Meet the Neighbors: Columbia Festival of the Arts

A journal such as ours requires a vibrant literary and artistic environment to thrive—and even survive. In appreciation of the various cultural entities around us, we present “Meet the Neighbors,” a series where we provide you with personal introductions to a diverse assortment.

I met the people who put on the Columbia Festival of the Arts over champagne, a good way to start any relationship. We were at the launch of the LPR Audacity issue, the first time that the summer iteration of our biannual event was formally part of the Festival.

MOMIX's Botanica

MOMIX’s Botanica, performed at the 2012 Columbia Festival of the Arts. (Photo: Max Pucciariello)

I then attended an intimate reading by award-winning writer Edith Pearlman, hosted by HoCoPoLitSo and part of the Festival. I was there not only because I admired Pearlman’s short fiction but also because she was featured in our Audacity issue. My final Festival events were to be more pleasure than [literary] business: the performance of Botanica by MOMIX, a company of dancer-illusionists, and a reception celebrating the Festival’s 25th anniversary, where I assumed that more champagne would be consumed.

But the derecho intervened. I was trapped in my historic house, built into the side of a hill on a steep bank overlooking the Patapsco River. No power, no phone or computer connectivity and trees down everywhere. So I sipped bottled water instead of champagne. But a mere seven miles away, Botanica went off without a hitch, as did the reception.

Recalling that, I was determined to give the Festival its due by placing it first in the series of articles that will appear here in preparation for the June 22 launch of the LPR Music issue. And I asked Nichole Hickey, Executive Director and CEO, for the inside scoop.

Here’s how she responded:

When asked to give a first-hand perspective of the Festival, I wasn’t sure where to begin or how to summarize both the Festival and my experience with it. Especially not at this time of the year, just weeks away from the 2013 season and days away from our annual gala, which this year featured Paula Poundstone. But I couldn’t let this article pass. After all, it is a perfect fit for LPR readers: you are our audience.

There are so many people who contribute to the production of Howard County’s premiere arts festival each year. We are fortunate to have a talented, capable, hard-working staff, people who year in and year out help make the season the unofficial start to summer in our area. I am also lucky to work with a supportive Board of Trustees as well as the 200 volunteers who offer their time and support annually. And then there are the sponsors and donors who step up each year, providing financial and in-kind resources. There could not be a Festival without all of them.

I am in my 11th year working with the Festival. What began in 2002 as a part-time role as deputy director has turned into a full-time, year-round, 24/7 job. I start with a blank slate each year, conferring with my team on what to present over 16 days in June. Our goal is to offer a varied, well-balanced lineup of non-stop events from the international, national, regional and local scenes that serves to celebrate our own community. Budget, performer availability and a host of other factors help to define each season. It’s a great deal of work, but we have a lot of fun along the way, as well.

The desire to produce an arts event of this magnitude isn’t what brought me to the Festival. My husband, Michael Hickey, was a founder of the Festival in 1987, and we have remained supporters ever since. When the Festival needed someone to help re-staff the organization in 2002, they tapped into my human resources background. Before I knew it, I had stepped into the role of deputy director. Late 2004, the Board convinced me to take on the role of executive director when it again became vacant.

I was tenuous during my initial year, being a visual artist who was suddenly running an organization focused on performance arts. Certainly, one of my first priorities was to identify ways to enhance visual arts programming. I succeeded in doing this, but there is plenty of room for improvement. During my tenure, film was also added as a regular feature and more emphasis was placed on literary offerings. This year, attendees will be able to enjoy the unique pairing of poet Patricia Smith and the Sage String Quartet playing a Wynton Marsalis composition. Programming that melds artistic disciplines is something that I try to bring to the Festival each year.

My job is not without challenges. Budgets are tighter, fundraising is more difficult and staff reductions have occurred. These are universal issues, particularly in the arts and for nonprofit organizations. Also universal is question of audience development: how to best secure the next generation of devotees. Faced with the challenges of the past decade, economic and otherwise, we need to work harder than ever to arrive at the correct formula for making our Festival a regularly recurring success.

