Before she became Mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh spent some time in the theater world.

Pugh organized and directed a touring production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf,” and also played the Lady in Brown in a Morgan State University production of “Mississippi Delta.”

So, when Pugh came to Baltimore Center Stage to help cut the ribbon on Friday after a yearlong renovation, the mayor knew what she was talking about. She said she has always loved the Pearlstone Theater downstairs, and likes the new “quote wall” in the refurbished lobby featuring lines from various plays.

“This represents a $28 million investment,” she told onlookers. “As a former actress…I could not be happier.”

Much of Baltimore’s arts community joined Pugh outside the multi-stage theater on Friday morning to witness the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Dignitaries ranged from Everyman Theatre managing director Jonathan Waller and Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts’ cultural affairs director Randi Vega to Anne Mannix Brown of the Baltimore Museum of Art and art collector Mera Rubell, owner of the Lord Baltimore Hotel.

About the only key person missing was Baltimore Center Stage’s artistic director, Kwame Kwei-Armah, who was working on a show in England this week. He had planned to return on Thursday, but came down with an ear infection and couldn’t fly under doctor’s orders. It was the second time in three months that a local arts celebrity missed his own party, after filmmaker John Waters had to skip his Christmas bash when he was hospitalized with a kidney stone.

Theater patrons and guests filled the refurbished lobby and took tours of the historic building at 700 N. Calvert Street, including the renovated Head and Pearlstone theaters, new lounges and teaching spaces and behind-the-scenes rehearsal and shop spaces.

Cho Benn Holback + Associates was the lead architect, and Whiting-Turner was the contractor. With all the improvements, “it’s such a happy place,” said theater board member Suzan Garabedian. Terry H. Morgenthaler, president of the board of trustees, called it “an amazing transformation.”

The celebration continues this evening, with the opening night performance of the first production in the Head Theater, “The White Snake.”

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.