Founded in 2002 with a mission to create innovative performance and education programs that bring the works of William Shakespeare and other classics to life, Howard County–based Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is getting ready to expand their audience with the acquisition of the historic Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company building in downtown Baltimore.
I spoke with Sandra Maddox Barton from the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company about this big addition.
Mark: Why Baltimore City? When did you decide that you needed your own space?
Sandra: We have always looked for ways to connect with new audiences. Our Summer Program in the Ruins has been so successful, but we have always wanted to find a place to expand where we can do more year-round programming. The opportunity for the Mercantile Building came up in January and, upon first glance, we knew that was our space. Baltimore is a great city with very little access to classical theatre and we look forward to sharing what we do with the city’s already vibrant theatre scene.
Mark: Do you think you will lose some of your audience members who are used to you being in Ellicott City?
Sandra: Not at all. The Patapsco Female Institute will remain our summer home for outdoor productions. For over ten years we have been serving an ever growing audience in Howard County and they love what they do.
Mark: How will having your own space benefit the theatre and the community?
Sandra: A ten minute walk from the Hippodrome and the exciting new Everyman Theatre space and a fifteen minute walk from CenterStage, our new cultural home will help create a “theater triangle” in downtown Baltimore. We have been so delighted by the enthusiastic support of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, the Baltimore Development Corporation, VISIT Baltimore, and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.
Mark: Tell me about the design plans for the facility. When will the space be ready?
Sandra: Our 250-seat “modern globe” theatre will be designed by Cho Benn Holback and Associates Inc. The stage area will be the center of activity and will also serve as our rehearsal space. The facility will also include office space, scene/costume shops, lounges and storage space. We will start renovations in January of next year and intend to start programming in 2014.