Vision of center for the arts comes alive at Chesapeake

Celebration: The opening of the 900-seat Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts was marked by a week of performances.

Arundel Live

January 25, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It all began on Jan. 8, 1998 - when lavender invitation leaflets blanketed Brooklyn Park and people who found makeshift parking along Hammonds Lane slogged through mud to reach the auditorium - the night when Del. Joan Cadden's dream of a performing arts center in the community was publicly announced.

Supporters filled just about every seat in the old Brooklyn Park High School auditorium to hear words of greetings from an assortment of politicians, among them Maryland Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, who pronounced the school site "a real gem - all you have to do is polish it."

Also on hand that night was Wayne Shipley, who organized the program of singing, dancing, acting and speeches that lasted well beyond two hours that night.

The polishing of which Goldstein spoke has since been done, and Cadden's dream came to life this month in a weeklong celebration that concluded Saturday, including four ticketed events in the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts' new 900-seat auditorium that shares the site with what is now Brooklyn Park Middle School.

About 250 people attended the $100-a-ticket opening reception on Jan. 13. It included drinks, a buffet, time to enjoy a gallery exhibition of glass and pottery works by artists of national stature, and entertainment in the theater.

The program opened with an exciting dance choreographed by Cher Pinkham-Krysowaty and performed by sisters Adrienne and Ashley Canterna, along with Jessica Knickman, Julie Swartz, Laura Weisman and Lenaya Williams.

Cadden, welcomed by Chesapeake Center President Ned Carey, called herself "just a grandmother from Brooklyn Park" and praised other county leaders who worked to make a performing arts center for the North County a reality.

Cadden, a District 31 Democrat, was given more than a grandmotherly tribute, with words of praise expressed by Del. Howard P. Rawlings of Baltimore and County Executive Janet S. Owens, among others.

A "Celebration of Jazz Divas" followed, featuring vocalist Larzine Talley, who was backed by Ron Holloway on saxophone, Robert Redd on piano, Tommy Cecil on bass and Jan Tegler on drums. Talley, a gifted singer, did especially well in her stylings of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, among the four divas saluted in the program.

On Jan. 16, Crystal Gayle performed in the best-attended event of the week. Gayle's entourage included a six-piece band and singer Peggy Sue Wright, her sister.

The hall was jumping as Gayle sang her pop hit "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" and such Hoagy Carmichael standards as "Buttermilk Sky" and "Georgia on My Mind."

On Jan. 18, Eddie Carroll's one-man show "Jack Benny: Laughter in Bloom" all but made the audience believe that Jack Benny had returned from the dead for a visit to Brooklyn Park.

Carroll recounted the history of Benny's life, interspersed with recordings of segments from his old radio and television shows.

The celebratory week closed Saturday with a spectacular performance of Johann Strauss' operetta "Die Fledermaus," led by J. Ernest Green, with nine soloists, a 20-piece orchestra and a 130-voice chorus from the Annapolis Chorale.

Sponsored by the Performing Arts Association of Linthicum, the program was by all accounts the most ambitious presentation in PAAL's 18-year history. Illustrating the scope of its success, my 8-year-old granddaughter, Marie, opted to stay for the entire "Flavor Mouse" performance.

Shipley, who has become the center's executive director, said the goal of the celebration was to "blitz the arts" by presenting an eclectic offering of programs each day, including some free events. It proved an impressive achievement worth Shipley's practically living at the center the past few months.

The next program at Chesapeake Center will be "Rhapsody in Blue," with pianist Joanna Washburn, on Feb. 24.

Tickets are $8 for members, $10 for nonmembers. Information: 410-636-6597.

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