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August 11, 2011

London-born Center Stage director Kwame Kwei-Armah on the turmoils back home

Kwame Kwei-Armah has only just settled into Baltimore and his tenure as artistic director of Center Stage. "It's head down and running to whichever meeting is next," he said Thursday.

But this week, he has understandably been distracted by the intense rioting back in his hometown of London. "I have been following events assiduously," he said.

Three of his four children are still in the U.K., due to arrive her later this month (a fourth child and his wife are already in the States.)

"My youngest went with his mother [Kwei-Armah's first wife] to pick up his grandmother at midnight Saturday in Tottenham, a street away from where the first big fire was," Kwei-Armah said. "You can understand how frightening that was. His last view of London was of flames and riot police.  And my brother was ...

driving in Croydon when his car got attacked. They were trying to car-jack him, but he got away."

The children are now safe in a London suburb, but Kwei-Armah has not stopped thinking about what has been going on there. The latest news of a calmer situation has brought welcome relief.  

"Today is the first day that tears haven't come to my eyes," he said.

"I grew up in a generation of riots in England in the '80s. I had hoped we had somehow gone past that. I am sad for my children that they had to see this."

The director spoke of mixed feelings, including anger at "the wanton self-destruction" of the rioters and at how "police have been treating young people in Britain for ages."

"A lot of talk from officialdom has focused solely on criminality," Kwame-Armah added. "Very little is being said about the huge underclass that exists in London, why the number is so big, why so many are from ethnic minorities. That's not looking for excuses, but reasons.

"It is a tremendously sad time for my country. These have been very painful days, enough to make me want to fly over there, grab a broom and help clean up."


Posted by Tim Smith at 11:22 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Center Stage, Drama Queens


My daughter often jokes our time in England and me attending a theatre production of Antigone (required of U of MD course) is how her road from Baltimore School for the Arts to Juilliard happened. A local British theatre company helped my military girlfriends and I put on one of the best shows to this day to raise money for NSA (based on Ft. Meade) doing The Supremes!!!! I hope the riots stop. England has been so good to my daughters and I. My oldest was just looking at pics the other night.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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