Each year, we seek a mix of recognizable names and eclectic acts that we hope will appeal to the widest possible audience. This season’s weekend headliners—Rhythmic Circus, Reduced Shakespeare Company, Pilobolus and Preservation Hall Jazz Band—offer a balanced array of high-energy performances. Additions such as award-winning Sundance movie shorts, the return of Baltimore’s Stoop Storytelling, the zany family-friendly AudioBody, a theatrical hair and makeup competition and the Patricia Smith event add the sort of flavor to the Festival that attendees have come to expect.

When asked about my favorite acts over the years, it’s tough to respond. Blood, Sweat & Tears, America and The Neville Brothers were personal indulgences and, fortunately, the performances were well-attended. Household names such as Wynton Marsalis, Judy Collins, Ed Asner and Smothers Brothers also come to mind.

Nichole Hickey

Nichole Hickey (Photo: Nicholas Griner)

I love the fact that we can bring these iconic artists and others to perform in the accessible settings of our local theaters, the Smith and the Rouse. They provide a personal experience that doesn’t exist in the larger venues of the Baltimore-Washington corridor. That’s what we strive to offer at the Festival: a personal, interactive experience between artist and audience. What’s the best part of the job for me? When I stand in the lobby after an amazing performance and feel the energy of audience members as they exit the theatre. That makes all the hard work worthwhile.

I can’t say where I will be ten years from now, but I do hope the Columbia Festival of the Arts is still going strong and has engaged a new generation of arts lovers.

I completely concur with Nichole, having experienced what she describes for myself last year. The Edith Pearlman reading, for example, was held at a lovely Columbia venue, the Historic Oakland manor house. Sitting in the last row, I was still close enough to engage her without a microphone. But others had good questions and comments, so I remained silent. One person observed that what Pearlman had read was not quite what appeared on the printed page. Pearlman smiled, saying that she never stopped revising. We smiled in assent, and the whatever distance remained between audience and author disappeared.

That reading also illustrates the kinds of synergies that can occur among neighboring cultural entities. Three organizations came together around Edith Pearlman: Columbia Festival of the Arts, Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (aka HoCoPoLitSo) and Little Patuxent Review. The first two brought Pearlman here, and the latter, through a print-issue interview conducted by Susan Thornton Hobby (who not incidentally sits on both HoCoPoLitSo and LPR boards), to an audience extending beyond county borders.

I now offer “An Interview with Edith Pearlman” online, giving it international reach since approximately 10 percent of our blog readers reside outside the States. Click and enjoy!

Audacious Ideas: Housing Artists

Audacity defines the best and worst within us. It is boldness or daring, accompanied by confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought or other restrictions. It is also effrontery, insolence or shamelessness. The “Audacious Ideas” essay series celebrates this theme, which serves as the basis of our Summer 2012 print issue.

Reginald Gray set design La Boheme

Set design for Act 1 of La bohème, Reginald Gray, 2010

Housing artists in decrepit garrets is all well and good when you’re, say, designing sets for La bohème. But I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing romantic about a place that gives you pneumonia merely because you decide to gain more living space by situating your mattress directly on the freezing floor of what had heretofore been an enclosed second-story porch or where you find your resident rat has gnawed on each of a basketful of root vegetables right before you’re ready to make some sweet potato pie.

I was, therefore, delighted to learn that a local group had not only had the audacity to imagine that artists might be more creative and productive if they had pleasant places to live but also to do whatever it took to implement that vision. “We shamelessly stole the idea from a group called Artspace in Minneapolis,” Charlie Duff, president of Jubilee Baltimore, told Urbanite in 2010 just prior to the opening of City Arts Apartments in Baltimore’s Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

Decidedly intrigued, I contacted Talya Constable, Director of Resource Development at Jubilee Baltimore, to learn more. Here’s what Talya sent me:

Baltimore’s first building designed specifically for artists began with a collaboration between a local foundation, Baltimore Neighborhood Collaborative, and a national nonprofit specializing in artist housing, Artspace. BNC asked Artspace to assess whether Baltimore could support the creation of such a building and, if so, where the building should be located. Artspace determined that the vacant city-owned lot at the corner of Oliver Street and Greenmount Avenue in Station North would be ideal because more than 300 artists already lived or worked within a two-block radius. The downside was that Oliver Street contained several vacant lots, a row of vacant houses and a factory building that had been vacant for more than 25 years.

