Review: The Revolutionists at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

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(l-r) Beth Hylton, Emily Kester, Megan Anderson, and Dawn Ursula. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

When strong women get together, change can happen, ideas can turn into action, and passions can be expressed. At a time when women voices are becoming stronger and more empowered, Everyman Theatre‘s latest offering, The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson, Directed by Casey Stangl, gives us an extremely humorous, but extremely poignant look at how women’s voices can make the aforementioned change whether it be in their current time or for posterity. It’s a story of how important a woman’s voice can be, even in the darkest of times.

Briefly, The Revolutionists is about a group of women, a playwright, a strong woman of color and activist, an assassin, and… a queen who discuss life and current events in Paris, France during the Reign of Terror (circa 1793) when the government is chopping off heads with the guillotine at the drop of a hat and a revolution is definitely brewing. These women, who have gathered in a study, a safe space, obviously come from different walks of life explain life and their thoughts to each other as they individually know them and they learn from and teach each other along the way, growing just a little strong and wiser just from knowing each other.

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(l-r) Emily Kester, Beth Hylton, Megan Anderson, and Dawn Ursula. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Daniel Ettinger’s Set Design is well thought-out and brings this piece together nicely. With various locations, including a large study in a home, a prison cell, and the scaffold where the dreaded guillotine lives, Ettinger has managed to smoothly mesh these locations together with a clever design using set pieces and projections that work in tandem with each other to move the story along nicely.

Light Design by Elizabeth Harper and Sound Design by C Andrew Mayer blend beautifully within the production and help the audience, both visually and audibly, discern where any particular scene is taking place. The mood is created nicely with these aspects as well, engaging the audience wholly. With a nice balance of subtle and bold lighting changes and well-chosen and executed sound effects, Harper’s Light Design and Mayer’s Sound Design add great value to this production.

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(l-r) Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle and Beth Hylton as Marie Antoinette. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

David Burdick’s Costume Design is on point with these diverse characters. Each character has such a distinguishable personality and look, Burdick manages to bring out these differences in unique, yet appropriate costumes for each. His attention to detail is impeccable as with Marie Antoinette’s bright yellow and garnished ensemble that exudes the excess and decadence for which she is known (whether accurate or not). The authenticity of the costumes brought these characters to life and made them complete individuals which helped move the story along very nicely.

Casey Stangl takes the helm of this production and her Direction of this piece is, in a word, superb. She has a definite grasp and comprehension of this piece and it shines through in the staging and through the actors’ portrayal of these characters. Stangl’s staging is well-paced and engaging while be focused and clean. The transitions are smooth from one scene and setting to another making making for an even flow that’s easy to follow. Her casting is spot on and her overall vision of presenting strong, confident women is quite apparent.

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Emily Kester as Charlotte Corday. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Performance-wise, this piece is acted beautifully and confidently with each member of the small four-person ensemble giving fully committed performances making the roles their own. The chemistry between these actors seems effortless and they all work well with and off of each other, especially Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle, the scrappy activist and Beth Hylton as the bubbly Queen Marie Antoinette, who play off of each other’s performance superbly.

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Megan Anderson as Olympe de Gouges. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Emily Kester takes on the role of Charlotte Corday, a young assassin who comes to the only female playwright she knows of to write her last words before she is put to death for killing a very prominent male figure. Kester embodies this character and performs the role with high energy and gusto as required. Her comedic timing is good though it would benefit her and the production if she gave the audience a moment to laugh at the funny lines rather than speaking over the laugh, thus losing many of her lines. She plays this rough-around-the-edges character well and gives the comedy a good balance with poignancy and passion. Overall, she gives a commendable performance that’s a delight to watch.

Olympe de Gouges, the reluctant revolutionist female playwright, is played flawlessly by the incomparable Megan Anderson, an Everyman Resident Company member. She has a good grasp on this character and is authentic in her mannerisms and characterization of this high-strung and passionate character. Anderson’s delivery of the text is spot on and her comedic timing is down pat. She does well with this witty, intelligent dialogue and gives a confident, comfortable, and praiseworthy performance.

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(l-r) Emily Kester as Charlotte Corday and Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

As mentioned, Everyman Resident Company member Dawn Ursula takes on the role of Marianne Angelle, the sassy activist who is trying to bring liberty and justice to her people of the Caribbean and she plays it to the hilt. With a keen and impressive sense of deadpan comedy and its delivery, Ursula is gives a strong, authentic presentation and embodies this character wholly. She has a good comprehension of what this character is about and exudes the passions and empathy that is required in her delivery of the text and is certainly one to watch in this production.

As stated previously, Beth Hylton, another Everyman Resident Company member tackles the complex role of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France who doesn’t really get the regular folks, and she is, hands down, the standout in this production. With an Elle Woods (of Legally Blond) type personality and persona, Hylton is both hilarious and touching in this role. This character seems to be the one that grows and learns the most in this piece and it makes sense. The others are fighting against everything Marie Antoinette stands for, or seems to stand for, but, after talking and spending time with the other characters, her empathy shines through and she really seems to comprehend their plights. Hylton portrays this exquisitely, all the while keeping the comedy in tact while showing the compassionate and empathetic side to Marie. With a balance of humor and poignancy, Hylton shines as this flourishing character, giving a strong, note-worthy performance.

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Beth Hylton as Marie Antoinette. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Final thought… The Revolutionists is a fun, hysterical but thoughtful and important look at how women’s voices can change the course of events and be important in deciding upon policy. The performances are strong and confident, much like the characters these actors are portraying, and the message is clear. Though a comedy, the production is focused and well-thought out both technically and onstage. With it’s modern, comedic twist on a dark, confusing era, The Revolutionists tickles the brain with witty and intelligent humor that forces us to think while we laugh and it’s a production that is not to be missed this season. Get your tickets, now, for this brilliant, funny, and thought-provoking piece of clever theatre!

