Howard County–based Chesapeake Shakespeare Company today announces the acquisition of the historic Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company building in downtown Baltimore, which will serve as its second home and establish a new cultural center for live performances of Shakespeare and other classics just two blocks from the city's celebrated Inner Harbor.
Located at 200 East Redwood Street, the Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company building was constructed in 1885 and is one of Baltimore's more notable architectural landmarks. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has plans to convert the building's interior into an intimate 250-seat theater for indoor performances, educational programs, and community events.
"Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is in its 10th season serving almost 12,000 people every year," says Ian Gallanar, founding artistic director. "We are thrilled about our expansion into the thriving Baltimore theater scene. While we will continue to serve our current patrons with outdoor performances at our home stage in Howard County, this second location will broaden our reach and help foster a new community of classical theater enthusiasts."
The Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company building was purchased for the sole use of Chesapeake Shakespeare Company by the Helm Foundation, an organization directed by Scott Helm, one of the trustees of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. The total cost of the project, including the building's purchase and renovation, is estimated to be around $6 million.
Cho Benn Holback + Associates, Inc.-the architecture firm responsible for the Everyman Theatre, the James Rouse Center in the Visionary Arts Museum and the Creative Alliance at The Patterson Theater-is working with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company on design plans that model the new indoor theater after Shakespeare's famous Globe Theatre in London. The design combines the intimacy of a traditional Elizabethan playhouse with a contemporary sense of design and convenience. Renovations will begin in early 2013, with the expectation of opening in 2014.
"The building's substantial mezzanine, elaborate and colorful carved ceiling, and Corinthian columns all echo elements of Elizabethan theaters," says Lesley Malin, managing director of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. "We are enthusiastic about working with Cho Benn Holback to incorporate these beautiful architectural features into a modern-day Globe in downtown Baltimore."
The acquisition of the Mercantile Building will be key in Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's effort to create a downtown "theater triangle" that will connect the new Inner Harbor theater with the Hippodrome and the Everyman Theatre on the West Side, and Mount Vernon's Center Stage.
"I am very excited that the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is choosing Baltimore for its indoor home," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says. "This is a welcome cultural asset that strengthens downtown as a growing and vibrant neighborhood. I look forward to seeing the first show."
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company will add an eight-month season of shows at the downtown location and provide after-school and weekend programs for the students of Baltimore. The company has plans to run additional special events including an international theater festival that will bring classical theater companies from around the world to Baltimore.
"We couldn't be more excited about Chesapeake Shakespeare's arrival into Downtown Baltimore," says Kirby Fowler, President of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. "Their plans for adaptive reuse are perfect for this building, one of Downtown's greatest historic structures. After 130 years, it's as if this building is finally becoming what it was meant to be. The new theater will be located in the heart of the City's fastest growing neighborhood, where it will quickly become a cultural destination for our many residents, employees, and visitors."