For years, Station North struggled from disinvestment and an alarming number of vacancies. Prior to the recession, many artists there had lived in two large buildings on Greenmount West, the residential portion of Station North, that were now slated for redevelopment. Knowing that they were at risk of displacement, Jubilee set out to ensure that affordable housing opportunities for artists would be preserved. Jubilee and partners TRF Development Partners Baltimore and Homes for America were selected by Baltimore City through a competitive bid process to develop the vacant lot that had been identified by Artspace as the future site of City Arts Apartments.

The City Arts team was awarded approximately $13.5 million in low-income housing tax credits to develop the building, which contained 69 residential units situated above a ground-floor gallery where residents could display their own work and that of other local artists. It incorporated the findings of a market study where over 700 self-described artists were interviewed and included sustainable design elements such as low-VOC  paints, urea-formaldehyde-free composite woods and Green-Label-certified floor coverings. The result was a building designed with artists in mind that was also healthy and had minimal impact on the surroundings.

City Arts was the first new residential building of any kind to be built in this neighborhood since the 19th Century. Once completed, it was fully leased within four months–seven months ahead of the anticipated leasing schedule–and now has a long waiting list. By creating affordable housing for artists, City Arts strengthened the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and served as a catalyst for additional neighborhood investment such as the following:

      • Adjacent to City Arts, TRF Development Partners recently purchased an entire row of vacant houses and renovated them fully.
      • TRF plans to build eight new row houses next to City Arts, which should be under construction within months and offered for sale by the end of the year.
      • A block from City Arts, a former clothing factory vacant for more than 25 years is now being redeveloped and will be the home of the Baltimore Design School.
      • The Maryland Institute College of Art–MICA–completed the first phase of a $19 million renovation of Studio Center on North Avenue.
      • North Avenue Market owners are about to begin a $1 million restoration of the historic façade that stretches more than 200 feet along North Avenue.
      • The former Chesapeake Restaurant at the gateway to Station North, vacant for more than 20 years, is under construction. By year’s end, it will house two restaurants and a second Milk & Honey market.
      • In February, Jubilee Baltimore purchased the largest vacant building in Station North, 10 E North Avenue, for a multi-tenant arts facility containing artist studios, galleries, theaters and arts-related venues.

All this sounded far better than I’d anticipated, so–just to make sure–I contacted an artist actually living there to get her take. Conveniently, Ashby Foote also happened to be the marketing coordinator at City Arts and had recently completed a piece on what it was like to live there. Here’s some of what she sent me, together with a photo of her in her apartment with her mother Suzie Foote assembling jewelry to sell at a local event:

What artists want is a connection to other dedicated, creative people. When they live in close proximity to each other, a contagious creative energy can grow and multiply. Here, residents represent all fields of creative endeavor. They are producers, performers, play- and screenwriters, poets, dancers, musicians and visual artists.

My role is to build a sense of community, since it is challenging enough to succeed as an individual artist. Buildings and communities like this one bridge the gap between people, allowing individuals to form the connections that open up new opportunities. The opportunities here bring people out of their comfort zones to try something new in a way that may not have occurred outside this unique beehive of creative activity.

Our gallery expands our role beyond merely providing affordable housing for select artists. With storefront windows and high visibility, it invites the public in to experience art and get involved. Initially conceived as an area where residents alone could exhibit their work and perform, residents and managers decided to open it up to anyone from the area once they started working together to establish the gallery.

Baltimore needs places like this because artists help create a strong local economy. One reason why Baltimore is so successful in attracting people is the arts and creative scene. We see many people coming in from surrounding cities because it is possible to lease larger amounts of space here. When artists spend less money on living, they can spend more on producing creative work.

As a former urbanite now living in the burbs, all this made me somewhat envious. Which brought me back to Artspace. Artspace, you see, has a site in suburban Maryland.

In the late 1990s, four DC suburbs–Mount Rainier, Brentwood, North Brentwood and Hyattsville–joined forces to form the Gateway Arts District, revitalizing a two-mile stretch of the historic US 1 Corridor through an infusion of art and artists. The first project, the $11.7 Mount Rainier Artist Lofts, created 44 affordable units in a newly constructed four-story building one block from the DC border. This represented the first Artspace live-work environment established in an entirely new facility.