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of The Revolutionists… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

The Revolutionists will play through January 7 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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Review: Intimate Apparel at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 10-minute intermission

We easily take for granted so many items we use or see on a daily basis but, do we ever stop to think about the people behind those items? How do these items come into existence? Sure, today we can be 99.9% certain all of our everyday items come from a factory somewhere in the world, built by machines and synthetics, but, at the turn of the century, mostly everything was created by hand… by people. One of the most common, everyday items we deal with everyday (most people anyway) is underwear and, though not a taboo topic these days, back in 1905, it was truly unmentionable. Everyman Theatre‘s latest production, Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage, Directed by Tazewell Thompson, gives us a glimpse into the lives of one of those folks who created, by hand, ladies underwear, reminding us that even everyday items sometimes have a story all their own.

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(l-r) Dawn Ursula as Esther and Beth Hylton as Mrs. Van Buren. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Though the title can be a little misleading, Intimate Apparel is not really about underwear, but, in a nutshell, about a woman, Esther, who makes her living sewing these articles of clothing for ladies throughout New York City.  She is an entrepreneur, making her own way in the world, which was quit uncharacteristic for women of color at that time, but she certainly has grand aspirations but is unmarried, illiterate, and in her mid-thirties. She begins a courtship with a man half-way across the world through letters and hopes this relationship will bring her a better future.

Everyman Theatre has never disappoints when it comes to sets and, though this set isn’t as impressive as previous productions, Set Design by Donald Eastman is simple, but absolutely appropriate for this piece. Earthy colors exude the feeling of the New York City tenements of the early 1900s and the authentic, well-chosen set pieces help set the time and move the story along nicely.

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(l-r) Jade Wheeler as Mayme and Beth Hylton as Mrs. Van Buren. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Costume Design by David Burdick is sensational as well as authentic with an eye for detail. All of the ladies were dressed in the turn of the century style with contrasts in the class of these characters quite apparent. The gentlemen, who have less complex costumes, are still dressed in styles that fit the individual character such as a 1900s Jewish shop owner and an African-American laborer. All the tailored costumes of the very different characters are carefully though-out and add great value to the production.

Tazewell Thompson takes the reigns of this production and has a good comprehension of the story and text and gives us a well put-together production. Pacing is consistent and there’s no dragging in the action, even if the story itself drags along at times. The transitions between scenes are seamless and each character is nicely fleshed out. The script is so-so, but Thompson has managed to tell this story in as much an interesting way as possible. His casting is to be commended and his vision is clear making for a poignant, focused production of a script that kind of falls flat.

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Jade Wheeler as Mayme. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Moving onto the performance aspect of this production, it’s worth mentioning that, even though I’m not 100% on board with the script (did I make that clear enough, yet?), I am on board with the ability and interpretation of this able and dedicated cast.

Bueka Uwemedimo takes on the role of George, the pen pal turned love interest of Esther, our main character, and a laborer who is digging for the Panama Canal. Uwemedimo has a good grasp on this character and gives a commendable performance but he does seem to yell through his entire performance while speaking… so… slowly. There’s projecting from the stage and there’s yelling and it seems Uwemedimo is doing the latter. Regardless, I can understand ever word he’s saying and he’s dedicated to his role confidently portraying his character as the “villain” with ease and authenticity.

Mayme, the kind, sweet girl who dreamed of being a concert pianist but had to resort to prostitution while renting a room on top of a saloon, is portrayed by Jade Wheeler. While wheeler seems to understand her character well, it feels as though she’s calling her performance in. The character is laid back but Wheeler’s interpretation seems a little too laid back, especially in her speaking. Mayme is a transplant from Memphis, Tennessee but has not a lick of a southern drawl that one would expect. Maybe she’s been up north too long? Aside from a good, albeit uninspiring performance, it’s definitely worth noting that Wheeler is a top-notch vocalist. She plays the piano and belts out a jazzy tune that just about brings down the house while exhibiting her proficient musicality.

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(l-r) Jenn Walker as Mrs. Dickson and Dawn Ursula as Esther. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Mrs. Dickson, the boarding house landlady and friend to Esther, is played brilliantly by Jenn Walker and she completely embodies this character playing her with a great balance of being a realist and a compassionate friend. The character is relatable, as is, since most of us can claim we have someone like this in our family or circle of friends; one who wants what’s best for us and cares deeply for us but doesn’t mind giving his or her opinion on everything, whether we like what they say or not. Walker is to be applauded for a strong performance.

Beth Hylton, an Everyman Theatre Company member tackles the complex role of Mrs. Van Buren, the rich socialite who is not only a client of but a friend to Esther, helping her in her quest to find love by writing the letters she’s sending to George. Hylton gives an impressive, confident performance and provides the contrast to the other characters all the while showing many similarities to Esther. Both are around the same age and both are yearning for love and companionship. Hylton has a great comprehension of her character and provides both attitude and mannerisms to make for a delightful performance.

As the jovial, devoutly Jewish shop owner, Mr. Marks, Drew Kopas is a highlight of this production an absolutely believable, making this character likable from the start. From the Romanian accent to the costume, Kopas had this character down pat, without question. His dedication and focus are definitely clear in this performance and his chemistry with Dawn Ursula is spot on.

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Dawn Ursula as Esther. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Speaking of Dawn Ursula, she rounds out the cast and is a joy to watch as Esther, our unfortunate heroine with an entrepreneur’s spirt, trying to make her way through early 1900s New York City. Ursula takes this role, chews it up, and makes it her own. You can actually see the uncertainty and, at times, anguish this character is feeling in Ursula’s performance. Her commitment and enthusiasm for this role is apparent and it’s easy to see she’s giving 100% to this character. She portrays the changes her character goes through effortlessly and gives an overall splendid performance that makes for a moving and entertaining evening of theatre.

