Review: A Wonder in My Soul at Baltimore Center Stage

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Title

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission

Baltimore and its people, through the years, have had their ups and downs but we always seem to bounce back no matter what. Neighborhoods come and go, some prosper,some try to hang on to a bygone era, and in every case, it’s the people who make the neighborhood what it is. Sometimes, It only takes a few pillars to keep a neighborhood going, even when it’s falling down around them, but it’s a tough fight, especially in Baltimore City. In Baltimore Center Stage’s latest production, A Wonder in My Soul by Marcus Gardley, Directed by Daniel Bryant, is one of those stories that take us back and forth between the past and present and tell a story of old friendships, family, and a resilient spirit that keeps us going, even in the darkest of times.

Briefly, A Wonder in My Soul concerns itself with two old friends, Swann Park Sinclair and Gwynn Oak Falls, who have a beauty salon they have operated since the early 60s in Baltimore City. As oflate, the neighborhood has gone downhill and has become a “bad” neighborhood and developers are buying up properties left and right to gentrify the area with coffee shop chains and supermarkets. One of the only shops left in the neighborhood is this beauty salon because of the respect these two ladies have earned over the years and the history it holds. Gwynn Oak Falls’ son, Andrew,has borrowed money from the two ladies to start a non-profit organization for inner-city children but is now under suspicion of embezzlement and the money is gone, leaving the two ladies in dire straits and months behind in rent on the space. A loving, but estranged relationship between Gwynn Oak Falls and her daughter,Cherry Hill, a Baltimore City police officer, don’t make matters much better. Through all this strife, the shop endures and welcomes regular customers like First Lady Cedonia Mosher of the local Baptist church and her new assistant, theyoung, hard-working, and pregnant Pen Lucy proving that with enough love, spirit,and strong faith we can endure. Marcus Gardley has crafted a well-written,deep-feeling story to which we can all relate in our own, individual way.

Scenic Design by Wilson Chin is impeccable as we are transported into an old salon that has been around for decades. The presentation of strong African-American female figures through the ages stirs up a certain pride and nostalgia that sets the mood for the piece. I found myself starting a little game with myself to see how many faces I could name… and I didn’t do too shabby! The authenticity of Chin’s design with salon stations and a sofa/coffee table pair for a waiting area, makes it all the more real, familiar, and immersive.

Working in tandem with Wilson Chin’s Scenic Design is Lighting Design by Kathy A.Perkins, Sound Design by Mikhail Fiksel, and Projection Design by Alex Basco Koch. Subtly is the key to Light and Sound Design and Perkins and Fiksel have accomplished it commendably. Small changes in light here and there to represent times of day as well as to divert the audience’s attention to important dialogue are spot on and appropriate. The sounds of the city are placed perfectly as well, including weather, which can be tricky to represent on stage without it looking and sounding generic, but this design is superb.

The Projection Design by Alex Basco Koch is absolutely superb and adds great value to the production. The high definition projections aren’t just decoration,either. They help move the story along and relate to the situation or dialogue making for a brilliant technical aspect to an already beautifully designed production.

David Burdick gives us a stellar Costume Design that flip-flops between the decades, matching every decade with great detail and flair. The present day attire is on point and the fashions of the past are spot on making for a brilliant design. A magnificent Hair and Wig Design by Cherelle D. Guyton also add to this production, with each character having his or her own style and individuality adding to the realism and character each actor is portraying. Kudos to both Burdick and Guyton for jobs well done.

Taking the Music Direction reigns of this production is Jaret Landon and under Landon’s direction (along with some impressive original music and arrangements) the musical aspect of this piece shines through and makes its mark on the audience. Using old spirituals, both upbeat and slow tunes, Landon has weaved together a wonderful program that helps move the story along without hindering the action. The arrangements are spot on for these talented actors and actresses and will have you toe-tapping and getting all the feels when the cast really gets going, musically.

Daniel Bryant takes the helm of this production and his Direction shows he has a tight grasp on this material and text. His staging is stellar and keeps the audience engaged while telling this poignant story. Though Gardley’s witty but thoughtful script gives the actors everything they need, Bryant still knows how to balance the humor and the poignancy exquisitely. Bryant should be applauded and commended for his work on this production.

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, Stanley Andrew Jackson III takes on the supporting role of Andrew Hill, aspiring non-profit head and son of Gwynn Oak Falls. Jackson knows this character and, though he has less stage time than the other characters, he plays him to the hilt. He seems to understand the anguish and conflict in this character and plays him with even balance and not over the top. Jackson makes the most of his stage time and his steady portrayal is admirable.

Two of the actors in his piece take on double duty and Kalilah Black as PenLucy/Young Gwynn and Anastacia McCleskey as Cherry Hill/Young Swann pull of the roles superbly. Both Black and McCleskey have a great comprehension of the characters they are portraying and as the younger Gwynn and Swann, their chemistry is undeniable and work well with and off of each other adding to the depth of these characters. As Pen Lucy, Black is absolutely believable as a modern, single mother trying to make ends meet with a good head on her shoulders and McCleskey gives a heartfelt portrayal of Cherry Hill, Gwynn’s older, police officer daughter showing the hurt and loyalty this character has for her mother. It’s worth mentioning that, vocally, McCleskey is a powerhouse and blows it out of the water with her rendition of a heartbreaking ballad in Act II. The ability to play two characters back to back (with some breakneck costume changes, it seems) is impressive and both actresses give strong,confident performances that are joy to watch.

Leading the troupe are Wandachristine as Gwynn Oak Falls and Harriett D. Foy as Swann Park Sinclair and both of these ladies are highlights of this production. Both of these actresses give intense, humorous, and earnest performances that make these characters the heart of the story. Wandachristine is convincing as an aging, but sassy and self-reliant Gwynn Oak Falls and gives an impressive showing, especially her spoken-word monologue at the top of Act II that she delivers flawlessly. Working alongside of Wandachristine, Harriett D. Foy is a driving force as Swann Park Sinclair with an impeccable delivery of the text and a tight grasp of what her character is all about. From her quick and witty one-liners to her portrayal of the regret this character harbors, Foy gives an excellent and strong showing that is a pleasure to experience. The connection these actresses make with the audience is amazing and makes every spectator feel at home, as if they were sitting in that little salon with these ladies and that,my friends, makes for great theatre. These are two performances you don’t want to miss.

Last but certainly not lease, we have another actress in a supporting role but AlexisJ. Roston as First Lady Cedonia Mosher is the standout in this production of A Wonder in My Soul. Roston hits the ground running as First Lady Cedonia. The first time we see this character, she enters the salon singing and turns it into a mini revival with “Jesus Is My Friend”, equipped with her own tambourine and all. Roston has a lot of quick one-liners in her dialogue, but her character is my favorite because of the transition we see in her throughout the piece – a transition that Roston handles delicately and ably. First Lady Sinclair is a class above the rest,financially anyway, but she keeps coming back to the salon in the “bad” part oftown because she has a connection with these ladies and vice versa. From domineering to endearing, Roston pulls off her role immaculately and effortlessly. Vocally, Alexis J. Roston is another powerhouse and diverse vocalist who wails out the old-timey spirituals, as well as 60s hits, and modern grooves all in one night. I’m looking forward to seeing future performances from this actress.

Final thought…  A Wonder in My Soul at Baltimore Center Stage is a heartfelt,hometown story that incorporates good old fashioned gospel music, a well-written script, and thoughtful performances that resonate with you long after you leave the theatre. A lot of theatre can speak to you, but there’s something about this piece that touches your soul, as the title suggests.There’s nothing supernatural, per say, and no big bells and whistles, but the story itself, about family, long friendships, and living life the best way you know how is one that will stick with you and make you think. All aspects of this production including Set Design, Costumes, Lighting and Sound Design, and staging make for a splendid experience you do not want to miss this season and you’ll want to get your tickets as soon as you can.

This is what I thought of Baltimore Center Stage’s A Wonder in My Soul… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

A Wonder in My Soul will play through December 23 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700North Calvert Street,Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-332-0033 or you can purchase them online.

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Review: Sweat at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

Though times may seem crazy right now, the early 2000s were a doozy, as well! The economy was down the tubes and many areas in America were feeling it. Jobs seemed to be disappearing and everyone was replaceable, whether it be by a machine or someone willing to do the job for less pay. Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, Sweat, by Lynn Nottage (their fourth Nottage produced work), Directed by Vincent Lancisi, gives us a peek into one community as their security and way of life seem to be slipping from their fingers and there are no easy answers.

