The Performance Artist
Laure Drogoul calls herself a “cultural crackpot.” Since moving to Baltimore in 1979, she has been challenging audiences with her multimedia works and performance art. She founded and still hosts events at 14 Karat Cabaret and co-organizes the Transmodern Festival, both dedicated to showcasing works and performances by artists operating out of the mainstream. This fall, Drogoul, who teaches sculpture at York College in Pennsylvania, will curate the revamped Great Big Halloween Parade of Lights and Luminaria in Patterson Park.
The thing I like about [performance art] is the utter spontaneity of it. It’s very fresh. You never know what’s going to come back at you. You give up a certain amount of control, which can be tricky, but what you get back in return is very exciting.
I’m a product of my experiences here. We all are. We’re just kind of accumulated residue of our life experiences, aren’t we?
Catholic school does give you a certain type of cynicism for the rest of your life.
I’m very boring. I’ve just been doing the same thing since I’ve been in town. I’m very focused, and my form has its earmarks. My style has expanded, but it’s really the same. I’m interested in the strange, the other, the mystery.
I’m not so sure that I’d be so inclined to sleep in a boarded-up hotel again.
A lot of Baltimore in the ’80s was quite a curious space. Now I think the psycho-geography of the city has changed. The quirky mapping of the city is different. It’s been pushed out from the center.
The lack of a commercial art market has made Baltimore a little less homogenized than other cities.
I’ve been collecting toothpaste tubes forever.
I collected food labels for two or three years and I’d put them up on the wall. And I learned a whole lot about them. I realized that they’re predominantly red. And blood is red. And we are carnivorous animals.
I was taking photographs of roadkill for an extended period of time because I became really interested in the amount of carnage I’d see on the highways and I really thought about us being predators on the road with our vehicles and not even realizing that the automobile was really an extension of ourselves.
Collections are just my form of sketching.
What I love about teaching is the exchanging of ideas. And I love activating somebody to create artwork, to introduce people to things I feel are interesting and to ignite them into action.
A lot of times my students will come into studio with their iPods on and I’m like, ‘Why don’t you just bring in an old-fashioned CD so we can all share what you’re listening to?’ It seems like we’ve really become what I call Pod People. Everybody is in bubbles. It’s polite culture, but you have this kind of world where you don’t have shared space, which is something I’m really interested in.
I think we all have smells in our brains.
Jackhammering nude rattles your molars. —As told to Joe Sugarman
Deborah Hazlett has been a member of Everyman Theatre’s resident company for 12 years, playing such memorable roles as Hedda Gabler, Claire in “Proof” and Kate Keller in “All My Sons.” This fall she takes the stage again to play Amanda in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives,” Nov. 2 through Dec. 4.
When I was in the third grade my family took a trip to D.C. and we went to Ford’s Theatre and got fourth-row center seats to see ‘Godspell.’ I just was blown away and when we got back to Sumter, S.C., where we were living, I said to my mom, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ God bless her, she enrolled me in theater summer camp!
I love to paint— the creation of a painting feels similar to being in rehearsal. I have a house full of paintings, but I’ve never had the courage to do anything with them. I can get up onstage and do anything, but I can’t show my paintings!
I really want to play Lady Macbeth and I think I’m finally at the place to play her. I want to play Amanda in ‘Glass Menagerie.’ I’d still like to do Blanche in ‘Streetcar’ at Everyman … but if I’m going to do it, we better do it! I want to respect the character— I don’t want to play a character I’m too old— or young—to play.
Theater has taught me a lot about life, and life has taught me a lot about theater. What I find in both places is the need to be vulnerable and tell the truth and not try to control the outcome.
The catharsis that can happen when there’s absolute silence and you know people are seeing it through their lens— that’s why I’ve stayed in theater.
I think increasing empathy should be one of theater’s goals. I’m not sure we always do it.
I decided to move here from New York City because my last year in the city I was paying $2,250 a month for a one-bedroom and I was never there! You don’t have to be in New York to work as an actor. D.C. is now the second largest theatrical community in the country. But the reality is you have to have a modest lifestyle. You keep your monthly nut small, as they say, so you can play your horn.
