Are you feeling tired, rundown, listless? Do you poop out at political parties? The answer to all your problems is in this little performance series, Baltimoratory—a year-old project devoted to live reenactments of classic speeches.
The brainchild of Baltimore theater doyenne Lucia A. Treasure, Baltimoratory features one-night-only reimaginations of spirited speeches originally delivered by the likes of James Baldwin, Mother Jones, and Shirley Chisholm.
“I love performance and I love bringing ideas to life. I also love history. So getting people to have a fun and energetic connection with moments in history that I think are pretty fascinating is awesome,” Treasure says.
Treasure has been a fixture of Baltimore’s performance art scene for 20 years, directing productions such as Baltimore Rock Opera Society’s Welcome to Shakesville and Impassioned Embraces for Annex Theater; as well as performing in Annex productions of The Master and the Margarita, Marat/Sade, and The Left Hand of Darkness. A mentee of famed performance artist Penny Arcade, Treasure’s original performance works have been presented at P.S. 122, Labbodies, Artscape, Dreambaby Cabaret, and more.
Producing Baltimoratory under the moniker Pigeonaire, Treasure selects the speeches and performers, giving each artist wide leeway to interpret the performance. Baltimoratory’s inaugural installment featured Derek Cooper delivering a faithful, powerful performance of James Baldwin’s 1965 “Pin Drop” speech, part of a televised debate between Baldwin and William F. Buckley. Meanwhile, Connor Kizer reinvented Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as a séance, and Linda Campbell Franklin embodied Mother Jones rallying the coal miners of Pennsylvania to unionize in 1912. (By way of disclosure, I delivered Dorothy Parker’s 1953 speech “Hollywood, The Land I Won’t Return To” as a stand-up comedy set last year.)
“I think each performer has really taken [Baltimoratory] in the right spirit,” Treasure says. “Like what Derek did with James Baldwin, which is just a straightforward take on the speech. He looked at the video and wanted to match it, which I thought was neat. And then there was Connor doing a séance and ending up in full combat with himself.”