Backstage at Center Stage

Connecting With Community

September 25, 2013

Dear Reader,

Center Stage, Maryland’s largest regional theater, will soon be in the national spotlight thanks to an hour-long documentary on PBS.

The documentary, called A Raisin in the Sun Revisited: ‘The Raisin Cycle’ at Center Stage, will air in late October as part of PBS’ Fall Arts Festival.

Under the leadership of playwright, actor, and director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, (Artistic Director) and national arts leader Stephen Richard (Managing Director), Center Stage has gained critical acclaim for The Raisin Cycle, a two-play series inspired by the 1959 classic, A Raisin In the Sun, that illustrates very different views on race relations in America.

The 60-minute documentary on PBS showcases excerpts from film and television productions of A Raisin in the Sun, newsreel footage, and a fascinating behind-the scenes look at ‘The Raisin Cycle,’ which was performed at Center Stage in the summer of 2013.  You can click here to watch a preview.

About ‘The Raisin Cycle’

Jessica Frances Dukes and Kim James Bay
Jessica Frances Dukes and Kim James Bay in Beneatha’s Place, Courtesy Center Stage

Written in 1959 by Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun details race relations in 1950s America – what happens, in particular, when the Youngers, an African American family, try to move into a white neighborhood of Chicago’s Clybourne Park.

In 2010, Texas playwright Bruce Norris wrote Clybourne Park in response to A Raisin in the Sun. The play, a comedy, describes what happens in the 50 years since the Youngers moved in. The gentrifying neighborhood is now African American, and a white couple wants to live there.

A very different angle of the story is explored in the third play of the installment, Beneatha’s Place, written in 2013 by Center Stage’s Kwame Kwei-Armah. Itexplores identity, leadership, and legacy through the eyes of Beneatha Younger, from her home in Nigeria to her career at a California university.

“Our production of ‘The Raisin Cycle’ is starting a dialogue that America seems to want to listen to,” Kwei-Armah tells The Baltimore Sun, “I don’t see it as a duel. It’s more of a conversation.”

Center Stage’s Community Focus

press photos

Now in its 51st year, Center Stage is an artistically driven institution committed to engaging, entertaining, and enriching audiences. Its mission is to explore how art and entertainment communicate in the 21st century, and its interpretation of new and classic works are meant to ignite conversations.

“When I first came to Center Stage, one of my goals was to expand the role of this theatre in civic discussions, not just locally but nationally,” Kwei-Armah says. “’A Raisin in the Sun Revisited’ is the perfect opportunity to both explore the social impact of great art and to contribute to the ongoing dialogue around race and class in our nation.”

‘A Raisin in the Sun Revisited: ‘The Raisin Cycle’ at Center Stage” will air as part of PBS’ Fall Arts Festival on Friday, October 25 at 9 pm. It’s expected to reach more than 20 million viewers!

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Center Stage

Backstage @ Center Stage

Not only can you watch Center Stage on national TV; if you’ve ever dreamed of a behind-the-scenes tour of this acclaimed theater company, you’ll want to check out Backstage @ Center Stage, happening this Saturday, September 28th.

From 10 am-2 pm, Center Stage is opening its doors to families of all ages to experience everything it has to offer. From tours to workshops, demonstrations, and performances from local theater groups, the building will be bustling with fun.

Backstage @ Center Stage

“Everyone at Center Stage comes together to make this day possible. It’s such a fun way to experience all the wonderful work and talent that goes into making theater,” says Marketing Manager Madeline Long.

On the behind-the-curtains-tour, you can take part in a demonstration from the Scene Shop (we hear it involves a rubber chicken), and see the beautiful fabrics that become dresses in the Costumes Department.

“Baltimore area theater groups be on hand to tell visitors about their upcoming programming,” says Kristina Szilagyi, Community Program and Education Fellow, “We’re really bringing the community together.”

Other fun things for the family to enjoy include face painting by scenic artists, and a special chance to take part in a light and sound demonstration for Center Stage’s current production of the Groucho Marx play, Animal Crackers.

“We’ll demonstrate the light and sound effects just as a stage manager would call them during a play,” Kristina continues, “‘Light Cue 51 Standby; Light Cue 51 Go… It’s really a lot of fun!”

At 1:30 pm, Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah will lead a special, live rehearsal of Center Stage’s upcoming production of Dance of the Holy Ghosts, which will open on October 9th.  A few, very lucky visitors will get an up close look at the actors and set designers in action.

Unlike watching TV and the movies, live theater is a positively magical experience. Anything can happen, and the audience literally adds to the chemistry of the performances.

For the complete schedule of Backstage @ Center Stage’s activities, click here. And for a list of Center Stage’s 2013-2014 season, click here.

Center Stage is located at 700 N. Calvert Street in Baltimore. Phone 410-332-0033.

And now, for a few more things to do in Mount Vernon this month…

Mount Vernon’s First-Ever Food Truck Gathering!

Image Courtesy The Gathering

Mount Vernon, Baltimore, is known as a neighborhood of firsts: it’s home to the country’s first free public library (The Enoch Pratt Central Library), the world’s first monument to George Washington (you know the one), and America’s first cathedral (The Baltimore Basilica).

