By Jim Reiter
When COVID dropped the curtain on theater productions over two years ago, Compass Rose Theater was in the middle of its production of Red in the Powerhouse Building at The Graduate Hotel in Annapolis. During the pandemic, the theater group relied on “grants and donations” and held several shows on Zoom.
Now they have “emerged from our COVID cocoon,” says Lucinda Merry-Browne, the founding artistic director. The return is being made possible thanks to an invitation from Maryland Hall.
This fall, Compass Rose was invited to relocate to a new intimate space within the walls of the center for visual and performing arts in Annapolis.
Compass Rose is one of two professional theaters in Annapolis, sharing that status with Classic Theatre of Maryland. Merry-Browne opened Compass Rose in 2011 in a vacant storefront at Eastport Shopping Center, then moved to Spa Road off of Westgate Circle in 2014. The next move occurred in 2018 when the theater took up residence at the Powerhouse Building adjacent to The Graduate Hotel on West Street. The new space at Maryland Hall will be in Room 308, which is in the process of being retrofitted.
When live shows closed in February 2020, “COVID was just starting and we didn’t know what was ahead of us,” says Merry-Browne. “We were continuing throughout the pandemic to look for spaces.” When Compass Rose’s board president Debra Fortier connected with Maryland Hall’s recently appointed executive director Jackie Coleman, the doors opened to a new partnership.
“As Maryland Hall continues to work towards our mission of Art for All, we are pleased to have a theater company on site,” says Coleman. “This partnership with Compass Rose will bring performances and opportunities to take theater classes to Maryland Hall. We are thrilled to be working with them and look forward to what they bring to the hall.”
Compass Rose will produce three shows next year: the first will open January 13, the next in March, and a spring musical will close an abbreviated season. Afterward, the theater’s summer educational programs will begin. For the 2023-24 season, a full slate of five main-stage shows and two student productions will be produced.
“We’ve always called ourselves a teaching theater,” says Merry-Browne. “In addition to specific programs, students in our shows are paid, and at the same time are mentored by our professional actors, many of whom join us from New York.”
An opening reception will be held Nov. 19 from 4-6 pm in Maryland Hall’s Community Room.
“Maryland Hall has welcomed us with open arms,” said Merry-Browne. “Maryland Hall exists to benefit the community, and we exist to benefit the community. It’s going to be a great partnership.”
Editor’s note: Learn more about the history of Compass Rose Theater in this story from 2011: https://bayweekly.com/bravo-for-second-acts/