Final thought…Intimate Apparel is a poignant piece and gives insight to the people we don’t think about regularly, namely, laymen and women who create the beautiful or simple everyday items to which we don’t give a second thought. The story itself is a slow burn and is not my favorite and is not extremely impressive. Act I does not have much going for it in the way of an interesting story line and the minor subplots are more interesting than the main story line, but most of the performances are spot on and praiseworthy. The pacing is on point and the story moves along with a good tempo. Overall, it’s a focused, well put-together production and the story is an important one of searching for love, finding love, and losing love.

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Intimate Apparel… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Intimate Apparel will play through November 19 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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PRESS RELEASE: Everyman Theatre’s Intimate Apparel Reveals Patterns of Synergy and Commitment to Playwright’s Work

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Everyman Theatre’s Intimate Apparel Reveals Patterns of Synergy and Commitment to Playwright’s Work
Production Weaves Thematic Threads with Meaningful Community Connections

Intimate_Apparel

Baltimore, MD – As though tailor-made for the locally-commissioned play’s Baltimore audience,Intimate Apparel stirs with substance, style and sincerity at Everyman Theatre—October 18 through November 19, 2017—in a quietly commanding production that radiates with powerful performances on-stage and profound local partnerships off-stage, bringing the play’s delicate themes affectingly to life.

Wearing her heart on her sleeve while sewing intimates for her clientele, Esther is the talented African American seamstress in turn-of-the-century New York who has built a savings for herself making beautiful undergarments—while earnestly daydreaming of new beginnings, romantic possibilities, and the lingering affection she shares with a Jewish fabric merchant. But when an egregious deception cuts short heartfelt desires, can class, culture and circumstance outmatch the strength of human spirit? Inspired by a true story, Intimate Apparel is a heart-rending contemporary work in the style of an enduring classic—from Lynn Nottage, the first female playwright to win two Pulitzers.

Intimate Apparel marks the third Lynn Nottage play produced at Everyman Theatre, following 2015’sRuined and 2014’s By The Way, Meet Vera Stark. Intimate Apparel director Tazewell Thompson (who previously directed Great Expectations and Ruined at Everyman, as well as a production of Intimate Apparel at Dartmouth College) brings what Everyman Theatre Founding Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi describes as “a dramatist’s eye and a librettist’s ear” to the helm.

“Plays like Intimate Apparel are about bringing the real changing world into the theater,” said Thompson. “They are about making the theater contemporaneous with life; making the theater a leader of perception, not a follower. Intimate Apparel awakens us to the selves within ourselves; allows us to see, hear and understand the lives of, indeed, every man.”

In this spirit, Everyman’s production of Intimate Apparel is augmented by an extensive slate of ancillary programming that fastens topics from the play (including empowerment, entrepreneurship, and evolving trends) to close-knit community collaborations involving local artists, makers and independent entrepreneurs as well as institutions such as MICA, Baltimore School for the Arts, the Baltimore Design School and the Maryland Film Festival’s SNF Parkway Theatre.

“The story on stage can be just the beginning of the journey,” explained Everyman Theatre Managing Director Jonathan K. Waller. “We invite audiences to join us in deepening the experience by exploring how the play’s themes connect to our lives and history here in the Baltimore area. For Intimate Apparel, we have more opportunities to do this than ever before thanks to a growing circle of committed and connected partners.”

Partner projects for Intimate Apparel include an on-site costume exhibit, a tasting involving local restaurants, a film screening and discussion, a community conversation with local/regional fashion designers, a panel discussion about labor and sex work, and a walking tour of Baltimore’s historic garment district—among others. (See below for comprehensive listing.)

The cast of Intimate Apparel reunites several cast members from Ruined, including Resident Company Member Dawn Ursula* (Esther), Jade Wheeler* (Mayme) and Bueka Uwemedimo* (George). Rounding out the cast is Jenn Walker* (Mrs. Dickson), Resident Company Member Beth Hylton* (Mrs. Van Buren), and Drew Kopas* (Mr. Marks) and Steve Polites (Understudy-Mr. Marks).

The Intimate Apparel design team includes director Tazewell Thompson, Donald Eastman (Set Design), Stephen Quandt (Lighting Design), David Burdick (Costume Design), Fabian Obispo (Sound Design & Composition), Gary Logan (Dialects) and Denise O’Brien (Wig Design).

Intimate Apparel runs October 18 through November 19, 2017. Tickets ($10-65) are now on sale online (everymantheatre.org), by phone (410.752.2208), or at the Everyman Theatre Box Office (315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD).

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

On View in the Lobby/Mezzanine

Fashion Exhibit: Boudoir Vignettes
Ongoing (October 20 – November 19, 2017)
Independent designers and matriculating students from MICA, Baltimore School for the Arts and Baltimore Design School have crafted this visual response to the story and setting of Intimate Apparel, which combines their local viewpoint with elements of clothing, including lingerie and boudoir attire. Curated by Caprece Jackson-Garrett.

Event Listings

TNT: Theatre Night for Teens
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Students in grades 9-12 enjoy a dynamic night out at the theatre featuring pre-show dinner sponsored by Noodles & Company, an Intimate Apparel artist meet-and-greet, and a 7:30 PM preview performance followed by post-show discussion and dessert. Tickets: $10 each (space is limited).

Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Pay-What-You-Can to see the first preview performance of Intimate Apparel. Tickets: By donation (cash only), available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Box Office beginning at 5:30pm. Seating is general admission.