When an audience and a troupe of actors come together, there’s something that happens that’s extraordinary. It doesn’t happen in a movie theater. It doesn’t happen when (continued on page 127) you watch TV. It’s almost like a call and response between the audience and actors.
You want to be the best actor in the room? Be the best listener and truthfully respond. That, in life, is crucial.
I never have played a character I haven’t liked.
I was buying wine at Eddie’s Liquors in Charles Village the other night and a young man was in line in front of me and he said, ‘You’re Deborah Hazlett. Can I hug you?’ I said, ‘Of course!’ It’s lovely to feel a sense of community and a sense of shared journey with people who come back to the theater again and again. —As told to Laura Wexler
On Aug. 1, Matt Porterfield began shooting his third feature film, “I Used to Be Darker,” the story of a family navigating its way through a divorce. Porterfield, the 33-year-old writer/director of the critically acclaimed films “Hamilton” and “Putty Hill” — and the recipent of the 2011 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize— was born in the house in Hamilton that he lives in today.
It’s great to live in the house I grew up in. My films are nostalgic anyway, so there’s a palpable nostalgia I live with every day. I gutted my bedroom and built it back from scratch. But there’s a couple of skateboard stickers in weird little spots and glow-in-the dark stars on the ceiling.
After ‘Hamilton’ I felt like I was looking at the gates of the city. Somewhere after ‘Putty Hill,’ I was inside the gates. I can take meetings now with producers that people would kill for.
It still doesn’t mean it’s easy to get money. My little square peg doesn’t fit in the round hole. I don’t cast name-brand actors, and I shoot in Baltimore.
It’s harder to ask for $250,000 to make a movie than $3 million or $4 million.
I had great credit for years until I started making movies. I didn’t go too far into debt on ‘Hamilton.’ ‘Putty Hill’ pushed me way in the red. But I feel like the financial risk is an investment in my career and future. Down the road I’ll be on more solid footing. I know that will come. I believe it will.
For me, it’s a priority to portray lives I think are under-represented. A lot of my films are about family and about the working class that I know from growing up in Baltimore. I want to tell stories that reflect the diversity of experience of living in a city like Baltimore.
I’ve gotten to a point where I can cast someone based on a five-minute encounter. I see the person’s energy, style, eyes, face. For me, a lot of it has to do with the face.
I’m drawn to people that have a real inner strength. If they’re not scared of the world they’ll probably not be scared of the camera.
If I meet someone on the street I’ll usually say, ‘I know this sounds crazy, but I’m actually casting for a movie. Would you be interested in ever being in a movie?’ Sometimes they ask, ‘Is it a porno?’
I’ve learned that people can learn to do anything. I’m thinking of the cast of ‘Putty Hill,’ none of whom had ever been in front of a camera before. They improvised dialogue better than I could have written.
If you trust people and give them responsibility, they can figure things out.
The Baltimore filmmakers who are still making films owe a lot to Baltimore because it plays a big role in their films. Barry Levinson’s Baltimore films are by far my favorites of his films.
To be able to share my way of seeing the world— that’s what I like most about making films. —As told to Laura Wexler
The Ticket Seller
For more than 30 years, Elaine Barco has worked in the ticketing business. She began at the Baltimore Civic Center before coming to the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in 1987. Barco has worked at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center as its box office treasurer since the theater’s re-opening in 2004, and this fall, she will be handling ticket sales for “South Pacific” (Oct. 4-9), “Rain” (Oct. 21-22) and “La Cage Aux Folles” (Nov. 1-6).
The Mechanic was a beautiful theater; it just had a lot of challenges. Our box office there had no access to any other place in the theater. If it was winter, you had to put on your coat and walk outside.
I’ve always worked with customer service. It’s really about listening to what people have to say and just trying to be sympathetic to it and help as much as you can.
I think today any job is stressful. But with this job, when many people want things yesterday, it’s a very fast-paced business. I just stand back and I really do think about the problems other people are faced with and it doesn’t seem so bad anymore.
Normally I would go to other stores and businesses and I would never say anything. But in the last 15 years or so, if I see someone going above and beyond I ask for the name and number of their superior and call and commend them. I will also ask right on the spot for a superior and complain about bad customer service.
There are many times when people come out and thank us during intermission. Sometimes I’ll get a bouquet of flowers or a box of candy the next day. Not just from subscribers, but anyone who was helped. There are a lot of good people out there.
I get to see a lot of shows that come in and I try to see as many as I can. But when I have days off, I don’t want to be at work.
When I was working at the Mechanic Theatre many years ago there were three or four performances of the Wiggles, that children’s show that used to be really popular. Mothers would come to the box office to buy tickets, and we’d have to tell them that the shows were sold out. They would start crying because they didn’t want to disappoint their children without tickets. It made me think, ‘What is the world coming to?’
When patrons wait until the last minute, they complain. It’s difficult because we have to make them happy— that’s our job. We have to convince them that this ticket is the best available and it will only get worse if they continue to wait.
Everyone wants eighth row center. —As told to Laura Lefavor
The Artistic Trustee
Murray Kappelman just turned 80, and for more than half of those years, he’s served as a volunteer board member, sometime board president and now board member emeritus at Center Stage. Kappelman, a retired pediatrician and professor and the author of six books, is looking forward to seeing “Jazz” (Jan. 4–Feb. 5, 2012) and “Into the Woods” (March 7–April 15, 2012) at Center Stage this season, and Marin Alsop conduct the oratorio “Joan of Arc at the Stake” (Nov. 17 and 18) with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where he is also an active board member.
My mom used to take me to New York City to see theater. I remember seeing ‘Carousel.’ I remember seeing ‘Oklahoma.’ When I got older, my buddies and I would go up and stand in line for standing room tickets. I saw the original ‘South Pacific’ standing in the back of the theater.
You bring part of the story with you to the theater. You add to the dimension of what you’re seeing. That’s the excitement— you really become part of what’s happening on stage.
When I graduated from college I decided to go into medicine and make theater my avocation. If I went into theater, I couldn’t make medicine my avocation.
When you’re a doctor talking to children and their parents, you’ve got to be thoughtful and sensitive and listen for what’s not being said. Theater helped me learn how to do that.
Theater has stimulated and challenged me to write. I was so fascinated by other people’s words I thought, ‘Let me see if I have words in me.’
Baltimore was a place where a lot of shows began and went on to New York. They would try out shows here, mostly at Ford’s Theatre. I remember going to the opening night of ‘Mr. Roberts’ at Ford’s Theatre. Henry Fonda was the lead. We were sitting in the second balcony looking down. I really am bad with heights so I must have loved it!
I was a member of the first board of Center Stage. We sometimes had to go out to the audience and ask for money, or stand on stage and plea. It was a very exciting time, but a time of hard work.
Board members are important—the artistic venues would not be as rich without their boards. If the boards could have anything to do with it, Baltimore Opera would still be around.
I had a staged reading of one of my plays at Center Stage. It was very helpful. You don’t realize what you’ve written until you see it come alive.
I think Baltimore is coming into its own very clearly as a cultural venue.
I cannot imagine my life without the arts. It’s not just dessert— it’s an essential part of my life meal. I find it offers an extra layer of meaning in life. I have so much more to look forward to, especially as I get older.
‘Astonish me’— that’s what you hope the theater or symphony will do. I would love to be astonished two out of six times I go to the theater, and one-third of the times I go to symphony. You can’t like six plays. You can’t love 20 concerts. But if you get a third of them that are stunning, then you’ve had a good cultural year.
When you read a novel, the author tells you what people are thinking. In the theater, the author leaves layers of relationships out. There’s a whole layer of life that’s happening but you don’t see or hear it. You have to put it in.
I can remember taking my children to New York to see ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and looking at their faces during ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ and I started to cry. That was a right moment in my life. —As told to Laura Wexler
- Adam Kurtzman’s “Elsa Lanchester as Bride of Frankenstein
On Oct. 6, Rebecca Hoffberger will open “All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs, and Karma,” her 17th show at the American Visionary Art Museum, which she founded in 1995. Hoffberger has spent her life exploring and documenting human creativity and intuition, an adventure that’s taken her to Paris to study with famed mime Marcel Marceau, to Mexico to study nontraditional medicine and to Nigeria to establish medical field hospitals.
Some of the least creative people I’ve ever met have self-identified as artists. My favorite artists don’t watch themselves be artists. My favorite spiritual people don’t watch themselves be spiritual. It just leaks out of them.
It’s kind of silly to think that when someone sits down for five minutes and puts something on a piece of paper that can hang on the wall, we automatically call it art. Why is that art when someone else who spends 40 years nurturing a garden isn’t creating ‘art’?
Humor surprisingly reveals truths we’ve always known.
Creative self-reliance and intuition are very viable ways to the heart of invention.
Creative, inventive minds are what is most interesting to me, be they scientists who come up for a cure for AIDS, musicians who compose a harmony never before heard or people who bring about a greater harmony as social visionaries.
Ninety-nine percent of Americans can’t name a work by Van Gogh but they all know he cut off his ear. There’s a real interest to connect with artists as human beings.
The real geniuses can digest ideas so thoroughly that they can be shared at a grass-roots level.
That the first museums began as ‘wonder cabinets’ makes total sense. They are still places focused on wonder when they are at their best.
Collect what you love. No one takes anything with them in the end, so surround yourself with art and nature and people that inspire.
It’s not for nothing that during the Great Depression the sale of whoopee cushions reached an all-time high.
I realize I don’t care what people think, but I care deeply what they understand. What they really drink into themselves is what I’m interested in.
A lot of times when I’m here at the museum, I sit at the front desk or walk through the galleries and give spontaneous tours without people knowing who I am. The most important thing is the way people experience this place.
When you have a clear vision of what good can be, don’t dumb it down for anybody. —As told to Laura Wexler
The Arts Booster
Megan Hamilton has been with the Creative Alliance from its beginnings 16 years ago, when she and co-founders Margaret Footner and Dan Schiavone started the hometown arts clearinghouse and gallery above a cafe in Fells Point. Today, housed in the refurbished Patterson Theater in Highlandtown, the CA hosts readings, performances, exhibits, films, concerts, panels, parties— you name it. This fall, the Halloween Parade of Light & Luminaria returns on Sat., Oct. 29 under the direction of artist Laure Drogoul (page 123) in Patterson Park.
When I moved here, I looked at Baltimore through its history and through its built environment and got involved with the arts community and that was my lens. And if you were looking through that lens, Baltimore was an amazing place. And it still is.
When I was [in school] at Goucher, I had seen all the Vogue magazines and I had this image of myself as a very chic gal in a conservative but cool kind of suit, with high heels and nylons and a really cool briefcase, who was going to make a lot of money in advertising.
I dropped out. I went back to college 16 years later and finished when Goucher was co-ed, which was quite an adventure.
I felt like this was home and just started doing what seemed like fun, really.
The Creative Alliance was founded on the premise that Baltimore had an amazing arts community that nobody really knew about. This year it’s 16 years old. The whole idea of showcasing the
local has been a good paradigm.
When we founded it, they were shooting ‘Homicide’ down the street in Fells Point and all those guys ate at the cafe [where Creative Alliance was then located]. We owe a lot to those guys because they did a benefit for us for five years called ‘Homicide Live,’ and that really got us on the map.
We felt like there are amazing artists in Baltimore, and they’re your neighbors, and they can make work that will speak to you more profoundly often than artists from elsewhere.
I thought it was hilarious in 2008 when [Baltimore] got named ‘Best Music Scene’ in America by Rolling Stone, and all the grown-ups were like ‘What bands?’ ‘What clubs?’ That was classic. That was so classic.
I really hope people in Baltimore are aware of the cultural riches that we have, because we have a cultural scene far out of scale with the size of the city we are.
To leave the arts community out of these [political] discussions about how to create social change is overlooking a vast resource.
Back in my bartending career, I was always struck by how many people would come from D.C. because they thought Baltimore was a cool town. They felt like it was authentic, which I think is true, and they felt like it was a bargain, which I think is true, and they got it that we had these cultural resources, and I think that’s definitely true.
I think very few cities are as aware of their aesthetic identity and heritage as Baltimore. I think we’re really blessed that way.
Experiencing unmediated visual or performing arts or spoken word firsthand is important for me personally. I see an insane amount of live performance, most of it local. It’s important for my soul.
That the city’s arts community has grown the way it has has been really exciting. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been pretty good work. —As told to Brian Michael Lawrence
The Fine Artist
Ruth Pettus was born in New Zealand, grew up in London and Australia, and has been a fixture on the Baltimore art scene since moving here in 1980. You can view her large-scale, brooding canvases—many depicting faceless men in suits— and her trademark installations of cast-off shoes this fall during a Basement Shoe Café exhibit (Oct. 31) and her annual studio open house (see rpettus.com).
My mother thought I would have a future in art when I was around 9 years old. I had done some unusual drawings, portraits of her, and a copy of a Bonnard painting in which she saw artistic talent.
I sold my first piece for $5, a small painting on Sheetrock, at a junk shop next to Club Charles many years ago. I was ecstatic.
Good writing on art and art criticism can be as energizing and inspiring as seeing good art.
One big change since I moved to Baltimore is that The Sun no longer reviews art exhibits. My first review was in The Evening Sun of an exhibit at the Cultured Pearl. John Dorsey and Glenn McNatt were both consistent reviewers at The Sun. The city has done a terrific job designating art zones, supporting art and putting substantial money into artists’ buildings. I think the arts have an important place in Baltimore and one would hope that The Sun could have some coverage.
I used to find shoes or buy them at Goodwill or yard sales. Now people give them to me. Whenever I show them, people scratch their heads and say, ‘Hmm… I should give you my husband’s shoes or my wife’s.’ I say, ‘Put them on my front porch. At this point I have a surplus.’
Does it matter if people see my work? Well, one works many years to create work and, of course, people viewing it is part of the equation.
My ‘creative process’ runs on consistent work and intuition.
I’ve never had any specific goals except to continue to make artwork. —As told to Joe Sugarman
The Theater Director
Born in South Carolina, Fuzz Roark has lived all over the country and worked at various jobs in family and child services while acting in theater productions whenever he could. He moved to Baltimore in 1993, and became the managing director of Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre in 2004. This season, Spotlighters’ 50th, Roark directs “Tea & Sympathy” (Sept. 30-Nov. 6), a drama set in a boys’ boarding school in 1953 New England.
The nickname Fuzz has been around since I was 12 or 13. When I hit puberty I began to get fur. I had very hairy legs, a very hairy chest and the seniors called me Fuzzy Wuzzy. It was a name I utterly despised. It has its advantages. It gave me an identity.
I’m probably the only kid who grew up in the ’60s in the South that didn’t get in a fight in school, largely because I could talk myself out of a fight. ‘Ballerina boy’, ‘Toe-shoe Boy’— all these great names. I said ‘Yeah, well when did you have Mary Smith on your shoulders? Come down to rehearsal and watch.’ And there I am picking up the hottest girl in school, and putting her on my shoulders. I’m in this embracing love scene with her, and they’re freaking out!
When I was working in New York, that was probably the biggest bucket of cold water. In the Southeast, I could walk into almost any audition and get cast. And when I got to New York, I realized ‘Yeah I’m good. I’m really good, but so is everybody else.’
My background in social work, a lot of that plays into how I direct, how I help my cast create the character. Working with clients as a social worker, being able to see their character, it was an acting exercise in some ways.
