Your greatest test is when you are able to bless someone else while you are going through your own storm.” As theaters both around Baltimore, as well as the globe, went dark in response to the COVID-19/Coronavirus threat, Baltimore Center Stage faced the unprecedented choice of cancelling the upcoming live performances of their new production Where We Stand by Donnetta Lavinia Grays. Though this decision may have eclipsed the lights at Center Stage, a bright light still shone through.
As the rest of the country, including Baltimore, was faced with the sobering fact that many of our hospitals were not fully prepared for the staggering amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they would need to combat this virus, Baltimore Center Stage sprung into action. Under the direction of Baltimore Center Stage’s Costume Director, David Burdick, Center Stage’s production staff took the lead in creating cloth hospital masks for Mercy Hospital Center. Their prototype was created in consultation with both Mercy Hospital and the CDC guidelines.
“I’m so proud of David and our costume shop team for seeing a need and so quickly applying their extraordinary skills to take on, and to inspire others to do so, as well,” beamed Baltimore Center Stage’s Executive Director, Michael Ross. Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with Burdick regarding his call to action, and how the Baltimore Arts Community has come together during this crisis.
Frankie Kujawa: What was the inspired you and the production staff to create such a ‘outside the box’ approach to combating this virus?
David Burdick: I saw a segment on the news about a hospital in Oklahoma that had reached out to local sewers to make homemade masks to help combat the shortage they were facing. The following morning, I had an email with the same story from my supervisor Cary Gillett and we agreed that this was something our costume shop staff could do. We had just started to “work from home” which is challenging for us because of the equipment we need on a regular basis, but we all had fabric and sewing machines at home and it was something we could easily do remotely.
FK: Could you describe how the Baltimore Arts community has come together during this crisis?
DB: The support has been great, and we’ve all been sharing the information we’ve discovered. We had an offer from Heidi Daniel at the Enoch Pratt Library to loan us sewing machines from their ‘Teen Makerspace’ if we needed more. It’s inspiring.
FK: Could you describe your process in creating these masks? Has there been any advice given to you from the (Baltimore or global) medical community on how to create these masks?
DB: Michael Ross, Executive Director at Baltimore Center Stage reached out to Father Tom at Mercy Hospital to see if there was a need—a resounding YES!—and he connected me with Dr. Wilma Rowe. She sent me some information from the CDC and her initial thoughts about what they needed. From there my team went to the Internet to see what patterns were out there and we started sampling them and fine-tuning the fit and streamlining the production process. It was a challenge since we are working remotely through email and text exchanges. We’ve also been sharing what we’ve learned with others across the country.
FK: Is there anything you would suggest from our readers at home that they can do to assist you or others during this time?
DB: We’ve got everything we need at Baltimore Center Stage right now. My best suggestion is to keep maintaining your social distancing and wash your hands!
Baltimore Center Stage was also happy to announce that though they are unable to open their doors for live performances of Where We Stand, audiences still will be able to see the production. Beginning April 2nd through April 26th Where We Stand will be made available as a video recording via the Vimeo platform. Not only will audiences be able to stream Where We Stand, but they will also receive a digital version of the program, invitations to live/virtual community convenings, and A PDF of the dramaturgy packet with discussion questions and resources for at-home use. Tickets for digital access are ‘Pay What You Can’ starting at $5.
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- Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.
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