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Bay Theatre Company In Annapolis Seeks Diversity

The Capital of Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Janet Luby isn't afraid to tackle tough issues. So, the 11th season for her Bay Theatre Company kicks off with a drama about apartheid, continues with a staged reading of a play about gay marriage, and then moves onto works about relationships and faith. There are some laughs thrown into the mix, but Luby's overriding goal is promote diversity.

"It's our job," she said. "We have to reach out. There's a lot of stories to tell, there's a lot of cultures; people with different perspectives."

The quest for diversity extends not only to the kind of material she wants to present, but to the actors who take the stage in Annapolis and the audiences who watch them.

The initiative formally kicked off in June with a staged reading of Lorraine Hansberry's play about an African-American family in Chicago, "A Raisin in the Sun." Company manager Wendy Saulters was instrumental in organizing the event.

While the season-opening play, "Master Harold and the Boys," might come across as the antithesis of diversity since it concerns South African apartheid, two of three cast members are African-Americans and it brings up important issues of race, Luby said. "Master Harold" opens Friday.

"Theater is a place we entertain and educate, what better place to have people see issues and see people working together," said Baakari Wilder of Glenn Dale, who portrays Willie Malopo in the play.

Just three days after the opening, Bay is teaming with Dignity Players for a staged reading of "8" at Anne Arundel Community College. The drama chronicles the federal trial over California's Proposition 8, a gay-marriage ban.

"It's an important issue, and a lot of people at Bay Theatre are pro gay marriage," said Luby, who added that three more staged readings of different plays are planned this season.

Out Of The Box

The cast of "Master Harold" praised Bay's diversity efforts and the choice of the play.

"I'm grateful to my toes that Bay is doing it," said Michael Anthony Williams of Annapolis, who portrays Sam Semela. "If I had three thumbs, I'd have all three up."

Director Richard Pilcher, who teaches acting at the Baltimore School of the Arts, said it's easy for theaters to get "in a little bit of a box" and not branch out as Bay is doing.

"One of the purposes of theater is to open up hearts and minds to other possibilities," Pilcher said.

"Master Harold" touches not only on issues of race, but the subject of what constitutes a family, he said.

Pilcher also took the helm of "Beyond Therapy" at Bay two season ago and is slated to direct the companion pieces -- "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You" and "The Actor's Nightmare" -- later this season.

"The Foursome," a comedy about friends who gather to play golf after a class reunion, is the next full play after "Master Harold." "We're going to turn Bay Theatre into a golf course," Luby said. "Really."

"Sister Mary" and "The Actor's Nightmare" is the twosome following "The Foursome."

The season concludes with Arthur Miller's "The Price."

Luby said the slate of plays will take the audience to many different locations and introduce them to many different situations. "It's a diverse range of subjects," she said. "It's going to be as good, if not better, than last year. And last year was the best year for Bay Theatre."

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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