(l-r) Dawn Ursula, Kurt Rhoads, Megan Anderson, Deborah Hazlett. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Sweat is a Pulitzer winning play by Lynn Nottage and centers around the working-class of Reading, Pennsylvania. It bounces back and forth between 2000 and 2008 and concerns itself with three longtime friends, Cynthia, Tracey, and Jessie, who have worked at the same factory for years. The economy being what it is, there are fears that the factory is laying people off and even a possibility of it closing its doors for good. Suddenly job security is taken away and the characters have no idea what to do with this new feeling except express disbelief. Two of the friends, Cynthia a black woman and Tracey a white woman, apply for the same management job and Cynthia lands it, perplexing Tracey, who has a few years of experience on Cynthia. Soon, the company moves jobs to Mexico, the trade union goes on strike and the workers are locked out of the factory, putting Cynthia in a hard position. The new hierarchy of management vs. workers begins to put a strain on the friends, while racial issues widen the already growing gap, as well.

(l-r) Megan Anderson, Deborah Hazlett, Matthew Ward, Vaughn Ryan Midder, Dawn Ursula. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

I’ve got to admit. I’ve seen a few Lynn Nottage plays and… I can’t say that I’m a fan. It’s not because the stories aren’t moving or the performances were poor, but… the script. Sweat seems to be trying too hard for some reason. The dialogue makes the very able actors seem scripted and unnatural, for some. I just can’t seem to get invested in any of the characters of a Nottage piece, as much as I want to be. Ensemble pieces are hard to write, I’m sure, but Nottage seems to have a bunch of smaller sub-plots going on and she seems to leave characters hanging with no real resolutions. If she stuck to one or two plots, she might be more successful in fleshing out the characters, who have so much potential, a little more. I will say, the tension of this piece does come through, such as the racial issues and union vs. non-union folks, so, there are some highlights.  That’s not to say her writing is bad, but, she could put more time into some of her characters. However, check it out and judge for yourself!

Daniel Ettinger has, once again, outdone himself with this Set Design. It’s a masterpiece unto itself. With a fluid set revolving from a dank, blank area that is used as an office and low-income apartments to the lavish but cozy neighborhood bar, this Set Design is superb. The attention to detail is not to be missed and Ettinger is to be heartily applauded for his work on this production.

(l-r) Vaughn Ryan Midder and Dawn Ursula. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Working in tandem with Ettinger’s Set Design, Lighting Design by Harold F. Burgess II and and Sound Design by C. Andrew Mayer are impeccable. Setting just the right moods for each scene and adding emotion and just the right amount of intensity to the piece rather than drawing attention from the action, make Burgess’ and Mayer’s work flawless and adds value to this production, in general. Kudos to them for jobs very well done.

Costume Design by David Burdick is spot on and his presentation of the first decade of the 21st century is stellar. Not only a general style, but a specific, blue-collar style shines through in Burdick’s design putting the audience right smack dab in the middle of the time setting and adding a sense of authenticity to the entire piece.

(l-r) Alejandro Ruiz and Deborah Hazlett. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Vincent M. Lancisi, Founding Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre, takes the helm of this production and he certainly seems to have a solid grasp of the story and each character. His staging is impeccable and the pacing is near perfect. His vision is apparent and his casting is superb, working with resident company members and non-members, pulling together a cast that has a natural chemistry and understanding of their characters. The subject matter is delicate but Lancisi takes it and presents it in a way that’s easy to follow and entertaining, all the while making the audience think about the trials and tribulations of folks who may be living these same scenarios right at this moment. Kudos to Lancisi for an exquisite job.

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, Jason B. McIntosh portrays Evan, the parole officer and though he is believable he comes off as scripted and stiff at times. He only has two scenes at the beginning and end of the play, and most of the problem may be the dialogue, but he manages the short stage time he has nicely.

(l-r) Vaughn Ryan Midder, Matthew Ward, Kurt Rhoads. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Vaughn Ryan Midder portrays Chris, the young man who has dreams of getting off the factory floor by going to school, and Matthew Alan Ward takes on the role of Jason, his close, longtime friend who seems content on the factory floor, but still has big dreams with the money he could possibly make. Both of these actors are quite able and work well with and off of each other, giving 100% effort to their roles. However, Ward does seem a bit forced in his role and uncomfortable with the dialogue… at first. As the production moves along, he gets more comfortable but there’s still a certain stiffness in his delivery, but, again, this could very well be Nottage’s dialogue itself. Stronger of the young duo is Midder, who plays his role with an authenticity that shows he certainly has a good grasp on his character and is comfortable in his actions and delivery.

(l-r) JaBen Early, Dawn Ursula, Megan Anderson, Kurt Rhoads. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

JaBen Early plays, Brucie, the out-of-work partner of Cynthia, who has resorted to dope to get by, but is seemingly trying to get back on track. Early seems to have a good understanding of this character and plays him confidently, but I just don’t buy that this character is a dope feign. Once again, I don’t think I can blame the actor for this… it’s Nottage’s writing or director’s decision. It’s mentioned repeatedly that this character, Brucie, is on dope, but it’s not really presented in the dialogue or in the action and portrayal. I can tell Early is a damn fine actor, but in this role, unfortunately, it doesn’t come across so clearly. Alejandro Ruiz, however, as Oscar, they Latino barback who just wants to get ahead in life and work, is more of a character one can invest in. He means no harm, but is accused of things for which he is not responsible. Ruiz plays the role smoothly and unassuming which is absolutely required for this character. His delivery is natural and his presence is strong, making for a wonderful performance.

(l-r) Dawn Ursula and Kurt Rhoads. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

In this production, we are treated to resident company actors and highlights, the incomparable Dawn Ursula, Deborah Hazlett, and Megan Anderson. These ladies never cease to amaze and impress. Ursula, as the level-headed Cynthia excels in this role as she gives us just the right amount of emotion to portray the conflict of management vs. friendship all while dealing with an out-of-work partner and maturing son. Though, it takes a minute to ease into Ursula’s performance (she starts off a bit rigid and deliberate as opposed to natural), 15 minutes in, you get her groove and it’s smooth sailing from then on. She has a tight grasp on this character and portrays her beautifully. Hazlett, as the hot-headed, content Tracey gives a stellar performance as a woman who is not so much narrow-minded as she is set in her ways, but can definitely come off as narrow-minded. Her delivery and stage presence is authentic and her understanding of this character and her trials and tribulations is very apparent. Anderson’s take on Jessie is superb and her usual authenticity shines through in this role. Anderson is quite comfortable in this role and she has a certain appreciation for her character, playing her with a perfect blend of dignity and spitfire. All of these actors have an impeccable chemistry and work well with and off of each other. All three should be applauded for their work in this poignant, important piece.

(l-r) Vaughn Ryan Midder, Dawn Ursula, Matthew Ward, Alejandro Ruiz, Megan Anderson, Kurt Rhoads. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

A definite standout in this production is Kurt Rhoads, who takes on the role of Stan, the laid-back, impartial (most of the time) bartender of the small neighborhood bar. Rhoads’ performance is flawless with his booming, but soothing voice, and easy delivery of his dialogue. He has a deep understanding of this character and plays him with a rough-around-the-edges exterior but an empathetic and compassionate interior. Somehow I connect with this character (one of the only ones I truly connect with, really) and see him as the wise, worldly old uncle at a family gathering, which is what a bartender of a neighborhood bar should be, anyway. Rhoads gets this character and his performance is spot on. He is one to watch and should be commended and praised for this marvelous performance.

Final thought… Sweat is a serious, in-depth look at middle-class America and its inhabitants. Concentrating on the trials between family, friends, and work, and the fine line that separates these parts of life, Sweat gives us a peek into a blue-collar town in Northeast America and looks beyond skin color and other surface differences to express the kinship and ideals of the characters within. With very real and hard situations, Sweat manages, to tell a story that is relatable to many. Speaking of the story… it’s good. It’s very good but, unfortunately, Lynn Nottage’s script doesn’t do it justice. It seems to be trying too hard to present this middle-class group of people and the dialogue ends up sounding forced and phony, taking away from the other not-so-unfortunate parts. Overall, the production value is top notch and the performances are on point. It’s another bona fide success for Everyman Theatre and, forgiving the script and dialogue, it’s definitely worth checking out!

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Sweat… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Sweat will play through November 25 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

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Review: Dancing at Lughnasa at Everyman Theatre

By Andrea Bush

Approx. Running Time: 2 hours with a 10-minute intermission

“I know I had a sense of unease, some awareness of a widening breach between what seemed to be and what was, of things changing too quickly before my eyes, of becoming what they ought not to be.”