Now here’s another Mount Vernon first for the record books: On Thursday, September 26 from 5:00-10:00 PM, The Gathering will host its first-ever Food Truck night in Mount Vernon — and they’re doing it right here at The Maryland Historical Society!

gathering FB
Image Courtesy The Gathering

If you haven’t heard of The Gathering, you may have seen food trucks before on the Food Network on TV. These mobile food vendors come fully equipped to whip up your favorite barbecue, Mediterranean, sushi and dessert treats. It’s quite an amazing sight.

In addition to the great food, we’ll feature live music from DJ Ro and free admission to a selection of MdHS galleries. Sounds like the perfect fall evening!

Admission to the food truck gathering is completely free, and you can skip the lines and purchase your unlimited drink wristband right here.

The Maryland Historical Society is located at 201 W Monument Street in Baltimore. Phone 410-685-3750. Website:

Meet King Peggy at the Baltimore Book Festival!

Maryland Humanities Council
Image Courtesy Maryland Humanities Council

The Maryland Humanities Council’s One Maryland One Book author will be speaking at the Baltimore Book Festival! Meet King Peggy in the Literary Salon on Saturday, September 28 at 1 pm.

Peggielene Bartels— “King Peggy” — was born in Ghana in 1953 and moved to Washington, D.C. in her mid-twenties to work at Ghana’s embassy. She became an American citizen in 1997. In 2008, she was chosen to be king of Otuam, a Ghanaian village of seven thousand souls on the west coast of Africa. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, still works at the embassy, and spends several weeks each year in Ghana.

For a complete list of events and exhibitions at The Maryland Humanities Council, visit

The Maryland Humanities Council is located at 108 W Centre St in Baltimore. Phone: 410-685-0095.

Upcoming Book Discussions at the Enoch Pratt Central Library:

Enoch Pratt
Image Courtesy Enoch Pratt Library

On Wednesday, October 2 at 6:30 pm, David Nasaw talks about his book, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy. Joseph Patrick Kennedy, patriarch of America’s greatest political dynasty, is widely remembered as an indomitable, elusive, fatally flawed figure.

In The Patriarch, historian David Nasaw reveals a man far more complicated than the popular portrait. Drawing on never-before-published materials from archives on three continents, Nasaw examines those parts of Joseph Kennedy’s life that have long been shrouded in rumor and prejudice. Trained as a banker, Kennedy was also a Hollywood mogul, a stock exchange wizard, a shipyard manager, the founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and ambassador to London during the Battle of Britain.

A loving and attentive father, he raised his nine children to devote their lives to service and to be as confident and stubborn as he was.

For a complete list of events and exhibitions at The Enoch Pratt Free Library, visit

The Enoch Pratt Free Library is located at 400 Cathedral Street in Baltimore. Phone: 410-396-5430.

A New Exhibition At The Walters Art Museum

Image Courtesy Walters Art Museum

Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum, opens on Sunday, October 6!

The Book of the Faiyum is an exquisitely illustrated ancient Egyptian papyrus. Major sections of the manuscript—reunited for the first time in 150 years—are displayed alongside Egyptian statues, reliefs, jewelry, and ritual objects to illuminate the religious context that gave rise to the enigmatic tale of Sobek, the crocodile god who brings sun to the Faiyum.

For a complete list of events and exhibitions at The Walters, visit

The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 N. Charles Street. Phone: 410-547-9000.

Fall Concerts at Peabody

Image Courtesy Peabody

The Peabody Conservatory stages nearly 100 major concerts and performances each year, ranging from classical to contemporary to jazz, many of them free—a testament to the vision of George Peabody.

This month includes:

  • The Peabody Symphony Orchestra play Zhangyi’s Rain Tree (Macht Orchestral Composition Competition Winning Work), Glazunov: Saxophone Concerto in E-flat major, Op. 109, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. on Saturday, September 28 from 8 pm-10 pm
  • The Peabody Wind Ensemble performs as part of “Free Fall Baltimore” on Wednesday, October 9 from 7:30 pm-9:30 pm

For a full calendar of events, visit

The Peabody Institute is located at 1 E Mt Vernon Place in Baltimore. Phone: 410-234-4800.

Mount Vernon Trivia


Correctly answer this month’s trivia question, and you could win a prize!

Question:  What is George Washington doing on top of the Washington Monument?

(Hint: He’s not just ‘standing’ there; what milestone is the statue is celebrating?)

Email us your answer, and best of luck!

One Final Note

I hope you like our new look!

We have created this monthly, e-newsletter as part of the new Mount Vernon Cultural District.

Founded in 1996, the Mount Vernon Cultural District showcases world-class attractions and serves to promote the unique charm of our beautiful Mount Vernon neighborhood.

Our new eletter is written in partnership with all of our Mount Vernon arts and cultural organizations. Each month, we will highlight one of our member institutions as well as detail a few of the many great happenings within our neighborhood.

Our new website can be found at

Let us know what you think; we’d be delighted to hear from you.

It is our hope that you will take part in all that we have to offer!

Until next month,


Laura Rodini
Executive Director, The Mount Vernon Cultural District

Our Mission

Welcome to the official website of the Mount Vernon Cultural District! We are a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to support and promote the cultural institutions in the Mount Vernon Neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland.