The curtain will rise soon on First Night Annapolis, the New Year's Eve celebration that takes over courtrooms and classrooms, shop windows, churches and school auditoriums in Annapolis' historic downtown.
Singers and dancers, classical musicians and jazz artists, comedians and folk groups, magicians and mimes will perform at St. John's College, the City Dock, the Arundel Center, the County Courthouse, the Naval Academy and places in between.
And for a $14 button, you can take in as many of the performers as you can squeeze into an evening. But if you want to drink, you'll have to go elsewhere. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted.
Organizers of the seventh annual event expect thousands to descend on the city, park at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Rowe Boulevard and ride downtown on shuttle buses. Crowds have averaged 10,000 people from as far away as New York and North Carolina, but 20,000 turned out on an unseasonably balmy New Year's Eve in 1992.
First Night will have you on your feet, walking from performance to performance, standing in line, or maybe dancing to the Kings of Swing, a 13-piece big band appearing in a heated tent at the City Dock.
"On New Year's Eve, there is artistic energy that is in the air that has to be experienced to be believed," said Lana Nelson, co-producer of the event.
First Night begins in the afternoon with jugglers, magicians, storytellers and a face painter performing from 3: 30 p.m. to 5: 30 p.m. at St. John's, the Naval Academy, Annapolis Elementary School and St. Mary's High School. It culminates with fireworks at the City Dock at midnight.
Children under age 6 are admitted free to one of the afternoon performances, and children under age 2 who are accompanied by an adult with a button are admitted free to the evening performances, which start at 6 p.m.
The buttons are available at Giant Food stores, branches of First National Bank of Maryland and the stadium parking lot Tuesday night. They also will be available at the First Night Shop, 139
Main St., on New Year's Eve, and at various locations around town.
First Night productions are protected from the weather, though you might get wet walking from one performance to another.
Here is a sampling of what's available:
If you like to dance, you'll want to see Ziva, a Spanish dance ensemble performing at the St. John's College auditorium. It fuses classical and regional dances with flamenco and gypsy dancing.
Or you might try the Ice Theatre of New York, an ice-dance ensemble returning to the Naval Academy ice rink in Dahlgren Hall.
Like classical piano? Eunjoo Yun will be at the Mitscher Ministry Center at the academy, not far from Dahlgren, and Angelin Chang will be at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church on Duke of Gloucester Street.
Or perhaps cellist Tany Anisimova performing music of Bach, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov at the Naval Academy Alumni House at King George Street and College Avenue would be more to your liking.
Bluegrass and blues, folk and jazz groups abound.
Chesapeake, which just released what members call a "newgrass-bluegrass" compact disc, will appear at St. Anne's Episcopal Church on Church Circle, while the Meteors, a Chicago blues band, will take over at Asbury Methodist Church auditorium on West Street.
Contemporary folk musician Bill Parsons will hold forth in the County Courthouse while maritime folk performer Ray Owen will sing from the Annapolis Shirt Co. window on Main Street.
Magician Phillip Jennings mystifies children in the afternoon and adults later in Mitscher Hall Auditorium. Literary humorist Elliot Engel returns with his revelations of the foibles of Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare.
New this year is Ruby Nelda Perez, who performs "Dona Rosita's Jalapeno Kitchen," a one-act comedy, at St. Mary's High School auditorium.
Gospel groups and opera singers, comedians and historical interpreters -- are also listed in the program book, which is available for $2 at the same locations as the buttons.
For more information, call First Nightline, (410) 787-2717.
Pub Date: 12/29/96