Janet Luby
(Bud Johnson, Baltimore Sun)

Bay Theatre founder Janet Luby could not conceal her delight as she announced that the first celebratory event of the coming season, a fashion show and fundraiser, had sold out nearly two months in advance. She's hoping it will be the first of many successes during the theater's 10th-anniversary year.

Luby is entering her second full season as the Bay Theatre's solo artistic director, and is hoping to build on a 2010-2011 season that featured several sold-out shows, a nomination for a regional Helen Hayes theater award and a series of renowned guest director's stints.


This year's season-opening performance will attempt to carry forward last year's successes, while building on a theme set by the charity fundraiser. Luby is presenting "Wit," the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Margaret Edson, in honor of her father, Dr. Thomas H. Luby, who died last June.

Luby's awareness of the profound effect "Wit" had on her father, who was not a theater fan, convinced her to refrain from her usual dismissal of "illness and death scripts." Luby explained, "His being so moved opened a little window in my closed mind, and I had to read the script." She now dedicates to her father the presentation of "this beautiful play that is not only about cancer and dying, but is also illuminating in educating us as only theater can do."

Described by New York Times critic Vincent Canby as "a one-of-a-kind experience," this drama focuses on the personal journey of middle-aged English professor Vivian Bearing, whose dealing with ovarian cancer instructs us about life, death and the American medical system. Luby describes this play as "life-affirming and uplifting, and like Greek drama it is also cathartic. This fulfills the purpose of theater to educate and move us."

Opening Sept. 30 and running through Nov. 6, Bay's production of "Wit" is directed by Richard Pilcher, who directed last season's "Beyond Therapy" and is the principal acting instructor for the Baltimore School for the Arts.

Bay Theatre Associate Artist Rena Cherry Brown, who played Fonsia in "The Gin Game" and most recently the Queen in "Rumple Who?," will play the lead role of Vivian. Mike Bassett makes his Bay Theatre debut as Jason Posner. Seen last season as Prudence in "Beyond Therapy," Mundy Spears returns to Bay to play Susie Monahan. After debuting at Bay as the Miller's Daughter in "Rumple Who?," Amy Kellett will play an intern in "Wit." Seen in the title role in "Rumple Who?," Ryan Brown will play an intern. All others are debuting at Bay in this production — Jean Miller will play E.M. Ashford, James Laster plays Harvey Kelekian, and Kelly Armstrong plays an intern.

Running Dec. 2 through Jan. 8, 2012, "Becky's New Car" by Steven Dietz will offer light fare for the holiday season. Described as "a rollicking good ride," this comedy centers on Becky, whose desk job at a car dealership is becoming a grind. Her husband has grown too predictable, and their adult son has not yet left the nest. A visit to the dealership from a lonesome widower enlivens and complicates Becky's life. And audiences can look forward to a performance by Janet Luby playing the lead role of Becky.

A. R. Gurney's classic "Love Letters" arrives Jan. 27 and runs through March 4, telling the story of a couple whose love letters carry them through their lives. Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd are opposites who have known each other since childhood when Melissa invited Andy to her birthday party. Later, she sends him her thank-you letter to begin a lifelong correspondence. An ill-fated romance unfolds in their letters that are described as hysterical and moving.

March 30 through May 6, Bay's 10th anniversary season ends with William Luce's "The Belle of Amherst." Luce's biographical drama portrays the great 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson as unpredictable and individualistic. Starring in this role, Julie Harris won the 1977 Tony Award for her brilliant portrayal.

The Bay Theatre High Society Fashion Show and Fundraising Gala is set for October 26. Those who have already purchased their $75 tickets will enjoy viewing fabulous fashions worn by celebrity statesmen, artists, and fashionistas among the 21 selected models. In addition to raising money for Bay Theatre, a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit Women's Cancer Care at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Bay Theatre season subscription packages are currently available for all four plays at prices ranging from $120 on Thursday nights to $180 for Saturday nights and for 3 plays at prices ranging from $90 on Thursdays to $135 Saturdays with a series of new options this season including elegant champagne opening night subscriptions. All subscriptions can be ordered online at baytheatre.org.

Along with streamlining the box office and making it more efficient and secure, Bay Theatre's board of directors reluctantly decided to raise ticket prices this season in view of the 80-seat capacity of the theater. As a concession to the current economy, Luby suggests e-mailing questions about continuing pay-what-you-can performances at info@baytheatre.org.