Shakespeare production set in historic ruins

Man realizes dream to have plays outdoors in Ellicott City

April 10, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

The restored ruins of Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City soon will serve as a romantic backdrop for an outdoor theater program called "Shakespeare in the Ruins."

Charles Kyler has thought the stabilized ruins of Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park would be the perfect location to stage Shakespeare since he moved to Ellicott City's historic district more than five years ago.

Now Kyler has teamed up with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company to produce three weekends of performances of Romeo and Juliet at the institute, beginning at the end of next month.

FOR THE RECORD - A photo caption accompanying an article in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun about an outdoor theater program at the restored ruins of Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City contained incorrect information. Romeo and Juliet is to be presented next month.
The Sun regrets the error.

"Now people won't have to drive to Pennsylvania, Virginia or New York to see Shakespeare outdoors, or into Baltimore for that matter," he said.

The set will incorporate the stabilized ruins of the Civil War-era girls school, which opened as a county park in 1995.

"There's not a lot of venues like this," Kyler said.

"The space has got all these wonderful windows," agreed Heidi Busch-Gallanar, the company's managing director.

The building has been home to many things since the last students were taught there at the turn of the last century, including a hotel and a convalescent home for veterans.

In the 1930s, the school's former chapel housed summer theater.

Busch-Gallanar and her husband, Ian Gallanar, moved their national touring company, the Repertory Theater of America, from Texas to Baltimore in 1999. They had staged outdoor Shakespeare festivals for two years before that.

They established the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company last year, staging its inaugural production of Twelfth Night at Howard Community Center for the Arts.

Theater such as this "doesn't take too long to get established," she said. "People get so excited about it."

Kyler first attended outdoor Shakespeare events while living in Colorado.

Board members of Friends of the Patapsco Female Institute liked the idea of having a performance of their own after attending one at the remains of a house designed by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia, said Jacquelyn Galke, executive director of the group.

Kyler contacted the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival to see if they could stage something at the institute, but they preferred to stay within city limits, said artistic director James Kinstle.

But he put him in touch with the Gallanars, who were looking for a venue. The deal was arranged and the Friends group approved it before the beginning of the year.

"This literally came together in 2 1/2 months," Kyler said.

"It's just amazing how this has worked out," Galke said. She hopes that the event will increase awareness of the historic park, which is used for different events, including weddings.

"We're really interested in exposing people to Shakespeare," Busch-Gallanar said.

To increase its accessibility, the show has been cut to two hours from the 3 1/2 that the playwright wrote.

The set will be built at Kyler's house and assembled on location four days before dress rehearsal because of a wedding scheduled on the grounds.

But for a national touring company, performing in an unfamiliar location is not a problem. "Essentially this is a traveling show," Ian Gallanar said.

There will be 200 seats at each performance. Tickets: www.chesapeakeshake, or 877-639-3728.

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