Stage fright

December 20, 2009|By Mary Carole McCauley

In 2009, Baltimore's theatrical larder was, if not exactly bare, then less full and tempting than it usually is. Local troupes economized by staging fewer shows with safer and less challenging fare.

Subscription series at both the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center and Rep Stage in Howard County were cut by one, and for the first time in several years, the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival didn't mount a major fall production.

In addition, duplication abounded. The Baltimore Shakespeare Festival and Rep Stage mounted identically cast productions of "Wittenberg" in June and August, and there were other examples.

Not only are there fewer shows to see; there were fewer offerings with the potential to shake up established points of view. The Hippodrome Theatre, with the largest audience of any venue in Baltimore, intentionally is shifting toward the cozy and familiar. Future audiences probably will see more established crowd-pleasers like "Fiddler on the Roof" from 1964, and fewer controversial offerings like the Tony Award-winning "Spring Awakening" with its themes of teen suicide and incest.

It's all the more laudable then, that a few bold choices are being made despite budgetary constraints. Everyman Theatre staged its first world premiere, and Center Stage has never backed away from its commitment to new and unproven work.

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