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Chesapeake Shakespeare Company Will Soon Call Charm City Home

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- To be or not to be is no longer the question when it comes to Shakespeare getting a stage in Baltimore City. A groundbreaking Tuesday chipped away at any doubt that the classics have a new home.

Mary Bubala has more.

From the outside, the former Mercantile Trust Building at Calvert and Redwood looks quiet. Inside, it's loud as the mayor puts a sledgehammer to an old DJ booth. Until recently, the building housed a nightclub but the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company raised millions in a capital campaign to buy it, renovate it and bring Shakespeare to Baltimore City.

"Almost every American city of comparable size to Baltimore is served by a theater devoted to the classics and now Baltimore will have one of its own," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

School groups will come, along with a diverse audience from across the region.

"We think this building is going to be a tool for us to share why Shakespeare is fun, why it's something we can all share and understand and appreciate and enjoy," said Chesapeake Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Ian Gallanar.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman wielded a sledgehammer as well, because the theater has a summer home in Ellicott City. That's where 7-year-old Aura Lowery has performed on stage.

"I like the shows. I have been in the shows a couple of times," Lowery said.

Plans for the new 250-seat theater incorporate the ornate and historic features of the building---circa 1885.

"It is a gorgeous building. We are so happy to re-purpose it. It's active historic preservation, as well as a cultural institution that we are going to build here and we are so excited," said Earle Pratt, president of the Board of Trustees. "We are going to use the building as a very vertical space just like Shakespeare's theater in London."

The grand opening of the theater is planned for late 2014. The theater company will continue to perform in Howard County during the summer.

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