Centerstage Closes Season After 50 Years
Celebrating its 50th Anniversary, and its first full season under The Combined leadership of Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah and Managing Director Stephen Richard, CENTERSTAGE drew national attention and local acclaim for its groundbreaking stage work, including two World Premieres; special artistic initiatives; and innovative community programs-raising the bar for the Theater's next 50 years.
"I am deeply grateful to the many members of our community who came together to celebrate the anniversary season of CENTERSTAGE," says Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. "It was a season full of big ideas, and we're all thrilled that so many-audiences, donors, and supporters alike-embraced the journey."
Artistic Innovation on a National Scale
Both onstage and online, the 2012-13 Season embraced Kwame's vision of the Theater as a 21st-Century forum for conversation. In September, CENTERSTAGE debuted the innovative online monologue project, My America-a collection of 50 original monologues by many of the nation's leading playwrights filmed by Possible Films and award-winning director Hal Hartley. The monologues explored the state of our country through the eyes of its playwrights, and were seen in-house on the new interactive Media Wall and by audiences around the world at myamerica.centerstage.org.
Inspired by My America, the CENTERSTAGE Education team took to local schools, encouraging students to ask "What is my Baltimore?" More than 430 My Baltimore monologues were submitted by Maryland students, several of which were featured at the Young Playwrights Festival in May.
In the spring, the World Premiere of Kwame's new play, Beneatha's Place, joined the award-winning Clybourne Park in repertory as The Raisin Cycle. Garnering national and local attention for its unique take on the legacy of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, The Raisin Cycle was covered by outlets including The AP, The New York Times, andVariety. In May, CENTERSTAGE and PBS announced that The Raisin Cycle would be featured as a nationally broadcast PBS Fall Arts Festival documentary. "A Raisin in the Sun Revisited: The Raisin Cycle at Center Stage" is set to air October 25 at 9 pm ET on PBS affiliates.
Conversation Onstage and Off
Exploring the theme of conversation, the 50th Anniversary Season saw debate and discussion onstage, online, among audiences, and even between the plays themselves-from the community debate in An Enemy of the People to Marisa Wegrzyn's fresh new voice in the World Premiere of Mud Blue Sky. Local favorite Bruce Nelson took center stage as Baltimore icon Edgar Allan Poe, and audiences raved about Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, which ranked among the highest grossing plays in CENTERSTAGE history. Concluding the season, Beneatha's Place and Clybourne Park stirred conversation in the building and out. Expanding the Cycle, a series of pre- and post-show events and discussions, further engaged audiences throughout the run of the repertory.
50 Years: Bringing the Celebration to the Community
From start to finish, the season was a landmark celebration of CENTERSTAGE's anniversary, with enhanced community outreach and engagement. September saw the Theater open its doors to the city as 50 Fest launched the season. The four-day celebration included an expansion of the Baltimore Book Festival down to Calvert Street, filling the neighborhood with live performances and booths with theater companies from throughout the region. Inside the building, families and artists mingled together for plays, games, tours, and storytelling with Backstage@CENTERSTAGE.
January marked the Theater's birthday proper, and CENTERSTAGE partnered with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore to host an evening of staged readings and an exploration of the Theater's history.
Stability, Responsibility, and Leadership
Through it all CENTERSTAGE continued its legacy of stability and fiscal responsibility. The Theater's Membership base increased 13% over the previous year, and membership revenue grew by nearly 20%. The generosity of CENTERSTAGE donors, in honor of the 50th Anniversary, led to a record-breaking year for contributed income.
"We are all delighted and humbled by the outpouring of support for CENTERSTAGE this season, both in honor of its history and in support of its future," says Managing Director Stephen Richard. "Through artistic vision and the incredible hard work of our staff, coupled with the unfailing support of our donors and members, we had a stellar year."
