After five years of calling Remington home, Single Carrot Theatre is planning to leave its N. Howard Street space, and the next time you see the experimental troupe perform, it may be in someone’s house, an old church or unleased commercial space.
Building off site-specific productions such as “Promenade Baltimore,” which placed audience members on a bus as scenes unfolded outside the windows, and “A Short Reunion,” a series of short plays that were staged in various Remington locales, Single Carrot will leave its building in June and commit to itinerant performances starting in September.
Members of the ensemble say the shows that took place outside of the theater space were some of the most successful and artistically rewarding, and will help the group realize its new mission statement to create “socially relevant” theater that engages communities around the city.
With every production, the company will consider “how the show can have a bigger impact beyond being a piece of theater,” says Genevieve de Mahy, the group’s artistic director, and “how can it be a part of the bigger conversation.”
“It’s part of our values to make sure that our theater is accessible,” adds Alix Fenhagen, Single Carrot’s interim managing director.
They’re hoping to partner with community organizations to not only activate different types of spaces, but also supplement productions with materials that add to the discussion. As an example, an upcoming production of “Pink Milk,” a play about the famed British codebreaker Alan Turing, who was prosecuted in the 1950s for being gay, will include interviews between local LGBTQ elders and youth talking about their experiences.
In addition to making portions of these interviews available to attendees, Single Carrot will post them online as a resource for all to see.
Taking plays into non-traditional spaces also presents some interesting dramatic choices. For the production of “Mr. Wolf,” a Rajiv Joseph play about a child who is abducted and then reunited with her family as a teenager, the setting could be the family’s house, playing on themes of sorrow, loss and the sudden reunion of this family unit, or the venue of a support group meeting, where people work through their shared trauma.
“We’ll pick sites and spaces that heighten the artistic value of the piece, or allow the piece to be seen a different way,” says de Mahy.
Single Carrot is in the process of looking for a home base with offices and room for rehearsals, and both Fenhagen and de Mahy say they hope to stay in the area.
Last year the company, founded in 2007 by recent college graduates relocating from Colorado, launched a crowdfunding campaign as it faced a financial shortfall, aiming to provide a more financially stable path forward and bring the “payscale up to nonprofit industry standards” for artists, administrators and educators. They successfully raised nearly $60,000–slightly more than the original goal of $55,000.
The bigger projects like “Promenade: Baltimore,” which took three years to develop, and the desire to pay people adequately raised natural questions about how the theater was spending its money.
“If we want to do work like that, we have to be more specific about our goal and intention, and have more resources for that,” says Fenhagen.
“And the work we’ve been the most excited about doesn’t have to take place in a theater at all,” says de Mahy, “and shouldn’t take place in a theater at all.”
Leasing a large space and the cost of keeping it up ran counter to those ideas. After asking those questions about process, Single Carrot ultimately decided collectively that the group’s plays would thrive outside the confines of one particular room or place. And the positive feedback from audience members and community groups gave ensemble members the sense they were on the right track with these objectives.
The new mission statement is in many ways an extension and refocusing of the one inspired by the Paul Cezanne quote that gave the group its name: “The day is coming when a single carrot freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”
“Everybody wants to make art to change the world,” says de Mahy, “and it makes you feel like you’re a little bit closer to that.”
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