Before Eugene O’Neill was a household name, he earned his first money as a playwright – $15 – for a one-act play presented by Vagabond Players.
That was the second production of the Baltimore theatre, which officially marks its 100th anniversary in November 2016, but is celebrating now.
The Vagabond Players, Inc., noted board member Tim Evans, is the longest, continuously active Little Theatre in the country.
“We were explicitly and directly part of the experimental, ground-breaking ‘Little Theatre’ movement that came out of the Provincetown Players,” he said. “O’Neill was an early player in that movement.”
While the name suggests traveling players, Constance D’Arcy Mackay—a co-founder of the theatre along with Adele Gutman Nathan, and Carol Sax, wrote at the time, “ … in this instance, Vagabond is meant to suggest untrammeled freedom of mind … The theatre is stationary, but its spirit, like the spirit of a true vagabond, is free … ”
Over the years, the Vagabonds resisted pressure to become a large-scale, professional “civic” theatre, believing such a change would be a “betrayal” of the founder’s intentions and of the notion of “following an art form for the love of it.”
The Vagabond Players is now a mainstream theatre, believing in “high-quality productions of successful plays,” Evans said. The six-show season is selected by a subcommittee of the board, but takes into account proposals of directors who wish to work at the theatre.
“There is no firm formula, except we do one musical per season.” said Evans, who handles the web site, social media, and online ticketing. “There is usually a mystery or classic comedy – or both – during a season, and we usually have a modern selection that runs a little ahead of the popular curve.”
The 100th Season is presenting revivals of past successful productions. It just opened with Greater Tuna, a comedy revolving around a small town in Texas with bigots, gun fanatics, religious zealots, clueless sheriff, and more (through September 27).
The Vagabonds, a non-professional, non-union theatre, holds auditions—all actors are local. Actors aren’t paid, though some tech folks and musicians are.
Audiences, however, come from all over the region.
Evans and his wife, Carol, the theatre’s publicist, have been active in the Vagabonds for decades, as volunteers, board members, and performers.
“Carol is the more experienced actor, but I’m particularly happy to be in the cast of the upcoming murder mystery spoof, Something’s Afoot, from October 16-November 15,” said Evans. “I was in the same show at the theatre in 1978, so rehearsals bring back many happy memories of that production and its cast.”
Carol Evans’s recent favorites include major roles in Arsenic and Old Lace and The Foreigner.
The balance of this Season consists of: Thorton Wilder’s Our Town; The Normal Heart, by Larry Kramer; The Lion in Winter, by James Goldman; and Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo.
The Vagabond Players are unique among Baltimore community theatres, said Evans, is that by-laws base it on dues-paying membership. Eligibility is having participated in one of its shows—on stage, backstage, or in set or tech work.
The theatre is a member of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance and the Baltimore Playwrights Festival.
For information, call 410-563-9135 or click here.