L-R: Katie Kleiger, Lahbahoise Magee,
and Megan Anderson.
Photo Credit: Teresa Castracane

Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel and Directed and Choreographed by Amber Paige McGinnis, is the story of a memory, told by Michael Evan’s as he looks back across a quarter-century, to August 1936 during the Festival of Lughnasa. The five unmarried Mundy sisters – Michael’s mother, Christina, and his aunts, Kate, Maggie, Agnes, and Rose – live together in a cottage outside the fictional village of Ballybeg, Ireland. Their brother, Father Jack, has returned after 25 years as a missionary on a leper colony in Uganda, with malaria, a spotty memory, and some contrary ideas. Before long, Michael’s charming but unreliable father, Gerry, resurfaces, as well. As the Industrial Revolution finally makes its way to Ireland, we find this family in transition, but between what? Old and new? Real and imagined? Together and apart? Restraint and abandon? Well…yes. Dancing at Lughnasa is a beautiful piece of theatre that may be an entirely different story for each patron.

L-R: Annie Grier, Bari Hochwald, Katie
Kleiger, and Labhaoise Magee.
Photo Credit: Teresa Castracane

The action takes place in and around the Mundy sisters’ cottage, which is brilliantly realized by Set Designer Yu-Hsuan Chen. I am legitimately in such awe of her set that I struggle to find the words to praise it. Chen has so beautifully captured the line between reality and memory with a perfectly-appointed cottage kitchen (complete with smoke from the chimney of the wood-burning stove), the walls of which seem to have dissolved away so we may sneak a glimpse into the lives it contains. The cottage is surrounded by impressions of wind-swept trees and an abstract landscape. I truly felt like I was looking in on someone else’s memory and it made me uncomfortable in the best possible way. Chen’s set is nothing short of perfection.

L-R: Bruce Randolph Nelson, Bari Hochwald, Labhaoise
Magee, Annie Grier, Megan Anderson, Tim Getman, and
Katie Kleiger.
Photo Credit: Teresa Castracane

Upon entering the theatre, patrons are greeted by Irish music, which foretells the wonderful sound design by Phillip Owen. Music (or the lack thereof) is almost another character in the play, and Owen’s design is spot on.

David Burdick’s costume design is excellent and appropriate for each character, and I appreciate Annie Nesmith’s almost-undetectable wig design.

For the most part, the actors seem to have taken well to the dialect coaching of Gary Logan and I was grateful that he chose diction over dialect without losing the authenticity of the accent.

Props Master Jillian Mathews may well deserve an unsung hero award for her work on this production. The sheer volume of “things” on the stage is overwhelming, giving the cottage and yard an authentic, lived-in feel. Kudos to Stage Manager Cat Wallis, as well – it seems like there are so many nearly imperceptible moving parts to this show that no one will ever know, thanks to Wallis.

L-R: Bari Hochwald, Bruce Randolph Nelson, Annie Grier,
Danny Gavigan, Labhaoise Magee, Tim Getman, Katie
Kleiger, and Megan Anderson.
Photo Credit: Teresa Castracane

Jay Herzog’s lighting design is stunning, which is no surprise. I would honestly go see a production at Everyman Theatre just for his design work. In a production that transitions between past and present, we expect to see shifts in lighting to represent the time change, but it is all too often done with a heavy hand, which makes me feel disrespected as an audience member. Herzog takes a gentler approach and his subtle transitions enhance the story, rather than becoming the story. I also always love his use of pools of light, instead of a consistent spot, to track an actor across the stage.

L-R: Megan Anderson and Tim Getman.
Photo Credit: Teresa Castracane

As the play begins, the adult Michael (Tim Getman) invites us into his memory and the lights come up on the rest of the characters in tableau. Getman adeptly breaks the fourth wall consistently throughout the play and his performance feels genuine, never forced or overly sentimental (In fact, none of the actors get weighed down in sentiment, which is a testament to Amber Paige McGinnis’ apt direction of this piece). As he stands outside the action, he also takes on the persona and delivers lines for his seven-year-old self – a challenge for him and his fellow actors to interact without interacting. I enjoyed this device immensely and it is well-handled by all.

L-R: Labhaoise Magee,
Katie Kleiger, Annie Grier,
and Bari Hochwald.
Photo Credit: Teresa
Castracane

The oldest sister, Kate (Bari Hochwald) is stern, but likeable. Toward the beginning of the evening, Hochwald seemed a little unsure of herself, but as the show went on, I thought it might be a character choice that she hasn’t fully settled into yet. I did, however, enjoy her performance. Kate is the practical sister and often has to play the “bad guy” to keep the household going. It would be easy to play the character as mean, but Hochwald finds beautiful layers within Kate and this may be my favorite role that I’ve seen her in.

Megan Anderson’s portrayal of Maggie is a delight. She is sassy and bold and I wanted to be her friend. Her interactions with young Michael, full of riddles and imagination, were some of the most beautiful moments of the show. Anderson’s absolute abandon as she danced and sang and tried to bring lightness to the home made me yearn to get up and dance with her.

L-R: Katie Kleiger, and
Danny Gavigan.
Photo Credit: Teresa
Castracane

Labhaoise Magee is a sweet, childlike Rose, the youngest sister. Her desire to embrace the world is palpable. Magee brings an unexpected combination of innocence and practicality to the role, which was interesting to watch.

Christina (Katie Kleiger) and Gerry (Danny Gavigan) are Michael’s unmarried parents. Kleiger plays the dichotomy between who Christina is on her own and who she is with Gerry with aplomb. Gavigan plays Gerry with just enough charm to make you want him to stay and just enough smarm to make you doubt he ever will, which makes Kleiger’s performance that much more heartbreaking.

Father Jack, played by Bruce Randolph Nelson, is my conundrum for this show. I have to say that I very much enjoyed seeing Bruce Randolph Nelson tell stories about Pagan rituals and be just a bit off his rocker – he really was captivating in his own right. But, in the context of the show, I’d have rather seen Father Jack. Unfortunately, Nelson’s authenticity in the role was lacking, right down to his on-again-off-again accent.

L-R: Bari Hochwald and Megan
Anderson.
Photo Credit: Teresa Castracane

But, Annie Grier’s performance as Agnes is the one I can’t stop thinking about. Agnes is the most subtle sister and her performance is perfectly understated and gorgeous. I couldn’t stop watching her, even as she sat in the background of a scene, knitting. I don’t want to give away her story arc, but I will say that her masterful performance makes it all the more poignant.

Overall, Dancing at Lughnasa is another stunning production from Everyman Theatre. From design to direction to performance, it is a must-see this season. I hope to get back to see it again before it fades to nothing more than a memory.

Dancing at Lughnasa will play through October 7 at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the Box Office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

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Review: The Book of Joseph at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission

(l-r) Megan Anderson, Helen Hedman, Beth Hylton, and Bari Hochwald. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

There are secrets in every family whether close or estranged. There are untold stories and questions we may have about or family we just let go of because we either don’t want to know or we don’t know where to find the information and with the current rage of DNA testing and ancestry more and more folks are finding answers to the questions they have about their own families. Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, The Book of Joseph by Karen Hartman is Directed by Noah Himmelstein and is based on the book The Life of Joseph A. Hollander and His Family by Richard Hollander. It is a journey of discovery of a man who was a father, son, brother, uncle, and husband who kept his past in letters and documents that tell an

The Cast of The Book of Joseph. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

extraordinary story of the bonds of family and an unconditional love.

In a nutshell, The Book of Joseph concerns itself with the story of Joseph Hollander, a Polish immigrant who happens to be Jewish, and his correspondence with the family he left behind during World War II, as the Nazi Party took over most of Europe. The story is told by his son, Richard, as he discusses the book he wrote about these correspondences he discovered after the death of Joseph. The thing is, it took years for Richard to read these correspondences because of the fear he had of what he might find out about his family after noticing the Nazi emblems on the letters in his father’s briefcase. Richard had managed to tell the story with kid gloves, glazing over the horrible parts and concentrating on the good parts, while possibly adding a bit of his own optimism. However, Richard’s son, Craig, is determined to get the truth about what happened, even if it means facing a darkness that has been hidden within the family.

Daniel Ettinger’s Set Design is, once again, impeccable, and helps move the story along nicely allowing for easy exits and entrances with thoughtful use of projections and dark colors to express the poignancy of the story. The turntable that takes the audience from one setting to the next is clever and makes for smooth transitions between scenes. Ettinger has created yet another successful design.

(l-r) Wil Love, Beth Hylton, Hannah Kelly, Danny Gavigan, and Bari Hochwald. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Working in tandem with the Set Design, the Sound Design by Elisheba Ittoop and Lighting Design by Cory Pattak is superb and sets the mood of not only entire production but each scene as well. Pattak uses rays of isolated light and subtle dimming of light to represent the dreariness and uncertainty in the story as well as brightening to express the more uplifting points. Working with the lighting Ittoop’s sound design blends perfectly into the production and may not be noticeable until she wants you to notice it which makes for an intelligent design. Her original compositions are faintly heard in the background during certain scenes, but are fitting and well-thought out. Together, these aspects of light and sound do not hinder the production and performances but enhance and help them along.

