ’safe location’ was that the Confederate statues were whisked off to in the middle of the night,” said Emily Cory, executive director of Single Carrot, which announced its upcoming season on Monday. (As of September, the statues remained out of site in a city-owned lot.)

“It reminded us of all the Baltimore secrets and stories we’ve heard,” Cory said. “We decided to put together a play in which Healthy Holly is being held hostage with the statues, and the audience has to find her.”

“Healthy Holly’s Hidden Hideaway” is being written by troupe members and will run Jan. 13-Feb. 15, 2021. To adhere to social distancing restrictions, ticket-buyers will experience the show from their homes and on their mobile devices. During performances, they will receive phone calls and text messages from “nefarious characters from Baltimore’s past contacting them from an undisclosed location,” Cory said.

Audience members will put together clues gleaned from the texts and calls and perhaps “rescue” the signature character of Pugh’s children’s book series.

“It may be up to the audience how the show ends each night,” Cory said, adding that unorthodox storytelling methods will also be featured in at least one other show this fall.

“When the pandemic hit, we began talking about what a new season might look like,” Cory said. “Not being tied to a specific location for performances left us lots of room for creativity.”

The season’s opening production, “Keep Off the Grass: A Guide to [something]” is also being written by cast members and runs Sept. 24 through Oct. 18 outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, 3001 Old York Road.

Ten scenes will explore different aspects of morality. Cast members appearing in the same scenes will quarantine together, Cory said, enabling them to rehearse (and perform) safely.

Performances will be held outdoors, with audience members walking from one scene to the next. Ticket buyers will listen to the show over their phones (the dialogue will be recorded in advance) but watch it with their eyes, as troupe members silently act out the story, aided by projections and lights.

Only the final show of the season — ”Is Edward Snowden Single?” by Kate Cortesi, running April 30, 2021 to May 23, 2021 at an as-yet undetermined location — is tentatively being planned as a traditional production. Cortesi’s play explores a friendship between two women, one white and one African American.

If necessary, the Snowden production can also be restructured to promote social distancing.

“While our goal is to perform this in person, we don’t know what’s going to happen with the pandemic,” Cory said. “We have contingency plans.”

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The 2021 season also will include such as-yet unscheduled fan favorites as cabarets (a recent show took the form of a pajama party) and “Drunk Classics,” in which both audience members and actors imbibe alcoholic beverages while the performers stumble through scenes by William Shakespeare and the ancient Greek tragedians.

Subscriptions are being sold now at singlecarrot.com; single tickets will go on sale later.

“We’re all battling with how to be good and continue living in society and do a better job in the future,” Cory said. “We’ll have a lot of fun this season exploring those ideas.”

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