Residents have the best of both worlds. They enjoy the high ceilings and large windows of historic warehouse lofts while living in a modern, energy-efficient building. Low rents, proximity to public transportation and Mount Rainier’s small-town charm make it even more appealing. So does the ground floor with its 7000 square feet of commercial space.

So perhaps there’s hope out here as well. Perhaps someone will have the audacity to steal City Arts’ idea the same way that Charlie Duff and his colleagues once appropriated a wonderful one from Artspace. Here’s a slideshow for inspiration:

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Focus on Social Justice: The Baltimore Art + Justice Project

In conjunction with the preparation and launch of our Winter 2012 Social Justice issue, LPR is looking at other literary and arts organizations that have relevant initiatives. We found one practically on our doorstep at the Maryland Institute College of Art, better known as MICAKaren Stults, Director of Community Engagement, describes it:

What if data could talk? What if a map could create change?

MICA Community Outreach

MA in Community Arts (MACA) students work with community residents.

The Baltimore Art + Justice Project, a new initiative launching in Baltimore City, seeks to identify, amplify and connect arts-based advocates and practitioners working toward social justice and social change. The aim of the initiative is to increase visibility and support for arts-based practitioners doing this work, increase collaboration among artists and advocates and create new opportunities for place-based organizing that engages and supports the work of visual and performing artists within Baltimore.

Anyone who has watched The Wire knows that Baltimore has a hardcore reputation as a city with persistent, entrenched problems that include addiction and crime, failing schools and vacant housing. What many people don’t know is that there are tremendous positive forces at play in Charm City. There is a depth of creative talent that is thriving here despite—and, in some cases, because of–the city’s inherent challenges. A diverse group of creative individuals—from visual artists to theater producers to musicians—are using their talents as tools for community transformation.

It is generally understood that creative individuals throughout Baltimore are making an important difference in the current life and future of this city. But who are these critically important players? Where are they working? And with whom? What issues are they striving to address? Using what tools? And toward what ends? What sustains them? And what else do they need to be successful? Answers to these and other questions are critical to a broader understanding of the relationship between art and social change.

Over a two-year period, the Baltimore Art + Justice Project will engage local stakeholders in participatory research and community dialogue to generate an inventory of arts-based assets. Findings will be visually mapped to highlight areas of strength and opportunity. In addition, video clips, case studies and a database of practitioners will be used to help locate and define where and how this work is occurring and making an impact. One of the project’s key goals is to stimulate dialogue about and investment in arts-based organizing strategies and enable artists to connect more powerfully with others using mapped data to work toward greater equity and justice within Baltimore.

Karen Stults

Karen Stults

The project will be launched by MICA in late November, when Kalima Young will assume the position of Project Coordinator. It will be conducted in partnership with Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, with support from Open Society Foundations. Animating Democracy’s Arts and Social Change Mapping Initiative seeks answers to similar questions on a national scale. The project’s Advisory Committee includes community artists and designers as well as representatives from Baltimore’s nonprofit, cultural, municipal and philanthropic communities.

Karen Stults is Director of Community Engagement at Maryland Institute College of Art. She previously worked at the Center for Community Change and YouthAction, Inc., where she served as Executive Director. She sits on the boards both of Fluid Movement and the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore.

LPR will follow the progress of the MICA social justice project and tell you about others over the coming months as part of our “Focus on Social Justice” series.

Meet the Neighbors: Rep Stage

A journal like the Little Patuxent Review requires a vibrant literary and artistic community to thrive–and even survive. In appreciation of the cultural organizations around us, we present “Meet the Neighbors,” where we provide you with some personal introductions.

Rep Stage Barrie's The New Word

Scene from the Rep Stage production of Barrie’s The New Word

Please meet the Rep Stage, located at the Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center on the campus of Howard Community College, mere minutes away from where the Little Patuxent Review is published.

It is the only professional Equity theater situated on a community college campus and enjoys the same relationship that companies like the Trinity Rep and the Yale Rep have with universities. Students are involved in every aspect of production, working in the shop, on electrical crews, in wardrobe, as production and director’s assistants and on stage.

Founded in 1993 by Artistic Director Valerie Lash, the Rep Stage under Michael Stebbins is about to start its 19th season. During this remarkable run, it has won seven Helen Hayes Awards, picked up six Greater Baltimore Theater Awards and received critical acclaim for diverse programming and choice of challenging literature.

