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During the summer, movie screens fill with special effects and digital animation, and Baltimore’s better-known theaters go dark. LGBT theater lovers often yearn for the intimate, human experience that only a live performance can provide. Although all the world may not be a stage at this time of year, Gay Life still finds plenty of performing arts experiences to be had in and around town.

Classics

In New York City, the famous “Shakespeare in the Park” series sparked a tradition of summertime performance in the urban outdoors that is now emulated in cities across America. Here in Baltimore, Bard fans flock to the Meadow at Evergreen for Baltimore ShakespeareFestival’s production of The Comedy of Errors, which runs in repertory with Molière’s Scapin! until August 1.

In Baltimore County, Reisterstown Theater Project’s “Shakespeare in the Park 2010” provides another comedy, Twelfth Night or What You Will, directed by Mark Franceschini. Weekend performances begin June 30 and run through August 14. Then on August 28, Carroll County’s Shakespeare Factory Players come to Patterson Park with their production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Of course, some theatergoers might prefer the comfort of theater seats and air conditioning while pondering a play. For them, Baltimore’s Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre presents England’s “second Shakespeare” with George Bernard Shaw’s comedy Arms and the Man, running through August 1.

New Plays

A homegrown summer theater tradition is the annual Baltimore Playwrights Festival (BPF), which has encouraged creative local writers and provided a showcase for their talent for nearly 20 years. Continuing through August 29, this year’s festival showcases exciting new works by writers from Maryland and DC, presented by theaters across the city.

For this year’s Festival, Vagabond Players produces David Allyn’s Commencement, a drama about a New York couple who discover that their daughter has converted to Islam. At College of Notre Dame’s Le Clerc Hall, Theatrical Mining Company presents Barry Feinstein’s Black Widow, in which two elderly female crooks devise a get-rich-quick scheme that spells trouble for a couple of homeless men in Los Angeles. Both shows run until July 25.

On August 6, Fell’s Point Corner Theater opens Scorpions by Mark Scharf. Scharf’s play explores living without a net in America, and what might happen if someone suddenly lost everything. Then on August 12, Fr. Ronald McKinney’s Hammarskjold opens at Spotlighters. McKinney’s murder mystery focuses on a man who is mugged and raped in Central Park, and then awakens convinced that he is Dag Hammarskjold.

For the Festival’s finale, Theatrical Mining Company presents Ken Greller’s This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things at College of Notre Dame. Greller’s play explores the sometimes dysfunctional, sometimes tumultuous, but always important relationship between friends.

Although not part of BPF, Strand Theater Company’s production of I Am by Maryland native Obie Sims might also appeal to fans of new work by innovative writers. In what is billed as “an energetic blend of spoken word, comedy, and drama,” Sims plays six different male characters on a journey to self-discovery.

Musicals and Revues

While Lyric Opera House and the Hippodrome Theatre are dark for the summer, musical theater lovers can still get their fill at the many community and dinner theaters in the Baltimore area. At the Community College of Baltimore County’s Essex campus, Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre showcases local talent in Curtains, the comical “whodunit” with music and lyrics by the famous Broadway team of John Kander and Fred Ebb. The show opens July 23 and continues through August 8.

At Straus Auditorium on Park Heights Avenue, the Jewish Theater Workshop (JWT) presents work by another classic Broadway team: Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. JWT offers three performances of Hart and Kaufman’s You Can’t Take It With You between August 12 and 16.
For those who like to enjoy a meal with their show, Toby’s Dinner Theater offers two locations. In Baltimore, Toby’s presents Always… Patsy Cline, a tribute to the legendary country singer, through July 25. Opening on July 30 is Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story, a show that features more than 20 of Holly’s greatest hits.

Meanwhile, Toby’s in Columbia, Tracy Turnblad finds celebrity on TV’s Corny Collins Show in Hairspray: The Broadway Musical, on stage until August 1. The award-winning musical comedy Nunsense closes out the summer between August 5 and September 19.

Interactive Entertainments

Of course, there are always performance pieces that defy easy categorization. Bel Air’s Otter Productions (OP) provides the ticket for fans who hunger for interactive mystery and comedy. On July 30, and August 13, 21, and 29, adventurous audiences head to Fells Point to board The Black-Eyed Susan paddleboat for a tour of the harbor—and participation in one of OP’s comical mystery shows. Each three-hour tour also includes dinner, and ends happily with a comedy/improv show.

Finally, LGBT families with children won’t want to miss Party Animals, the rock-and-roll musical show that’s causing a sensation for the two- to ten-year-old set. During a pre-show carnival at Center Stage, families enjoy face painting, balloon animals, stilt walking performers, and more. Then The Party Animals take the stage dressed as animal rock stars to sing a collection of original songs and children’s classics. But the Animals are in town for one weekend only: July 30 through August 1. Parents must act fast to get tickets while they last.

DETAILS

For more information about Baltimore-area summer theater, please visit:
Baltimore Playwrights Festival
www.baltimoreplaywrightsfestival.org

Baltimore Shakespeare Festival
www.baltimoreshakespeare.org

Baltimore Theatre Alliance
www.baltimoreperforms.org

The Black-Eyed Susan
www.baltimorepaddlewheel.com

Center Stage
www.centerstage.org

Toby’s Dinner Theatre
www.tobysdinnertheatre.com

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