(Photo by Andrew Zaleski)
On the first floor of what appears from the outside to be an abandoned building is the headquarters and practice space of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, referred to commonly by their ironic acronym, BROS.
Since 2007 the society has been “melting faces,” as they would call it, by staging original, live rock operas in Baltimore city. But up until December 2012, BROS was an operation scattered around the city.
“Before this we were building all the different parts of the shows in different areas,” said Dylan Koehler, 28, who splits his time as executive director of BROS and working at Whole Foods Market in Mt. Washington.
Now BROS is able to write, score and rehearse their musical shows from a central location, which Koehler said is “really awesome.”
Not far from Penn Station and the Copycat Building, which situates the rock opera society’s new practice space in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, Koehler said BROS spent the first couple weeks of December 2012 ripping out about six apartments that had been on the first floor.
(He said there’s a small group of about eight people “doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes” for BROS.) In place of dividing walls there’s now an open practice space and a scaled-down version of a makerspace that holds the different tools BROS uses to build its sets.
Underneath the space, in the basement of the building, is practice space for bands, where the BROS rent out one studio whenever a show is in production.
What’s more, with their own space, Koehler said BROS is now able to build more shows and take them on the road, which which will happen this spring. The rock opera society is taking its premier show, “Gründlehämmer,” on a mini-revival tour:
- “Gründlehämmer” opens in Baltimore at the 2640 Space on March 14, and runs for two weeks.
- Then BROS takes the show to Alexandria, Va., at the end of March and to Philadelphia at the beginning of April.
- Tickets go on sale Jan. 31. People interested in volunteering should fill out this form.
Paying for DIY performance art, however, involves a number of moving pieces, especially since BROS is not a nonprofit. A $21,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign completed in April 2013 has helped BROS continue to pay rent at its practice space. But the bigger help has been a “fiscal sponsorship” from Fractured Atlas, which has allowed BROS to take in grant funding from both the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund.
“That’s helped us expand what we’re able to do outside of shows,” said Koehler, who mentioned BROS is preparing to launch a new website and purchase more supplies to continue building out the interior of the practice space.
Ticket sales, too, turn enough of a profit for BROS to have money to reinvest into the building and pay a portion of the operating costs of subsequent shows.
As for finding a permanent spot for BROS, Koehler said it’s fortunate because “there’s never enough space.” But Baltimore has proven to be well suited to what he and the rest of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society is doing.
“It’s shoestring, and it’s DIY, and it’s a lot of work and coordination,” he said. “But Baltimore has some really good opportunities, and there’s a lot of very legitimate performance art happening in this city.”