Theatre Project hopes all ages line up for avant-garde lineup

Theater Column

May 31, 2007|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Sun theater critic

Avant-garde for all ages will be the watchword for the Theatre Project's 36th season.

"It is a season that is very much intended to expose audiences to a wide variety of new work -- some highly accessible, such as Squonk Opera's Baltimore: The Opera; some far more cutting-edge, such as a largely nonverbal Bulgarian piece," said producing director Anne Cantler Fulwiler.

Changes include more student matinees and restructured ticket pricing (general admission will go up $4, but student prices will be reduced $1). In addition, the family-friendly programming begun this season will continue, epitomized by a piece by the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange called Gumdrops and the Funny Uncles.

Here's the subscription lineup:

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration (Oct. 25-Nov. 4). New York's True Comedy Theatre Company has added an original rock score to this absurdist comedy about a lascivious professor, written by former Czech President Vaclav Havel. The playwright granted the new translation his approval at November's Havel Festival in New York.

Hystery of Heat and Spoelum (Nov. 8-18). Two one-acts make up this double bill by New York's Performance Thanatology Research Society. Hystery, by Ric Royer, is a multimedia lecture on topics ranging from love and death to the dangers of rock and roll. Spoelum -- created and performed by Towson University alumnus Daniel Allen Nelson -- concerns an architect's obsessive attempts to save relics in Venice, Italy.

Baltimore: The Opera (Nov. 29-Dec. 9). Pittsburgh's Squonk Opera returns with the Charm City chapter of a project called (put your hometown's name here): The Opera. Local dancers, oral histories and maps by schoolchildren will all figure into this work. Other "hometown" cities include Albany, N.Y.; South Orange, N.J.; College Park; and, next month, Columbia (at the Columbia Festival of the Arts).

QuestFest (Jan. 18-27). Italian Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo's Mistero Buffo will be paired with a dance piece by Massachusetts' Chimaera Physical Theater at the Theatre Project during this festival of visual performance art. (Other festival sites include Towson University, the Creative Alliance and Bethesda's Round House Theatre.)

A Summer in Sanctuary (Feb. 21-March 2). In his fourth Theatre Project production, Al Letson will premiere a one-man, multimedia show based on his experiences working at a camp for disadvantaged youth.

The Unity of Skin (March 6-9). Using a set Fulwiler describes as "a web-like crocheted construction," New York's all-female Carrie Ahern Dance will perform a three-person work that explores the peeling away of identities.

Fulwiler, who hopes to bring more school audiences into the matinee program begun with Midtown Academy, also announced three family-oriented nonsubscription offerings: Lerman's Gumdrops and the Funny Uncles (Dec. 20-23); a yet-to-be named British holiday pantomime (Dec. 28-Jan. 1); and Solo: A Two-Person Show (May 29-June 1), by Under the Table Theatre of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Other attractions include: Delta (Sept. 5-9), a Bulgarian movement theater piece; a new one-woman show by Maryland-based Susan Mele (Sept. 13-23); and the High Zero Festival (Sept. 27-30) of improvised experimental music.

In a new joint venture, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will present Composers in Conversation, a series of Wednesday evening discussions with 11 composers, including John Adams, Mark O'Connor and Christopher Rouse. And Run of the Mill Theater will be in residence with two shows (Oct. 11-21 and April 28-May 18) for a second season.

Subscriptions to the main six-show series cost $80 and go on sale July 1. Individual tickets cost $20 for general admission; $10 for students; and $15 for seniors and artists. Call 410-752-8558 or visit

They're so vain

Jack Heifner's 1976 play Vanities skims the surface of a decade -- early 1960s to early 1970s -- when the women's movement bloomed and anti-war turbulence overtook the nation. The play's three scenes follow a trio of female characters from their days as high school cheerleaders to college sorority officers to young adults.

It's a thin play about women who are scarcely affected by or involved in the changing climate around them. Under Randolph Smith's direction, however, the actresses at Arena Players establish distinct personalities for their characters. Tracie Jiggetts' Mary is a free spirit who becomes increasingly jaded with time. Tennelia Engram's Joanne is a conservative, sheltered "good" girl. And Trenessa Annibal's well-organized Kathy excels at planning everything but her own future.

In the end, there's a sense of loss as these former friends grow apart, but there's an even greater sense of loss that "vanity" has kept them from becoming fully engaged in the outside world.

Vanities runs through June 10 at Arena Players, 801 McCulloh St. Tickets are $15. Call 410-728-6500.

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