Where To Begin? First Night Annapolis

December 27, 1991|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing writer

How can pushing a single button cause 175 performers to perform 150 times at 30 different locations on New Year's Eve in Annapolis?

It's easy when that button reads "First Night."

From St. John's College to City Hall, from the Paca House on Maryland Avenue to the Arundel Center, downtown Annapolis will echo with the sounds of Vietnamese folk music, Dixieland, sea chanteys, Bach cello suites, jazz combos, barbershop quartets, a Gospel choir, bluegrass and country music, 17th-century court dances from Britain, readings from Edgar Allan Poe and even the mellifluous tones of a tuba quartet.

Throw in ice sculptures, street and window theater, kung fu demonstrations, ice dancing and figure skating performed by up-and-coming Olympic hopefuls, plus an original one-act play celebrating Columbus' most momentous discovery, and you get a taste of the arts extravaganza the presenters of First Night have in store for this year's patrons.

Nearly 10,000 people flocked to Annapolis last year for a joyous, non-alcoholic New Year's celebration of the arts, and upward of12,000 are expected this year as the First Night phenomenon becomes better known in the region.

A few "do's and don'ts" are perhaps inorder for those of you planning to venture into Annapolis for this year's festivities. Following these tips may indeed help make this First Night a memorable experience for one and all.

* Do come dressedfor comfort and warmth. This is a night for comfortable shoes and layers of warm clothing. You will be walking, people-watching, sight-seeing, waiting in line and snacking outdoors on the evening of Dec. 31. There will most likely be a nip in the air, so you might want to delay your fashion statement until brunch on New Year's Day. First Night is more an occasion for ear-muffs and three pairs of socks than forthose divine Gucci heels.

* Do not sit in one of the downtown restaurants picking your teeth until 11 p.m. and then get mad that you weren't able to squeeze in half a dozen First Night events before midnight. (A few such chutzpah-filled souls asked for their money back for such reasons last year.) Be realistic in your expectations. There will be thousands of people participating; of course, there will be some lines. All events are first-come, first-served, however, so if youleave yourself plenty of time to arrive and be seated, you should beable to take in most of your favorites.

* Do be flexible, by all means. If the event you want seems booked up, have another option in mind. Arrive early for the next performance that strikes your fancy. If the Irish singers are jammed, the Nritya Rangam Indian dancers might be right nearby. Or shuttle to St. John's to see the master illusionist at work. If you have time to kill between events, remember thatthe streets and shop windows are also full of entertainers.

* Do not show up uninformed. Acquaint yourself with the logistical detailsbefore your arrival. Advance knowledge means less anxiety and more time to get your money's worth. Here are a few of the organizational basics:

Buttons: A First Night Annapolis button is your general admission to all indoor performances. You cannot buy buttons at the individual performance events. You may purchase them at "Button Buggies,"which will be parked near performance sites, or at the Old Post Office, the Annapolis Waterfront Marriott Hotel, or in the Key Auditoriumat St. John's College. The button price is $10. Children under 6 areadmitted free.

Time: Seated indoor performances begin at 6:30 p.m. Two special shows for children begin at 4:30 p.m.

Parking: Free parking is available at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium and in the State Office Building lots. Free shuttle buses are available to take you to and from the entertainment area. After midnight, buses load near the top of Main St. for return trips to the parking lots.

* Do get hungry. Can you eat at First Night? And how! Food courts will be set up throughout the entertainment area as part of the First Bite Program. Vendors will be selling chicken sandwiches, soups, hot chocolate, pretzels, jambalaya and other walk-away foods. The scuttlebutt is that many downtown restaurants will be offering early specials.

* Do plan to be sociable! After last year's turnout, it's safe to say thatFirst Night appeals to people of all ages. Expect to share the evening with families, youngsters, teens, senior citizens and everything in between. As the bells toll at midnight in preparation for the fireworks at the City Dock, expect to see everyone -- audience, volunteersand the performers themselves -- whooping it up as 1992 rings in.

* Don't forget that First Night seeks to provide a concert setting for its audiences and entertainers.

"I enjoyed last year immensely," said cellist Lisa Pribanic, who will be playing the Bach D major unaccompanied suite and other works at three of Annapolis' stately historical houses on the 31st. "The people were really nice and I felt lots of one-on-one communication."

So if you're planning to do your Spuds McKenzie party animal impression while the performers are goingon, do everyone a favor and stay home with Dick Clark.

* Above all, do attend! Come celebrate the arts, celebrate Annapolis, and experience a joyous beginning to 1992.

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