On Participating in the Mobile Unit’s Inaugural Journey
By Actress Suzette Azariah Gunn
I will never forget when I got the call from my manager that I had booked Endgame (2016/17) for the Baltimore Center Stage inaugural Mobile Unit. I remember not knowing what to expect as I had never done a mobile unit before, but feeling really excited by the fact that somehow the work I was about to do was going to be a work of purpose and of being in service to community, to those who may have never had the opportunity to see professional live theater. On day one after a wonderfully empowering conversation with the cast and Director Daniel Bryant, Daniel said “we are of service.” That resonated with me because it was the exact word I used before coming to Baltimore.
In that moment everything was solidified in my spirit that this was not only what I was supposed to be doing but somehow it would be a life-changing and powerful experience.
Endgame is a profoundly heavy play with dense text. But Daniel’s exceptional and detailed vision, direction, and the incredible Baltimore Center Stage team of artists made what may have seemed impossible to understand completely palpable to any- and everyone.
When children of single moms in halfway homes, men recovering from addictions, the blind and deaf, troubled teens and elderly can all connect with a play and characters, relate subject matters to their own lives, see people they know in the story, cry, laugh, root for characters, find empathy, engage in extensive dialogues about life and what they saw in the play that tells me that something magical has taken place. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. Hugs from grateful children and mother’s in tears. I recall fondly a man speaking candidly about his drug addiction and relating it to the main character of the play. It was brilliant and so insightful.
This is when theater for me becomes what it’s supposed to be. Beyond simple entertainment but a tool, to elevate, to grow, to give, to expand the human condition and understanding of one another. I was surrounded by a stellar cast and director. I felt supported by all of Baltimore Center Stage and the community I was within. And I must admit, for it being the first of the mobile units—where many things could have gone wrong—it was a very smooth and loved-filled journey. I was deeply enriched as an artist and human when I left.
So when the opportunity came up to audition again for this season’s Mobile Unit production, it was a no brainer. And after getting the offer I was thrilled. Twelfth Night is a fun and exuberant play with so many layers and complexities. The challenge is real but I’m thoroughly excited to see what brilliance will be created from Daniel and the Baltimore Center Stage team. I’m looking forward to inspiring and touching more lives with this beautifully fun play. Every artist should participate in this type of work at least once in their lives. Theater audiences are wonderful but giving to the community is an expression of love you could never understand until you actually participate and see firsthand the impact the Mobile Unit has on community.
Why go back? It’s simple: Love.