A sample of fresh arts ventures for 2012
Baltimore set to experience new theater, photography, sonic art
J. Buck Jabaily is a co-founder of Baltimore Open Theatre, which plans to offer free, cutting-edge performances in 2012. (Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore Sun / January 11, 2010)
On the theater front, look for the inauguration of Baltimore Open Theatre. The company will present cutting-edge national and international theater and dance groups new to Baltimore, with all tickets at the recession-proof price of nada. It's poised to deliver quite a jolt to the city's already vibrant alternative theater community.
Visually speaking, there's In (parentheses), a newly formed circle of Baltimore-area photographers ready to make some waves. The goal is to fill a void by creating a gallery exclusively dedicated to the photographic and video artists. While the group works on finding a permanent space, count on exhibits around town that will help spread the word that Baltimore has a hot, underappreciated photography scene.
The New Year will find one of the city's coolest music ensembles, Mobtown Modern, introducing an association with the Maryland Institute College of Art that will take students, performers and audiences on decidedly unusual aural journeys. In addition to a program devoted to 20th-century super-maverick John Cage, the new Mobtown Sound Lab plans a concert that will take place simultaneously and interactively in two countries.
There are bound to be other Baltimore arts innovations in 2012, but these will certainly be enough to keep things interesting.
Baltimore Open Theatre
Two pioneers from different eras of the city's theater scene have joined forces to create Baltimore Open Theatre, which will have a free-admission policy. Performances by contemporary theater and dance companies from the region, nation and abroad, will be presented, starting in the fall.
It's the brainchild of Philip Arnoult, 70, who founded the Theatre Project four decades ago, and Buck Jabaily, 27, who co-founded the Single Carrot Theatre in 2007 and who is stepping down as director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.
"I've been a mentor to Buck on a lot of levels," Arnoult said, "and this man needs to be in the theater. He's absolutely perfect at this time for this project. We're so tuned into what we think this is about."
Several possible locations for Baltimore Opera Theatre are being considered, with attention focused on the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and Baltimore's west side. A venue is likely to be decided on within the next few months.
Arnoult and Jabaily plan to curate productions of cutting-edge work from a wide variety of groups, especially those who have not appeared before in the area. The 2012-2013 inaugural season of Baltimore Open Theatre is scheduled to showcase companies from South America and Eastern Europe.
"In Baltimore and most of America, I'm going to see well-made plays with a beginning, middle and end, with a protagonist and antagonist," Jabaily said. "Most of our work will not be like that."
In addition to presenting four or five international companies, two weeks at a time, future plans call for as much as 20 weeks of local and regional work each season.
"That will include Baltimore companies," Jabaily said. "We also may find artists who want to get together to work on a show, and we will be able to take off some of the pressure for them and help them get it done."
A grant of $50,000 from the Deutsch Foundation has made it possible to launch Baltimore Open Theatre. The foundation has also committed to a $150,000 challenge grant to support the organization.
Arnoult is a longtime advocate of free access to theater, which was the original policy at the Theatre Project. He now runs the Center for International Theatre Development.
"What I'm seeing for the past 20 years in Poland, Russia, Bulgaria and Hungary is an evolution of young audiences coming to their theaters," Arnoult said. "America has an aging audience. That has got to change."
Plans call for a lean staff and an essentially paperless operation, with communication done primarily via the Internet and social media.
Removing the price barrier is only one goal for Baltimore Open Theatre.