Everyman at the Parkway: Middle of Nowhere
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM (at the SNF Parkway Theatre)
One-night-only film screening presented in partnership with the Maryland Film Festival: Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, who won the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Best Director Award for her work,Middle of Nowhere chronicles a woman’s separation from her incarcerated husband and the journey to maintain her marriage and her identity amidst crisis and chaos. Resident Company member Dawn Ursula (Intimate Apparel) will introduce the screening and host an informal discussion following the film. Tickets: $8-10 each (available at mdfilmfest.com).

Taste of Everyman: Classified Cravings
Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Taste of Everyman is an artful pre-show experience that combines smarts and samples from some of the hottest talent in Baltimore’s dine and drink scene, including expert knowledge and sample-sized pairings designed (cheekily) to complement the show. Hush-hush hankerings? Top-secret tastes? For even the “foodiest” foodies among us, keeping our favorites quiet is par for the course. In the secret-keeping spirit of Intimate Apparel, join one of Baltimore’s most knowledgeable and passionate food and drink insiders, Amy Langrehr (aka Charm City Cook) for an “off the record” dish on some of Baltimore’s most-loved nosh — including some well known and others still a little bit under the radar. Featured restaurants include Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, Ekiben and Lobo, paired with local beers from Brewer’s Art, Monument City Brewing and Union Craft Brewing. Tickets: $60 each (includes event and 7:30pm performance) or $30 each (event only).

Confessions of a Designer
Friday, October 27, 2017 at 6:00 PM (Reception at 5:30 PM)
Join host, bespoke menswear designer Stephen Wise of SWB Atelier (City Paper 2016 Tailor of the Year), and esteemed local/regional designers, for a community conversation exploring the “inner lining” of the independent fashion design world and its artistic, professional and personal impacts. Participating designers include: Earle Bannister, Adira Bunch, John Cash, Brian Collins, Sally DiMarco, Crystal Joines, Dino Hartfield, Sehar Peerzada, Seleh Rahman, Stacey Stube, Richard Swartz, and Brandon Warren. Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.

World of the Play: Unraveling the Threads of Labor and Love, Then and Now
Saturday, November 4, 2017 at 4:30 PM
The characters of Intimate Apparel and their professions provide us with the thematic threads of labor and intimacy to spark discussion with an expert panel, including a local labor historian, a contemporary African-American tailor and menswear designer, and a member of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project). Hosted by Marc Steiner (The Center for Emerging Media). Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.

Cast Conversations
Thursday, November 9, 2017, Post-show
Chat with participating cast members following the 7:30 PM performance of Intimate Apparel, or follow along (and submit questions) via Twitter courtesy of @BWW_Baltimore. Tickets: N/A (free to attend, with ticket to accompanying performance).

Threading History and Place: Bromo District Walking Tour
Sunday, November 12, 2017, 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Explore invisible public spaces and storied buildings that reflect the history of Baltimore’s fashion industry, department stores and garment district and learn about past and present efforts that shape the neighborhoods contained within the Bromo Arts and Entertainment District. Tour begins and ends at Everyman Theatre (315 W. Fayette St. entrance), where attendees may stay for the 2pm performance at an exclusive discounted rate. Produced in partnership with New Public Sites, Bromo Arts and Entertainment District, and Market Center Merchants’ Association. Tickets: $15 each (tour only), advance purchase required (space is limited).

Boudoir Couture Showcase
Sunday, November 19, 2017, 5:00-6:30 PM
A live activation of the fashion exhibit (Boudoir Vignettes) on view during Intimate Apparel.
Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.

About Everyman Theatre

Everyman Theatre is a professional Equity theatre company celebrating the actor, with a Resident Company of artists from the Baltimore/DC area. Founded in 1990 by Vincent M. Lancisi, the theatre is dedicated to engaging the audience through a shared experience between actor and audience seeking connection and emotional truth in performance. Everyman is committed to presenting high quality plays that are affordable and accessible to everyone. The theatre strives to engage, inspire and transform artists, audiences and community through theatre of the highest artistic standards and is committed to embodying the promise of its name, Everyman Theatre.

Intimate Apparel is sponsored in part by Vic & Nancy Romita and the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, with media support from The AFRO News, The Baltimore Sun Media Group and WYPR. Everyman Theatre’s Pay-What-You-Can nights are supported by Dr. E. Lee & Bea Robbins. The 2017/18 Season is generously sponsored by LifeBridge Health. Everyman Theatre is supported in part by grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.

Everyman Theatre is a proud member of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District, the Market Center Merchants Association and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

Vincent M. Lancisi is the Founding Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre; Jonathan K. Waller is the Managing Director. For information about Everyman Theatre, visit everymantheatre.org, call 410.752.2208, or connect via Facebook (@everymantheatremd), Twitter (@everymantheatre), YouTube (@everymantheatre) and Instagram (@everymantheatre).

 

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Review: M. Butterfly at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes with two intermissions

(l-r) Brett Messiora, Vichet CHum, and Mika J. Nakano. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

When East meets West, mysterious things can happen and though, some stories are too incredible to be true, Everyman Theatre‘s latest offering and first show of the season, M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, is indeed incredible and very true (at least most of it), and the gut-wrenching love story it tells is as mysterious as many parts of Asia itself. Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, this production is not one you want to miss.

Vichet Chum as Song Liling. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

M. Butterfly gets it’s name from the popular Puccini opera Madame Butterfly about a U.S. Naval officer who marries a young Japanese girl, Cio-cio (Madame Butterfly), out of convenience, but plans on leaving her once he finds a suitable American wife. Cio-cio falls deeply and hopelessly in love with this Naval officer who leaves her flat, with a child. When she discovers he has remarried in the USA, she becomes so distraught that she commits suicide all because of her love for this man. Whoo, nelly!

