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Baltimore Backstage: Casting secrets of ‘The Wire,’ Charm City Ballet returns and B-Side concert series launches

This week, The Sun launches Baltimore Backstage, a curated column about arts, music, celebrities, events and entertainment related to Charm City. I’ll be your host as we take behind the scenes peeks at artistic gems that add to the community and city’s captivating culture.

First up, hear how one casting director got local kids to become HBO stars 20 years ago with ‘The Wire,’ learn about an all inclusive dance company’s resilience to get back on stage, find out how the B-Side came to be with a PrideFest! launch and check out why a Baltimore-born publicist is encouraging Baltimoreans to travel for wine and music.

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Casting secrets behind ‘The Wire’

When films or television shows come through the Baltimore and D.C. region, Pat Moran is the Mid-Atlantic-based casting director they call, with credits that include “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Veep,” “Wedding Crashers,” “Head of State“ and “The Wire,” to name a few major titles in her decades of casting.

With “The Wire” celebrating its 20th anniversary, Moran called the show “arguably the best thing put on television.” Moran was key to introducing some of the HBO series’ most beloved characters to the screen.

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“I knew exactly what he wanted,” Moran said, referring to the show’s creator, former Sun reporter David Simon. “And being like I am — obsessive and crazy — I wanted to see everything. I wanted to see all the backgrounds, all of it, because, at the end, when it comes together, all you have to do is say the words that Simon and these guys write, and make me believe that they’re yours.”

Moran said she works with her ears, listening for raw talent that will bring the characters on the page to life. “I make my money, essentially, with my ears. You can’t fool me pretty much,” she said.

However, her ears brought Moran a unique challenge when casting some of the show’s younger stars.

“A lot of those kids couldn’t read — nobody knows that. But they could memorize, honey, because they had been so used to covering up the fact they could not read, that they could memorize so quickly,” she said.

The legendary casting director said she “loved every minute,” working for “The Wire.”

“It was an honor, it was a privilege and I’m really happy to be associated with it.”

Charm City Ballet returns to stage after two years

Charm City Ballet‘s June 11 show of Alice in Wonderland” will be the studio’s first live performance since December 2019, and the dancers are eager to present a family friendly show that highlights their talent and resilience.

Every year, Charm City Ballet performs two full length ballets — " A Christmas Carol” and a new ballet in the spring — but twice the dance company’s plans have been foiled by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in canceled shows after months of rehearsals.

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“After two and half years, and the devastation of having to cancel our December 2021 performance on the morning of the shows, the feeling of being back in the theater, sharing the stage with a group of amazing dancers, and sharing our story with an audience will be indescribable,” said Rebecca Friedman, who co-founded the organization with her Goucher classmate Pete Commander in 2015 and opened the studio opened in 2017.

As a dancer with cystic fibrosis, Friedman knows about dancing through challenges. In order to keep Friedman and all of the company healthy during the pandemic, Charm City Ballet pivoted to online classes. One of the virtual students is sharing the role of Alice in the June production.

Commander is optimistic about the company’s upcoming performances.

“I’m feeling hopeful…and excited to get back on stage for an audience. We have an amazing cast and I have no doubt in their ability to bring “Alice” to life.”

Performances will be held at Gordon Center for Performing Arts on June 11 at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and June 12 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under.

B-Side launches with PrideFest!

After starting at the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts eight months ago, one of the things that fascinated Chief Marketing and Programs Officer Tonya R. Miller about the weekly Baltimore Farmer’s Market was the eclectic nature of the people in the space.

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“What was remarkable to me is that it offers the most diverse sort of gathering of Baltimoreans every Sunday April through December,” she said.

Miller searched for a way to combine the thousands of attendees who already gather weekly at the Farmer’s Market with the massive talent and vibrant creative culture Charm City has to offer. Brainstorming birthed the B-Side, a new monthly concert series hosted as part of the weekly Baltimore Farmer’s Market running from June to October.

“How can we create a space where people can sort of gather more, hang out, listen to some good music, sort of interface intimately with our vendors and so that’s the nexus of the B-Side and how that came to be,” Miller said.

Kicking off on June 12, the first B-Side activation is PrideFest!, including a lineup of intergenerational queer Baltimore community staples, including Evon Dior Michelle, who won Drag Queen of the Year in 2020, veteran DJ Thommy Davis and Londyn Smith-De Richelieu, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

“She’s going to lend some remarks,” Miller said of Smith-De Richelieu, who is a transgender woman. “I think that it’s one thing to have a party and to celebrate pride and all that means to the community, but also taking a step back and making sure that we…talk about why it’s important to this community — remembering Stonewall, remembering Marsha P. Johnson, and really understanding that trans rights and gay rights are under attack.”

B-Side launches as part of the Baltimore Farmer’s Market on June 12, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Free.

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Baltimore-born publicist dishes on upcoming wine and music fest

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CEO of The PR Alliance Keisha Brewer credits her Baltimore upbringing for making her the publicist she is today.

“Growing up in Baltimore and being surrounded by so many talented people from radio hosts and DJs to some of the best in marketing, you grow an organic love for wanting to see people win. However, I realized that not everyone has the tools, team, and communications expertise to gain the visibility that they deserve for their work,” Brewer said.

As a public relations agency based in Maryland, The PR Alliance looks to partner with brands that want “to make a H.U.G.E impact – heal, unify, grow, or educate their communities,” Brewer said. The CEO said Célébrez en Rosé, wine and music held festivals throughout the U.S., exemplifies a brand hoping to make a difference.

“Supporting this festival means supporting the Black-owned wines (Fête Wine Company, McBride Sisters Wine Company and Michael Lavelle Wines) and Black-owned food trucks that will be in attendance,” she said.

The next festival happens June 11 at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, featuring a star-studded lineup of performers including Robin Thicke, Tamia and DJ Jazzy Jeff. The show after that will be in Chicago on June 25.

“This is an event worth hopping on a plane and going to another city for,” Brewer said. “If you’re able, I would highly consider it. Get out, travel a little, and create memories while supporting a Black-owned event.”

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Ticket prices start at $85. For more information visit: celebrezenrose.com.


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