Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

WBAL Radio interviews with Sean Brescia and Tom Kiefaber on The Senator

Sean Brescia and Tom Kiefaber were interviewed about The Senator yesterday, in response to the article that came out in the Daily Record. Listen here.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Excerpt of WBAL taped interview with Sean Brescia

Sean Brescia of Clearpath Management, who is assisting in The Senator's transition to community-based non-profit, recently taped an interview with WBAL Radio when they called him in response to the Daily Record article. He sent me an excerpt of that interview:

SEAN BRESCIA: Look, there is no doubt that Tom Kiefaber has become a pariah of sorts in this whole situation. There is a lot of blame being thrown around, and a lot of facts and figures being quoted out of context-- A lot of focus on the past in general.

I think it’s no secret that certain folks downtown have lost faith in Tom’s leadership and the ability for this situation to be resolved within the walls of the Senator under current management.

And let’s face it, there is clearly a history of financial turmoil that on the surface seems to point to that.

But if you dig a little below the surface of the sensationalism, you actually find an equal number of people who commend Tom, in national circles even, for having somehow been able to keep this little single screen presentation theatre operational for as long as he has, when all of the practices and trends of the industry have basically conspired against the very existence of these types of historic theatres for decades now.

We can spend a lot of time as a community and as a city, pointing fingers, and blaming Tom at every media avail. One group can cite a bunch of financial assistance that was never fully realized. Another group can point to a complicated history of trends that got us to where we are now.

Or we can start getting really frank about the timeline in play here and put our heads together to try to find a solution that is in everyone’s interests. There are a number of interests that have to be balanced here:

The bank, certainly
The community
The city
The state
And other creditors

The bottom line is that Tom Kiefaber remains open and fully engaged in a proactive effort to make this transition, including transition of ownership and management to a new structure-- one that ensures strong influence and direction from the community going forward, balances the interests of the city and bank, and ensures the continued legacy of The Senator.

That has been his goal for some time and that remains his goal. But there is no easy exit strategy here for him. There’s a loyal staff involved and a family that this weighs extremely heavily on. And the interests of the community are also most important to him.

I think it’s a great sign that the city has formed a steering committee to explore scenarios for The Senator. But let’s be honest, there is a clear disconnect between the conversations being had behind closed doors downtown and the voice of the community which right now isn’t even being heard. Councilman Henry who sits on the steering committee himself has said that, “the committee is not seeking community input.”

Why would they not be seeking community input from the people who live with The Senator in their backyards and across the street from their businesses?

Tom is ready to be out of the way on this thing, BELIEVE ME, but there are a number of prerequisites to any deal that simply aren’t being shared publicly, much less even addressed, and should be.

The cleanest, most expeditious path to a viable and sustainable solution for The Senator going forward is going to be found through a cooperative integration of ideas and goals that balance all of the interests involved.

The city’s steering committee has not yet identified a viable non-profit that could assume ownership and operation of the Senator. The community has formed one. These people need to start talking to each other right away.

Its time everyone stops wasting sound bites on pointing fingers and assigning blame, and start working together out in the open to find a solution.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maryland Daily Record Feature on The Senator

There's a feature today in the Maryland Daily Record, which outlines the parallel but differing efforts being taken by Baltimore City and the local community as represented by The Senator Community Trust LLC. I want to bring out a couple of quotes from the article here:

At this stage, the committee is not seeking community input, said councilman and committee member Bill Henry, who represents the district in which the Senator is located.

“None of us know anything about actually running [a theater], so we’re saying let’s not focus on that right now,” Henry said. “Right now we just need to make sure we save the real estate so someone can have a crack at it.”

And then compare that to this...

Ideally, Brescia said, the trust could work out a temporary refinancing of its loan with First Mariner, then as a nonprofit immediately begin fundraising with the help of the city and state to take it off of the bank’s books.

“The idea is to get everybody off the hook,” he said. “While we’d like the city and state involved, they need to be off the hook for the long term and we can’t burden our taxpayers.”

Susan McCarter, former executive director for the League of Historic American Theaters and now a Johns Hopkins University professor, said that most historic theaters that have survived have done so as a nonprofit. But the successful ones have been a marriage between community and government ideals.

“If you involve a community in some way in maintaining the theater, it has a chance of being healthy,” she said. “I think the problem arises when people who don’t have a local stake in it are making the decisions.”

And this...

As far as the Senator Theatre is concerned, there’s no lack of community and business interest; just one of time and agreement between two groups that believe they have the property’s best interests at heart.

“There is definitely a disconnect with the city’s way of trying to figure out a solution to this problem and our thinking,” said Brescia. “It’s a good indicator of intent that they established this task force — now we’re looking to bridge the gap between the community’s idea and what the city’s exploring.”

Food for thought.

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Press Releases from The Senator Community Trust LLC

The Senator Community Trust LLC is a new community-based organization with a mission to preserve and protect the historic Senator Theatre. The group put out two press releases in the past 24 hours. I'm just going to quote them.

********************FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***********************

Baltimore Community Organizes To Support Historic Senator Theatre

Community and business leaders announce the formation of The Senator Community Trust LLC
to ensure the survival of the cherished historic landmark Senator Theatre.

Baltimore, Maryland, February 25, 2009 – A group of local community and business leaders announced today that they have organized to realize the goal of community-based non-profit ownership and preservation of the historic Senator Theatre.

Recognizing the need for the community to take the leadership in implementation of the vision to establish The Senator as the premiere community-based entertainment and educational venue in the area, the group has formed The Senator Community Trust LLC, which is now in the process of seeking non-profit status.

This vision is based on extensive feedback during a series of public meetings that began in early 2008.

“We’re encouraged by the city’s willingness to get involved. We take that as a very positive sign of their belief in this transition to community-based entertainment and educational facility,” says Sean Brescia of Clearpath Management, who has stepped up to help coordinate the goals of Senator management and The Senator Community Trust.

Brescia adds, “We are grateful for the city’s support of this vision and identification of economic development funds that could be allocated to help with the stabilization and transition process, and look forward to continuing this dialogue with them as we proceed.”

Efforts to preserve and protect the historic Senator Theatre have garnered national attention, most recently when actor David Arquette drew attention to the issue on his MySpace blog. Arquette writes, “Why do I care? Because I’ve seen it, I’ve walked through its sacred halls, I love it and I want my daughter to see it, wander through it in awe, and love it as I do someday soon.”

About The Senator Community Trust LLC: To foster the vision of the Senator Theatre as a community-based non-profit organization, a group of local community and business leaders has organized The Senator Community Trust, LLC. The Senator Community Trust has as its mission the preservation, protection, and restoration of Baltimore’s cherished landmark, the historic Senator Theatre. The Senator Community Trust is working with theatre management toward community ownership of the theatre building.


Sherry Holland-Senter
The Senator Community Trust LLC
P.O. Box 39781
Baltimore, MD 21212

Sean Brescia
Clearpath Management
1000 Fell Street, Suite 623
Baltimore, MD 21231

# # #


February 25, 2009

************FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE************

Ace That Assessment: Senator Theatre Offers “Edu-tainment” Program for Area Schools

Baltimore, Maryland, February 25, 2009 – Beginning today for the next two weeks, The Senator Theatre will be hosting a series of “Test Preparation Shows” to area school children through a program sponsored by Amped Up: Family Amphiteater. The program is part of the developing vision of The Senator Theatre as a venue for educational, cultural and entertainment events.

The Senator Theatre management team has recently expanded the theatre’s offerings to demonstrate the Senator Theatre’s future as the premiere multi-purpose entertainment venue in the area, working with Sean Brescia of Clearpath Management to showcase a wide range of local musical talent. Through the “Test Preparation Shows,” the Senator Theatre is also demonstrating its potential as an enhanced learning destination for students.

A motion picture screen used for entertainment purposes can serve as a "graphic interface for enhanced learning" when utilized for educational purposes. Another key aspect of the experience has to do with the special purpose, controlled environment nature of the facility itself. Attention is seized and distractions are minimized in this unique enhanced learning environment that represents a scaled up version of the illuminated screens that they have been conditioned to direct their attention to from early childhood.

About The Senator Community Trust LLC: To foster the vision of The Senator Theatre as a community-based non-profit organization, a group of local community and business leaders has organized The Senator Community Trust, LLC. The Senator Community Trust has as its mission the preservation, protection, and restoration of Baltimore’s cherished landmark, the historic Senator Theatre. The Senator Community Trust is working with theatre management toward community ownership of the theatre building.

Sherry Holland-Senter
The Senator Community Trust

Michael Amrhine
Amped Up!, Inc.
A+ Assemblies, LLC

PDF versions can be downloaded here:

SCT announcement
Edu-tainment at The Senator

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Interview with Karen Noonan, Theatre Historical Society of America

Recently, I had an opportunity for a phone interview with Karen Colizzi Noonan, President of the Theatre Historical Society of America, based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

In an article titled “Independent Theaters: 10 Best Movie Theatres in America” in the Winter 2008/2009 issue of Moving Pictures magazine, Ms. Noonan is quoted about the Senator Theatre. She describes the Senator as “elegant and grand” and says “the mix of films (chosen by owner Tom Kiefaber) is wide-ranging, and that marquee lit up at night makes the heart race just a bit faster.”

Noonan also recently wrote a letter to Governor O’Malley, Mayor Dixon, and other Maryland political figures in support of the Senator Theatre, in which she writes “Closure of the Historic Senator Theatre would be a crushing blow to a city that takes pride in its unique place in American history.”

In our phone interview, I asked Ms. Noonan about the challenges faced nationally by historic theatres and their owners or operators. I had heard that among historic theatre preservation circles, they know it’s a frequent pattern that when the owners who have struggled for years to save historic theatres finally become overwhelmed by the hardships inherent in this process, and the debts build up, and the theatre may have to close, locals often blame the very people who have made personal sacrifices to ensure the theatre’s survival for many years. This happens so often that historic theatre preservationists have a name for it: “crucify the zealots.”

I asked Karen Noonan how often she sees this pattern, and whether she thinks this is what is happening here in Baltimore with local reactions to the Senator’s owner, Tom Kiefaber.

“It happens with frightening regularity,” asserts Ms. Noonan. “There is usually one person who carries the theater on his or her back.” This is often someone working 90 hours a week for the love of the place, she says.

At some point, she says, “there comes a backlash. If something starts to go wrong, they’re the easiest person to target.”

She points out that a historic theatre like the Senator presents unique challenges. “This isn’t a burger joint. It’s not like any other kind of business. I’ve seen so many theaters where the zealots have been cast aside.”

Asked specifically about Tom Kiefaber, she says “I think he deserves a place in it, no matter what the outcome, and deserves the recognition for having gotten it this far.”

Noonan went on to say Tom Kiefaber “has a tremendous gift for garnering publicity for that theatre. Tom should never not be part of the equation.”

My next question to Ms. Noonan was why these historic theatres like the Senator are important to a community.

“There’s a sense of history and a sense of personal history. People remember going to the Senator. It’s a touchstone for the community. It’s an important part of American history, American life. If you let them go, they’re not coming back.”

She goes on to describe the theatre’s historic role in the life of a community.

“It was the community gathering place, the meeting place. If they wanted to get the news, they went into the theaters.”

In Baltimore, we still have our very own Senator Theatre zealot who, along with his dedicated staff, has not only kept the theatre open and intact, but also built the Senator brand into one that regularly receives accolades nationwide. The folks at the Senator have also worked in tandem with our extended community to envision a dynamic multi-purpose future for the beloved landmark theatre.

In the past few years, Mr. Kiefaber has made it clear that after 20 years of independent ownership and operation, he can no longer ensure the theatre's preservation and protection. His goal is for the Senator to become "The People's Theatre" in more than name only, to be owned by a community-based non-profit. It's an admirable goal, but it can only be achieved through a proactive collaboration with motivated members of our community who recognize the importance of assuming the stewardship of this extraordinary irreplaceable icon from Hollywood's golden age.

As the process progresses, Tom Kiefaber's expertise and a lifetime of contacts in the entertainment industry will be of continuing value to the Senator and its community-based stewards for years to come. In our community, there are those of us who understand just how easy it is to read an article about Kiefaber's debts and the theatre's operational struggles and proceed to cast aspersions and blame from the outside looking in.

The individuals who have kept the Senator in operation without interruption for 70 years (under increasingly difficult circumstances) deserve praise and assistance, not condemnation. It's too easy to blame them from the outside looking in when a cherished historic movie house like the Senator is endangered. We still have a fleeting opportunity to handle this crucial transition in a more appreciative and enlightened manner than so many other communities have done in the past. Let’s make sure that happens.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Miscellaneous Senator News

I haven't had a lot of time to post on the blog this week. I've been working on other projects. I do want to do a quick update on the Senator Theatre.

Tom Harris over at the Friends of the Senator Theatre blog got responses to his follow-up questions from Mayor Dixon.

There was a very nice letter on the Senator in the Sun from Claudine Davison, Director of the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival. Quote:

Baltimore needs more brave warriors like Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber ("Instead of Senator bailout, try free-market solution," Feb. 16). Who else would have had the stamina, courage and drive to fight such an uphill battle over so many years to save this historic theater?

The truth is that without Mr. Kiefaber, this gem would already be long gone. Mr. Kiefaber has also championed and assisted many community causes and events, including the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival.

We owe Mr. Kiefaber a huge debt of gratitude.
Claudine Davison

I noticed as I was looking for that link that the "bonus letters" page on the Sun site now has a letter I wrote them at least two weeks ago (and no, it's not the nasty letter that is also there), but I don't think those get published in the printed paper.

There's a video interview with Tom Kiefaber on WJZ's site.

Other than that, I don't know that there's been a lot of news on the Senator front this week.

Now playing at the Senator:

Coming March 6:

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Amazing Weekend at the Senator!

Wow. I had a little too much fun at the Senator this weekend, which is maybe why I couldn’t get a blog post together yesterday. I want to thank Tom Kiefaber, Sean Brescia of Clearpath Management, Gayle and the rest of the staff at the Senator, and of course all the wonderful musicians and local businesses who volunteered their talents and services to make the Senator Sessions a great success! Thank you for a wonderful, exciting weekend. Best time I’ve had since I moved to Baltimore, and I am thrilled to know such talent is in the area!

The emerging shared vision of the Senator as a premiere multi-use arts and entertainment facility has now been successfully demonstrated as an evolving reality. This weekend was the icing on a cake that was baked over the past few weeks during other events like the inauguration, the Super Bowl, the Mind Field premiere, as well as showings of some of the finest current Hollywood movies.

The question remains whether, without community input, the city’s steering committee is sharing this vision, or even has a plan at all.

I want to echo David Arquette’s warning in his recent blog post about the Senator: there is indeed a danger of this cherished local resource falling into the wrong hands. This is not necessarily because anything malicious is happening. It’s just that the city does not have a good track record for planning of community spaces, as I think many of my neighbors who remember all the struggles over the Belvedere Square redevelopment project can attest.

Right now, it’s unclear whether the city has a plan for the Senator, and I understand from a conversation with a steering committee member that nobody on the steering committee has any experience in running a theater. My guess is that the city stepped in to try to help in what everyone agrees is an emergency situation, but they’re unprepared to help.

Unfortunately, they so far have not heeded what was the real request that came out of the emergency town hall at the Senator in January --- we asked them to come to the table with local community and business association leaders, community members, and Tom Kiefaber to discuss openly what can be done to put the Senator into the hands of a community-owned non-profit and transition it in a seamless way that will keep the doors open. So far, the city is having their own little private meetings and has not come to the table with all of us.

As for Tom Kiefaber, he knows just as well as Dan Rodricks at the Sun does that this is not about him. The Senator is bigger and more important than one man, and everyone knows that. I think Tom knows he has to give it up and let other people run the place, but let’s face it --- so far this is his life’s work. He’s been saving the Senator for over 20 years. Of course he doesn’t want to just let it go unless there’s a plan in place for it to be going in the right direction and safely in the hands of the community that loves it. Anyone who has done work they cared about deeply must understand that. It’s only natural.

The public also may not understand that the city really isn’t offering anything directly to Tom Kiefaber in their bid to acquire the Senator. The $320K figure they’ve floated would only pay off a small, currently unsecured portion of a much larger debt of more than $900K. It would be going straight to the bank, none of it into Tom’s pocket. He and his family are going to be in dire financial straits even if they take this deal. This is what I’m able to glean from the public record. Since the loan is secured by their home as collateral, it may in fact be a matter of taking the deal or losing their home (the fact that their home is currently collateral was reported in the Sun). More public money seems unlikely to be the solution, but from a standpoint of human compassion, I really have to say I hate to think that the family that made such huge personal sacrifices to keep the Senator open for the past 20 years is going to continue to suffer as a consequence. That part of this really breaks my heart.

I also want to just express a plea for not only keeping the doors open, but also keeping the staff of the Senator employed. There are a lot of good people there who stand to lose their jobs in this horrendous economy.

So, there’s a lot of positive stuff that can come out of this, as the wonderful weekend of fun just demonstrated. There’s also some bad consequences that could happen if we’re not careful. I want to see a solution that serves the highest good for the entire community, and keeps the Senator open as the multi-purpose arts and entertainment venue it needs to be.

Please enjoy my amateur videos of the events.

Friday Night Baltimore Revue:

Saturday Acoustic Love Songs:

Sunday Left Bank Jazz Revisited:

Sunday Night Psychedelic Show:

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Friday, February 13, 2009

WOW! Look what David Arquette just did!

David Arquette just posted an awesome blog post on saving the Senator Theatre! Thanks, David!

Partial quote:

The Senator Theater in Baltimore Maryland. This historic single-screen Art Deco Movie Theater was completed in 1939 and has been family owned for 69 years. It is breath taking, terrazzo floors, art deco murals, multi-colored glass bricks that serve as the backdrop to a classic neon sign, and a huge golden curtain that opens to reveal an era of film appreciation that has long been forgotten. The Senator Theater was added to the National Resister of Historic Places in 1989 but is (RIGHT NOW) in danger of falling into the wrong hands and ultimately becoming yet another soul-less mini mall type breeding ground for a large mouse that has a passion for pizza, video games and cheap beer.

A fundraising event starting this Friday February 13 and continuing through the 15th is scheduled to help save this gem of Americana. There will be several local bands, food, and entertainment so please go to http://www.senator.com/ to get all of the information you need to help preserve this beautiful example of the art deco architecture.

Why do I care? Because I’ve seen it, I’ve walked through it’s sacred halls, I love it and I want my daughter to see it, wonder through it in awe, and love it as I do someday soon. I want to help save it - by making sure the current owner Tom Kiefaber (who’s family has owned it for 69 years) has a say in it’s preservation and can pay the bills necessary to help it in it’s transition to becoming a non-profit that will allow The Senator to remain safe in the hands of the people, to live for generations to come, so that their children’s children can relish in it’s beauty.

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Tom Kiefaber on The Senator Sessions this weekend

In preparation for the upcoming Senator Sessions this weekend to benefit the historic theatre, owner Tom Kiefaber released statements which I quote from below:

It’s exciting to see how the bands have stepped up in response to David Arquette's urging through MySpace and that the community is supporting 'The Senator Sessions' weekend of benefit concerts.


We are producing a more innovative array of special event entertainment programming in response to the mandate from our community town meetings and round table discussions. These live music shows demonstrate expanded uses for large historic theatres like The Senator; enhanced uses that dovetail well with the surrounding businesses and preserve the historical integrity of the building.

What's even more exciting is that a number of the live music acts this weekend will utilize The Senator's giant screen to display projected digital images in synch with the performances. For the Sunday evening show, "Telesma" will also use our quad auditorium surround speakers in addition to on screen images to great effect. The results will be a dazzling blended utilization of what The Senator has to offer.

Its clear that movies are becoming increasingly available on many emerging platforms in addition to home theatres. While The Senator will always be an optimal state-of the art film showcase, what these concerts represent is alternative programming to attract the multitudes to The Belvedere Square commercial district on a more consistent basis. It's an evolution of what the movies used to do, which is generate that key Main Street synergy between a large historic theatre that anchors the commercial district and the surrounding businesses that interact with it in a win/win fashion.

The goal is not just for The Senator and the surrounding businesses and residential neighborhoods to get by and survive, but rather thrive by re-establishing the dynamic synergy that has diminished in a changing entertainment marketplace.

These live shows and other high profile special events will become a significant part of The Senator's dynamic and sustainable future, and that future is now.


"The Senator Sessions" concerts are being produced in conjunction with the local independent music scene to demonstrate that The Senator's highest and best use as a community-based, multi-purpose entertainment facility.

In my family we don't think of The Senator primarily in terms of its past, although that's the way the general public often perceives it.

Nostalgia plays a minor role in what we do, but for 70 years my family has viewed The Senator since it first opened in 1939 as a sleek and modern high-tech venue that from its inaugural opening has always been about the future.

As the city goes through the process of acquiring The Senator, we are acting to demonstrate the viability of the expanded entertainment uses that the community wants to see developed while we are still in a position to do so.

With the recent downbeat focus on The Senator's problematic debts, it should be noted that there is also great excitement building in the community as a result of our town meetings and the many round table discussions that have been held in the past two years regarding the theatre's dynamic future potential.

We agree with consensus that has formed that The Senator has an economically viable and dynamic future as a non-profit, community owned multi-purpose entertainment facility.

While the city is working along with us on its planned acquisition of The Senator and its associated real estate, we are working with the community to demonstrate the viability of the community mandate for expanded educational and entertainment uses for The Senator Theatre in addition to state of the art film presentations.

The upcoming weekend of events at the Senator continues to expand. In addition to the four concert events previously mentioned on this blog, there will also be a showing of the 1979 film The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring The Band, with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, and many more legendary musicians. The Last Waltz will play on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. People who attend the Acoustic Love Songs concert may stay over for the movie at no additional charge. Admission for the movie only is $9.

I can also now report that the Paul Reed Smith guitar being auctioned on e-Bay to benefit the Senator will be signed by a few of the many celebrities who have supported the Senator over the years. Signatures confirmed at this time are Paul Smith, David Arquette, Matthew McConaughey, John Waters, and Josh Groban. If only I had kept up those guitar lessons in high school!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mayor Dixon Responds to Questions About the Senator Theatre Transition

Yesterday, Tom Harris at Friends Of the Senator Theater blog, posted Mayor Sheila Dixon's responses to some questions he sent her in email. I'm just going to quote, and leave you to draw your own conclusions, as he did. (I feel like there are some conclusions I could draw, but I'm going to sit this one out.)

1. When the Board of Estimates plans to discuss/vote on the proposed aid package? The deal has not yet been accepted. There are too many unanswered questions to speculate on when the BOE action will occur.

2. Do the current budget shortfalls and possibility of city employee layoffs endanger its passing? No, we would use capital funds earmarked for economic development.

3. Who is/will determine persons to be seated as the transition steering committee? The steering committee is being led by Ellen Janes. The City is a participant but is not organizing or directing the committee.

4. Who is/will be involved in creating the non-profit group and appointing its officers? The steering committee.

5. Do you expect that persons from the theatre’s neighborhood and business associations will be included in discussions regarding questions 4 and 5? Yes.

I hope that you have found this information helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future regarding this or any other issue.

Sheila Dixon
City of Baltimore

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Senator Sessions and Custom Paul Reed Smith Guitar Auction

Tickets are now on sale for the full weekend of concerts to benefit the historic Senator Theatre in Baltimore. You can buy them at missiontix.com.

There will be four separate events showcasing a wide range of musical styles and local talents. It all sounds good to me. I like almost every kind of music, so I'm going for the $35 weekend pass. I think I may as well just move into the Senator next weekend!

The four events are as follows:

FRIDAY, February 13th - Save the Senator: A Baltimore Revue

From historic movie house to entertainment showplace –The Payola Reserve, Wye Oak, Nathan Bell, The John Hardy Boys, US Royalty and local radio legends Rob Timm and Alex Cortright (WRNR) have teamed up to help save the historic Senator Theatre. Join them and more for an evening of live music, film and performances and help preserve and transform this Baltimore landmark into a premier live entertainment venue. Proceeds benefit the Senator Theatre's operations and preservation efforts.

SATURDAY, February 14th - Acoustic Love Songs and Other Traumas

Ken Kolodner duo
Smooth Kentucky (bluegrass)
Ellen Cherry (trio)
ilyAIMY duo
The Swing States Road Show
Baltimore Songwriters - John Seay, Sahffi, Paul Iwancio, Mike McFadden

Gourmet vegetarian fare provided by Harvey Shugarman, owner of Harvey's Kitchen

The complete performance schedule is up on www.myspace.com/leajones2

SUNDAY, February 15th - Left Bank Jazz Revisited

The Michael Raitzyk Trio
Ebony & Irony
Nasar Abadey Quartet
Be Mo Jazz Ensemble

SUNDAY, February 15th - The Psychedelic, Post-VD Massacre Cleanup

Drum Circle: Bring a drum to play, and get one ticket for the price of two! (Just Kidding) Bring a drum and get to jam out with The Senator's own Tom Kiefaber and members of TELESMA.

Adrian Bond: Electronica/Drum & Bass/Trip Hop
Also including excerpts from his upcoming new soundtrack to METROPOLIS performed in front of giant projections of segments from the movie!

Blending ancient and modern instrumentation and spirit, the Baltimore-based group Telesma bridges the gap between primal and futuristic. Setting themselves apart with their intoxicating sound and extraordinary live performances, they take the audience on a soul inspiring journey that transcends this world, tantalizes the senses, and moves the body with waves of pulsating rhythm.
"To experience Telesma live is to become part of the show. More than just music, it's a swirling, whirling, twirling event... it's extremely hard not to become involved in the swaying, hypnotic rhythms that pour forth from the stage." - Michael Macey of the Chesapeake Music Guide

For all you musicians out there, there is also a special commemorative guitar being auctioned on e-bay to benefit the Senator Theatre. Here's a message from the "Friends of the Senator Theatre" group on Facebook:

Subject: 1-of-a-Kind "Senator Theatre" Paul Reed Smith (PRS) SE One Guitar Auction!

Are you a musician? Do you know one?

For the musician who desires a no frills approach to get his music across, this vintage inspired SE One has:

* Singlecut, mahogany body
* 25″ scale length
* 22 fret mahogany wide fat neck
* Rosewood fretboard
* Moon inlays
* PRS designed stoptail, pickguard
* One Soapbar pickup & one volume control
* Cordura gig bag included.
* Custom "Senator Theatre" commemorative body design with hand signature of Paul Reed Smith!

Go HERE to bid.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Community-Friendly Business: What a Concept!

I went to the Mind Field premiere last night at the Senator. The skate scene isn't my thing, but the film was nevertheless pretty cool. It mostly consisted of footage of some amazing skateboard tricks, juxtaposed with music, animations, and short shots of trippy things. There was a slightly psychedelic aesthetic that made the film look almost hand-colored. Anyway, it was well done.

It really got me thinking about how important community-friendly business is. Between national premieres of films connected with Baltimore or made by Baltimore filmmakers, free public events at significant times like the inauguration or the Super Bowl to support the local food pantry, the many fundraisers for area nonprofits the Senator has done (someone told me they number at least in the hundreds), the tradition of getting the kids on stage in their costumes at Halloween, and the general friendly feeling you get of coming to a locally-owned neighborhood theatre, we really have a unique treasure here in Baltimore, not just in the Senator's architecture and history, but its management. There's a real hometown feeling at the Senator.

Would a national chain do all (or any) of the above? I don't think so.

This is one thing that worries me. News reports in the Sun have said the city aims to transition the Senator to a nonprofit, but one city official recently told me he isn't sure that's going to be the solution. Certainly the public perception is that the city is stepping in and turning the Senator into a nonprofit, but I'm not sure that's the reality. We don't know what's happening, and it seems to me the city is at least as likely to bring in a developer or a national chain as to create a community-owned nonprofit.

All of this keeps reminding me of something that was said at the January 22 town hall at the Senator, when Tom Kiefaber asked Senator supporters to contact their local officials and ask them to come to the table with him and discuss the Senator's future. I'm new to Baltimore, so it didn't all make complete sense to me, but red flags were raised nonetheless.

MaxGenus has footage of most of the meeting on YouTube, but his daughter must have run out of battery power for her camera before the end of the question and answer session. Below is one clip of Catherine Evans of the Belvedere Improvement Association. The rest of the meeting footage can be viewed here.

What MaxGenus didn't get, and it also wasn't reported by the media, was an interesting exchange toward the end of the Q&A part of the meeting. I didn't totally understand it, not knowing the history, but it was something like the following:

The discussion was about the importance of the Senator Theatre to this area.

A man sitting in front of me noted that he's been following the developments with the Senator Theatre for the past twenty years, and asked why the city government doesn't understand the significance of the Senator and its function in the local community.

Catherine Evans stood up and said she wanted to answer that question. I don't have the exact quote, so this is coming from memory and notes, but I think she said something like...Let me assure you that they do. When she came on board with the Belvedere Improvement Association, there were redevelopment issues in the area and she worked closely with then city councilman Martin O'Malley. Later, when Belvedere Square was closed, Andy Frank (now Deputy Mayor) was put in charge of this at the BDC. The city understands for sure the significance of the Senator and its future, but they're also determined to be the ones who control it, whether from a community standpoint, as Tom (Kiefaber) has always advocated, or a commercial development standpoint.

Then another woman stood up behind me and said basically, yes, that's true. The city has been waiting it out so they can step in and control it.

Again, I apologize for not having the exact quotes, but the exchange went something like that.

Those of us who support the Senator need to keep our ears to the ground carefully. Something is afoot, and I don't think it smells right.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

MIND FIELD skate movie premiere at Senator 5 PM TODAY! - BENEFIT

I don't have time at the moment to write anything original about this, and I'm late in posting this, but here's an email someone sent me:

Neighbors, Businesses and Friends,

Forwarding another opportunity to support The Senator Theatre – sent from Carrington Sydnor, owner of 3 Rideshop at 5918 York Road. Please forward to your community listserves, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.

Many diverse groups are working together to do what they can to keep the doors open at The Senator. The response has been wonderful!

This Friday, all the local skate shops are banding together to premiere a national skateboard movie at the Senator, and all proceeds go straight to The Senator Theatre. This film looks quite artistic with some amazing skateboard feats – see a preview:

Please consider joining this fun effort to help keep The Senator open - this Friday night!

6:00pm (doors open at 5:00pm)
Tickets only $5.00 at the door

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Senator Sessions

The weekend of concerts at the Senator Theatre on February 13, 14th, and 15th appears to be shaping up nicely. In a February 2 press release, Sean Brescia of Manifesto Promotions, the promoter organizing the concert weekend, is quoted:

"We set out to demonstrate some new uses and audiences for this historic landmark. People have known about the Senator's ongoing financial troubles for some time now, but this is about the community stepping up to show the city, and even a national audience, that the Senator and irreplaceable arts and entertainment assets like it around the country are worthy of public and private support to preserve and transition them to new uses for the future."

Organizers are continuing to add to the bill, but the press release currently describes the several separate events as follows:

THE SENATOR SESSIONS - A New Generation of Entertainment for a Baltimore Landmark


Save the Senator: A Baltimore Revue

Music and the Arts Converge for a Cause

Live at the Senator Theatre

Doors 8PM

From historic movie house to entertainment showplace - The Payola Reserve, Wye Oak, US Royalty, the John Hardy Boys, and local radio legends Rob Timm and Alex Cortright (WRNR) have teamed up to help save the historic Senator Theatre. Join them and more for an evening of live music, film and performances and help preserve and transform this Baltimore landmark into a premier live entertainment venue. Proceeds benefit the Senator Theatre's operations and preservation efforts. Tickets available now at www.MissionTix.com.

Show Details


Acoustic Love Songs and Other Comedies


Featuring: a Song Circle of Baltimore Songwriters John Seay, Sahffi and Paul Iwancio; the Ellen Cherry Trio; the Ken Kolodner Duo; the Ily Aimy duo; Smooth Kentucky; and the Swing States Road Show.


Left Bank Jazz Revisited

A tribute to Baltimore's Left Bank Jazz Society of the 60's and 70's, featuring guitarist Michael Raitzyk, Ebony & Irony (a duet of vocalist Joyce Scott and pianist Lorraine L. Whittlesey), and the Craig Alston Ensemble (saxophonist Craig Alston, pianist Todd Simon and friends).


The Psychedelic, Post-VD Massacre Cleanup/Benefit


Come see the already mind-bending critically acclaimed TELESMA, playing in front of trippy, 30 foot high digital projections in the Senator's beautiful theater IN 6.1 SURROUND SOUND! The evening will feature a community drum circle, and local jam bands Adrian Bond and Telesma.

This is sounding like an amazing weekend!

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Capricious Gods of the Senator’s Fate

Sarcasm is the last refuge of the frustrated citizen, and I’m afraid after a bit of up-front apology, this may devolve into a sarcastic post. I hope my friend and City Councilman Bill Henry will forgive me for my frustration, but it seems we differ, which I believe he already knows. Bill, if you’re reading this, it’s nothing personal. I know your job isn’t easy.

I gather that the fate of the Senator Theatre is already being decided behind closed doors by a mysterious steering committee, without seeking direct public input at this time. I understand they’ll seek public input after the future non-profit is formed, if that is the outcome. That outcome may not be guaranteed.

Bill Henry assures me that it is his job to represent all the various stakeholders in the 4th district, and that he cares deeply about the outcome not just as a councilman, but as a resident. I’m sure that’s true. He also assures me the unknown (to me, at least) members of the steering committee have the best interests of the community in mind. I guess we simply differ on the level of public involvement that should be there from the start.

Sometimes, you just have to trust the capricious gods of fate. I have little more to say at this time about the unknown future of the Senator, which may or may not be being decided right now by an unnamed committee in an undisclosed location. After all, without public meetings, I have limited information.

There are approximately four things I think I know for sure, though the situation is evolving:

  1. Our intrepid City Councilman is on the case.

  2. Some of the people I personally would consider key stakeholders, including leaders of some of the nearby neighborhood associations and the Senator’s devoted advocate and current owner, Tom Kiefaber, have apparently not been invited to be on the committee. (I suspected this last part, and Bill confirmed it.)

  3. The public hasn’t been asked to give input, although we can certainly give indirect input through our city officials.

  4. Whatever organization evolves from this, their mission, whatever it is exactly, won’t be easy. It’s abundantly clear there are huge challenges to making the Senator self-supporting.

Maybe I’ll just let the Senator speak for itself now.

The wise words of the Grateful Dead come to mind:

Abraham and Isaac sitting on a fence,
You’d get right to work if you had any sense,
You know the one thing we need is a left hand monkey wrench.

But then, I never knew quite what that meant. Something about the cruel whims of capricious gods, no doubt.

Thank you, Tom, for all your sacrifices and hard work.

11th hour angels, now is your cue. Frank Capra, if you’re sitting up there by God’s right or left hand, make this a good one.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Save the Senator: A Baltimore Revue --- Tickets on Sale

Tickets for the first of what may become a weekend of concerts to benefit the Senator are now on sale. Hat tip to Tom H at the Friends of the Senator Theatre blog for this information. He writes:

...Friday night lineup is currently set to include J Roddy Walston, Wye Oak, The Payola Reserve and The John Hardy Boys delivering an evening of live music, film and performances.

Tickets can be purchased online at the missiontix.com web site. The tickets are very reasonably priced, but the prices will increase at the door.

Don't forget the free Super Bowl event at the Senator this afternoon. Bring canned food for the "CARES" food pantry, if you can.

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