David Burdick rarely disappoints and his Costume Design for this production is no different. His attention to detail is immaculate and, being a period piece that requires a specific style, Burdick’s design is spot on. His choice of wardrobe for each character gives them an individuality and the modern and bygone era styles are presented flawlessly and transitions smoothly from one scene to the next. Kudos to Burdick for his work on this production.

Noah Himmelstein takes the helm of this superb production and presents the story clearly with a focused vision. It’s obvious he has a great comprehension of the text, the characters represented, and the message of the story. Himmelstein has amassed a balanced, well-rounded cast with a chemistry that is second to none and his staging is engaging, making for spot on pacing that is just about perfect. Himmelstein should be applauded for his impeccable work on this production.

Danny Gavigan as Joseph (foreground) and Cast. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Commenting on the performance aspect of this production, it’s worth mentioning that, according to this story, the Hollander family is a family driven by strong women, with Joseph being the only male amongst supportive females. Hellen Hedman as Berta, the matriarch of the Hollander family, plays her character as a woman who has an unencumbered faith in family and puts on a show of strength for her daughters and only son. Hedman is comfortable with her role and plays it with confidence.

In the same vein, Bari Hochwald plays Mania, the eldest sister, and she plays it in a way that makes this character relatable to anyone who has an older sister, like myself. She seems to portray this character as an obligated caretaker, as many eldest children feel, having a nice blend of being both strict and stern as well as compassionate for her family. The match with Everyman Theatre Resident Company member Wil Love as Salo, her husband, is brilliant and Love’s portrayal of a loving and supportive husband with a gentle demeanor is believable and charming.

Bruce Randolph Nelson. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Beth Hylton, an Everyman Theatre Resident Company member takes on the role of Klara, Joseph’s next eldest sister who seems to be a tough cookie, as well as Felicja Hollander, the first wife of Joseph. Playing these two vastly different characters is a representation of Hylton’s impressive skills as she plays Klara with a rough-around-the-edges but soft on the inside kind of sister and mother who manages to get along no matter what life throws at her and the snooty, uptight Felicja. Kudos to Beth Hylton on a remarkable performance. Along with Hylton’s Klara, Hanna Kelly tackles the role of Genka and the gender-bending role of Boy Arnold. Much like Hylton, Kelly’s portrayal of these roles is a natural and believable switching flawlessly between the anxious and nervous young immigrant, Boy

Arnold, and the young, optimistic, and hopeful Genka.

Megan Anderson and David Gavigan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Two highlights in this production are Everyman Theatre Resident Company members Megan Anderson and Daid Gavigan. Anderson takes the roles of Dola, Joseph’s sister to whom he seems to be closest, and Vita, Joseph’s second wife and lifelong love, and Gavigan takes on the titular role of Joseph, the man who kept correspondence with his family and tried to help them immigrate to the United States for as long as he possibly could. Anderson brings her usual energy and confidence to her roles that make her a joy to watch and she has a tight grasp on her strong, independent characters making for a remarkable performance. Gavigan, too, understands the nuances of his character, a conflicted and worried young man who is desperate to help his family. He has a good presence and is confident in this role and it makes for a fantastic performance that is the backbone of this production.

Bruce Randolph Nelson as Richard and Elliott Kashner as Craig. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Rounding out the cast are two more highlights – Elliott Kashner as Elliott, Joseph’s grandson, and Everyman Theatre Resident Company member Bruce Randolph Nelson as Richard, Joseph’s son. Both these actors bring the modern into this production amidst the flashbacks and memories and they do it seamlessly and they both have a deep comprehension of their characters and the text. Nelson brings a certain levity to this poignant piece that fits in perfectly without making a mockery of the story and his rollercoaster of emotions is clear making for an authentic performance that is a delight to experience. Kashner, who enters later in the piece, is absolutely believable with a great mix of flippancy that makes you want to smack him, a yearning to know his own history, and a compassion for his father. He has a confident presence on stage and it makes for an admirable performance, overall.

Final thought… The Book of Joseph is a poignant, heart-wrenching look into the life of one family during the turbulent and uncertain times during WWII. The story is well framed and structured even though it hops through time, it’s easy to follow in the way the script is laid out. It’s a story that incorporates hope, regret, love of family, survival, and moving on under extreme circumstances. It also has a certain amount of levity mixed in with the tragedy that gives the audience emotional peaks and valleys that make for great theatre. It reminds us of the untold stories of war and strife that don’t come to light until years later when those involved are long gone and we only have letters and documents to put the pieces of the past puzzle together. The performances are extraordinary and the script is well put-together making for a thoughtful and entertaining production as a whole. Once again, Everyman has not disappointed and you don’t want to miss this final production of the 2017-18 season.

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of The Book of Joseph… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

 The Book of Joseph will play through June 10 at Everyman Theatre315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or you can purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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Review: Long Day's Journey Into Night at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
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Running Time: Approx. 3 hours and 15 minutes with two 10-minute intermissions

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The Tyrone Family (l-r: Kurt Rhoads, Danny Gavigan, Tim Getman, Deborah Hazlett) Credit: Stan Barouh


Some of the best fodder for plays, movies, television, or any form of entertainment is the family. Every family is different and every family has their ups and downs where sometimes the ups last for years with a few downs in between or vice versa. Who has the perfect family? Do you? I certainly don’t and if you do, please tell me what your secret is. Family can drive you crazy, at times, and Everyman Theatre’s latest production, Long Day’s Journey Into Night by the incomparable Eugene O’Neill, Directed by Donald Hicken, gives us a peek into a small family’s dysfunctional relationships at the beginning of the 20th century and, lo and behold, this production exhibits that family structures and dynamics haven’t really changed much throughout time.
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Deborah Hazlett as Mary Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


Briefly, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a semi-autobiographical piece about O’Neill and his own family and revolves around the fictional Tyrone family, including James, it’s patriarch and famous actor, though he is really only known for one particular role, Mary, his wife, who loves to reminisce about her perfect childhood and never really fit in with her husband’s life in the theatre, and their two sons, the older but disappointing Jamie, who seems to have never really grown up, and the unassuming and sickly Edmund. Taking place during one full day from morning until midnight, we are presented with a family at odds with each other and with their individual selves as they try to grasp what is left of their small family, all the while dealing with addiction, sickness, alcoholism, and all the other fun things that keep a family going. In the end, it’s family so… what can you do? What impressed me the most is the authenticity of the dialogue and relationships within this family. For instance, a nice peaceful game of cards can turn into an all-out shouting match, then just as quickly as the shouting match began, it ends with a query of whose turn it is, as if the shouting match never happened. THAT’S family. That’s how things work. When it’s family, you forgive what you’d kill others for and no one seems to know why, but that’s the way it is and in this piece, O’Neill is on point.
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(l-r) Danny Gavigan as Edmund Tyrone, Deborah Hazlett as Mary Tyrone, and Kurt Rhoads as James Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


Everyman Theatre has yet to disappoint with the production sets and this Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is no different. He uses his space wisely and his attention to detail is second to none. From the period furniture to the dark wood and insinuation of high ceilings, Ettinger hit the nail on the head with this design. The audience is transported to a turn of the century home that wants to look exquisite, but is really falling to pieces under the surface… much like the family who lives in it. Kudos to Ettinger for another successful design.
Jay Herzog’s Lighting Design works in tandem with the action of this piece and sets the mood and time of each scene flawlessly. Herzog’s use of subtle shifts and placement of the lighting gives the audience a sense of exactly what time of day it is which helps keep track of when the action is taking place in each scene. The shift from morning to afternoon, then afternoon into night is gradual and natural, just like a real summer’s day making for an impeccable design.
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Tim Getman as Jamie Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


Costume Design by David Burdick is spot on as this ensemble looks like they stepped right out of the early 1900s in their stuffy, but stylish duds that conservatively covers them pretty much from head to toe, so Burdick’s eye for authenticity is apparent and his talent for period pieces shines through in this design.
Donald Hicken takes the helm of this production and, being a well-known piece to many as well as a heavy piece, the challenges are vast, but Hicken tackles them and presents us with a well thought-out and well-paced production that hits home. His comprehension of the material is apparent and his casting is superb with apt and able actors who take this text and present it purely and intensely as is required. Hicken’s vision is clear and the message of learning the raw truth of your family isn’t always nice or comfortable but necessary to understand the ones closest to you is strong thanks to the performances he pulls out of his actors. Hicken should be applauded for his efforts with this complex, epic piece that he has presented beautifully.
Moving into the performance aspect of this production, it’s clear these actors enjoy working together and off of each other and all have great chemistry with his or her fellow castmates. If I didn’t know any better, I’d definitely believe this was your everyday, run-of-the-mill family down the street and that alone makes for a delightful evening of theatre.
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Danny Gavigan as Edmund Tyrone and Tim Getman as Jamie Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


