Baltimore Print Studios continues to thrive in a burgeoning Station North

 

This year,  (BPS) is celebrating five years of business. A public-access printing studio, BPS is located at 18 W. North Ave in Station North. The husband and wife co-founders, Kyle Von Horn and Kim Bentley, run all parts of the business, including hosting workshops and studio hours, and working on private design commissions.

BPS works with two types of printing: screen printing and letterpress. Screen printing is a process that uses silk screens to create all sorts of striking images. Letterpress uses older machines and handset type to create beautiful typographic items – from chapbooks to stationary to posters. Both require expertise, but more importantly: they require equipment. Letterpress equipment is especially difficult to come by, since the machines are all older, and many are rare or expensive. The two Vandercook SP 20s, for example, are huge machines, and not items most people would be able to fit in their house.

The price and cumbersomeness of the equipment is a large part of why Von Horn and Bentley founded BPS. The model – which was meant to provide a space where people could learn and practice printing without purchasing expensive equipment – drew inspiration from other cities, which offered spaces for printing artists to produce their craft.

Having worked the printmaking program at MICA for a number of years, Von Horn had seen first hand how often graduates of the printing program were in dire need of space.

“They didn’t have access to the equipment, and some of this stuff is hard to find, or hard to maintain, or expensive,” he said. “We thought we could create a space that would be a resource for the design community.”

The pair looked for potential spaces throughout the city. When Baltimore Print Studios opened its doors back in 2010, Station North had already begun to live up to its designation as an Arts and Entertainment District. Things were changing quickly in the neighborhood, and Von Horn and Bentley felt that North Avenue was an ideal location for an art related space.

Since BPS opened its doors five years ago, many other businesses have followed suit. Red Emma’s moved into an expansive space on the corner of Maryland Avenue, and just this past year, Hopkins and MICA opened the new film space in the Center Theater. Meanwhile, the Parkway theater is being renovated to become a multi-use arts, film and office space. These are only a few examples of the change happening throughout the neighborhood.

Throughout all this change, BPS continues to run a threefold purpose of studio hours, commissions and workshop. The studio hours are available to those who are either experienced in printing, or have attended the appropriate introductory workshops. The rental fees are generally $15 per hour. Van Horn and Bentley also work with private individuals who might commission a variety of printed items – such as wedding invitations or business cards – and sell their own work as well.

Workshops are going to be of the most interest to readers who haven’t worked on this type of printing before. Offered on a monthly basis, workshops are limited to small groups of six to nine, ensuring that every student receives the help he or she needs. The introduction courses – in screen printing and letterpress – are offered on a monthly basis, with other seasonal or featured workshops occurring as well. This month, for example, is the ever-popular holiday card workshop, where participants make their own set of cards.

“We provide typical holiday phrases – ‘happy’, ‘merry’, ‘something’, ‘whiskey’,” explains Von Horn.

At the end, everyone leaves with a set of their own cards. Though the holiday workshop is full, there are still openings in the Valentines workshop that will happen in February.

“These include skills like bookmaking or textile printing,” explained Bentley. “Basically, these are things we’re not expert at, but we do have the facilities and the knowledge to help co-teach the workshops.”

Generally, the workshops cost 150 dollars, and run most of the day, from 10 am to 4 pm. Lately, they have also been working with a number of visiting artists and designers as well. Both the regular and the one-time workshops fill up very quickly – when I checked the website, every listed workshop was full – but interested parties can sign up for BPS’s mailing list to receive notification of sign-ups.

In addition to running BPS, both Von Horn and Bentley work other jobs. When I ask them about their work life balance, they look at each other and smile weakly. At this point, they are at the end of their BPS work week. Tomorrow, they will go into work for their other jobs. This is their week every week.

“A lot of the shop stuff happens at the end of the week,” said Bentley. “And the beginning of the week is for other work. And then evenings, that’s the time we have to talk about the shop.”

Though it seems like this leaves little time for leisure, it is clear from how they talk about their work, and their willingness to devote so much of their time to the space, that BPS is a labor of love, built as much on passion as it is on dedication and business skills.

