New Brotopia

Posted on May 26, 2011 by Justin Allen

Darkness had befallen a previously vibrant theater situated on the west end of 25th Street. The once mighty venue had been left to patiently decay as it was overrun by all manner of vermin and derelict. No one knows who built the theater or its original purpose (at least no one I’ve spoken with) but what is certain is that inside there remained a stage and seats, and that, my friends, is enough to stir the imaginations of those willing to entertain the monumental task of resurrecting an arena in such disrepair.

Within each dormant theater, on every major boulevard across the city, lies great creative potential and the opportunity to redevelop our historical centers of culture. I’d like to think that if you’ve read this far, you might share a common wistful daydream, one inspired by walking or driving passed any of these theaters. It’s a daydream composed of the unlikely acquisition of such a property and the far fetched aspirations of piloting a full-on cultural revolution. No doubt the act of sifting through the wreckage of a place left unchecked for several years is far more romantic a notion than its realization. But right now there’s a group of inspired individuals down on 25th street doing just that. They’re the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, the BROS, and as I write this they’re in the midst of concocting the most fantastical daydreams. They have the kind of work ethic that makes spectacular shit happen.

This Friday is opening night for the Baltimore Rock Opera Society’s run of a double feature consisting of two original productions, Amphion and The Terrible Secret of Lunastas. The show will run at the Autograph Playhouse (formerly the showtime) at 9 West 25th Street. The two shows will run until June 12th.

We visited the Baltimore Rock Opera Society in their new home and were amazed by the progress they’d made at the old Showtime Theater, recently renamed the Autograph Playhouse. This is a production company that’s fundraising, writing, composing, producing, performing, staging, and promoting two rock operas simultaneously, all while renovating a theater. They’ve pulled out seats and extended the stage, installed platforms and new lighting, and fixed a whole in the back of the building that lay open for years like a festering wound that allowed the soul of the building to drift wearily into the nether. They trudged through the filth and debris, found the floor, and claimed the theater their home.

Lo and behold, the winner of this week’s prestigious and highly coveted, “You Sir Saw The Glimmer Of A Camera Lens And, Without Thought To The Consequences, Presented Your most Fearsome Battle Face Which Has Left Many Trembling And Running For Cover Though The Courageous And Valiant Photographer Brooke Hall Looked You Square In The Eye In Order To Capture This, The Essence Of Your Vigor,” award. Go now, and sow the seeds of unfathomable terror wherever you roam.

“Chuck Green is our electrical genius.” – Jared Marguiles

Allison Riegle and Alessandra Torres

Upon entering the Autograph Playhouse, formerly the Showtime Theatre, I was struck by the kinetic energy flowing throughout the building as the crew poured through rooms busy with every imaginable aspect of production. All told, including volunteers, the crew working opening night will be more than fifty people deep.

There are two ideas that seem to be at the core of the BROS ethos. First, “in panton redundo” (in everything excess). The second idea, and you can debate amongst yourselves which is more important, is “there will be beer.” For amateurs this combination of philosophies could very well end in an excessive and embarrassing beer binge, but for the BROS the amount of beer in question is always more than appropriate.

The Baltimore Rock Opera Society came into existence in a far away land known as Goucher. Though many stories have been told of Goucher, no one had actually met anyone from there (at least no one I have spoken with) until the BROS appeared as if from thin air. It was there, at Goucher, that five young men formed an unbreakable bond whilst residing at Brotopia, a dwelling nestled somewhere in the fabled land of their origin. During the many beer fueled celebrations, the need for a rock opera society became evident and the rest is, as they say, history.

We followed our guide through the labyrinth we’d like to think of as New Brotopia. Though much work has yet to be done, much progress has been made. Throughout the theater creative uses of space were evident as the crews accommodated for the vast array of inventive props and set pieces being used in the upcoming double feature. Whenever they can, the BROS use found and recycled materials for their productions.

The future of the theater, as envisioned by the BROS, is a permanent home for the young company and a space that will host a variety of performing arts. The stage is impressive and if the hard work we saw is any indication of what to expect from this troupe, the theater will thrive and continue its transformation from abandoned urban ruin to cultural anchor in the heart of Baltimore City.

This Friday is opening night for the Baltimore Rock Opera Society’s run of a double feature consisting of two original productions, Amphion and The Terrible Secret of Lunastas. The show will run at the Autograph Playhouse (formerly the showtime) at 9 West 25th Street. The two shows will run until June 12th.

Photos by Brooke Hall

2 Comments

  • Lee June 2, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Baltimore Rock Opera Society. I just like to say it. Got to get me to a performance! Wonderful coverage.

  • Tim May 31, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    incredible energy, baltimore should be proud!

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