I’d be remiss not to mention Katherine Ariyan, who takes on the supporting, but very important role of Cathleen, one of the spunky seasonal maids for the Tyrone family. Ariyan makes the most of her short time on the stage and is absolutely believable with her strong Irish accent and quick, natural delivery. Her character, at one point, acts as a fill-in for Mary, while her family is off on their own business, and is vital in bringing to light the addiction of which Mary gives into. Ariyan takes on this supporting role with gusto and gives a strong performance.
Tackling the significant roles of the Tyrone brothers are Everyman Theatre Company members Danny Gavigan as Edmund and Tim Getman as Jamie. The chemistry between these two actors is superb and authentic making for a natural brotherly relationship. Gavigan has a clear understanding of his character, who seems to be the “peacemaker” of this family even though he’s suffering from an ailment all to familiar to the era and he gives a confident performance, even when his delivery seems a bit lazy where I lose some of his dialogue. Though both are fine performers, Tim Getman, as Jamie, is the stronger of the two in this production. Getman hits the ground running with this loafing, seemingly caddish character, that he plays near perfectly, making his performance a highlight of this production.
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Deborah Hazlett as Mary Tyrone, Kurt Rhoads as James Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barough


The parents of this dysfunctional crew are played by Deborah Hazlett as Mary and Kurt Rhoads as James. These two actors are quite believable as an older married couple who were probably very much in love at one time and the husband/wife chemistry between the two is splendid. Hazlett has a deep comprehension of her character and, it seems, of women in general of this early 20th century era and plays it to the hilt. I want to feel sorry for this character, but it’s clear she has found a way to deal with the lot she’s been given with the addiction she’s let take hold. Hazlett is sure to portray Mary as a caring soul, but with past and present demons she must deal with. The emotion she exudes as she tells this character’s story is poignant and real making for a stellar performance, overall.
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Kurt Rhoads as James Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


Kurt Rhoads, as James Tyrone, the loud, control-craving father of the brood, is the definite standout in this production. His impressive, booming voice makes one stand up and take notice when he is on the stage and his presence is strong and confident, as it should be for this role. He, too, has a great comprehension of his character and its flaws. In his scenes with Gavigan and Getman, he’s totally believable as the domineering father in his delivery and gestures while he is more subdued in dealing with Hazlett’s character. He gets this character and plays him near flawlessly making him one to watch in this production.
Final thought… If you’re going to check out Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Everyman Theatre, brace yourself! Go to the restroom, get settled, and be ready to make an entire evening of it. It is, after all, an O’Neill drama. However, that being said… this is a show you don’t want to miss! I went in with hesitations because of my modern-day short attention span, but this production is top-notch and engaging. The pacing is on point and the performances are superb. Over half a century later, this story of family relations is still relevant and very relatable. Even though this play is set in the early 1900s, it’s interesting to see how very similar family relationships are even today. Styles may change, but, in the grand scheme of things, human nature stays the same and Eugene O’Neill had an uncanny knack of putting it down on paper. With a great script and production value, this is not a show you want to miss this season.
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Long Day’s Journey Into Night will play through March 4 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or you can purchase them online.
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Review: The Revolutionists at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

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(l-r) Beth Hylton, Emily Kester, Megan Anderson, and Dawn Ursula. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


When strong women get together, change can happen, ideas can turn into action, and passions can be expressed. At a time when women voices are becoming stronger and more empowered, Everyman Theatre‘s latest offering, The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson, Directed by Casey Stangl, gives us an extremely humorous, but extremely poignant look at how women’s voices can make the aforementioned change whether it be in their current time or for posterity. It’s a story of how important a woman’s voice can be, even in the darkest of times.
Briefly, The Revolutionists is about a group of women, a playwright, a strong woman of color and activist, an assassin, and… a queen who discuss life and current events in Paris, France during the Reign of Terror (circa 1793) when the government is chopping off heads with the guillotine at the drop of a hat and a revolution is definitely brewing. These women, who have gathered in a study, a safe space, obviously come from different walks of life explain life and their thoughts to each other as they individually know them and they learn from and teach each other along the way, growing just a little strong and wiser just from knowing each other.
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(l-r) Emily Kester, Beth Hylton, Megan Anderson, and Dawn Ursula. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Daniel Ettinger’s Set Design is well thought-out and brings this piece together nicely. With various locations, including a large study in a home, a prison cell, and the scaffold where the dreaded guillotine lives, Ettinger has managed to smoothly mesh these locations together with a clever design using set pieces and projections that work in tandem with each other to move the story along nicely.
Light Design by Elizabeth Harper and Sound Design by C Andrew Mayer blend beautifully within the production and help the audience, both visually and audibly, discern where any particular scene is taking place. The mood is created nicely with these aspects as well, engaging the audience wholly. With a nice balance of subtle and bold lighting changes and well-chosen and executed sound effects, Harper’s Light Design and Mayer’s Sound Design add great value to this production.
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(l-r) Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle and Beth Hylton as Marie Antoinette. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


David Burdick’s Costume Design is on point with these diverse characters. Each character has such a distinguishable personality and look, Burdick manages to bring out these differences in unique, yet appropriate costumes for each. His attention to detail is impeccable as with Marie Antoinette’s bright yellow and garnished ensemble that exudes the excess and decadence for which she is known (whether accurate or not). The authenticity of the costumes brought these characters to life and made them complete individuals which helped move the story along very nicely.
Casey Stangl takes the helm of this production and her Direction of this piece is, in a word, superb. She has a definite grasp and comprehension of this piece and it shines through in the staging and through the actors’ portrayal of these characters. Stangl’s staging is well-paced and engaging while be focused and clean. The transitions are smooth from one scene and setting to another making making for an even flow that’s easy to follow. Her casting is spot on and her overall vision of presenting strong, confident women is quite apparent.
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Emily Kester as Charlotte Corday. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Performance-wise, this piece is acted beautifully and confidently with each member of the small four-person ensemble giving fully committed performances making the roles their own. The chemistry between these actors seems effortless and they all work well with and off of each other, especially Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle, the scrappy activist and Beth Hylton as the bubbly Queen Marie Antoinette, who play off of each other’s performance superbly.
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Megan Anderson as Olympe de Gouges. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Emily Kester takes on the role of Charlotte Corday, a young assassin who comes to the only female playwright she knows of to write her last words before she is put to death for killing a very prominent male figure. Kester embodies this character and performs the role with high energy and gusto as required. Her comedic timing is good though it would benefit her and the production if she gave the audience a moment to laugh at the funny lines rather than speaking over the laugh, thus losing many of her lines. She plays this rough-around-the-edges character well and gives the comedy a good balance with poignancy and passion. Overall, she gives a commendable performance that’s a delight to watch.
Olympe de Gouges, the reluctant revolutionist female playwright, is played flawlessly by the incomparable Megan Anderson, an Everyman Resident Company member. She has a good grasp on this character and is authentic in her mannerisms and characterization of this high-strung and passionate character. Anderson’s delivery of the text is spot on and her comedic timing is down pat. She does well with this witty, intelligent dialogue and gives a confident, comfortable, and praiseworthy performance.
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(l-r) Emily Kester as Charlotte Corday and Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


As mentioned, Everyman Resident Company member Dawn Ursula takes on the role of Marianne Angelle, the sassy activist who is trying to bring liberty and justice to her people of the Caribbean and she plays it to the hilt. With a keen and impressive sense of deadpan comedy and its delivery, Ursula is gives a strong, authentic presentation and embodies this character wholly. She has a good comprehension of what this character is about and exudes the passions and empathy that is required in her delivery of the text and is certainly one to watch in this production.
As stated previously, Beth Hylton, another Everyman Resident Company member tackles the complex role of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France who doesn’t really get the regular folks, and she is, hands down, the standout in this production. With an Elle Woods (of Legally Blond) type personality and persona, Hylton is both hilarious and touching in this role. This character seems to be the one that grows and learns the most in this piece and it makes sense. The others are fighting against everything Marie Antoinette stands for, or seems to stand for, but, after talking and spending time with the other characters, her empathy shines through and she really seems to comprehend their plights. Hylton portrays this exquisitely, all the while keeping the comedy in tact while showing the compassionate and empathetic side to Marie. With a balance of humor and poignancy, Hylton shines as this flourishing character, giving a strong, note-worthy performance.
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Beth Hylton as Marie Antoinette. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Final thought… The Revolutionists is a fun, hysterical but thoughtful and important look at how women’s voices can change the course of events and be important in deciding upon policy. The performances are strong and confident, much like the characters these actors are portraying, and the message is clear. Though a comedy, the production is focused and well-thought out both technically and onstage. With it’s modern, comedic twist on a dark, confusing era, The Revolutionists tickles the brain with witty and intelligent humor that forces us to think while we laugh and it’s a production that is not to be missed this season. Get your tickets, now, for this brilliant, funny, and thought-provoking piece of clever theatre!
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of The Revolutionists… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
The Revolutionists will play through January 7 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.
Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com
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Review: Lookingglass Alice at Baltimore Center Stage