Vitchet Chum as Son LIling. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

In a nutshell, M. Butterfly is somewhat the same story, but in reverse. In this story, a French Diplomat, Rene Gallimard (played by Bruce Randolph Nelson) falls in love with a Japanese actress, Song Liling (played by Vichet Chum) and plays out over a span of 20 years. It’s a breathtaking piece of theatre with a near perfect script. David Henry Hwang does a magnificent job in telling this 20 year story in two and a half hours but there is no confusion as all the gaps are filled in nicely. Hwang masterfully takes the highlights of the story and presents them while explaining, not glazing over the not so important stuff through dialogue and action. His script is very easy to follow, perfectly blends humor and comedy, and the transitions are seamless.

(l-r) Bruce Randolph Nelson, Bernard Boursicot, and Vincent M. Lancisi. Credit: Kirstin Pagan/Everyman Theatre

Set Design by Yu-Hsuan Chen is cleverly minimal with a beautiful cut out screen across the back of the stage with simple set pieces coming in and out to represent different locations. It’s clean, precise, and fits with the story quite appropriately. Chen is careful not to muddle the stage with too much and it keeps the attention on the story being told which is a wise choice and his design is superb and working in tandem with Chen is Lighting Designer Jay Herzog. The Lighting Design is truly and undoubtedly one of the stars of this piece. With the set being minimal, it’s all in the lighting and Herzog steps up to the plate and hits a home run. His design easily sets the moods and puts the audience in each location being represented, taking the audience on the journey with deep-feeling characters and complex story.

Deborah Hazlett as Helga and Bruce Randolph Nelson as Rene Gallimard. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Director Vincent M. Lancisi takes the reigns of this production and his vision and execution for putting this story on the stage are praiseworth. Pacing is on point and the action keeps the piece moving nicely and his casting is impeccable.. It’s worth noting, Mr. Lancisi, as well as some others included in the production, took a trip to France and was able to speak with the man on whom the character of Rene Gallimard is based, Bernard Boursicot, and that meeting seems to have made an impact. Lancisi definitely has a deep comprehension of this piece and does a marvelous job presenting Hwang’s script in an all-around astonishing production.

Mika J. Nakano and Brett Messiora. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Moving into the performance aspect of this production, Every actor in this ensemble is an important part of telling this story, including Everyman Theatre Company member Deborah Hazlett, who takes on the role of Helga, the traditional and conservative wife of Rene Gallimard, and she gives a strong, confident performance with a natural, elegant air for which the character calls.

Bruce Randolph Nelson as Rene Gallimard. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Another supporting actor needing to be mentioned is Tuyet Thi Pham who tackles various roles, including the communist, Comrade Chin. Pham gives an authentic, strong performance and seems to grasp this character wholly, embodying her with every word.

Bruce Randolph Nelson, an Everyman Theatre Company member, as Rene Gallimard, the lovelorn French diplomat, is spectacular, emoting all the confusion and emotion this character requires. His natural performance brings the audience into the story and his knack of storytelling just takes this performance over the top, in a fantastic way.

Vichet Chum as Song Liling. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Vichet Chum taking on the difficult role of Song Liling is the gem in this piece. His versatility is clearly seen as he tackles this role and his understanding of this character is obvious. The chemistry between him and Nelson is on fire, helping Chum give a brilliant, confident performance that brings this mysterious, incredible character to life. You don’t know if you want to love or hate him but that’s what makes the performance so thrilling. He’s definitely one to watch in this production.

Final thought… M. Butterfly is an absolute must-see and a great way to start off the Everyman Theatre season. Not only is it beautiful aesthetically, the performances are superb, and the story is profound with a near perfect script to tell that story. Do yourself a favor and get your tickets now!

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of M. Butterfly… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

M. Butterfly will play through October 8 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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Review: Noises Off at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with two intermissions (one 15-minute and one 10-minute)

Doors and sardines! Doors and sardines! Apparently, that’s what life is all about… right? Well, maybe not, but it’s always exciting (and a little voyeuristic) to take a peek behind the scenes to see how a show is produced. I don’t know about you, but when a film or an album tickles my fancy, I always enjoy seeing a “Making of…” that particular project and Everyman Theatre‘s latest and last offering of their 2016-17 season, Noises Off by Michael Frayn, Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, gives us a humorous, frantic peek into what it takes to get a show off the ground and that the show must go on… no matter what.

L-R Deborah Hazlett, Megan Anderson, Carl Schurr, Beth Hylton, Bruce Nelson, and Eric Berryman. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Noises Off is a “show within a show,” meaning the show itself is about putting on a show called Nothing On and Everyman Theatre has even provided the audience with a program for Nothing On, which adds to the authenticity of the piece. The show is given to us in three acts with breaks in between each act. Act I consists of the final dress, Act II takes place backstage a few months into the tour with the play still going on in the front with problems upon problems going on in the back, including cast love triangles, real and imagined, and Act III shows a performance during the last leg of the tour when everyone has lost all give-a-fuck and have stopped being nice and have started getting real, making for some interesting choices onstage. The comedy comes from the slight changes in each Act as the character flaws come to surface off-stage causing everyone to undermine their on-stage performances with A LOT of slapstick. The contrast between the fictional characters of the play Nothing On and the fictional actors playing those characters is also a great example of comic dissonance.

It’s worth mentioning that Noises Off was made into a film in 1992 and starred heavy-hitters such as Carol Burnett, Michael Cain, John Ritter, and Christopher Reeve, among other big names of the time, and, though it was a box office flop, it has since become a favorite (for those who love theatre, anyway), and has gained a sort of cult-ish following. I’m proud to say I’m a part of that group and I LOVE this film.