I directed ‘Chess’ here in ’04, and everyone thought I was crazy for directing a cast of 36 people, a huge Tim Rice musical, and it got phenomenal reviews. That set me as part of the family at Spots. From that point forward, this was my second home.
It’s that very careful balance of knowing who the theater’s audience is, knowing who we are as a theater, what we’re about, and keeping that vision in front of us. I came on as managing director, working on both production and administration in the transition period between Audrey’s death and when Spotlighters became a nonprofit. Strangely enough, we did really well. We went from a budget of $55,000 a year to our current budget of $137,000.
You have to be confident in yourself.
I hope, as I work with high school and middle school students in our theater programs, that I’m able to help them understand that they’re unique, that their talent is unique. It may not fit every director’s ideal, but find where it fits. You can let that destroy you, or you find where it works. I’ve always had that attitude of ‘It may not be where I dreamed of, but it’s what I want.’ —As told to Alice Horner
The Classical Musician
As a percussionist for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 2003, Brian Prechtl gets called upon to bang literally hundreds of instruments, from kettle drums to wooden blocks. The Boston native is actively involved in the BSO’s OrchKids outreach program, writes his own compositions and lives on a boat. This season, he’s looking forward to performing with percussionist Colin Currie on Jennifer Higdon’s “Percussion Concerto” (March 22-24, 2012) and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” (June 7-10, 2012).
When I was about 15, I had one of those aha moments at a band rehearsal. We were playing a piece by Bach— ‘Fantasia in G Major’— and there’s this bass drum line and I got these chills up my spine and I thought, ‘Wow, this is fantastic! I want to feel this forever.’
Anybody who is a percussionist has to have space in a house that’s far away from everybody else.
There are people who pooh-pooh John Williams’ music, but I tell ya, it is really fun to play and the percussion parts are fantastic.
If there’s only one instrument you like and you’re good at, you’re not going to be a very good percussionist. The best percussionists are the ones who love to play all the parts and all the instruments with passion and conviction.
It’s always better to have a little too much energy than not enough, but gonzo energy has to be tempered. If I were playing in a rock band, I’d be gonzo all the time, but playing with an orchestra, there are times you have to dial it back. [Led Zeppelin’s] John Bonham changed drumming. Period.
As a part of OrchKids, I teach bucket band. Every kid gets a 5-gallon bucket and a set of drumsticks and we play music. … Having an instrument in their hands for these kids is like coming up to bat. They’re never going to get a hit if they don’t come up to bat. They’re never going to find their creative sides if they don’t have an instrument to play or something to paint or a place to dance.
I have a snare drum and a xylophone on the boat. It’s a groovy lifestyle. A lot of jam sessions break out. I’ve got a bag full of percussion equipment and I’ll get the snare pumping and before you know it, there’s five people with instruments out.
Of course, I still get nervous. It’s like that moment when you go up a roller coaster and you’re almost at the top and you’re feeling a little sick but really excited about what’s going to happen. And as soon as you go over the top, it’s like ‘Woooooo!’ That’s a lot what it’s like to play onstage in front of 2,000 people.
Percussionists take a lot of grief [from the rest of the orchestra]. They all joke, ‘What do you call a person that hangs out with musicians? A drummer.’ We get no respect. We’re the Rodney Dangerfields of the orchestra.
Sometimes the stereotypes are true. Trumpet players are sort of obnoxious, overbearing people that have to be heard all the time. Drummers are a little distracted and just want to have a good time. And violinists do love the solo spotlight. Still, we have very deep relationships [at the BSO]. It’s a family.
Yeah, I have the funniest job in the orchestra. I don’t think I even have any competition. —As told to Joe Sugarman
Maria Broom has worked in TV news, appeared in commercials and acted in the holy trinity of Baltimore-based television crime series (“The Corner,” “The Wire” and “Homicide”) among other TV shows and movies. But she’s mostly known as a dancer, something she’s been doing nearly her entire life. These days, Broom leads dance medicine workshops at Baltimore Yoga in Mount Washington and hosts school programs as “Miss Maria,” a storytelling dancer. She’ll be participating in the Creative Alliance’s Art to Dine For program on Oct. 26 and performing at the Baltimore Museum of Art on Dec. 28.
