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Feb. 14 2024

Dontrell takes a Baltimore hero’s journey at the Peale

By Gavin Witt | Posted in Host Blogs | Comments Off on Dontrell takes a Baltimore hero’s journey at the Peale

Baltimore-based theater company Sisters Freehold presents the local premiere of Charm City-set Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea by Nathan Alan Davis at The Peale from February 16th through March 3rd.

To join Dontrell Jones III, his family and friends on this magical, theatrical, poetic quest through the streets of Baltimore, into the Aquarium, and “down-y Ocean,” the website is https://www.sistersfreehold.org/dontrell

Joining me from Sisters Freehold to talk about the play was founding Co-Artistic Director Makeima Freeland, who spoke about her personal passion for the play’s poetry—evident both in author Davis’ artful use of verse and in a celebration of the poetry of the everyday, in the spirit of playwrights from Arthur Miller to August Wilson to Dominique Morrisseau.

Freeland also lauded the play’s true-crab-blue Baltimore roots, which it came by honestly. I happen to know, having worked with the playwright on its earliest development during a residency and workshop at Baltimore Center Stage, that Davis dove deep into the city’s history, cultures, geography, rivalries, and sense of self. He came away impressed and maybe a little in love with the charms of Charm City; you can judge for yourself how much that plays out in the play.

To bring it to life, Makeima and Sisters Freehold have harnessed the talents of a company of entirely local artists, from the ensemble of actors who embody the ancestors as well as the Jones family at the heart of the story, to the design team and production crew. Right down to staging the piece in the round at the historic Peale Museum.

Hear what Makeima had to say about this sometimes-unflinching exploration of some of Baltimore’s more painful past that also manages to be hilariously funny, charmingly sweet, a hero’s journey and quest for identity (taking Our Hero on a zigzag path that includes Johns “my name is plural” Hopkins, the Aquarium, the local pool, the family table, down the Bay and right on out into the surging Atlantic), a love story, and an amen corner for Mobtown’s indomitable spirit.

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WBJC listeners and Baltimore audiences may know Gavin from his nearly 20 years as dramaturg and associate artistic director at Baltimore Center Stage (in which capacity he was a frequent guest on WBJC to talk about programs and events), or from regular appearances alongside Jonathan Palevsky at the Charles Theater for Cinema Sundays discussions. A director, dramaturg, producer, translator, and adaptor who also teaches on the theater faculty at Towson University, Gavin is a recent addition to the WBJC team and delighted to play this new role.

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