Over the past several months, Baltimore’s creative community has had to make significant adjustments to the ways in which we all interact with the arts. With stay-at-home orders, gathering restrictions and social distancing, many arts programs, classes and activities can no longer happen the way they once did. Thinking creatively, Baltimore individuals and organizations have looked to virtual opportunities to keep the arts thriving during this time.
BOPA is proud to feature Baltimore and Maryland arts organizations that have had to make these necessary adjustments.
Today’s spotlight is on Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, a leader in the Maryland cultural community know for their innovative productions of Shakespeare’s works and other classics. With performances canceled, the team has been working hard to produce virtual content and adapt their summer programming. Read more below to see how they have been able to shift from the stage to the screen over the past few months.
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
Like most performing arts organizations, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has put all its proverbial eggs in a digital basket since mid-March and is focused on being informative, entertaining, and engaging until it is safe for students and audiences to gather again in person. The company is providing audiences with a steady stream of content on our social media channels by creating original work, as well as curating content from sources like other local Baltimore cultural organizations and businesses and Shakespeare organizations from around the world, to hopefully introduce our audience to other platforms and activities that will engage and excite them while we wait to resume our cultural life together.
One of the founding goals of the organization was producing “Shakespeare that’s not stuffy,” and we have fully leaned in to that idea by turning content creation over to artists, from within and outside our community, starting with our two new video series: “Sequestered Shakespeare” and “Past is Prologue.” “Sequestered Shakespeare” features a host of CSC resident artists, company members, teaching artists, staff, students, and even pets presenting Shakespeare’s monologues, sonnets, songs, scenes, and more from their homes and neighborhoods, all via video.
And in “Past is Prologue,” CSC Founding Artistic Director and President of the Shakespeare Theatre Association Ian Gallanar has invited some of the world’s leading Shakespeare artists for weekly “fireside chats” to ask: What can we learn from the past to create our future? Together with renowned Shakespeareans like Patrick Spottiswood (Shakespeare’s Globe in London), David Prosser (The Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada), and Debra Ann Byrd (Harlem Shakespeare Festival in New York City), they explore this question and share lessons learned while working with the Bard’s canon and discuss why his plays still capture our imagination.
But CSC’s video engagement isn’t just one-way—the company is transitioning its camps and classes online too! Back in the very early days of quarantine, we moved several key education programs online to test the waters of ongoing engagement. The students in our Home School Corps were the first to dive into online learning to finish working on their spring semester Radio Play project.
Ahead of our highly-anticipated (but unfortunately- postponed) spring production of Hamlet, we moved the popular “Critical Analysis” class online for those who wanted a deep dive into Shakespeare’s masterwork. We offered the class on Zoom for free and registration filled up in under 3 hours!
And in conjunction with the Steven A. Cohen Military Families Clinic at Easterseals, we also successfully moved the spring session of our free creative workshop online for all veterans, active duty, and reserve military and their families and caregivers, and is now offering a summer session through July 29.
Other adult courses being offered online this summer include “Play On!” (a “mini” critical analysis, July 13-Aug. 17), “Speak the Speech” (classical monologue practice, July 14-Aug. 18), and “An Introduction to Shakespeare and His Contemporaries” (July 16-Aug. 20).
CSC is offering programs to keep Youth and Teens engaged with their “Summer at the Studio” camps (2nd through 9th grade) and CSCorps and High School Ensemble program (7th through 12th grade).
Summer at the Studio sessions will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 22-Aug. 28. Each hour of the day will focus on a different activity to engage students such as arts & crafts, scene study, scene/film review, interactive games, theatrical warm-ups, movement, music, and much, much more! CSC Teaching Artists will lead these age-appropriate activities—in both group and age-based breakout sessions—in a non-competitive, virtual environment.
CSCorps and High School Ensemble sessions will be July 6-Aug. 14. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s High School Ensemble and High School Corps programs will join forces online this summer. Students practice performance, textual analysis, language, history, and ensemble building as they rehearse and perform in our virtual “rehearsal room.”
While CSC is excited to swim in these new virtual waters, the company can’t wait to return to its beautiful Downtown theater and is dedicated to performing for Baltimore again. And if numbers tell a story, the audiences can’t wait either and are as hopeful and optimistic as the rest of us that the arts will come roaring back. Though CSC had to cancel the last 3 shows of its 2019-2020 Season, only 6% of ticketholders asked for a refund for cancelled shows. The rest kept their money with the theater for future use, and of those 28% generously donated the full value of their tickets back to CSC to help support the company and its artists during this pandemic. Now that’s dedication!
Anna Mills Russell
Director of Marketing & Communications
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company