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Colonial Players Opening 61st Season With Mixture Of Classics And Cutting-edge Pieces That Its Financial Security Makes Possible

August 23, 2009|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Colonial Players is a rarity among local nonprofit community theaters: financially secure and supported by a large subscriber base. This all-volunteer company has fewer expenses than other local performing groups and can afford to venture into bold new directions. For its 61st season, Colonial Players mixes classic plays with cutting-edge theater.

The first step in embarking on a new season is selecting the plays. Aware that "not all shows will please everybody," CP president Carol Youmans said, "we try to create a slate that is important to actors and directors." After the plays are chosen, directors come next. "All potential directors submit their proposals and are interviewed by the board, who look for experience and good ideas on how to do the show in round," she said.

Two directors are returning to Colonial after a long absence. Mickey Handwerger will direct "The Lion in Winter" in January, and Jim Gallagher will direct the surrealistic "Frozen" in February.

Two new directors this season are Gwen Morton, who will helm "The Curious Savage," and Josh Bristol, who will direct "The Violet Hour."

Morton discovered Colonial Players last spring after settling in Annapolis with her Coast Guard husband. They had previously spent six years in New York City after having lived in Juneau, Alaska.

Devoted to theater since her student directing days at the University of Arkansas, Morton was immediately attracted to Colonial Players, seeing most of the shows last season.

"I soon started auditioning at Colonial Players and performed in last season's 'Christmas Carol,' " Morton said.

She opens the season Sept. 11 with John Patrick's "The Curious Savage," about a generous widow whose husband has left her a fortune that she wants to distribute in ways that her stepchildren find objectionable. They put her in a sanitarium to gain control of her millions.

Morton describes "Curious Savage" as "a classic that is well-written with great characters. In any work, the key is having a vision for the show as a whole of what the author intended. Whether comedy or drama, entertainment needs to make a connection with the audience. We must keep the show on some level of reality - to find a way always to relate to the characters."

The season's second offering, Oct. 23 through Nov. 13, is Richard Greenberg's "The Violet Hour" - a 2004 Tony nominee about an independent New York publisher setting up business in 1919 who is immediately forced to decide between two manuscripts: his brash college friend's and the memoirs of a singer. Complicating his decision is a mysterious machine spewing out a flood of paper.

Jan. 8 through 30 brings James Goldman's classic "The Lion in Winter," a telling of King Henry II of England, his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their three ambitious sons in a struggle for power.

Arriving in February is Bryony Lavery's "Frozen," another 2004 Tony best play nominee. This story follows three people linked by the disappearance of a 10-year-old child. The murderer, the mother of his victim and his psychologist explore our capacity for forgiveness and remorse.

Terry Averill and Mark Hildebrand will co-direct this season's musical, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," which is a celebration of the mating game, from dating to marriage, that reveals the agonies and triumphs involved.

In May, Colonial's stage is home to Caroline Smith's "The Kitchen Witches," about two mature cooking show hostesses who have hated each other since the same man dated one and married the other.

The season ends in June with a three-week run of Tom Strelich's "Dog Logic," a dark comedy about a man who despite urban sprawl tries to maintain a pet cemetery he inherited from his father.

In addition to the regular subscription season is the holiday musical "The Christmas Doll" - a departure from the usual "Christmas Carol," from which the board decided to take a break.

If you go

Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays at Colonial Players Theatre, 108 East St., Annapolis. Subscription options include $126 for seven shows for adults and $98 for seniors and students; or $90 for five shows for adults and $70 for seniors and students. Single-ticket prices are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. For more information, go to cplayers.com or call 410-268-7373.

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