BACK: Bruce Nelson and Beth Hylton. FRONT: Danny Gavigan, Deborah Hazlett, and Carl Schurr. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

That being said, the production at Everyman Theatre is definitely one to contend with. With Director Vincent M. Lancisi at the helm, Everyman has made this production their own and it is difficult to compare, which is a feat in itself. Lancisi has a complete comprehension of this piece and the farcical comedy with which it comes. He keeps the action moving and the pacing, for the most part, is spot on. Most of the casting is spot on and Lancisi was wise to use the Everyman Theatre Resident Company to fill all but one role as they were splendid in the roles. Though Act I seems a bit subdued, I was at a matinee performance, so, that may have been a factor but, overall, Lancisi does a superb job presenting the never-give-up essence of this piece and brining to the audience an example of putting on a show and what happens behind the scenes as opposed to what we, the audience, sees as the final product.

L-R Beth Hylton, Bruce Nelson, Danny Gavigan, Deborah Hazlett, Emily Kester, Eric Berryman, and Wil Love. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

I would not do any favors for this review or do the production justice if I didn’t mention the set for this production. I’ve stated in the past that Everyman Theatre has yet to disappoint when it comes to their sets and this production is no different at all. Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is exquisite and complex but absolutely appropriate for this piece. Ettinger has an amazing attention to detail and from the stylish woodwork to the knick-knacks, every set piece is befitting and seems to have been carefully chosen. As the three acts require a “flipping” of the set to represent both the front of the set as well as backstage, Set Design must be handled carefully and Ettinger is on point with is design. During the breaks between acts, the set is flipped completely and while most theatres who produce Noises Off have the luxury of a revolve on the stage, Everyman Theatre crew has to manually flip individual set pieces and they do so with great precision and speed so a major shout out and kudos to Stage Manager Cat Wallis and the stage crew of this production.

Emily Kester as Brooke Ashton and Danny Gavigan as Garry Lejeune. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Costume Design by Eric Abele is appropriate as Director Vincent M. Lancisi wisely decided to keep the play set in the 1970s and all the actors were dressed in the general styles of the day with nothing too modern, and all looked comfortable, even the poor actor playing Garry Lejeune with his plaid pants and matching coat and the actress playing the scantily clad Brook Ashton running around in her underwear for most of the show. Abele’s overall Costume Design helped the setting of the piece added value to it rather than distract from it.

Lighting and Sound Design by Jay Herzog and Phillip Owen, respectively, is impressive with an acute attention to detail that added extra authenticity to the production. The slight differences between the front of the set to the back of the stage lighting is realistic as there are certainly different levels of brightness and darkness and the difference in sound is exceptional. Being familiar with being backstage during a production, it’s uncanny how Herzog manages to bring that sound to the audience – a sort of muffled, but understandable speaking to which one must pay close attention to hear what is being said. Both Herzog and Owen are to be commended on their work for this production.

L-R Danny Gavigan as Garry LeJeune, Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley, and Bruce Nelson as Frederick Fellowes. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

The ensemble for this production of Noises Off is top-notch and all are dedicated, committed performers who understand the piece and the comedy/farce that goes along with it.

Though all of the performances were on point, Carl Schurr’s take on the role of Lloyd Dallas, the helpless director of the runaway train of a production, falls a little flat for me. The character has peaks and valleys of frustration, calm, anger, and resignation, but Schurr doesn’t seem to invest enough emotion to show the contrast between the feelings this character is experiencing. His frustration could be much more which would make the instant switch to calm much more comedic. I can see where he is going with the character, trying to keep the calm and being a British gentleman, of sorts, but I would still like to see the desperation of the character trying to make the show work. That being said Schurr’s comedic timing is absolutely marvelous and he has great chemistry with his cast making for an fine performance.

FRONT: Bruce Nelson as Frederick Fellowes. BACK: Emily Kester as Brooke Aston. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Bruce Randolph Nelson takes on the role of the dim-witted Frederick Fellowes who is prone to nose-bleeds and isn’t a very good actor at all. In this sense, Nelson is such a good actor, he has this character down pat and certainly makes the role his own as he hits the ground running. The spirit of show is improvisation and Nelson is a hands-down expert in this area. However, there may have been times he took it a bit far, this could just be me being stuffy, but he does such a fine job with the script, too much addition takes away from the performance. This isn’t to say Nelson doesn’t do a great job because he most certainly gives an impeccable performance that will have you belly-laughing throughout his performance.

Megan Anderson as Poppy NOrton-Taylor and Eric Berryman as Tim Allgood. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Tackling the roles of the poor over-worked Stage Manager, Tim Allgood and Assistant Stage Manager, Poppy Norton-Taylor, are Eric Berryman and Megan Anderson, respectively and these two actors completely embody these roles and make them their own. In real life, the behind the scenes folks are sometimes the most dedicated to a production and Berryman and Anderson evoke that spirit in these characters flawlessly, frantically trying to keep the show on course and doing whatever they can to help. Anderson’s portrayal of the skittish, emotional Poppy makes you feel for this character from the get and Berryman’s take on the easily flustered Tim, is funny and authentic.

Danny Gavigan takes on the young Garry Lejeune, a good enough actor with a jealous streak, who involved with the older Dotty Otley and can’t finish a sentence to save his life, unless it’s scripted. Gavigan does a bang up job in this role. His contrast between the two characters he plays (the actor and the character in the play Nothing On) is clear and concise and his physical work a could be a tad more frenetic and fluid but he does a superb job, looks comfortable in the role, and has a very good command of the stage.