I was 6 years old and my mother took me to the Lyric Opera House to one of the last performances of ‘Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.’ It was a huge, gorgeous set, with 20,000 people on stage. I remember looking at that stage and the dancers and thinking, ‘Those are my people. That’s where I belong.’
As a black girl in Baltimore there wasn’t a whole lot of places I could go [to learn dance].
When I was coming up, my goal was to be an Alvin Ailey dancer. I wanted to be like Judith Jameson— a black woman with short nappy hair like mine. She was just an expressive, emotive dancer. That spoke to me.
When I was young I used to just use my hands and fingers in all sorts of weird different ways. It wasn’t until I went to UCLA during an Asian Performance Summer Arts Institute where I studied dance from India, Java, Bali that I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what my fingers and arms have been doing!’
I have learned to get out of the habit of thinking when I’m on stage, of turning it over to a higher spirit— an inner spirit— and letting it come through me so it will go out to the audience.
One of the best compliments I ever got was when I finished a performance in a school and I was backstage and these two boys, maybe 7 or 8, walked up to me and said, ‘My friend wants to know, Are you real?’ It was such a compliment because it meant that whatever I did was so magical that it looked surreal to them.
All of my life I have always had these dreams of being backstage and getting ready and I can’t find my way to the stage.
I remember the day I was given the part of a crack addict in ‘The Corner.’ The very first day you meet with the cast and you sit around a table and read the script. Everybody said I was so good. But when I left I was upset and I called a friend crying and I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’ve been Miss Maria— peace and love— how am I going to get up there and play a crack addict?’ And she said, ‘Maria, that’s why it’s called acting.’
You can do ballet up to a certain point until the body says ‘That’s enough of being on tiptoes.’
I got called a couple times to audition for ‘Law & Order.’ You go three hours up on the train. You wait with six or seven
people in the waiting room. You go in and audition for like 45 seconds and then you ride three hours back. I said, ‘You know what? This is not fun. What is wrong with this?’
I have yet to do a [TV] role where I get to smile. I want to play a wise woman that gets to smile.
I feel the confidence from having lived 62 years. And that didn’t come until my 50s. It’s like you are now of the grandmother generation, a woman of authority, so you can say things with grandmotherly authority. You can say things to younger people with confidence—and they listen to you.
I see the look of being older and I like it. —As told to Joe Sugarman
The Rock ’n’ Roll Band
It’s been 10 years since guitarist Cris Jacobs and mandolinist/beatboxer Kenny Liner formed The Bridge and started playing in front of Baltimore audiences. Three well-received albums and hundreds of sweat-drenched concerts later, the band is scheduled to play its final show on Nov. 23 at Rams Head Live.
In the back of my mind I had the idealistic dream of being a musician and traveling the world and being able to play music and meet people. That was the dream. Who would have known that that would actually happen?
I started to play guitar when I was 16. I remember a specific moment when I was playing in my room and I had a sense of complete bliss and it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Every time since then, when I pick up my guitar, I feel like this is what I should be doing.
Seeing people getting into [our music] and being happy and giving the energy right back to me is indescribable. To me, that’s what it’s all about: This spiritual connection. It’s religious in a way.
We basically just weren’t making enough to sustain ourselves. People around Baltimore are shocked when I say that. ‘You guys are huge,’ they say. Well, yeah, we play Baltimore 5, 10 percent of the year and do well, but everywhere else is not even close. That, and the fact that the road is a bitch and that we’re not 23 anymore, drew us to the conclusion that we should take a break.
The hardest part about it is that we don’t hate each other. If we hated each other it would be great, but we love each other. We’re still having a really great time. The music wasn’t the problem— it was everything else.
