Founded six years ago, Bay Theatre Company represents a major success story in the realm of Annapolis professional nonprofit theater.
Since its first show - Christopher Durang's comedy Beyond Therapy in December 2002 in a nondescript space in Truxtun Park's Griscom Building - Bay co-founders Lucinda Merry-Browne and Janet Luby have been working a little magic.
They moved a year later to the company's current home on West Garrett Place, a ground-level suite that once housed a computer company, and small theatrical gems have kept on coming. First-rate theater became the norm, with memorable performances delivered by actors including Christopher Poverman, Jim Chance, James Gallagher and Luby.
With the goal of offering "exciting productions that leave audiences thinking and transformed by the experience of the play," Bay Theatre provides both opportunities for professional artists and a theater education for all ages.
At the start of this season, Actors' Equity designated Bay Theatre a small professional theater, making it the first in Annapolis.
It has formed the Bay Theatre Beacons, which Merry-Browne described as "a forward-thinking group of devoted supporters who do special targeted projects which are needed for the theater's future growth."
This month the 25-member Beacons have issued invitations to their first fundraiser, with the long-term goal of opening a 250-seat studio theater in the developing outer West Street corridor. All proceeds from the Feb. 11 event, "Come to the Cabaret," will go to the Bay Theatre Main Stage Fund.
The cabaret will feature performances by two nationally known Broadway actor/singers. Kate Baldwin is a talented performer whose New York credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie and Wonderful Town. She performed at Arena Stage as Nellie in South Pacific and appeared in Stephen Sondheim's Passion for PBS. Anthony Holds is a 1997 Naval Academy graduate who later became a professional actor appearing as Sir Galahad in Spamalot on Broadway, a role he is now doing with a national touring company.
In bringing this cabaret performance to Annapolis, the Beacons are introducing a form of entertainment with devoted followers in major cities. Cabaret entertainment removes barriers between audience members and performers to allow more direct contact.
Beacons member Joanna Hanes-Lahr came to Annapolis three years ago by way of Washington and previously Atlanta, where she knew Pat Edwards, a long-time supporter of arts in Annapolis and a founding member of the Beacons. Hanes-Lahr said she was delighted to catch up with her and be introduced to "this vibrant group of people."
Hanes-Lahr encourages others who are new to the area to "become involved with this group of like-minded people determined to support the arts."
"Come to the Cabaret" will begin at the Westin Annapolis hotel with cocktails at 6:30 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and entertainment at 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $150, with all proceeds going to the Bay Theatre Main Stage Fund. The event is chaired by Kathy Allan and Lynn McReynolds, with Eleanor Merrill serving as honorary chairwoman. For more information, call Bay Theatre at 410-263-1922 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.