Allow Ann Bracken, a member of the LPR Review Committee, to show you around:

I have been attending plays at the Rep Stage since 1998 and have relished the variety that is so much a part of the productions. I’ve seen everything from Brian Friehl’s Translations, which is about Irish hedge schools, to the classic The Philadelphia Story and the edgy Hysteria: Or Fragments of an Analysis of an Obsessional Neurosis, an exploration of imagined encounters between Freud, Dali and a disillusioned patient. The past season illustrates the skillful mix of tradition and innovation that is the hallmark of Michael Stebbins, a veteran actor, director and professor who has served as Producing Artistic Director since 2006.

When I hear the name J. M. Barrie, his character Peter Pan immediately comes to mind, closely followed by images of his life in the film Finding Neverland. I was intrigued when the 2010-2011 season led off with two of Barrie’s one-act plays, The New Word and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals. Both are set in the United Kingdom during World War I and provide close-ups on the timeless theme of wartime’s stress on family bonds.

The New Word depicts a father and son who have never been able to articulate their feelings as they struggle to break that boundary the night before the son leaves for France. The actors worked their understated magic through a series of conversations that drew you into the web of a family that has never been comfortable with overt shows of emotion. By the end of the play, silent tears streamed down my face at the depth of affection I felt as the father and son shared barely perceptible hugs. That closing scene signaled the unspoken bonds of love the father and son were finally able to communicate.

In The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, Barrie explores the lives of lonely charwomen in a small Scottish town who are left behind to write letters and hope for the return of their husbands and sons. In the opening scene, the women are taking tea together when Mrs. Dowey, the old lady of the play’s title, shares her soldier-son’s stack of loving, detail-filled letters. Her friends, in turn, lob volleys of jealous remarks that seem to blanket the room like cannon smoke on a battlefield. When the minister brings news of sighting Mrs. Dowey’s son at the train station, the other charwomen pick up their pails and mops and storm off, albeit good-naturedly, leaving Mrs. Dowey to prepare for her reunion. The rest of the play explores the relationship between Mrs. Dowey and her son Jamie.

When Jamie enters the apartment in full Black Watch kilt and kit, he greets his mother with a gruff remark about all of his fine letters. When a solid and coiled Jamie stands accusingly over Mrs. Dowey, you hold your breath. Then the story pours out. Mrs. Dowey confesses that she only claimed to be a widow with a son fighting in the war because she wanted the support and respect of the larger community. In reality, neither she nor her “son” belong to a traditional family, and she winds up providing the only home Jamie has ever known.

During Jamie’s three day leave, you witness the two of them sharing tea every day, exchanging ideas about how their lives will be after the war and, finally, sharing a night at the opera together. As you watch the story unfold, you can sense the mother-son bond develop and see the affection they have for each other etched on their faces. After Jamie leaves, he sends several letters and, eventually, Mrs. Dowey receives Jamie’s medals and his soldier’s pension when he dies. This story was especially moving in light of the current wars that force loneliness and isolation on families and soldiers during any protracted military conflict.

In Speech and Debate by Stephen Karam, director Eve Muson explores the mayhem that ensues when three teens discover that one of their high school teachers is involved in a sex scandal. I was especially interested in this since I have worked with teens for the past eleven years and have strong ethical concerns about teachers crossing boundaries with their students. The subject was handled with a skillful mix of humor, wisdom and song. As the editor of the school newspaper, Diwata and her two male friends wrestled with the dilemma of publishing the teacher’s name and the repercussions for both teacher and student that could ensue.

Both the dialog and the songs were unexpectedly funny, with Florrie Bagel as Diwata absolutely stealing the show. Diwata danced, vamped and finally revealed her ample curves in a flesh-toned bodysuit during the finale of the play. While Bagel delivered her lines with aplomb, it was her ease with movement and comedy that made her the star of the show. She is a young actress at the beginning of her career and I hope Rep Stage will feature her often.

The 2011-2012 season is packed with a promising mix of plays that explore topics as wide-ranging as a faded movie actor’s career (William Luce’s Barrymore) and the Gullah secrets of South Carolina’s Sea Islands (Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman) and includes an Off-Broadway farce (Liz Duffy Adams’ OR,) that features romps through Restoration England.

