The First of Fifteen Summers
Fourteen summers ago, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company was a tiny group of about 15 people who wanted to do Shakespeare in a different way. We’d performed one show in the Howard County Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre and maybe a hundred people saw the production. We had no money and no plan for a second show.
Then, out of the blue, the Friends of the Patapsco Female Institute invited us to look at the beautiful Howard County park that is home to the ruins of the former girls’ school. They loved the park. They took care of the park. They had no idea what to do with the park until someone suggested Shakespeare. Could we produce a play outside at PFI? You bet we could! We could do anything! We absolutely, positively could produce Romeo and Juliet with almost no budget!
Founding Artistic Director Ian Gallanar could get terrific young actors to perform beautifully for next to nothing. Four people, led by Dan O’Brien (our wonderful Technical Director today) could build a set out of scavenged materials and pallets. We could find a talented young costume designer named Kristina Lambdin (our Resident Costumer today) to create and beg gorgeous Renaissance costumes for a song. A friend of mine who’d never had anything to do with theatre before could run the box office. We could set up worklights instead of renting expensive lights. We could send out press photos and get a little newspaper coverage (pre-Facebook!). We could convince people to trudge up a hill to see a theatre company they’d never heard of. We could make Verona come to life on top of Mount Ida!
And it worked. Thanks to you, our fledgling organization spread its wings. You liked us and came back for more the next year and then the next and now you all have been coming for 15 summers. We may have a theater with a roof in Baltimore City, but the PFI Historic Park will always be our outdoor home.
Happy Fifteenth Summer to all of you who make coming home again so sweet.