From new leadership and fresh artistic initiatives to hit shows including Into the Woods and The Whipping Man-CENTERSTAGE finished the 2011-12 Season stronger than ever. As it looks to its 50th Anniversary Season, the theater is poised to enter a new era as Baltimore's leading professional theater company and a major player on the national theater scene.
Kwame Kwei-Armah marked his first season as Artistic Director by getting out in the community and meeting as many people as possible, from local artists to city leaders. With the exciting announcement of the 2012-13 Season, we are seeing Kwame's vision begin to take shape through a dedication to new works, as well as a continued respect for classics that can play a role in conversing with the greater community. Nationally, Kwame has been welcomed onto the Board of Trustees for the Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for American theater. Additionally, on June 16 it was announced that Kwame would be honored as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in his native Great Britain.
CENTERSTAGE also welcomed Kwame's partner in leadership, Stephen Richard, as Managing Director. Stephen brings with him more than 30 years of experience on the national arts scene, including time with the new National Children's Museum in Prince George's County, and 18 years as Executive Director of Arena Stage, where he planned and managed the theater's $125 million capital campaign for the Mead Center for American Theater. He has wasted no time getting out into the community, and getting to know Baltimore.
Several of Kwame's new artistic initiatives have begun sprouting up throughout the theater, from the engaging lobby enhancement in September to the first Hot Desk residency in May. The Hot Desk gives an emerging playwright a space to work, the time to dedicate to writing, and housing if needed. The first writer, Baltimore native Anna Moench, spent two weeks at CENTERSTAGE, working on a commissioned play for the graduate acting students at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, writing and reading installments of the play with summer apprentices and staff. An initiative to activate the theater's public spaces has seen the building filled with activity outside of performances, from information sharing and community fundraising, to post-show musical performances and engaging discussions.
On stage, CENTERSTAGE productions this season continued to showcase world-class design and performances that drew rave reviews. Leading the pack was the enchanting co-production of Into the Woodswith Westport Country Playhouse-one of the theater's highest grossing shows of all time and a huge audience favorite. Other highlights included the smashing success of A Skull in Connemara and The Whipping Man-a play that set a tone for Kwame's future productions, surrounded by artistic- and community centered engagements.
In addition to coordinating dozens of community engagements surrounding The Whipping Man, Community Programs & Education saw more than 4,000 attendees through student matinees, more than 300 submissions to the Young Playwrights Festival, and nearly 75 young performers enrolled in the Summer Intensive day camp this July. In addition, 240 kids will be coming through CENTERSTAGE's halls this summer as part of SuperKids Camp, a Parks & People program that provides a fun and engaging summer program Baltimore City children.
Financially, CENTERSTAGE continues a 34-year streak of ending the season in the black, thanks to the incredible support of donors and supporters, as well as the strong audience response to the season. The annual Baltimore Sun Online Auction for CENTERSTAGE raised $151,139, and the spring Gala, hosted by Stephanie and Ashton Carter, raised over $500,000.
CENTERSTAGE is gearing up to kick off the 50th Anniversary Season with special performances, events, and more. Leading these events is CENTERSTAGE 50 Fest: A Weekend of Events Celebrating CENTERSTAGE's 50th Anniversary. Over the course of four days we will kick off the season with the opening night of An Enemy of the People; the annual Backstage @ CENTERSTAGE open house; Page to Stage, a partnership with the Baltimore Book Festival, which will extend the festival down Madison to Calvert Street with booths full of theater artists, companies, and performances; and the world premiere of the My America project. My America features 50 commissioned monologues from playwrights across the country, including Lynn Nottage, Naomi Wallace, Anna Deavere Smith, and Neil LaBute. Over the next few months these short monologues will be filmed by Possible Films, led by award-winning director Hal Hartley, and showcased at the theater and online as part of the 2012-13 50th Anniversary Season.