All through the interview, their little dog sat under their desk, watching passersby walk down North Avenue and occasionally letting out a warning bark or two. I could see why she was so interested, and why she probably loves coming to work with them. There was, as usual, a lot of foot traffic on North Avenue: a mixture of MICA students, people making bus connections and locals just enjoying their neighborhood, a neighborhood that Baltimore Print Studios has helped to shape.

To learn more about Baltimore Print Studios, see upcoming workshops and sign up for the mailing list, visit: http://baltimoreprintstudios.com/

 

All photos courtesy of Jessica Kim

Center Stage’s “X’s and O’s” tackles the controversies of football

By: Mia White, Staff Writer

To many Americans, football season is a yearly ritual filled with a mixture of elation and excitement. To others, it is a mystifying, or even brutal, obsession. Center Stage’s “X’s and O’s explores the game through combination of fiction and interviews, creating an experience that will appeal to an audience that extends beyond football fanatics to the casual, or even sports disinterested, theater-goer.

The idea for the play was born just a few days after former football player Junior Seau committed suicide in 2012. Playwright KJ Sanchez and co-creator Jenny Mercein (daughter of an NFL running back) met at a party and realized they both loved football. Hoping to examine the controversies of the sport on stage, they soon received a co-commission from Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Center Stage to make their idea come to life.

This play is unusual, in that draws from interviews and also presents fictional narratives.  The play presents commentary through monologues or conversations that characters have with one another. The beauty of the play lies in its variety. It brings stories together in a way that is incredibly thought-provoking. Rather than arguing for or against football, “X’s and O’s” leaves the viewer feeling more knowledgeable, but no less sure of what the future of the game should be. The script flows seamlessly from one idea to the next, and there is a great balance of humor, tragedy and statistics.

The play explores many ideas surrounding the game, including it’s history and the passion that it draws from its fans. The central controversy is that of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). A condition caused by repetitive impacts of the brain, CTE presents symptoms similar to those of dementia, including erratic behavior and memory loss. The play also touches on race and socio-economic background, the connection of football to the American dream, and football as a means of escape from a life of poverty.

The acting in the play was on point throughout. Since the play included many different perspectives, there were far more characters than the six actors in the show. There were voices of retired players, doctors who study donated brains from deceased players, and diehard fans. It was impressive how the actors often changed roles in an instant, simply by pulling a jersey over their head, carrying themselves in a distinct way, or changing their patterns of speech. Occasionally it felt a little disorienting to have so many characters, but the actors did an excellent job of creating individuality.

One particularly powerful scene occurs at the end of the play, when three family members of CTE affected players tell their stories. Like the rest of the play, this scene is, powerful by cumulative effect. The distinct stories would be heartbreaking on their own, but the impeccable acting of Eddie Ray Jackson, Miralee Talkington, and Jenny Mercein, merges with the script to reveal the overlap between the stories, and lifts them into the sphere of tragedy.

Ultimately, the play was enjoyable. It touches on thought provoking ideas of football which are a key part of American culture. There is no doubt that any viewer would appreciate the excellent acting and informative script, and will go home with a richer understanding of the game.

Pictured (left to right): Anthony Holidays, Eddie Ray Jackson. Photo credit: Richard Anderson

“The Secret Garden” blooms at Center Stage

The Secret Garden.

Center Stage’s production of “The Secret Garden” is an emotional and energetic production bursting with talented actors who bring the script to life. Most viewers are familiar with the children’s book published by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1910, and adapted many times to stage and screen. Center Stage’s production is a musical, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon (sister of Carly Simon).

The story follows a girl, Mary Lennox, who is orphaned by a cholera epidemic and must travel from India to the wilds of the English countryside. There she lives with her uncle, Archibald Craven, who is still in the throes of grief from the death of his wife some tens year prior. Mary discovers a secret garden that once belonged to her aunt but has since been forgotten, and with the help of her newfound friends she brings back life to the garden and the Craven household. Ultimately, it is a story about how love and bravery overcome in the face of overwhelming grief and trauma.

