Chesapeake Shakespeare Company extends its deepest gratitude to the supporters of our Downtown Theater Capital Campaign (listed here). Without the leadership gifts of The Helm Foundation, The Abell Foundation, the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, Charlton and Patrick Hughes, the France-Merrick Foundation, and many businesses, foundations, and individuals, the CSC Theater construction project would not have gotten off the ground.
For nearly six years, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company sought a permanent, indoor home to complement its outdoor season at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park (or the PFI) in Ellicott City, MD. Much of this time was spent looking at locations in Howard County. With active encouragement from the leadership of Everyman Theatre and The Hippodrome and with the closing of the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival in 2011, CSC expanded its search to Baltimore City. This effort proved successful in the first half of 2012, when The Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Company Building, located at the corner of Calvert and Redwood Streets in downtown Baltimore, was acquired.
CSC worked closely with the talented and highly acclaimed Baltimore architectural firm Cho Benn Holback + Associates to design a modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London, England. The building includes office and classroom space, as well as full dressing rooms and space for costume, properties, and set storage and construction. The architects’ design is that of a thrust stage with three levels of audience seating wrapping around the stage. As a result, no audience member is further than 24 feet from the stage and the action taking place upon it.
This theatrical configuration creates an intimate space, providing a level of intimacy far greater than a proscenium stage offers. The proximity of audience to actor, through the maximization of vertical – rather than horizontal – space, encourages more interaction with the audience and it facilitates the direct address to the audience that is a vital aspect of Shakespeare’s plays. In addition, we know of no other theater with a thrust stage in Maryland; the new CSC Theater provides an increased level of authenticity to its Shakespeare productions in addition to adding historical notes to its educational programming. The addition of this permanent space, where artistic and educational programming will no longer be dictated by the rented venue or the weather but rather by the artistic decisions of the staff, increases CSC’s ability to serve its community as an anchor downtown Baltimore cultural institution.
This new permanent performance space allows CSC to provide enormously expanded artistic, education, and outreach programs, including an extensive matinee program, after-school and summer activities, an expanded performance season, and adult education and professional development opportunities. With the advent of this new space, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is finally able to give back to its community, continue to thank its loyal audience and supporters, and anchor itself as a cultural institution both supported by and supportive of its neighbors.