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
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Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes with no intermission
Curiouser and curiouser… those are the words that come to mind when I think about the traditional, albeit twisted and psychedelic tale of a little girl named Alice and her adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It’s a dream-like story that can sometimes be convoluted and hard to follow, but there’s a certain appeal it has that has helped it survive many re-births since it’s original publishing in 1865. Whether it receives the Disney treatment in the 1951 animated feature, Alice in Wonderland, or the Tim Burton treatment in his 2010 film, Alice in Wonderland, it has never been a story I go out of my way to read or see presented on stage or film… until now. Baltimore Center Stage’s latest offering, Lookingglass Alice, an adaptation of the stories of Lewis Carroll by David Catlin, Directed by Jeremy B. Cohen, with Music Direction by Jose C. Simbulan and Choreography by Rennie Harris gives this timeless story a fresh, modern re-boot with fun music and fast-paced staging that pulls it out of the Victorian age and places it right into the hands of 21st century.
Media Gallery_1200x__Technically, this production is top-notch. Set Design by Tim Mackabee and Light and Sound Design by Rui Rita and Lindsay Jones, respectively, pull this production together in an awe-inspiring mix that tingles all the senses. Mackabee is wise to use a minimal, unit set that is quite appropriate and does not interfere with, but enhances the telling of the story, providing levels and though-out set pieces to keep the production interesting. Working in tandem with Mackabee’s design is the well thought-out and attention grabbing light show that sets the mood of each scene beautifully and gives a nightclub feel in well-placed points of the production, keeping the audience engaged and interested.
Media Gallery_1200x__10Lindsay Jones’ sound design is nothing but superb. Every effect is placed perfectly and carefully making the experience that much more enjoyable. Not only is he responsible for Sound Design but he also wears the hats of Composer of original music and Musical Arranger taking the well-chosen songs and fitting them into the piece perfectly to help move the story along and give it depth. Major kudos to Jones for his impeccable work on this piece.
Rennie Harris’ Choreography is inspiring and full of energy making this piece engaging and engrossing with a mix of hip-hop and lyrical moves fill the stage and show off the ensemble’s individual abilities. Also, working together with Harris’ fabulous choreography, Jose C. Simbulan’s Music Direction is on point as this cast is flawless in the delivery of the songs included in this piece. Both choreography and vocal performances make for a delightful and intriguing two hours of theatre.
Jeremy B. Cohen takes the helm of this production of Lookingglass Alice and his direction is spot on with focused, precise staging that gets actors on and off efficiently and transitions between the scenes, which are more like vignettes, are flawless. The pacing is near perfect with every moment used wisely. Cohen’s comprehension of this piece is quite apparent as his refreshing vision of this aged story with an updated, intelligent script is presented with a delicate balance of new and old.
Media Gallery_1200x__7Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, all of the actors in this small ensemble take on many, varied roles but it’s worth mentioning the extremely able ensemble members Jessica Bennet and Sensei Silab. Bennet and Silab are committed and it’s easy to see they give 100% to their various roles. Both of these actors have a definite grasp on the complex choreography and musical arrangements and they add great value to this production as a whole.
Garrett Turner, who takes on the roles of White rabbit, White Night, and March Hare is a delight to watch as he embodies these very different characters with ease. As the White Night, he has fantastic comedic timing and he is  comfortable in his well-placed interactions with the audience. His ability to switch on and off between characters is impressive
Media Gallery_1200x__9Christopher Ramirez takes on the roles of Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and the White Queen, among others and his performance is commendable. He understands his characters and shines as the caring  Mr. Dodgson who gets on the level of a young girl and tries to explain the world to her in terms she might understand. He is hilarious as the White Queen, throwing shade that RuPaul himself would be proud of, but also balances out by playing the character seriously and not over the top, exuding a compassion and caring that is required of the role. Vocally, Ramirez does a bang-up job with a smooth, booming baritone voice and shines in featured numbers such as in Milo Green’s “Afraid of Everything.”
David Darrow is a highlight in this production as he tackles the roles of Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, and Humpty Dumpty, among others. The characters are diverse and Darrow portrays each character effortlessly. Not only does he have admirable dramatic chops, this multi-talented performer provides much of the live music in this piece with a guitar and adds great value with a clear bari-tenor voice in numbers such as Jonathan Coulton’s “I Crush Everything,” and Ruth Berthe’s “Golden.” Whether he’s effectively portraying the Cheshire Cat, slinking across the stage, or giving a frantic performance as the high-energy Mad Hatter, or a comical, nerdy take on Humpty Dumpty, Darrow is certainly one to watch in this production.
Media Gallery_1200x__6Markita Prescott takes on the titular role of Alice in this production and gives an absolutely authentic and natural performance, embodying this young girl as she navigates through Wonderland searching for a way to become a queen. Prescott has great chemistry with her fellow ensemble members and really seems to have a great comprehension of her character. She plays Alice with the innocence of a child but the sass of a girl who can take care of herself and the curiosity of a person coming of age. Vocally, Prescott is superb with a strong voice that resonates throughout the theatre in numbers like the driving Emile Sande song “Breathing Underwater” and a more subdued, delicate sound that she uses in the poignant “Golden.” Overall, Prescott gives a strong, confident performance that pulls the piece together.
Media Gallery_1200x__2The definite standout in this production, hands down, is Patrice Covington as the Red Queen. Though she gives great turns in roles such as the Dormouse and Tweedle Dee, she shines brighly and intensely as the Red Queen. She steals the show during her featured number, the high-energy, upbeat Demi Lovoto tune “Confident”and that’s exactly what she exudes in her performance. The balance of elegance and diva-ness she brings to the role is on point and makes for an authentic portrayal of a tyrannical queen. Covington’s vocal performance is powerful and seemingly effortless as she wails her number with confidence, as the song suggests, and her own flare of showmanship that is second to none. I’ll be following this actresses career and am looking forward to seeing her onstage in the future.
Final thought…Lookingglass Alice is a modern, funky, and refreshing look at a very old, familiar story. The performances of this small ensemble playing various roles are focused and engaging, breathing new life and ideas into the well-known piece. The music that has been added and the arrangements of those songs give the impression that these tunes were written for this piece because they fit so well and help progress the story line. Overall, it’s a fun show to experience and whether you’re familiar with little Alice and her adventures in Wonderland or a newbie to her journeys, you will not be disappointed with this production and it’s energy. Get your tickets now as this is not one production you want to miss this season.
This is what I thought of Baltimore Center Stage’s production of Lookingglass Alice… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Lookingglass Alice will play through December 31 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410.332.0033 or purchase them online.
Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com
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PRESS RELEASE: Baltimore Center Stage Announces Lookingglass Alice Cast and Artistic Team



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Baltimore Center Stage Announces Lookingglass Alice Cast and Artistic Team
Center Stage’s Holiday Production Boasts a Contemporary retelling of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale.
Baltimore—November 3, 2017. Baltimore Center Stage is pleased to announce the cast
and artistic team for Lookingglass Alice. A witty tale of curiosity and wonder, Baltimore Center Stage brings a fresh, modern twist to the original story. As the third production in Baltimore Center Stage’s “Season of Community,” Lookingglass Alice is a journey of rediscovery—a timely theme as families reconnect during the holiday season.
Lookingglass Alice is directed by Jeremy Cohen. This is Cohen’s third production at
Baltimore Center Stage. He previously directed Let There Be Love (2010) and Wild with
Happy (2014) and he is excited to collaborate with staff members that he has gotten to
know over the years. Assistant Director Mari Travis was handpicked by Cohen and is a
native Baltimorean.
“From the beginning, this has been a collaborative process, thinking about what this story
should be for Baltimore in 2017,” said Cohen. “The idea for this production is also that
we are engaging very directly with the audience right as they walk through the doors.”
The cast includes Markita Prescott* (Alice), Garrett Turner* (White Rabbit/White
Knight), Patrice Covington* (Red Queen/Dormouse), Christopher Ramirez*
(Dodgson/White Queen) and David Darrow* (Mad Hatter/Caterpillar). Two local artists were cast as dancers, Jessica Bennett, a recent graduate of Garrison Forest School,
and Sensi Silab, a senior at the Baltimore School for the Arts, in her first professional
stage appearance.
The artistic team includes director Cohen and Assistant Director Travis, along with music
director Jose C. Simbulan (Music Director), Tim Mackabee (Scenic Designer), David
Burdick (Costume Designer), Rui Rita (Lighting Designer), Lindsay Jones (Sound Designer), and Caite Hevner (Projection Designer). World renowned professor of hip-hop dance, Rennie Harris will serve as choreographer.
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association
Lookingglass Alice begins Thursday, November 30, with previews through December 6,
and closes Sunday, December 31. Press night is Opening Night, Thursday, December 7.
For more information, visit www.centerstage.org or call the box office at 410.332.0033.
Lookingglass Alice is made possible by KPMG and Kramon & Graham. This performance is supported in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC). Center Stage’s Season Sponsor is M&T Bank and the season is also made possible by The Shubert Foundation and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.
About Baltimore Center
Stage Baltimore Center Stage is a professional, nonprofit institution committed to entertaining, engaging and enriching audiences through bold, innovative and thought-provoking classical and contemporary theater. Named the State Theater of Maryland in 1978, Baltimore Center Stage has steadily grown as a leader in the national regional theater scene. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE and Managing Director Michael Ross, Baltimore Center Stage is committed to creating and presenting a diverse array of world premieres and exhilarating interpretations of established works.
Baltimore Center Stage believes in access for all—creating a welcoming environment for everyone who enters its theater doors and, at the same time, striving to meet audiences where they are. In addition to its Mainstage and Off Center productions in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, Baltimore Center Stage ignites conversations among a global audience through digital initiatives, which explore how technology and the arts
intersect. The theater also nurtures the next generation of artists and theater-goers through the Young Playwrights Festival, Student Matinee Series and many other educational programs for students, families and educators.