One of the greatest strengths of the show is an ensemble of actors who consistently work to build their characters through solid acting and polished singing. Given that all the actors in the show had extensive musical experience, it is unsurprising that the singing was very consistent throughout the show. This production brings in a cast that is almost entirely new to Center Stage, and all actors stepped confidently into their roles. The children in the show were impressive, with Mary (Caitlin Cohn) and Dickon (Cameron Bartell) being especially captivating. Cohn embodied the Mary from the book, building a petulant, wild but incredibly compelling protagonist for the show. Bartell, though his stage presence was minimal, created a sense of Dickon’s playful wisdom in his interactions with other characters.

The only minor weakness in the show came not from the production, but from the script. Though the two women who adapted it are clearly immensely talented, the focus of the script was purposely shifted to the interpersonal journeys of the adults to create a broader appeal. While the development of the characters was effective, it took away from time that might have been spent with the immensely talented younger cast members, building the children’s characters and increasing the impact of the story’s conclusion. Still, Mary firmly holds her place as the protagonist, and it is her fiery and “quite contrary” personality that drives the progression of the plot.

The set for the show is simple but effective, using the torn pages of a book as a color changing backdrop, and a rising and falling platform in the middle of the stage as a multi-use prop. Small trees or pieces of furniture were occasionally brought on stage, but it was the ghostly presence of actors that created a scene. A surprising amount of the show is set inside, and so it was a slight disappointment not to see more flora. Nonetheless, the set effectively creates changes in atmosphere and space to enhance the events taking place on stage.

The choreography for the show helped to build the characters’ development, effectively revealing their varied personalities and states of mind. It also created a strong sense of setting. The simplicity of the set meant that between scenes, there were only minor changes that occurred. One particularly effective example of choreography occurred during Mary’s nighttime wanderings of the house, when the presence of many adult cast members standing in picture frames created a feeling of the expansive loneliness of the house.

Overall, Center Stage’s performance of “The Secret Garden” is a wonderful production of a timeless story. The ghostly presence of dead characters and the vibrancy of those still living built a strong sense of tension throughout. It is worth seeing, especially if you are a fan of the book. The show runs on the Main Stage through November 29. Tickets are available on Center Stage’s website https://tix.centerstage.org or at their box office.

Spotlight on Center Stage’s 2015-16 season 5 

The fall always brings excitement to Baltimore’s theater scene, as local venues begin their new seasons and announce the shows to come. This season, Center Stage has a diverse range of literary and contemporary shows. Whether you’re a sports per- son, a Shakespeare buff or an Austenite, Center Stage has a show to appeal to your interests.

“Pride & Prejudice” (September 11 – October 11)

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The first show of the season is a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice.” Most of you have probably seen at least one adaptation of the classic romance between the fiery Elizabeth Bennett and the aloof William Darcy. Maybe you read, or at least studied, the original text in high school.

Christopher Baker wrote this stage version, trimming characters and subplots where necessary, and adding a contemporary soundtrack that echoes Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” In an article published in the Baltimore Sun, director Hana S. Sharif maintained that despite some changes, the adaptation keeps Austen’s “voice” and comedy. It’s no surprise that tickets for this show are going quickly, so act fast if you want to catch it before the run ends on October 11.

 “The Secret Garden” (October 30 – November 29)

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“The Secret Garden,” another literary show, follows “Pride & Prejudice.” This show is a Tony-nominated musical adaptation by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon. It follows the story of Mary, an orphaned girl who moves from India to England, where she lives with a distant and grieving uncle. Eventually – no spoilers here – she discovers a locked and secret walled garden to escape from her desolate daily life. Given the absence of parents in this classic story, it is bound to be a sad show. Nonetheless, it’s worth checking out, especially if you enjoyed the book or movie as a child.

“X’s and O’s” (November 13 – December 20)

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The season makes a big shift with its next show, “X’s and O’s,” which is a moral exploration of the sport of football. A joint commission with Berkeley Repertory Theater, the show is built around interviews with real players, families and fans. It challenges the viewer to consider the increasingly pressing questions regarding the dangers of the sport, but not without acknowledging the power of the game. Whether you are a sports fan who rarely attends theater, or a theatergoer who couldn’t care less about football, why not see how this show can change the way you think about theater and sports?

