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Baltimore Backstage: ‘Our Town’ pays homage, Bromo hosts emerging artists, and a rock opera adds audience therapy

As it celebrates 60 years, Baltimore Center Stage is reminding Charm City residents it belongs to them. It’s part of the community.

“These organizations and institutions belong to the people of Baltimore and that includes [Baltimore Center Stage] and I hope that everyone will come and visit us at least once this season,” said Stephanie Ybarra, the theater’s artistic director and interim managing director.

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Ybarra encourages the Center Stage team to have “60/60 vision,” reflecting on six decades of success and imagining 60 years into the future.

It’s an idea that pays homage to the past, present and future.

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Our Town Baltimore Center Stage featuring Kimberly Dodson and Avon Haughton ( J Fannon Photography)

So it makes sense the theater kicks off its 60th season with Thornton Wilder’s 1948 play “Our Town,” a production that highlights Baltimore and its jewels.

“If we’re going to do a production of ‘Our Town’ in Baltimore, then we’re going to animate that show with artists in and from Baltimore and the surrounding areas,” Ybarra said. “That’s the biggest distinguishing characteristic is that these are people who actually live in our community.”

The people on stage and behind the scenes are as diverse as Baltimore itself. They include actors and designers of color and members of the city’s vibrant LBGTQ community.

The more than 20-person cast also includes four generations of Baltimore School for the Arts alumni, as well as faculty and graduates from institutions all over the area.

The play, directed by Stevie Walker Webb, reveals its Baltimore character not only through casting but also through the set design.

“This production is using the setting of Grover’s Corners, not as literal, but as metaphor. So what you won’t see onstage is New Hampshire. What you will see onstage is Baltimore stoops and Baltimore streetlights,” Ybarra said. “We haven’t changed a word of the script, but the physical vocabulary of the show and the aural vocabulary of the show is decidedly now. It’s current.”

Center Stage is also collaborating with local organizations for “Our Town Baltimore,” which includes preshow performances by Baltimoreans. There are also special discounted nights and mixers for artists, small businesses, high school students, health care workers and Mount Vernon neighborhood residents.

During the show’s run, the Deering Lobby will house a community mural, where audiences and guests can add their own artistic flair, and a kiosk, where visitors can shop locally-made products.

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Baltimore Center Stage is located at 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, centerstage.org

The Bromo Seltzer building on Eutaw Street.  Three artists are featured in the third and final edition of the Emerge Baltimore Series for 2022.

Trio showcases work at Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower

Fashion designer Ayanna Greene, painter Will Watson and metal miniaturist Jill Orlov will showcase their work at Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower Oct. 6 to Nov. 23. The artists’ exhibits are part of the third and final edition of Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts’ Emerge Baltimore Series for 2022.

Curated by Kirk Shannon-Butts, the trio’s solo exhibitions will take place throughout the tower.

“It is important to curate this kind of space and provide a platform for the best and brightest emerging talents in all disciplines to tell their version of the American story thoughtfully and artistically,” said Shannon-Butts. “I see the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower as the new home for Baltimore’s most promising up-and-coming creative voices.”

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Greene’s “I Am the Phoenix” exhibit in the tower lobby features fashion designs inspired by a red-carpet and downtown-chic aesthetics – equipped with feathers and beads.

“While We’re Young,” Watson’s exhibit in the mezzanine gallery, showcases paintings with personal reflections and begs the question “Where do memories go?”

Gallery Two will feature Orlov’s new exhibit “Borrowed Time, Borrowed Books,” with tiny sculptures of places re-imagined from film and literature.

Though this is the last exhibit of the season, the Emerge Baltimore series will return next year, Shannon-Butts said, “with a fresh coterie of artists.”

Bromo Arts Seltzer Tower is located at 21 S. Eutaw St., Baltimore, bromoseltzertower.com

Marcellus Ward IV of Fells Point performs during an air guitar contest on a stage set up by the Baltimore Rock Opera Society during Artscape on Saturday, July 16.

Baltimore gets musical therapy

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In its new production Baltimore Rock Opera Society examines “what would it look like if Baltimore got some therapy?”

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Described as a creative work of nonfiction, “Baltimore: In Recovery” will explore various facets of the city through four characters — The Young City, The Tired Teacher, The Leader Who Fell and The Jack of All Trades — at their first court-appointed therapy sessions.

Local band The Out of Water eXperience will perform an original piece in response to the topics in each therapy session.

Audiences then become part of the action by diagnosing each of the characters and offering suggestions for improvement or determining if the patient is beyond rehabilitation.

Baltimore Rock Opera Society is also using the production to collaborate with New Song Community Learning Center, where it will perform “Baltimore: In Recovery” for New Song Academy sixth through eighth grade students, their families and school staff before the show opens to the public. The society’s teaching artists will engage students in discussion to examine some of the themes explored in the production.

“As adults, the things that happen in this city on a daily basis take their toll, so I think it’s important that we address these things with our younger citizens and discuss how they affect us, because they notice, too,” said Petula Caesar, director of community engagement at Baltimore Rock Opera Society. “We hope that they — and everyone who sees this show — will see something of themselves in these characters and learn about the value of seeking help for mental health.”

The show runs Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. at the New Song Community Learning Center. Tickets are $20 at baltimorerockopera.org


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