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Theater: 'A stage for every age'

September 24, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Sitting in his office at The Maryland Theatre, Executive Director Brian Sullivan is listening to classical music, but has papers with band names such as Dashboard Confessional and The Fray on his desk.

Sullivan said he's hoping to bring those bands and others frequently featured on MTV and VH1 to the theater. He said he wants the area's young people to be regular ticket holders.

"Now, it's my job to go find the bands," he said.

Sullivan took over the role of executive director of the downtown Hagerstown theater more than six months ago and said his goals include bringing good, affordable programming to Hagerstown.

"I will have something that you like here," he said.

He calls the theater a "stage for every age."

Hanging on the walls of his office are two calendars, already filled with programming for the next two years. Acts such as George Carlin, Kathy Griffin, international dancers and opera might be included in the schedule.

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The Maryland Theatre opened more than nine decades ago as a vaudeville house.

The theater was designed by renowned architect Thomas W. Lamb, whose work included hundreds of similarly elaborate showplaces in the United States and Canada - Madison Square Garden in New York and the Fox in San Francisco among them.

The first audience was treated to music by the orchestra in the pit, as well as a five-reel feature film, "The Commuters."

The vaudeville bill included George Moore, clown juggler; the Madcap Peaches, a musical-comedy group; the Guzmani Trio, who balanced on revolving globes; and The Big Surprise, seven singers scattered in the audience who performed from their seats.

The theater opened as the motion picture industry began producing full-length features, and it remained open as a movie theater after the days of vaudeville. It closed in November 1973.

A fire in 1974 severely damaged the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sullivan said he is planning family movie nights, bringing in 20th- and 21st-century composers and is also working on an independent film festival that will take place at the theater.

"We're putting The Maryland Theatre back on the map as the place to perform," he said.

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