It’s tough out there. It’s a grueling lifestyle. Oftentimes, it’s a thankless lifestyle. When you think about the dream of going out and playing on the road, you think it’s all wine and roses, but when you actually get out there, you realize that the actual playing constitutes maybe an hour or two of every day. And other than that, it’s driving, sitting, setting up, waiting around.
Sometimes, I’d pinch myself and go, ‘As bad as this might be, it sure as hell beats sitting in an office.’
You can get very far with a band by feeding them a good meal before the gig.
Sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll? I won’t comment on that. There were moments of glory throughout the years where we kind of high-fived each other and said, ‘OK, we’ll enjoy being king for a day.’ But other than that, no, it’s a grind. We’re not Led Zeppelin traveling in a private jet. For some bands, it probably is sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. For us, it was work, work, work and rock ’n’ roll.
In the beginning it was jam first, write songs second. That may have hurt us. I think we were maybe too jammy for the songwriting crowd and not jammy enough for the jam crowd after a while.
I could deal without a lot of the Midwestern states.
The music business has opened up these days. It’s become so easy for people to either play or record or promote that everybody thinks they can do it. With the Internet, you don’t need all the connections and channels that you used to need. If you want to put on a festival, you put it on Facebook and cross your fingers.
I’m still livin’ the dream. I can’t stop and I won’t. I’m rehearsing a new group, writing some new songs and developing a different sound. I’ll be doing some solo performances— whatever I can do to fight that day job.
If you got paid on how much fun you had, we’d be millionaires. —As told to Joe Sugarman
The Gallery Owner
In 1988, Steven Scott took a chance and opened his own art gallery on Charles Street to showcase established American artists. Twenty-three years and two moves later, more than half of the gallery’s 20 represented artists remain from that core group. At his newest location in Fells Point, he’ll be highlighting the oils and monotypes of seven of his artists in this fall’s show, “Painterly Brushwork,” Oct. 4 through Dec. 31.
I first fell in love with art in the first grade on a field trip to the National Gallery. I saw the Renoir painting ‘A Girl with a Watering Can.’ I was drawn to the dazzling light, the inspired composition, the extraordinarily rich color and the intermittent flecks of sunlight infusing the surface of the canvas. The painting truly glowed.
I didn’t always know that I wanted my own gallery. I originally thought I would be a museum curator. When I worked in the museums, I found local and regional artists that had great talent but no representation in Baltimore or D.C. After following their work for a few years, I found that I had a high-quality group of artists that were saleable and important. So I took a leap.
It’s feast or famine. The winters are slow and the summers are busy. I can tell how well the gallery is doing by looking at the stack of art magazines on my desk. If there’s a large stack and lots of e-mails, then I’m behind. If I’m caught up, we’re having a slow period. It’s always a roller coaster ride, but it all evens out in the end.
If you have a dedicated collector base and a quality group of artists you stick with, even new galleries can make it in Baltimore.
Many people are scared because conceptual art makes them feel stupid. You should always look, read and explore. Even with a graduate degree, I still don’t understand Jackson Pollock. Or his allure, for that matter.
In ’89, a collector walked into the Charles Street gallery with a big green trash bag over her shoulder. She threw it down in the middle of the floor and out came huge ornate, purple drapes. She needed a large purple painting to match the purple drapes! I tried to discourage her from buying to match— art should blend, but you should buy it because you love it.
The most important thing an artist can do is come up with a signature style—the kind where even if there is no sign, you can look at it and know who created it.
Many of my artists are set in their ways. I have to treat some with kid gloves. But the majority have been an absolute pleasure to work with. I support them and they support me. I know their quirks after 23 years. My artists stay true and paint for themselves, not the marketplace.
Some people just buy a piece to match their sofa or walls. Homes are not museums; there are restrictions with what you can display. Art needs to blend and enhance.
A large percentage of people that come to galleries don’t know the difference between lithographs and screen prints. It’s part of my job to educate— not everyone is an aficionado. When collectors understand the technique, they appreciate the pieces so much more.
If you really look at the works, it should take 10 visits to see the National Gallery. —As told to Laura Lefavor