I have my season tickets in hand and hope to see many of you there. The magic of Rep Stage’s new season awaits.

Ann Bracken is an educator, writer, poet and expressive arts consultant. She currently teaches in the University of Maryland’s Professional Writing Program. Her essays, articles and interviews have appeared in The Museletter, The Baltimore Chronicle and the Little Patuxent Review. Her poems have appeared in the Little Patuxent Review, Praxilla and the anthology Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems

Meet the Neighbors: Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

A journal like the Little Patuxent Review requires a vibrant literary and artistic community to thrive–and even survive. In appreciation of the cultural organizations around us, we present “Meet the Neighbors,” where we provide you with some personal introductions.

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Please meet the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, residing on High Ridge Road in Ellicott City, MD and frequently found staging productions at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park.

CSC came into being in 2002 when a handful of artists decided to produce some Shakespeare that wasn’t stuffy. It quickly grew into a regional voice for new approaches to classic theater and is now the largest non‐union professional Shakespeare company in America, reaching 8000 audience members and students each year.

In 2007, CSC represented Maryland in the Shakespeare in Washington festival. CSC staff have also held leadership positions in the international Shakespeare Theatre Association. Closer to home, Howard County, MD honored CSC’s Founding Artistic Director, Ian Gallanar, with a 2010 Howie Award.

Our editor, Laura Shovan, shares her most recent experience there:

My children and I are walking arm in arm down a steep hill. It’s a dark summer night, and we’ve got the giggles. A traffic cone appears out of nowhere, nearly tripping me and sending my 14- and 11-year-olds into hysterics. I apologize to the other people navigating this quarter-mile walk in the dark, but no one seems to mind. Everyone is in great spirits after seeing the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).

I wasn’t sure that I’d convince my teenager to attend the outdoor performance this summer. My husband and I have been taking both kids to CSC’s productions for several years. It’s become a family tradition. We pack a picnic, park our car at the Ellicott City courthouse and take a free shuttle up the hill to the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute, where the Howard County based Shakespeare troupe presents its summer repertory.

Typically, I give the kids a little prep before we see a show. Once we’ve selected which of the two productions we’re going to see, we’ll read that chapter in Stories from Shakespeare by Nicola Baxter. Often, we’ll go to the library and borrow a volume of the Emmy-winning children’s series Shakespeare: The Animated Tales.

The bare bones of a plot are all the kids need to follow the action. We settle in for our picnic, enjoy the show before the show–especially if it’s stage fighting–and wait for the sun to set and the company to take the stage. The actors and production team make enough magic for all of us to become wrapped up in the play.

Attending theater outdoors, where there are no curtains and no true backstage, is a different experience than seeing Shakespeare produced in a formal theater. I’ll never forget a fall performance of Macbeth, where the audience followed the actors through the PFI and the surrounding grounds. During the banquet scene, we sat at cloth-covered picnic tables. When Lady Macbeth apologized to her guests for her husband’s erratic behavior, she was apologizing directly to us.

The community atmosphere is part of what draws us back to these productions, year after year. When we attended The Complete Works… two weekends ago, we bumped into neighbors and met their friends, who not only happen to be the CSC’s set and lighting designers but also had a son who played percussion with our son in middle school. Then, we helped wish a stranger a happy birthday. And after the play, there was that lovely, laugh-filled stroll down the hill with most of the audience, all of us headed back to our parked cars.

It’s because of this family tradition that my son had been looking forward to reading Romeo and Juliet in middle school this past year. He’d only seen Shakespeare performed, never studied it formally. He was less than impressed. Thus, the reluctance to come with us this summer.

I promised him that The Complete Works… would be funny, something like a Monty Python version of the Bard. The play is a send-up of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, with all of them performed in shortened form during the show by only three actors. Granted, the histories are condensed to a three-minute football game with the British crown as the football, but that’s part of the fun. This isn’t Shakespeare for insiders. Like all of CSC’s productions, it’s Shakespeare that invites everyone in.

Partway through The Complete Works…, I turned to look at my teen, who was laughing hysterically at Adam Long’s, Daniel Singer’s and Jess Winfield’s parody of Romeo and Juliet. No doubt about it, we will all be coming back next year.

In subsequent installments of “Meet the Neighbors,” we will introduce you to the Howard Country Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) and–at bit further down the road–The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD.