Although May is not a summer month, Memorial Day weekend is widely recognized in the USA as the unofficial launch date of the summer season – never mind frigid ocean beach temperatures most anywhere north of Key West, Florida.
But without dipping even a toe in the surf you can enjoy a high and dry evening under the stars – assuming the weather cooperates – as Classic Theatre of Maryland kicks off its outdoor season on May 16 in the courtyard of historic Reynolds Tavern (circa 1747) in Annapolis. Catch snippets of all 37 plays in just 97 minutes in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” – 7:30 every Tuesday night through Aug. 29 – including, of course, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Sometimes abbreviated as “The Compleat Wks of Willm Shkspr” (Abridged), it’s the funniest treatment of Bill the Bard’s genius this side of Cole Porter’s lyrics in “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” (“If she says your behavior in heinous, kick her right in the ‘Coriolanus’ ”) from Broadway’s “Kiss Me Kate.”
If you’re craving a full-on Shakespearean experience, you’ll be tempted by “The Tempest” at Classic Theatre of Maryland’s outdoor summer venue, the Grisham Estate in nearby Edgewater. Thursdays-Sundays June 6-23.
Continuing with the fresh air theme, the Wolftrap National Park for the Performing Arts gets into full swing on Memorial Day weekend with three concerts by the Avett Brothers, May 25-27, at the Filene Center amphitheater on the grounds of Wolftrap Farm outside Vienna, Va. The Filene venue offers covered, open-air reserved seating as well as bring-your-own lawn-chair or blanket seating on the lawn of the rolling, tall-trees landscape. All three Avett Brothers concerts are at 7:30 p.m.
A pair of weekend music festivals open the season in May and June at Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. The M3 Rock Festival is headlined on May 6 and 7 by Styx, best remembered for its 19702 and ’80s progressive rock power ballads, followed by the Capital Jazz Fest featuring George Benson, the Isley Brothers and Peabo Bryson June 2-4.
Koe Wetzel brings his national tour of blended rock and country to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, 7 p.m., May 18, at the Pier Six Pavilion concert tent, introducing a summer season of pop and hip-hop on the waterfront.
The Mainstay in Rock Hall takes its weekend concerts outdoors to its backyard stage, weather permitting, with pianist Joe Holt’s First Friday-of-the-month concert on May 5 as he accompanies singer Randall Butler – she’s a soprano despite her first name – and guitarist Jeff Davis. Together they cover tunes associated with Whitney Houston, Bonnie Raitt, Billy Joel, Lady Gaga, Adele, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, the late great Elvis and others you’ll recall. Next up at the Mainstay on May 13 is singer/songwriter Pam Ortiz and her husband Bob, who accompanies with his hands on guitar and piano.
Downtown Easton’s Avalon Theatre brings the theatrical concert tour of “Both Sides Now” to its Art Deco main stage at 8 p.m. May 5, fresh off a sold-out two-week run at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va. The cabaret-style show embraces the music of longtime friends and onetime lovers Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen as performed by Robbie Schaefer and Danielle Wertz covering such treasures as “Suzanne,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Hallelujah” and the show’s title song.
Moving outdoors, the Avalon Foundation presents the 23rd annual Multicultural Festival, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. May 6, with performing artists from Easton’s Allegro Academy, bagpiper Randy Welch, drummer Kofi Dennis from Ghana and Easton Elementary Spanish dancers. (In case of inclement weather, the festival takes shelter in nearby Easton Middle School.)
Last but most of all, be sure not to miss my personal Spy Diary top pick: Beginning Memorial Day weekend and continuing through to year’s end, Baltimore welcomes the touring “Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited” to Maryland where it all began. The Maryland Center for History and Culture (formerly Maryland Historical Society) hosts this Muppet-branded multimedia show featuring puppets, obviously, plus costumes, character sketches, original scripts and storyboards as well as motion picture film and TV video clips. Besides his Muppets, Henson contributed mightily to the original “Sesame Street” puppet characters who engage children to this day. Which brings to mind one question that speaks volumes to Jim Henson’s legacy – two, really: Who doesn’t like “Sesame Street” and the Muppets? Henson died far too soon in 1990 of lung abscesses from an earlier bacterial infection. He was 53.
As a University of Maryland grad, class of 1970, I’ve long recommended to any College Park visitors that they should stop by the front entrance to the Stamp Student Union building to take in the statuary tableau of Jim Henson on a bench in apparent conversation with his enduring character creation, Kermit the Frog. Henson preceded me as a fellow alum in 1957. I hereby nominate Kermit for an honorary Terrapin doctorate.
As a University of Maryland graduate, class of 1970, I’ve long recommended to any College Park visitors that they should stop by the front entrance to the Stamp Student Union building to take in the statuary tableau of Jim Henson on a bench in apparent conversation with his enduring character creation, Kermit the Frog. Henson preceded me as a fellow alum in 1957. I hereby nominate Kermit for an honorary Terrapin doctorate.
Steve Parks is a retired arts writer now living in Easton, rooting as ever for the Terps.