Chesapeake Shakespeare Receives Major Gift from Abell Foundation

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Vince Eisenson and James Jager in CSC's current production of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona." Playing till March 17, 2013 at The Other Barn, 5851 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia, MD. Photo by Teresa Castracane.
Vince Eisenson and James Jager in CSC’s current production of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” Playing till March 17, 2013 at The Other Barn, 5851 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia, MD. Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Big dramatic news for the Baltimore area’s third largest theater company, Chesapeake Shakespeare, which has received a hefty gift of $250,000 from the Abell Foundation “to help transform the landmark Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company building into a downtown theater,” according to Jean Thompson, communications manager for the company. What all will they do with these generous bucks? And how much more do they need to complete the vision?

The historic Mercantile building will become a 250-seat “modern Globe” theater for live performances of Shakespeare’s play and other classic works, and will also house classrooms and company offices, according to Thompson. The thriving 10-year-old company is currently based in Howard County–according to their website, they aim with every play to answer the question and show the world, “What makes Shakespeare so great?”

The Mercantile Bank Building, CSC's new Indoor home.
The Mercantile Bank Building, CSC’s new Indoor home.

“The transformation of the venerated Mercantile Bank & Trust Company Building into the city home of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company seemed inspired, and will significantly contribute to the resurgence of small businesses and vitality of the emerging residences in downtown area of Calvert Street,” said Robert C. Embry Jr., president of the Abell Foundation. “Tourists, theater-goers and Baltimore City Schools students alike will benefit from this new, exciting, creative energy of an accomplished company. The Abell Foundation is pleased to be one of its funding partners.”

Thompson notes that the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s relocation downtown “adds a vibrant cultural anchor to the legal and business community on Calvert Street, just two blocks from the city’s Inner Harbor. Through its indoor and outdoor performances, educational programs and community events, the theater company already serves 12,000 people a year and is poised to expand.”

“The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is thrilled and thankful that the Abell Foundation has joined our core group of founding partners,” said Earle W. Pratt III, chairman of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s board of trustees. “Their support will help CSC fulfill its mission of bringing Shakespeare to adults and students in Baltimore and in saving a historic Baltimore landmark.”

Total estimated project cost: $6 million, including the building’s pricetag, redo and early-days operating expense.

“With the Abell Foundation grant, the project is more than half way to its goal,” Thompson says. We say, “Congratulations—keep up the great work.”

By the way, CSC is a member of TCG, the organization for professional theaters across the U.S., and the Shakespeare Theater Association, the international organization for professional Shakespeare theaters.


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