Playwright Kirsten Greenidge wrote Baltimore after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The play tackles a racist incident on a predominantly white college campus and the 12 hours that follow, examining cultural, racial, and ethic identities, microaggressions, power dynamics, classism, media, and the failure of impact to match intent.
Due to the challenges of assembling Concord Academy’s virtual theater debut, the Performing Arts Department released Baltimore, slated as this year’s winter mainstage production, in two virtual showings on May 22 and 23. An ensemble of nine actors and 13 chorus members filmed the play in separate rooms, against green screens, during the winter. While editing, CA’s technical director, James Williston, added the production’s distinctive backgrounds, which Shreya Patel ’21 designed — one for each character, until the final climactic scene blurs the lines between them.
A pre-show discussion was held prior to the first showing. Greenidge and a member of the original cast, Cliff Odle, both of whom had worked with the cast during rehearsals, joined Shreya; director Shelley Bolman, CA theater teacher and a colleague of Greenidge’s; and five CA student actors for that conversation.
“The play asked difficult questions of the production team, the cast, the crew, and CA’s community,” said Bolman. “It helped to continue the dialogue on race and racism that we as a school and a country must keep at the forefront of our daily lives, and it offered all of us an opportunity to learn and grow together.”
It was personally challenging material, the students acknowledged, as did Greenidge. And the emotional intensity of grappling with it was compounded by the actors’ physical separation, required by safety guidelines earlier this year, while they were rehearsing and recording. That meant the actors had to adjust to performing for the camera, rather than on stage.
Kao Morakinyo ’21, who played Shelby, an RA who is dragged most reluctantly into the conflict between the college freshmen she advises, says she was proud of “being able to deliver all of our emotions through the camera as though we were face-to-face” as she performed intense scenes with her fellow student-actors over Zoom, “‘Am I telling this story well enough?’” she said she asked herself. “I wanted to work hard to give the story all of the attention it deserves.”
When a determination was made to hold reunion virtually this spring because of the pandemic, we knew we wanted to offer a range of events and experiences to facilitate connections not only among this year’s reunion classes (class years ending in 1 and 6) but also among all alumnae/i who might have an opportunity to connect virtually with Concord Academy from homes around the world. Beginning in mid-May and concluding in mid-June 2021, a full slate of events was offered.
All Concord Academy alumnae/i were invited to tune in to CA’s third annual Alumnae/i Assembly, which took place virtually on June 9, 2021. An evolution of the former annual meeting, this annual assembly offers every member of the alumnae/i community a touchpoint for remaining involved or reconnecting with the school — its aim is to make CA an ongoing and relevant part of our graduates’ lives.
A year of challenge and hope concluded in a joyously familiar way on Friday, June 11, when Concord Academy honored the class of 2021. Eighty-six graduates were celebrated in the Academy Garden along with 11 classmates who joined them by livestream.