Review: Intimate Apparel at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 10-minute intermission
We easily take for granted so many items we use or see on a daily basis but, do we ever stop to think about the people behind those items? How do these items come into existence? Sure, today we can be 99.9% certain all of our everyday items come from a factory somewhere in the world, built by machines and synthetics, but, at the turn of the century, mostly everything was created by hand… by people. One of the most common, everyday items we deal with everyday (most people anyway) is underwear and, though not a taboo topic these days, back in 1905, it was truly unmentionable. Everyman Theatre‘s latest production, Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage, Directed by Tazewell Thompson, gives us a glimpse into the lives of one of those folks who created, by hand, ladies underwear, reminding us that even everyday items sometimes have a story all their own.

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(l-r) Dawn Ursula as Esther and Beth Hylton as Mrs. Van Buren. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Though the title can be a little misleading, Intimate Apparel is not really about underwear, but, in a nutshell, about a woman, Esther, who makes her living sewing these articles of clothing for ladies throughout New York City.  She is an entrepreneur, making her own way in the world, which was quit uncharacteristic for women of color at that time, but she certainly has grand aspirations but is unmarried, illiterate, and in her mid-thirties. She begins a courtship with a man half-way across the world through letters and hopes this relationship will bring her a better future.
Everyman Theatre has never disappoints when it comes to sets and, though this set isn’t as impressive as previous productions, Set Design by Donald Eastman is simple, but absolutely appropriate for this piece. Earthy colors exude the feeling of the New York City tenements of the early 1900s and the authentic, well-chosen set pieces help set the time and move the story along nicely.
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(l-r) Jade Wheeler as Mayme and Beth Hylton as Mrs. Van Buren. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Costume Design by David Burdick is sensational as well as authentic with an eye for detail. All of the ladies were dressed in the turn of the century style with contrasts in the class of these characters quite apparent. The gentlemen, who have less complex costumes, are still dressed in styles that fit the individual character such as a 1900s Jewish shop owner and an African-American laborer. All the tailored costumes of the very different characters are carefully though-out and add great value to the production.
Tazewell Thompson takes the reigns of this production and has a good comprehension of the story and text and gives us a well put-together production. Pacing is consistent and there’s no dragging in the action, even if the story itself drags along at times. The transitions between scenes are seamless and each character is nicely fleshed out. The script is so-so, but Thompson has managed to tell this story in as much an interesting way as possible. His casting is to be commended and his vision is clear making for a poignant, focused production of a script that kind of falls flat.
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Jade Wheeler as Mayme. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Moving onto the performance aspect of this production, it’s worth mentioning that, even though I’m not 100% on board with the script (did I make that clear enough, yet?), I am on board with the ability and interpretation of this able and dedicated cast.
Bueka Uwemedimo takes on the role of George, the pen pal turned love interest of Esther, our main character, and a laborer who is digging for the Panama Canal. Uwemedimo has a good grasp on this character and gives a commendable performance but he does seem to yell through his entire performance while speaking… so… slowly. There’s projecting from the stage and there’s yelling and it seems Uwemedimo is doing the latter. Regardless, I can understand ever word he’s saying and he’s dedicated to his role confidently portraying his character as the “villain” with ease and authenticity.
Mayme, the kind, sweet girl who dreamed of being a concert pianist but had to resort to prostitution while renting a room on top of a saloon, is portrayed by Jade Wheeler. While wheeler seems to understand her character well, it feels as though she’s calling her performance in. The character is laid back but Wheeler’s interpretation seems a little too laid back, especially in her speaking. Mayme is a transplant from Memphis, Tennessee but has not a lick of a southern drawl that one would expect. Maybe she’s been up north too long? Aside from a good, albeit uninspiring performance, it’s definitely worth noting that Wheeler is a top-notch vocalist. She plays the piano and belts out a jazzy tune that just about brings down the house while exhibiting her proficient musicality.
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(l-r) Jenn Walker as Mrs. Dickson and Dawn Ursula as Esther. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Mrs. Dickson, the boarding house landlady and friend to Esther, is played brilliantly by Jenn Walker and she completely embodies this character playing her with a great balance of being a realist and a compassionate friend. The character is relatable, as is, since most of us can claim we have someone like this in our family or circle of friends; one who wants what’s best for us and cares deeply for us but doesn’t mind giving his or her opinion on everything, whether we like what they say or not. Walker is to be applauded for a strong performance.
Beth Hylton, an Everyman Theatre Company member tackles the complex role of Mrs. Van Buren, the rich socialite who is not only a client of but a friend to Esther, helping her in her quest to find love by writing the letters she’s sending to George. Hylton gives an impressive, confident performance and provides the contrast to the other characters all the while showing many similarities to Esther. Both are around the same age and both are yearning for love and companionship. Hylton has a great comprehension of her character and provides both attitude and mannerisms to make for a delightful performance.
As the jovial, devoutly Jewish shop owner, Mr. Marks, Drew Kopas is a highlight of this production an absolutely believable, making this character likable from the start. From the Romanian accent to the costume, Kopas had this character down pat, without question. His dedication and focus are definitely clear in this performance and his chemistry with Dawn Ursula is spot on.
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Dawn Ursula as Esther. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Speaking of Dawn Ursula, she rounds out the cast and is a joy to watch as Esther, our unfortunate heroine with an entrepreneur’s spirt, trying to make her way through early 1900s New York City. Ursula takes this role, chews it up, and makes it her own. You can actually see the uncertainty and, at times, anguish this character is feeling in Ursula’s performance. Her commitment and enthusiasm for this role is apparent and it’s easy to see she’s giving 100% to this character. She portrays the changes her character goes through effortlessly and gives an overall splendid performance that makes for a moving and entertaining evening of theatre.
Final thought…Intimate Apparel is a poignant piece and gives insight to the people we don’t think about regularly, namely, laymen and women who create the beautiful or simple everyday items to which we don’t give a second thought. The story itself is a slow burn and is not my favorite and is not extremely impressive. Act I does not have much going for it in the way of an interesting story line and the minor subplots are more interesting than the main story line, but most of the performances are spot on and praiseworthy. The pacing is on point and the story moves along with a good tempo. Overall, it’s a focused, well put-together production and the story is an important one of searching for love, finding love, and losing love.
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Intimate Apparel… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Intimate Apparel will play through November 19 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.
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PRESS RELEASE: Everyman Theatre's Intimate Apparel Reveals Patterns of Synergy and Commitment to Playwright's Work

