Center Stage (theater)
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Center Stage houses two performing spaces, the 541-seat Pearlstone and the smaller Head Theater, both in its home in the Mount Vernon Cultural District of Baltimore.
Launched in 1963 by a group of local theater supporters, Center Stage soon became a leader in America's regional theater movement, with the goal of producing first-rate professional theater for local audiences, along with theaters like The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Arena Stage in Washington, and Alley Theatre in Houston. In 1974, an arson fire burned its North Avenue home to the ground. With the help of local civic leaders, the theater continued its season at a local college, and used the disaster to launch a major public relations and capital campaign to keep the organization alive. The theater ultimately moved into a new space carved out of an abandoned Jesuit college. Since that time, it has become Baltimore's leading professional theater, hosting more than 100,000 people each season to its home in Mount Vernon.
In 2011, British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah succeeded Irene Lewis as artistic director of Center Stage. Center Stage audiences became familiar with him in 2005 when Kwei-Armah’s most recognized work Elmina’s Kitchen held its American premiere at Center Stage. The play had previously debuted at the National Theatre in London in 2003, making Kwei-Armah the first Black Briton to have a play produced on the West End. Under the direction of Kwei-Armah, Center Stage has transitioned from a six play to a seven play season that includes a mix of comedy, drama, and musicals.
Main stage performances occur in either the 541-seat Pearlstone Theater or the smaller, flexible-layout Head Theater. The Play Lab series features new work from emerging and established artists. Third Spaces brings theater to unexpected stages, such as the 2013 production of The Container, which placed a small audience inside a shipping container, and Fourth Spaces explores the relationship between technology and artistry, using the Center Stage interactive media wall to connect audiences and theater artists.