Daniel Bryant, Community Programs Director and Artistic Producer
April 3, 2017—Daniel Bryant joined the Baltimore Center Stage team in 2017 as Community Programs Director and Artistic Producer—a multifaceted role that includes furthering the theater’s mission of access for all by connecting with community partners and bringing productions to underserved communities.
Bryant has spent most of his life involved in theater—as an actor, director, producer, and artistic director. After graduating from James Madison University in Virginia, he moved to Chicago where he lived and worked for seventeen years and, as he says, “I became the theater artist that I am.”
After eight years in the Windy City, he spent some time in Los Angeles, then back to Chicago where he became connected with Congo Square Theatre Company, first as an ensemble member, then as the associate artistic director, and then ultimately as artistic director, a role he held for three years.
“I love acting. It’s one way of contributing to the art,” he says. “But I realized eventually that it was never about becoming famous for me. It was more about using theater to make a difference somehow. I wanted to have a greater impact on the community and the world around me.” And that’s what started him on the track from actor to director to producer. “Producing allows for greater control of my art and creative energy. I can generate and execute meaningful projects I'm passionate about, rather than wait and hope for those opportunities to come along.”
Bryant spent some time at Baltimore Center Stage in 2015 directing a collective of guest artists who were devising a new work exploring the continuity of the violence visited on black and brown bodies. “At that time, I had no idea that coming back to Baltimore Center Stage on a permanent basis was even in the cards,” he says.
In fact, when he was first approached about the community programs position, he had some hesitation because he had just moved from Chicago to New York the previous year. “I said ‘no’ to myself two or three times,” he explains. “But then I started sitting with the idea, and I started thinking ‘why not?’—this was the opportunity to create meaningful projects, to make a difference. And then I started exploring it, saying ‘yes’ to the idea. And as soon as I said ‘yes’ it felt right.”
His first focus is launching the Mobile Unit this season, which will bring high-quality theater performances directly to communities including the homeless, the elderly, the incarcerated, and the underserved. The first Mobile Unit play will be Endgame by Samuel Beckett, a landmark play that explores the inexplicable, unpredictable journey of life, and our desire to not go it alone.
A big challenge of the Mobile Unit is its use of non-traditional spaces in place of a conventional theater. “We’re going to be performing in cafeterias, in lobbies, in gyms,” Bryant says. “We cannot go in and assume that we’re going to have complete control of those spaces.”
The Mobile Unit productions will feature professional actors with costumes and props, but the sets will be minimal and sound and lighting will change depending on the location.
Bryant ultimately hopes to bring theater that resonates with audiences who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience it. “Maybe they’ll see something in the play or in the world of the play that grabs their spirit, that opens their eyes, that challenges them to look at themselves or their life in a particular kind of way,” he says. “Theater does that. Theater can be transformational. And I think it’s going to be a transformative experience—not just for them; for all of us.”