The other week, dead of winter, I found myself in a darkened warehouse, packed tight with other strangers. Makeshift walls had been erected to define the space and cut the winter air. Still, we all sat in our coats and were better for it. Packed in with us was a live band scoring the scene as colorful overhead projections floated across, creating a most malleable set design.
No, that’s not right. I was in a basement as an immersive performance unfolded in a cacophony of noise and lights, actors and audience inhabiting the same world. The energy was palpable and electrifying.
Or was I in a tiny black box theatre watching a clever production of a Charles Mee play? Slinking into an old, neglected movie theatre only to be overwhelmed with a grandiose rock musical, laden with heroes, monsters, and plenty of shredding? Stepping up to a state-of-the-art facility for the regional premiere of a hit play?
Well, it was something like that.
The reality of the Baltimore theatre scene is that it is something akin to a choose-your-own-adventure novel (with an emphasis on adventure). Baltimore is a city of artistic dabblers, dreamers, and experimenters from all walks of life, culturally and professionally. Artists are unafraid to work hard, have fun, be overwhelmingly successful, and sometimes fail miserably. The range of work produced here speaks to that curiosity and the adventurous spirit of both artist and audience. You’re just as likely to see some “notable” from a multimillion dollar organization rubbing elbows (and beer cans) in a DIY production as you are at an established theatre.
This “try and see” attitude coupled with an enthusiasm for the unexpected makes Baltimore a wonderful place to develop and experiment with new theatre works for EMP. Our focus is in new works, from idea to workshop to production. When we have a weird idea or an offbeat play by an emerging playwright we want to develop, there’s no shortage of folks who give their talent, time, and energy to make it a reality.
I think this is an exciting time for the Baltimore theatre scene and its burgeoning class of young, industrious theatre makers which is why the opportunity to co-produce the One Minute Play Festival really seemed fitting. With the festival, we’re bringing together all these folks as well as established voices in the community. Under one roof, many voices, all Baltimore homegrown.
I hope that this is an opportunity of wider exposure for both artists and audience which fosters future collaborations and projects down the line. However, with over fifty plays, a slew of playwrights, actors, directors, musicians, and visual artists, the one sure bet is that it’s gonna be a wild, fun ride for everyone involved this weekend.
-Carly J Bales
Baltimore’s First One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with E.M.P. Collective is Feb 9th and 10th at 8PM at E.M.P. Tickets are $15 and available here. The Sunday performance will livestream on New Play TV.