“As You Like It” (January 15 – February 14)

After a thoroughly modern show, Center Stage will return to the most classic of theater: Shakespeare. “As You Like It” follows Rosalind and Orlando through banishment, mistaken identity and romance all in the pastoral surroundings of the forest of Arden. It includes lots of witty rapport as well as the famous “All the world’s a stage” speech. This production of the traditional comedy, however,takes a new route away from the typical Shakespearean male casting to an all-female cast. Get your tickets to see how the gender dynamics transform the impact of this classic work.

“Detroit ’67” (April 8 – May 8)

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The final production of the season will be performed at the Mainstage Theater at Towson University. In 1967, a brother and sister host parties in their basement following the death of their parents. With the backdrop of Motown music, and the increasing social tension of the late sixties, this play explores the highly relevant subjects humanity, race and family, making it a strong finish to the 2015- 16 season.

And all at fairly affordable prices. Though you may think that professional theater is outside your measly student budget, remember that Center Stage works hard to make their productions accessible. This means that you can attend big, professional productions at relatively affordable prices. Catching the cheapest tickets can be tricky, so consider joining their mailing list so you are notified when tickets go on sale. If you are in the 18-34 age bracket, look into the GoPass, which offers tickets to all five shows in a season for an incredibly low rate of $49.

Keep an eye out in future issues of The Post for reviews of Center Stage productions.

Find out more about tickets on

www.centerstage.com/tickets.

Photos courtesy of  Dean Alexander

Spotlight to work with local Stillpointe company for production of “Assassins”

This fall, the University of Baltimore’s Spotlight will join the local company, Stillpointe Theatre, to produce Steven Sondheim’s musical “Assassins.” Plans of staging a musical have been in the works since last spring 2014 when then Dean Laura Bryan suggested it to Spotlight’s Kimberly Lynne.

The decision to work with Stillpointe, however, was almost instantaneous. It turns out that Ryan Hasse, the artistic director of the musical, Batboy, has been working with Lynne for years.

Bringing in a company with experience producing several musicals means added expertise and vision. Stillpointe was founded five years
ago by Towson University alumnus Ryan Haase, and alumnae Amanda Rife, and Danielle Robinette. Since then, the company has remained small but added another six members: Zoe Kanter, Corey Hennessey, Jon Kevin Lazarus, Ben Shaver, Stacey Antoine, and Nolan Cartwright. They continue to put on classic, current, and original plays in a variety of spaces throughout Baltimore with the goal of pushing boundaries through diverse performances.

“We strive to provide groundbreaking, thought-provoking, wild art to our local community in the hopes of making our corner of the world a little brighter, bolder, and weirder,” explains Zoe Kanter, the marketing director for Stillpointe.

In her Spotlight office, Lynne explained how the collaboration between Spotlight and UB was formed. She spoke about April’s events, the pulling of the red line, and a summer of homicides. This conversation was, in many ways, a reflection of the goals that Lynne and Haase share for the upcoming production of “Assassins.” After the dean proposed that Lynne stage a musical, she thought immediately of Haase. He had worked as a set designer for UB productions and produced two of Lynne’s plays. And, of course, Stillpointe brings years of musical production experience. Ul- timately, it was a mutual interest in staging thought-provoking, relevant musicals that made it a no brainer for Stillpointe to agree to work with Spotlight.

“UB is committed to helping bring cultural and social diversity to the community in several ways,” explains Kanter. “Their theatrical productions are no different. We jumped at the offer.”

The decision to choose a particular show, however, was months in the making. This, Lynne explains, is fairly normal in theatre world.

Initially, Lynne and Haase had settled on a production of Sunday at the Park with George, a mutual favorite about the artistic process. It fit well into the curriculum, a goal that Lynne always strives to meet when she chooses Spotlight productions.

“Then April happened,” says Lynne. At that point, both Haase and Lynne agreed that whatever the musical, it needed to be relevant to Baltimore.

