CSC Opens Its Doors to Baltimore Community with Ira Aldridge Exhibit Ribbon Cutting


CSC Marketing AssistantMiranda Solomon, 410-244-8571


Baltimore, MD. (Sept 13, 2022) – On October 1st, 2022, from 10am to 4pm, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC) will participate in Doors Open Baltimore, presented by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation. Doors Open Baltimore is a citywide festival of architecture and neighborhoods that celebrates and encourages residents and visitors to explore the city. CSC will join in the festivities with intermittent free tours throughout its home in the historic 1885 Mercantile Trust Bank building in downtown Baltimore. This event also will include a special ribbon cutting for its Ira Aldridge Exhibit, which will be presented by members of CSC’s Black Classical Acting Ensemble at 12pm.  

The Ira Aldridge exhibit, located on the second mezzanine of the theatre, was first mounted at Morgan State University’s Lewis Museum of Art in conjunction with CSC’s 2018 production of the play Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti.  The exhibit was conceived by then-CSC Communications Director Jean Thompson and created by CSC artists Erin Bone Steele and Michael Lonegro.  The exhibit then went into storage and only during the pandemic did the theatre company have the time to mount it in their space.  

The exhibit focuses on the life and career of theatrical trailblazer Ira Aldridge. Born in 1807 with possible Maryland family connections, Ira Aldridge was the first African American actor to achieve international fame and the first black actor to play a leading role in a Shakespeare play on the London stage. He would go on to include more of Shakespeare’s great leading roles to his repertoire —Othello, Macbeth, Lear, and Shylock. 

Aldridge’s career continued with acclaim, adversity, and advocacy. He made headlines around the world, toured and performed all over Europe, and performed for royalty, all while using his position to advocate for the abolition of slavery in America.  

Despite his prominence 150 years ago, Aldridge has largely been a “hidden figure” of American theatre history. CSC conceived and curated their exhibit in hopes of honoring his legacy and educating the community -- including thousands of Baltimore City schoolchildren -- of Ira’s important achievements in theatre and the works of Shakespeare.  

Tours of the landmark building will be held sporadically throughout the day.  In 2014, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company transformed a historic bank building into a theatre for the classics. An architectural gem, this Romanesque building was designed by Wyatt & Sperry and built in 1885 for the Mercantile Trust & Deposit Company. Bank promotions touted the impenetrability of its vaults. In 1904, the bank withstood the Great Fire of Baltimore and the vaults held. Today, one vault holds a costume studio. Another holds the PNC Family Room for Shakespeare’s youngest fans. 

The exhibit and ceremonial ribbon cutting will be presented by CSC's Black Classical Acting Ensemble (BCAE). The BCAE was established in 2021 and is an affinity space and incubator at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company for Black artists to find and nurture their authentic voices in the classical drama, while centering and treasuring their experiences and opinions as Black Americans.  


Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is located at 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. The theatre is located two blocks north of the Inner Harbor. The exhibit is located on the second mezzanine of the theatre. For more detailed information about directions, parking, and public transportation, click here. 

Date and Time 

Saturday, October 1st, 2022 

10am – 4pm – DOORS OPEN TOURS (intermittently) 


About Chesapeake Shakespeare Company: 

Founded in 2002, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is the leading classical theatre company in Maryland, offering vibrant performances that blow the dust off Shakespeare and delight its patrons. One of the six largest theatre companies in the state, CSC serves diverse audiences with funny, moving, rousing mainstage seasons, a vigorous education program that serves over 16,000 students annually in both theatre and the classroom, and a growing community engagement effort including a model Veterans program and the Black Classical Acting Ensemble. The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has three venues. Its indoor performances are presented at the stunning, award-winning 266-seat Chesapeake Shakespeare Company Theatre, with a thrust stage uniquely designed for CSC performances. Next door to the theatre and linked are its administrative offices and The Studio at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, which serves as a classroom, rehearsal space, and alternative performance area. CSC’s summertime outdoor home is in nearby Ellicott City and features performances and education programming at the PFI Historic Park, a gorgeous spot for picnicking and watching Shakespeare under the stars.