A Baltimore Theater Ponders: To Grow or Not to Grow

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July 1, 2012; Source: The Washington Post

A recent Washington Post story looks at the approaches that a small, Baltimore theater company has taken to expand and confirms that while not everything, “timing” has indeed been a key factor in this organization’s growth.

Over the next few years the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company expects to double its budget and production schedule and move into a new permanent home. In the view of the company’s administrative team, these goals are more achievable now that the company not only has a ten-year track record producing a successful outdoor summer theater festival, but that the city itself has a growing theater scene that is being welcomed by residents and planners alike.

According to the story, the Chesapeake Theater Company has performed indoor productions at two different sites over the past ten years but “the bulk of the audiences have come for the summer and fall shows,” which have been held outdoors in the stone ruins of a historic girls’ school.

In what the story highlights as a “major development” for this organization with a $540,000 operating budget, the company purchased the historic Mercantile Trust Building in downtown Baltimore for $1.25 million and will soon launch a campaign to raise more than $4 million for renovations. As added information on the company’s fundraising strategy, managing director Lesley Malin told the Post that 60 percent of the company’s income is earned and that she and her colleagues will be looking for new sources. “Our eggs are not in as many baskets as we would like,” she said.

As an indication of local sentiment about the company’s expansion, the Post cites Kirby Fowler, president of the nonprofit Downtown Partnership of Baltimore who said that there was “across the board support among city agencies” for the move. Reflecting on this fact and the growing attention to theater more broadly within Baltimore, Ian Gallanar told the Post, “I think there is some momentum.” He added, “And I think a little bit of that may have to do with an eye or two glancing over to Washington and seeing what’s happened there the last few years, saying maybe we can do that.” –Anne Eigeman