The Anniversary recognition of founders and supporters was completed with the annual Gala for CENTERSTAGE,hosted by Gala Chairs Lynn and Tony Deering and Sharon and Jay Smith. Celebrating the individuals who built and supported the Theater for over 50 years-and the many donors and community partners who made the Anniversary Season possible-the 50th Anniversary Gala was the most successful Gala fundraiser in CENTERSTAGE history, raising over $550,000. Additionally, the annual Baltimore Sun Online Auction for CENTERSTAGE raised over $150,000.
This season CENTERSTAGE also welcomed several new members to the Board of Trustees: Penny Bank, Community Volunteer; Daniel Gahagan, Vice President and General Counsel, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company; Elizabeth J. Himelfarb Hurwitz, MPH, Community Volunteer; Hugh W. Mohler, Jr., Partner, KPMG LLP; Charles E. Schwabe,Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Information Officer, Howard Bank; and Harry Thomasian Jr., Partner, Ernst & Young. In addition, James T. Brady, Managing Director of Ballantrae International Ltd., has resumed full-time Board membership for the 2013-14 Season. CENTERSTAGE recognizes the service of departing Trustees, Ana Goldseker, Jonna Lazarus, Michelle McKenna-Doyle, Ron Taylor, and Ron Wilner for all of their hard work on behalf of the Theater.
"I would like to thank all of our Board, past and present, for their continued service and dedication to CENTERSTAGE. It is great to see such dynamic leaders from the Baltimore community step up to join us this year," says Jay Smith, President of the CENTERSTAGE Board of Trustees. "This is an exciting time for the Theater, and we look forward to this new leadership that will help to shape and support this institution's future."
Looking to 51
CENTERSTAGE is poised to enter its 2013-14 Season with fresh energy and focus. Buzz is already building for "Season 51: Theater for the Heart," as casting begins for the Marx Brothers classic, Animal Crackers. This summer, Kwame directs the World Premiere of Naomi Wallace's highly anticipated The Liquid Plain at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and CENTERSTAGE prepares to stage the East Coast premiere of this stunning new work next April. Other highlights will include Paula Vogel's A Civil War Christmas, the acting tour de force Stones in his Pockets, the magical Twelfth Night, and two recent hits by two of America's freshest voices: Marcus Gardley's dance of the holy ghosts and Colman Domingo's Wild with Happy.
Memberships for Season 51 are on sale now, and single tickets will be available starting July 22.
For more on CENTERSTAGE's 2013-14 Season, visit www.centerstage.org.
CENTERSTAGE, the State Theater of Maryland, celebrated its 50th Anniversary Season in 2012-13. The professional, nonprofit company serves as a local hub and national leader for provocative, entertaining theater and as a catalyst for conversation in the community. Each year, a broad range of productions in two intimate performance spaces attracts a highly diverse audience of more than 100,000 people-including more than 8,000 fiercely loyal members. Under the leadership of acclaimed playwright, actor, and director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE (Artistic Director) and national arts leader Stephen Richard (Managing Director), CENTERSTAGE enters its 51st year with a renewed dedication to the production of world-class theater in the heart of Baltimore.
CENTERSTAGE's 50th Anniversary was made possible by presenting partner M&T Bank, and support from DLA Piper, The Rouse Company Foundation, T. Rowe Price and the T. Rowe Price Foundation, Ellen and Ed Bernard, Stephanie and Ashton Carter, James and Janet Clauson, Lynn and Tony Deering and The Charlesmead Foundation, Jane and Larry Droppa, Terry H. Morgenthaler and Patrick Kerins, Judy and Scott Phares, Phil and Lynn Rauch, Jay and ShaRon Smith, and Barbara Voss and Charles E. Noell, III; with additional support from Kathleen Hyle, Kenneth C. and Elizabeth M. Lundeen, and Sylvan/Laureate Foundation; and season media partners Maryland Public Television, The Baltimore Sun, WYPR, and WBAL.
CENTERSTAGE is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business & Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to non-profit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.