At first, it seemed right to go with the theme of revolution. They chose the quintessential revolution musical, “Les Miserables.” Then, in early August, there was another hitch – this time with the rights to the show and they were back at square one. “Meanwhile the situation changed in Baltimore and it started feeling at least to me less about revolution and more about guns,” says Lynne.

That’s when Haase came up with the idea of “Assassins,” the Sondheim musical that stages nine presidential shooters in a carnival setting. Lynne was thrilled. The play was relevant in Baltimore, and beyond it as well.

And, as always, Lynne is working to encourage discussion of the issues touched on during the piece. During the matinee performances, for instance, the Hoffberger Center will provide a guided discussion on gun control following each performance. The gallery space outside the theater, Lynne hopes, will display artwork or photography drawing from Baltimore’s recent events.

Stillpointe’s Kanter expresses that there is growing excitement over the coming collaboration.

“We are a company built on the merging of ideas, and collaboration is at the heart of all we do,” she says. “This venture with UB is the next logical step for us, giving us a chance to bring our aesthetic and ideals to a brand new audience with Assassins.”

Lynne’s knowledge of theatre in the context of the Baltimore City community is exactly what makes Spotlight so exciting and it is also the reason that Stillpointe agreed to jump in with their expertise and enthusiasm. UB’s coproduction with Stillpointe continues to create theater that joins and encourages important social and political conversations.

BMA to open expanded African and Asian galleries

On April 26, the Baltimore Museum of Art will open their dramatically renovated African and Asian galleries. The first-floor galleries will greatly expand the space that previously housed the artworks. Alongside the re-opening of the galleries, there will be events to celebrate the newly unveiled gallery space.

The project follows the celebration of the BMA’s 100th year, which culminated in the unveiling of the Merrick Historic Entrance and Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing in Nov. 2014. It is yet another part of the $28 million renovation that began with the opening of the contemporary wing in 2012.

Both the Asian and African galleries will offer visitors a more representative environment for the pieces. The state-of the-art lighting and additional space will allow for an enhanced experience and understanding of the artworks.

‘Gbekre’ monkey figure by the Baule People of Cote d’Ivoire. Photo courtesy of Ann Porteus, under a Creative Commons License
‘Gbekre’ monkey figure by the Baule People of Cote d’Ivoire.
Photo courtesy of Ann Porteus, under a Creative Commons License

The Alan and Janet Wurtzburger African Art Gallery triples the museum’s gallery space for African art. Higher ceilings and more options for display in the round means viewers will see the artwork in new and exciting lights.

The Wurtzburger Art Gallery was curated by former BMA Associate Curator for African Art Kathryn Wysocki Gunsch, who explained in the museum’s press release the importance of the changes in the gallery space.

“The BMA’s new galleries for African art demystify the works in this renowned collection by emphasizing the relationships between objects and the lives of the people by, and for whom, the objects were made,” Gunsch said. “We look forward to sharing this collection in a way that supports fresh connections to these incredible artworks and to the social, political, and cultural history of the continent more broadly.”

The Julius Levy Memorial and Newly Renovated Gallery of Asian Art is twice as large as the previous space. The opening exhibit will focus on China—displaying examples of paintings, furniture, ceramics and more from the 2nd century BCE through modern day. In the same press release, BMA Associate Curator of Asian Art Frances Klapthor expressed her excitement to see more of the collection on display.

“The two new galleries […] provide us with the opportunity to better showcase the beauty and strengths of this collection,” Klapthor said. “This reinstallation wonderfully expands the aesthetic scope of the museum’s presentation of Asian art.”

Beyond the galleries themselves, the BMA will celebrate by hosting two separate day-long events of African and Asian cultures. On April 26, the day when both galleries will be opened to the public, there will be African music, artist demonstrations, storytelling and hands-on mask making. The performers will include Elikeh and Amadou Kouyate, who blend traditional songs and Togolese rhythms with blues and jazz riffs. The Asian celebration on June 28 will feature musicians, calligraphy demonstrations, origami, and a manga drawing activity.

After a series of impressive renovations, it will be wonderful to have more of the museum’s many galleries accessible again. Whether or not visitors come for the cultural celebrations, the new Asian and African spaces are bound to bring new perspectives on the BMA’s impressive collection.