Everyman Theatre Logo
Everyman Theatre’s Intimate Apparel Reveals Patterns of Synergy and Commitment to Playwright’s Work
Production Weaves Thematic Threads with Meaningful Community Connections
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Baltimore, MD – As though tailor-made for the locally-commissioned play’s Baltimore audience,Intimate Apparel stirs with substance, style and sincerity at Everyman Theatre—October 18 through November 19, 2017—in a quietly commanding production that radiates with powerful performances on-stage and profound local partnerships off-stage, bringing the play’s delicate themes affectingly to life.
Wearing her heart on her sleeve while sewing intimates for her clientele, Esther is the talented African American seamstress in turn-of-the-century New York who has built a savings for herself making beautiful undergarments—while earnestly daydreaming of new beginnings, romantic possibilities, and the lingering affection she shares with a Jewish fabric merchant. But when an egregious deception cuts short heartfelt desires, can class, culture and circumstance outmatch the strength of human spirit? Inspired by a true story, Intimate Apparel is a heart-rending contemporary work in the style of an enduring classic—from Lynn Nottage, the first female playwright to win two Pulitzers.
Intimate Apparel marks the third Lynn Nottage play produced at Everyman Theatre, following 2015’sRuined and 2014’s By The Way, Meet Vera Stark. Intimate Apparel director Tazewell Thompson (who previously directed Great Expectations and Ruined at Everyman, as well as a production of Intimate Apparel at Dartmouth College) brings what Everyman Theatre Founding Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi describes as “a dramatist’s eye and a librettist’s ear” to the helm.
“Plays like Intimate Apparel are about bringing the real changing world into the theater,” said Thompson. “They are about making the theater contemporaneous with life; making the theater a leader of perception, not a follower. Intimate Apparel awakens us to the selves within ourselves; allows us to see, hear and understand the lives of, indeed, every man.”
In this spirit, Everyman’s production of Intimate Apparel is augmented by an extensive slate of ancillary programming that fastens topics from the play (including empowerment, entrepreneurship, and evolving trends) to close-knit community collaborations involving local artists, makers and independent entrepreneurs as well as institutions such as MICA, Baltimore School for the Arts, the Baltimore Design School and the Maryland Film Festival’s SNF Parkway Theatre.
“The story on stage can be just the beginning of the journey,” explained Everyman Theatre Managing Director Jonathan K. Waller. “We invite audiences to join us in deepening the experience by exploring how the play’s themes connect to our lives and history here in the Baltimore area. For Intimate Apparel, we have more opportunities to do this than ever before thanks to a growing circle of committed and connected partners.”
Partner projects for Intimate Apparel include an on-site costume exhibit, a tasting involving local restaurants, a film screening and discussion, a community conversation with local/regional fashion designers, a panel discussion about labor and sex work, and a walking tour of Baltimore’s historic garment district—among others. (See below for comprehensive listing.)
The cast of Intimate Apparel reunites several cast members from Ruined, including Resident Company Member Dawn Ursula* (Esther), Jade Wheeler* (Mayme) and Bueka Uwemedimo* (George). Rounding out the cast is Jenn Walker* (Mrs. Dickson), Resident Company Member Beth Hylton* (Mrs. Van Buren), and Drew Kopas* (Mr. Marks) and Steve Polites (Understudy-Mr. Marks).
The Intimate Apparel design team includes director Tazewell Thompson, Donald Eastman (Set Design), Stephen Quandt (Lighting Design), David Burdick (Costume Design), Fabian Obispo (Sound Design & Composition), Gary Logan (Dialects) and Denise O’Brien (Wig Design).
Intimate Apparel runs October 18 through November 19, 2017. Tickets ($10-65) are now on sale online (everymantheatre.org), by phone (410.752.2208), or at the Everyman Theatre Box Office (315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD).
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
On View in the Lobby/Mezzanine
Fashion Exhibit: Boudoir Vignettes
Ongoing (October 20 – November 19, 2017)
Independent designers and matriculating students from MICA, Baltimore School for the Arts and Baltimore Design School have crafted this visual response to the story and setting of Intimate Apparel, which combines their local viewpoint with elements of clothing, including lingerie and boudoir attire. Curated by Caprece Jackson-Garrett.
Event Listings
TNT: Theatre Night for Teens
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Students in grades 9-12 enjoy a dynamic night out at the theatre featuring pre-show dinner sponsored by Noodles & Company, an Intimate Apparel artist meet-and-greet, and a 7:30 PM preview performance followed by post-show discussion and dessert. Tickets: $10 each (space is limited).
Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Pay-What-You-Can to see the first preview performance of Intimate Apparel. Tickets: By donation (cash only), available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Box Office beginning at 5:30pm. Seating is general admission.
Everyman at the Parkway: Middle of Nowhere
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM (at the SNF Parkway Theatre)
One-night-only film screening presented in partnership with the Maryland Film Festival: Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, who won the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Best Director Award for her work,Middle of Nowhere chronicles a woman’s separation from her incarcerated husband and the journey to maintain her marriage and her identity amidst crisis and chaos. Resident Company member Dawn Ursula (Intimate Apparel) will introduce the screening and host an informal discussion following the film. Tickets: $8-10 each (available at mdfilmfest.com).
Taste of Everyman: Classified Cravings
Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Taste of Everyman is an artful pre-show experience that combines smarts and samples from some of the hottest talent in Baltimore’s dine and drink scene, including expert knowledge and sample-sized pairings designed (cheekily) to complement the show. Hush-hush hankerings? Top-secret tastes? For even the “foodiest” foodies among us, keeping our favorites quiet is par for the course. In the secret-keeping spirit of Intimate Apparel, join one of Baltimore’s most knowledgeable and passionate food and drink insiders, Amy Langrehr (aka Charm City Cook) for an “off the record” dish on some of Baltimore’s most-loved nosh — including some well known and others still a little bit under the radar. Featured restaurants include Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, Ekiben and Lobo, paired with local beers from Brewer’s Art, Monument City Brewing and Union Craft Brewing. Tickets: $60 each (includes event and 7:30pm performance) or $30 each (event only).
Confessions of a Designer
Friday, October 27, 2017 at 6:00 PM (Reception at 5:30 PM)
Join host, bespoke menswear designer Stephen Wise of SWB Atelier (City Paper 2016 Tailor of the Year), and esteemed local/regional designers, for a community conversation exploring the “inner lining” of the independent fashion design world and its artistic, professional and personal impacts. Participating designers include: Earle Bannister, Adira Bunch, John Cash, Brian Collins, Sally DiMarco, Crystal Joines, Dino Hartfield, Sehar Peerzada, Seleh Rahman, Stacey Stube, Richard Swartz, and Brandon Warren. Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.
World of the Play: Unraveling the Threads of Labor and Love, Then and Now
Saturday, November 4, 2017 at 4:30 PM
The characters of Intimate Apparel and their professions provide us with the thematic threads of labor and intimacy to spark discussion with an expert panel, including a local labor historian, a contemporary African-American tailor and menswear designer, and a member of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project). Hosted by Marc Steiner (The Center for Emerging Media). Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.
Cast Conversations
Thursday, November 9, 2017, Post-show
Chat with participating cast members following the 7:30 PM performance of Intimate Apparel, or follow along (and submit questions) via Twitter courtesy of @BWW_Baltimore. Tickets: N/A (free to attend, with ticket to accompanying performance).
Threading History and Place: Bromo District Walking Tour
Sunday, November 12, 2017, 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Explore invisible public spaces and storied buildings that reflect the history of Baltimore’s fashion industry, department stores and garment district and learn about past and present efforts that shape the neighborhoods contained within the Bromo Arts and Entertainment District. Tour begins and ends at Everyman Theatre (315 W. Fayette St. entrance), where attendees may stay for the 2pm performance at an exclusive discounted rate. Produced in partnership with New Public Sites, Bromo Arts and Entertainment District, and Market Center Merchants’ Association. Tickets: $15 each (tour only), advance purchase required (space is limited).
Boudoir Couture Showcase
Sunday, November 19, 2017, 5:00-6:30 PM
A live activation of the fashion exhibit (Boudoir Vignettes) on view during Intimate Apparel.
Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.
About Everyman Theatre
Everyman Theatre is a professional Equity theatre company celebrating the actor, with a Resident Company of artists from the Baltimore/DC area. Founded in 1990 by Vincent M. Lancisi, the theatre is dedicated to engaging the audience through a shared experience between actor and audience seeking connection and emotional truth in performance. Everyman is committed to presenting high quality plays that are affordable and accessible to everyone. The theatre strives to engage, inspire and transform artists, audiences and community through theatre of the highest artistic standards and is committed to embodying the promise of its name, Everyman Theatre.
Intimate Apparel is sponsored in part by Vic & Nancy Romita and the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, with media support from The AFRO News, The Baltimore Sun Media Group and WYPR. Everyman Theatre’s Pay-What-You-Can nights are supported by Dr. E. Lee & Bea Robbins. The 2017/18 Season is generously sponsored by LifeBridge Health. Everyman Theatre is supported in part by grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.
Everyman Theatre is a proud member of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District, the Market Center Merchants Association and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.
Vincent M. Lancisi is the Founding Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre; Jonathan K. Waller is the Managing Director. For information about Everyman Theatre, visit everymantheatre.org, call 410.752.2208, or connect via Facebook (@everymantheatremd), Twitter (@everymantheatre), YouTube (@everymantheatre) and Instagram (@everymantheatre).
 
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