L-R Megan Anderson as Poppy NOrton-Taylor, Wil Love as Selsdon Mowbray, and Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Wil Love is hilarious as Selsdon Mowbray, the aging, heard of hearing, alcoholic actor who seems to be on his own time and script, but manages to shuffle along with the rest of the show. Love’s comedic timing is spot on and he completely embodies this character making him real and a joy to watch. Emily Kester takes on the role of Brooke Ashton, the ditsy, by-the-script bombshell blond actress, and holds her own with the Resident Company members and they seem to welcome her with open arms. Running around in her unmentionables for a majority of the show doesn’t seem to faze Kester and she gives a strong comedic performance having great chemistry with her cast mates.

Beth Hylton tackles the role of Belinda Blair, the upbeat, positive (for the most part), peacemaker of the troupe and gives a beautiful performance. She’s confident and graceful as this character but also plays the comedic bits superbly, as well. Hylton’s portrayal is believable as the positive one in the group who sees the glass as half-full and is enough to get on your nerves, but also as the one who is able to keep it together when things start falling apart. She gives a committed performance that is a joy to watch.

Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley is absolutely believable and likable in this role and her comedic timing is outstanding. She seems to start off cautious at first, kind of like a slow burn, but then she starts to let loose and by the second act, she lets it go, especially with her quiet interactions with Gavigan who, as Garry, is the love interest to her character, and the relationship is rocky. She may lose her accent here and there, but for the most part, she has it down. Her facial expressions and mannerisms as this character are excellent and make for a very successful performance.

Final thought… Noises Off at Everyman Theatre is a madcap farce that will tickle the most stubborn of funny bones. With a witty script and a dedicated cast, we are given a peek behind the curtain of putting on a production and all that goes with it, good and bad. The entire production is well put-together and the cast has a superb comprehension of the piece. Noises Off has been popular in its own right but contending with a beloved film version (in theatre community, anyway) comparison is always a challenge. However, this production knocks it out of the ballpark. The pacing is frantic, as it should be, and the comedy is spot on making this a must see this season. I couldn’t think of a better way to end out a season so… get your tickets while they last!

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Noises Off… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Noises Off will play through June 18 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For  tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

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Press Release: Record-breaking advanced sales for Noises Off; Sardine spiked silliness starts May 17

Get your tickets to Everyman’s #1 pre-opening box office smash!

Everyman Theatre’s Resident Company of actors transforms into a British company of actors during the 1970s in this hotly anticipated revival of Tony Award-Winner Michael Frayn’s side-splitting farce to end all farces, Noises Off, directed by Vincent M. Lancisi. With their opening night on London’s West End just hours away, can the cast pull their act together before lost lines, love triangles and flying sardines upstage the production? A love-letter to the thrilling and unpredictable nature of the stage, Noises Off will leave you rolling in the aisles as everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.

Noises Off runs May 17-June 18. Tickets $10-64.


~~~~~~~~~~ DIG DEEPER ~~~~~~~~~~

The Show Must Go On!

Monday, May 22; Drinks & Music at 6:00 PM, Show at 7:30 PM

Co-presented with Stoop Storytelling, Baltimore theatre makers share hilarious-but-true stories of unexpected pitfalls and pratfalls of live performance.

Inside Look: Chaos in the Wings

Everyman’s own Resident Company Members Dawn Ursula, Beth Hylton, Wil Love, Bruce Randolph Nelson, and Carl Schurr share their best/worst backstage mishaps and personal theatre nightmares…

Last chance to save up to 15% on tickets to the “Mother” of all farces

Use code ROSE17 to save 10% off tickets to weekday performances, Sunday evenings, and Saturday matinees. Use code MUM17 to save 15% off tickets to Friday/Saturday evening performances and Sunday matinees.

Q&A with Noises Off Director Vincent M. Lancisi in DC Metro Theatre Arts

Learn more about the events and partnerships surrounding Noises Off in this DC Metro Theatre Arts interview with Noises Off director, and Everyman Founding Artistic Director, Vincent M. Lancisi.

~~~~~~~~~~ UP NEXT AT EVERYMAN ~~~~~~~~~~

Play a role: The Mousetrap

Saturday, June 3, 6:00 PM

An interactive play-reading event, hosted at the Baltimore County home of Everyman Board Member Corie Codine. Enjoy cocktails on the veranda along with a buffet dinner at this renovated old farmhouse, as you read a perfectly crafted whodunit by Agatha Christie.

Salon Series: Trouble in Mind

Monday, June 5, 6:00 PM

We close out our Salon Series’ season with the Alice Childress play, Trouble in Mind, directed by Dawn Ursula. Both a witty love letter to the theatre and a call for equality, Trouble in Mind reminds us that we all have a part to play in the fight for civil rights.

Codes ROSE17 and MUM17 expire Sunday, May 14 at 11:59 PM. Offers are valid on tickets to all performanes of Noises Off. Offer is valid on adult tickets only and cannot be combined with other offers and codes. Limit 4 tickets per order.

Famed Farce Noises Off to Receive Resident Company Treatment With Comically Chaotic Revival at Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre

If you’re a theatre lover, you don’t want to miss this show wherever and whenever it is playing! This hilarious farce shows the real-world problems that can and inevitably arise during any production and relatable to every actor who has tread the boards! So excited for this production!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2017

 

Theatre’s Season Wraps with Sardines, Silliness and Split-Second Timing

Baltimore, MD – Everyman Theatre’s Resident Company of actors transforms into a British company of actors during the 1970s in this hotly anticipated revival of Tony Award-Winner Michael Frayn’s side-splitting farce to end all farces, Noises Off, directed by Founding Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi and running from May 17 through June 18, 2017.

