Art Reigns

Inspiring the budding performers in audience




First it sweltered, then it poured, but the weather seemed hardly to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds that descended on Artscape, Baltimore's 25th annual outdoor festival of the arts.

From funnel cakes to evening concerts there was much that was familiar along the Mount Royal Avenue corridor and elsewhere around the city - but there also were new touches including the 100-foot-tall Ferris wheel in front of the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the fireworks on Friday's opening night.

We sent a team of arts writers - pop music critic Rashod Ollison, theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, classical music critic Tim Smith, restaurant critic Elizabeth Large and art critic Glenn McNatt - to survey the scene. Here's what they thought.

A glove leapt jauntily around a small stage; a pair of banana peels danced; a pile of crumpled newspaper became a barking, galumphing dog. These unlikely puppets sprang to life from the refuse in Black Cherry Puppet Theatre's clever and imaginative Requiem for a Landfill.

But the most magical thing happened after Black Cherry kicked off the theater component of Artscape on Friday. Theron Greenberg, a 6-year-old from Elkridge, left the performance, picked up a stick and a piece of string he found outside the Theatre Project and began fashioning them into a makeshift puppet. An artist was born.

At 9:30 the next morning, four adults learned to fly. Each one grasped a trapeze and swooped slowly, and gracefully, across the Theatre Project stage. Their flight instructor was Bob Davidson, aerial choreographer for Expedition 6, a play by Bill Pullman about the rescue of three astronauts from a space station after the Columbia disaster. An excerpt was performed Friday night.

Budding aerialist Ann Mladinov, a 55-year-old consultant from Washington, explained, "Why shouldn't I try it? I think it's a wonderful way to get a sense of yourself."

By 2:30 p.m. Saturday, when 24 singers, dancers, actors and instrumentalists from the Washington Revels presented their energetic and rousing Summer Solstice Celebration, the temperature outside was so steamy, Winter Solstice might have been preferable instead. But that didn't keep the nearly full house from singing the chorus of the medieval canon, "Sumer is icumen in," or, in some cases, from joining in traditional English dances - typical of the troupe's inclusive approach.

While many of those at Artscape's performances arrived as audience members, some left as artists, or potential artists.

Young Theron will probably never look at a crumpled-up newspaper the same way again. Black Cherry Puppet Theatre packed its Landfill puppets into garbage cans after the performance, then loaded these cans into their cars before city trash crews could mistake the contents for actual trash. But Black Cherry might be onto something. After all, what could be a more appropriate coda to Artscape than turning the festival's trash into art?

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