With 12,604 subscribers in tow, Baltimore's Center Stage is celebrating the arrival of its 35th season by paying special attention to women playwrights and authors born in Maryland. Paula Vogel's award-winning How I Learned To Drive is on the season schedule at Center Stage, as are two other dramas by women, including fellow Maryland native, Kia Corthron. A Midsummer Night's Dream began the season, Oct. 3-Nov. 9, followed by Corthron's Splash Hatch On The E Going Down, playing through Jan. 4.
Corthron, a Maryland native, previously penned Seeking The Genesis, Life By Asphyxiation and Wake Up Lou Riser. (Playbill interviewed Corthron when Genesis played at Manhattan Theatre Club. For that interview, please see the feature story, "Kia Corthron Seeks the Genesis of Teen Violence.")
"A look at love, loss and the ozone layer," Splash Hatch was developed at the Hedgebrook writers' retreat in Washington State. The play, which previously received a staging at Vassar College's Powerhouse Theatre, follows a Harlem couple worried that Earth is too toxic to bring a new child into. Marion McClinton directs the drama.
The piece features Margaret Kemp, Akili Prince, Ami Brabson, David Toney, and Cherita A. Armstrong. Designing the show are Michael Yeargan (set), Katherine Beatrice Roth (costumes) and Steven Strawbridge (lighting). J. Allen Suddeth serves as fight choreographer; Jill Rachel Morris as dramaturg.
* Next up on the Center Stage schedule is Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry. Marion McClinton directs this drama that takes place on the eve of a revolution by African natives against colonial Europeans. Though Hansberry died in 1965, the play was finished by her husband, Robert Nemiroff, and released in 1970. (Jan. 2-Feb. 1).
Hansberry's first play, A Raisin In The Sun, is now a classic, and she died during the Broadway run of her second, The Sign In Sidney Brustein's Window. Les Blancs premiered on Broadway in 1970 and starred James Earl Jones. At Center Stage, that role is played by Jonathan Earl Peck, whose credits include The Color Of Justice and the Acting Company's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Also in the cast are Rex Robbins (The Sisters Rosensweig, An Almost Perfect Person), Marissa Chibas (Abe Lincoln In Illinois, Off-Broadway's Fortune's Fools and Overtime) and Myra Carter (Three Tall Women, Broadway's Garden District). Duane Boutte, James Austin Williams, Anthony Chisholm, Jay Patterson, Stephen Mendillo, Alec Scott and Christopher Walsh round out the ensemble.
Designing Les Blancs are Jackie's David Gallo (set), David Burdick (costumes), James F. Inga hting) and David Budries (sound), with Ken Roberson serving as choreographer and David Leong serving as fight coordinator.
Also on tap for the Center Stage season:
H.M.S. Pinafore (or, The Lass That Loved A Sailor) by W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan. Artistic director Irene Lewis will stage Center Stage's first-ever Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, about a common sailor in love with the Captain's daughter. (Feb. 1-April 5).
The Woman In Black by Stephen Mallatrat, adapted from a book by Susan Hill. This ghostly thriller concerns a British barrister who believes his family is being haunted by a mysterious woman. He hires an actor to help reenact these encounters and exorcise the unwanted spirit. A continuing London hit since 1989, The Woman In Black haunts Center Stage's Pearlstone Space, March 20-April 19.
How I Learned To Drive, by Baltimore native Paula Vogel. Currently Off-Broadway at the Century Center Theatre, the drama follows the unsteady, unhealthy relationship between a young girl and her alcoholic uncle. The show nabbed Lucille Lortel and NY Drama Critics Circle Awards for Best Play. (May 8-June 7 at the Pearlstone space.)
For tickets and information on the Center Stage season, please call (410) 332-0033 or check out their website at http://www.centerstage.org
--By David Lefkowitz