Ryan Haase is certainly a man on the move in Baltimore theatre. As his theatre company embarks on a new adventure with the opening of their own space in December, I thought it would be good idea to sit down with him for a chat over a cup of coffee at Doobies in Mt. Vernon. So, here goes—two Ryan’s and lots of caffeine.
Ryan Clark: So… I’m going to start out with hard question. Tell me Ryan, why theatre? What got you into theatre? What excites you about theatre?
Ryan Haase: When I was very young, I saw my older sister in this terrible non-musical version of Meet Me In St. Louis. Soon after, I was asking my mom to take me to more theatre. I saw a touring production of Fame that came to Hawaii.
RC: Where did you go to college? What was your major?
RH: I went to Towson University; my focus was scenic design and production.
RC: What made you want to start a theatre company?
RH: I directed Pippen at Towson. It was the first time I had gathered a group of people together to put on a show—some from the theatre department others from the music and dance department—which was such an exciting thing. After we graduated from Towson, my friends and I worked for other companies in the Baltimore but we were just not satisfied. We were not feeling fulfilled so we decided to come together and form our own theatre company because we thought we would probably and do it better. That was the birth of Stillpointe. We are coming up on five years of doing this.
RC: What is about directing that you like? I came to directing as an actor in my undergraduate training. You came to directing as a scenic designer. Can you tell me about that?
RH: I think as an actor you are interested in a specific character—how would I play that character? As a scenic designer you have to think in broader terms—what is the world of the play? You create the world.
RC: Where was Stillpointe’s first production?
RH: Our first show was at Charmington’s in Towson—a coffee shop in Towson.
RC: So, not a theatrical venue. You were breaking that theatrical convention that theatre happens in a theatre.
RH: That’s what we consistently go for. This past year was different for us because most of our work is in a small venue/space. [Stillpointe produced three shows the year at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Mt. Vernon and recently Assassins at University of Baltimore.] We broke away from the basis of which we started. This has been our most successful season however; we are really looking forward to going back to our roots—a small theatre
RC: What would you say is the mission of Stillpointe
RH: Making musical theatre accessible to a broad audience. It’s giving people an experience—I want people to say, “I never thought musical theatre could be like that.” We try and create an atmosphere that is fun that is more like a party. You made fun of me once by calling me a capitalist. I never forgot that. (laughing)
RC: I did? (laughing)
RH: You did. We were out talking about shows and you totally accused me of being a capitalist. I recently said in another interview that we basically are capitalists. We want to entertain. When we did Hair, the audience had the opportunity to smoke hookah with the cast before the show. When we did Little Shop of Horrors, the audience entered through the back alley of the theatre. That’s what we thrive on. That’s why we wanted our own small space to create that fun.
RC: Tell me about your new space. How did all of this come about?
RH: The company had been talking about having our own space for quite some time. Actually, this year we sort of put it on the back burner when the owner of the old Strand Theatre space approached us. Stillpointe had performed at that space for many years, which is right next door to our new space—the old Hexagon Theatre [1825 North Charles Street.] We were given the first three months for free so we can fix it up… then we are on a graduated rent plan so it was a great deal for us. We are putting in a sweat equity in the space to make it a home for us.
RC: So what is the audience capacity?
RH: It’s going to depend on the play. We are aiming for a 30-seat house.
RC: Is it a black box / modular space?
RH: Yes. We have a bar that will double as the orchestra pit. I like to refer to it as sandwich theatre where the audience will be in the middle.
RC: How long will you be running shows?
RH: We are going to try six-week runs, which is something we have wanted to do.
RC: What is in store for this this season?
RH: What we do know is we are going to do Putnam County Spelling Bee, which will run from January to March. We are looking at two new musicals with LGBT themes. One is a gay ghost story that takes place in the 1930s!
RC: When do you launch your new space?
RH: We are having a space launch on December 11th from 7 to 11 p.m. featuring live performances and cocktails.
RC: I love it!
RH: The ticket proceeds will fund some of our cleanup costs for the space—paint, plumbing issues, etc.
RC: Sounds exciting. Thanks for chatting! I look forward to the event December 11!!
RH: See you there.
For more information about Stillpointe Theatre’s Space Launch Party check out their website at Stillpointetheatre.com. Ryan Clark is an assistant professor and program coordinator of Theatre and Media Performance at Stevenson University.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of Fifty Degrees (Seven Kitchens, 2016), selected by Ching-In Chen as co-winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. Other books by Shapiro include the short story collections How to Whistle (Lethe Press, 2016) and Lincoln Avenue (Squares and Rebels Press, 2014), the chapbook GREGG SHAPIRO: 77 (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2012), and the poetry collection Protection (Gival Press, 2008).
He has work forthcoming in the anthology Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos (Anhinga Press, 2018). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBT and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.
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