Downtown Silver Spring has become a hub of activity, featuring stores, restaurants, and various forms of entertainment, ranging from a skating rink to movie theaters to outdoor concerts.
It’s also the home of two live theatres.
The 140-seat Silver Spring Black Box Theatre, located at 8641 Colesville Road, is home to four theatre groups, which perform there regularly as part of the Theatre Consortium of Silver Spring. But the community-owned building also rents out space for one-night engagements and limited runs, giving the opportunity to new artists and arts organizations to put on fare as varied as plays, set lists, improv comedy, open-mic and dance concerts, said Jonathan Ezra Rubin, managing director of the Consortium. There’s even a pole-dance competition on August 12, produced by the Titans of Pole.
The four resident companies are Forum Theatre, Lumina Studio Theatre, Live Garra Theatre, and ArtStream, Inc.
RoundHouse Theatre of Bethesda ran the Black Box for about 10 years; the Consortium took over in 2014 when RoundHouse’s contract expired.
“The Black Box Theatre’s main mission is to manage venues on behalf of the community and to give a home to some arts groups,” Rubin said.
The Consortium members pay lower rent than the outside groups and don’t need to pay for office or rehearsal space. In exchange, they help with sprucing up the theatre during maintenance week and publicize their membership.
The Black Box, like the surrounding neighborhood, seems to rarely have a slow moment.
“We’re extremely busy, booked relatively solid throughout the whole year,” said Rubin. “If a slot opens open, it tends to be filled up quickly. There’s no down time even during the summer.”
The Open Circle Theatre will offer a Retrospective, entitled “To Reach the Unreachable Star,” on September 15-17, and Forum Theatre will put on British playwright Caryl Churchill’s play “Love and Information” on September 28.
The Highwood Theatre, at 914 Silver Spring Avenue, also has a number of components and types of activities. This summer the theatre’s day camp (called Musical Theatre Intensive) put on the musicals “The Robber Bridegroom” and “Into the Woods.”
September marks Highwood’s 15th season, said Matthew Nicola, artistic director.
The theatre has a bit of an unusual history. At its beginnings, Kevin Kearney, who is now Highwood’s executive director, started a theatre program in his basement.
“It was an outlet for students interested in theatre who didn’t find a place in school productions,” Nicola said.
The group met in four different locations and were in residence at a private school before coming to the Highwood.
The theatre has a “full season,” with three professional productions as well as student productions, goal-based private lessons, and afterschool classes for acting and tech work as well as music and voice.
“We try to have a very welcoming atmosphere, not competitive, where young people can learn and enjoy themselves and we can build up their confidence,” Nicola said.
Highwood aims to incorporate students from different backgrounds and focus on their commonalities. The productions are also diverse, including classic works, from Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde, “a lot of Stephen Sondheim… and other musicals,” said Nicola.
Four years ago, Highwood initiated its school program, which now serves more than 37 schools. “We offer workshops and weekly classes, primarily to help schools produce their own shows. It’s very collaborative,” said Nicola.
For more information and details about the Black Box Theatre’s current and upcoming productions visit their website at www.silverspringblackbox.com.
Highwood Theatre has not yet officially released the full content of its season, but interested individuals should watch for an official announcement the second week of August at www.thehighwoodtheatre.org.