As the Baltimore Theatre Project turns 39, it is changing course and shifting its focus.
In the future, fewer experimental plays will appear at the venue. Instead, audiences can expect to find more chamber operas, musicals, dance, and multimedia theater pieces with a strong visual component.
But the fans of the innovative and progressive have no cause for concern — "Annie Get Your Gun" appears nowhere on the 2010-2011 subscription season. The Theatre Project is as dedicated as ever to staging new, cutting-edge works.
"As more and more companies here in Baltimore become adept at staging strong productions of contemporary plays, our role has shifted to present work that fully utilizes Theatre Project's best physical attributes — its acoustics and its size," says Anne Cantler Fulwiler, Theatre Project's producing director.
"The coming season really illustrates that with many chamber operas and musicals, as well as dance, movement-theater and aerial work. And of course, the international piece is still there."
Subscribers will receive tickets to the five shows listed below. They will select a sixth production of their choosing from at least eight other offerings, including a holiday burlesque show and a children's dance version of "Dracula."
The season includes:
•"I Am a Machine Gunner," Sept. 2-12. This drama by the up-and-coming Russian playwright Yuri Klavdiev celebrates a bold new international voice. The darkest work of the season, and the only non-musical offering, juxtaposes a young gang member's search for honor with his grandfather's experiences fighting the Germans during World War II.
"This show will open our season with a punch to the stomach," Fulwiler says.
•"In Search of Tonto Blue," Oct. 1-10. Members of the Margolis Brown theater company use a highly physical and visual style of storytelling and lots of music to relate the tale of three comical and eccentric characters: a seemingly silent everyman named Arthur A. Peterson, his freewheeling superstar alter ego, Tonto Blue, and the real-life theater artist Tony Brown as he works on his newest show.
•"Zippy the Pinhead: The Musical," Nov. 12-21. Theater lovers can see a musical in the making during this world premiere workshop production, written by local composer Lorraine Whittlesey. The Zipster travels to Baltimore to attend his high school reunion, allowing the cast to sing such fancifully titled tunes as "Pinhead Love," "The Condiments" and "Type 'Z' Personality."
•"Sensate," March 25-April 3, 2011. The audience can come and go as they please and move around the theater during this innovative experimental dance piece by New York-based composer Carrie Ahearn.
"As people move throughout the space, that changes the performance," Fulwiler says. "The instruments themselves pick up waves of movement, and the music changes in response to it."
•"Lost in the Stars," April 21-May 1, 2011. American Opera Theatre will team up with students from the Baltimore School of the Arts to perform Kurt Weill's haunting "Lost in the Stars." The musical is based on Alan Paton's anti-apartheid novel, "Cry, the Beloved Country."
The work, which straddles the line between musical theater and opera, tells the story of two fathers in South Africa, a white landowner and a black preacher. A violent crime affects the lives of both men, who find themselves united by their grief and by their shared humanity.
Subscriptions to the six-show season cost $80 for adults, $70 for seniors and $55 for students. For details, call 410-752-8558 or go to http://www.theatreproject.org.