With this love-letter to the thrilling unpredictability of the stage, Everyman Theatre ends its 2016/17 season on a zany note, joined by eight of its Resident Company members portraying a cast of bumbling British thesps (starring in the fictitious play-within-a-play, “Nothing On”) whose backstage buffoonery threatens to steal the show. With their opening night on London’s West End just hours away, can the cast pull their act together before lost lines, love triangles and flying sardines upstage the production?

Punctuated with wall-to-wall wackiness, carefully timed/choreographed hijinks, and spiked with color-popping 1970s pizazz and sight gags galore, Noises Off considers what happens when everything thatcan go wrong, does go wrong, earning laughs-a-minute from its talented cast.

“We’ve all heard the saying that ‘dying is easy, comedy is hard,’ but working within a Resident Company provides a level of family-like comfort for the actors that paves the way for hilarity of the highest caliber to ensue,” said Lancisi. “When audiences recognize our Resident Company members shifting between the characters they play, and the characters that those characters play (in the play within the play), it only adds to the infectious mayhem – literally tripling up on the fun.”

Resident Company members Deborah Hazlett (The Roommate, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, An Inspector Calls) and Danny Gavigan (A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, Ghosts, Deathtrap) lead the show-within-a-show cast as Dotty Otley, the top-billed star ofNothing On and Garry Lejeune, her leading man. They are joined by fellow Resident Company members Bruce Randolph Nelson (Great Expectations, Wait Until Dark, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire) as Nothing On co-star Frederick Fellowes, Beth Hylton (A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, Outside Mullingar) as actress Belinda Blair, and Wil Love (Death of a Salesman, Outside Mullingar, Deathtrap) as Selsdon Mowbray, a veteran actor with a weakness for the bottle. The show-within-a-show cast is rounded out by Emily Kester, making her Everyman Theatre debut as the naïve actress Brooke Ashton.

Other featured Resident Company actors in Noises Off include Carl Schurr (Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, Blithe Spirit) as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, with Eric Berryman(Red, Topdog/Underdog, A Raisin in the Sun) and Megan Anderson (Dot, Wait Until Dark, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire), respectively, as stage manager Tim Allgood and assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor.

The Noises Off design team includes Resident Designer Company members Daniel Ettinger (Set Design), Jay A. Herzog (Lighting), Gary Logan (Dialects), Lewis Shaw (Fight Choreography) and Jillian Mathews (Props Master). Costume Design is provided by Eric Abele and Sound Design by Phillip Owen.

Noises Off first premiered in 1982 in London and opened in 1983 on Broadway where it received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play. Performed nearly nonstop ever since, Everyman Theatre’s production follows a recent Broadway revival produced by Roundabout Theatre Company.

Tickets for Noises Off are now on sale online (www.everymantheatre.org), by phone (410.752.2208), or at the Everyman Theatre Box Office (315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201).

Event Listings

Pay-What-You-Can Performance
May 16, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Pay-What-You-Can (suggested minimum donation: $5) to see the final dress rehearsal of Noises Off. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Box Office beginning at 5:30pm. Tickets must be paid for in cash. Seating is general admission.

TNT: Theatre Night for Teens
May 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Students in grades 9-12 can enjoy dinner from Noodles & Company, an artist meet-and-greet withNoises Off prop master Jillian Matthews, and the 7:30 PM performance, followed by post-show discussion and dessert. Tickets: $10 each.

The Show Must Go On! A Stoop Storytelling Event
May 22, 2017 (Drinks/music at 6:00 PM; Performance at 7:30 PM)
Everyman and Stoop Storytelling partner to present an entertaining evening of hilarious-but-true stories about the unexpected pitfalls and pratfalls of the stage. Tickets: $20 each.

Taste of Everyman: Wacky Mix-Ups
June 1, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Mix and mingle with other theatre lovers during a pre-show social, this month featuring unique cocktail concoctions combining the most unexpected ingredients, and paired with hors d’oeuvres by The French Kitchen. Tickets: $60 each for show and event.

World of the Play
June 3, 2017 at 5:00 PM
Take part in an in-depth panel discussion on the themes and topics of the show, hosted by Marc Steiner (WEAA’s The Marc Steiner Show). Tickets: $5 each (free for subscribers).

Salon Series: Women’s Voices: Trouble In Mind
June 5, 2017 (Cocktails at 6:00 PM; Performance at 7:00 PM)
A reading of Trouble In Mind by Obie Award-winning African-American playwright Alice Childress, directed by Resident Company member Dawn Ursula. Tickets: $15 each ($5 for students).

Cast Conversations
Jun 8, 2017 at 9:30 PM
Talk about the play with the members of the cast after the show. Free.

About Everyman Theatre

Everyman Theatre is a professional Equity theatre company celebrating the actor, with a Resident Company of artists from the Baltimore/DC area. Founded in 1990 by Vincent M. Lancisi, the theatre is dedicated to engaging the audience through a shared experience between actor and audience seeking connection and emotional truth in performance. Everyman is committed to presenting high quality plays that are affordable and accessible to everyone. The theatre strives to engage, inspire and transform artists, audiences and community through theatre of the highest artistic standards and is committed to embodying the promise of its name, Everyman Theatre.

Noises Off is presented by production sponsor University of Maryland, Baltimore. The 16/17 Season is generously sponsored by LifeBridge Health and Neil & Ellen Meltzer. Everyman Theatre’s Pay-What-You-Can nights are supported by Dr. E. Lee & Bea Robbins. Everyman Theatre is proud to have The Baltimore Sun Media Group and WYPR Season Media Sponsors. MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to non-profit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Everyman Theatre is a proud member of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

Vincent M. Lancisi is the Founding Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre; Jonathan K. Waller is the Managing Director. For information about Everyman Theatre, visit www.everymantheatre.org or call 410.752.2208.