My BROS Story:
Four and a half years ago, I stumbled across an odd Facebook event. It was for auditions for a rock opera. About a serial killer. Wait, what? I looked at it again more closely. It was being hosted by the Baltimore Rock Opera Society. My brother had told me about these guys: driving around ArtScape in a weird car, wearing horn helmets, making fantasy-themed very very loud music about magic guitars and Viking brothers on a quest and stuff. And now a show about America's first documented serial killer in Chicago during the World's Fair?? This I had to see.
I went, they cast me -- as a possibly psychic fortune teller on the midway named Madame Opticon. She was originally supposed to be Eastern European, but we made her a Haitian voodoo priestess and she got her own song (thanks, Erica!). And it was the most fun I'd had putting a show together in years, despite having to have knee surgery in the middle of it. So much fun, I kept coming back as a Front of House volunteer and very loud cheerleader until I managed to get them to cast me again in Brides of Tortuga -- the culmination of a long line of shows with strong women in them: a nearly all female cast, singing and laughing and kicking ass on a boat. On the stage. I never get used to what BROS can accomplish with next to no budget, lots of hands on deck, huge reservoirs of talent, and duct tape.
So what could we do with a larger budget AND our own dedicated space?
Lost In Space(s)
When we founded our company in 2008, we were a loosely organized group of DIY artists with really big dreams. We produced work in people’s backyards, living rooms, and basements. We borrowed resources and subsisted on the goodwill of others. From the very first moments of planning, we opened ourselves up to any volunteers who wished to get involved.
Between 2010 and 2013 BROS put huge amounts of labor and funds into improving the Autograph Playhouse, which is where we produced some of our best work. We cleaned up and improved every aspect of the theatre, painted the walls, built a gigantic new stage, and rehabbed the lobby, all with volunteer labor. During our production of Murdercastle in 2013, the building was almost shut down just a few days before opening night because the Autograph did not comply with fire code. A monumental effort was undertaken to ensure that didn’t happen, and we succeeded. Murdercastle proceeded to sell out every show and receive rave reviews. It was the epitome of everything BROS strives to be. We survived impossible odds yet were forced to forfeit everything we built due to mismanagement by the landlord who controlled the Autograph. Despite the thousands of dollars in rent payments, safety upgrades, and countless hours of volunteer labor we gave to the space, the Autograph Playhouse was never able to obtain a completed Use and Occupancy permit.
Since we began leasing our operations headquarters at the Bell Foundry, BROS has been a nomadic performance company, using 7 different spaces for our last 7 full-scale rock operas. This has come at a significant cost to the financial sustainability of BROS, with each new venue requiring a massive investment of time, labor, and money to adapt it to our use. Yet again, after putting in four years of improvements and labor into the Bell Foundry, and just one and a half years after becoming a 501(c)3 organization, the future of our company has been made uncertain. Our programming, including feature-length rock operas, is effectively halted. Despite adhering to our lease and supplying labor to drastically improve the space we were still forced to close the doors to BROS HQ because we are not in control of our own space. and not in control of our future.
BROS cannot continue producing art without owning the means of producing it. Above all else, we are now convinced we must acquire our forever home.
Here is our plan to secure BROS future:
PHASE ONE: We’re asking for your help in raising $75,000. The first $50,000 will become our nest egg reserved exclusively for improvements to our future permanent home. BROS does NOT plan to spend any of this money for acquiring the building itself (we will seek grant funding for this), or for initial development and construction (space stabilization, environmental analysis and remediation, basic utility service, and basic buildout). This money will go to the things BROS needs in order to put on epic rock operas:
- Lighting infrastructure: a grid, fixtures, dimmers
- Audio equipment: a PA system, microphones, soundproofing
- Customizing the space for our needs: a badass set of curtains, venting for our workshop
- Decorative elements: like a giant fire-breathing steel pegacorn to put on the roof
The other $25,000 of this money will be designated for funding of normal BROS operations and will go directly toward upcoming shows, rental of equipment and show spaces, and production tools. BROS wants to remain on a path of creating bigger and badder rock operas. This budget reflects the increasing costs we face in putting on our spectacle-driven shows, fixed costs (including rent and insurance), and constantly improving our volunteer experience.
PHASE TWO: After we have identified our forever home, we will use the $50,000 nest egg as leverage towards matching grants, foundation money, tax credits, building acquisition loans and development loans. These later rounds of funding will enable us to fully fund the acquisition and development of the BROS rock palace. As these plans unfold, we promise full financial transparency to our supporters and frequent updates on the status of our mission.
Creating Baltimore's First Rock Palace.
BROS is a passionate community of artists who create unforgettable experiences through live, original rock theater. We want to remain a hive of electric energy for the makers, musicians, and artists of Baltimore, and we want to offer this experience to more people, from all parts of our city. BROS represents the voices of over 300 artists living and working in Baltimore, and we want the number and diversity of voices within BROS to grow. We are asking you to help us find a space we can own – one that is a haven for any artist, arts-lover, or party animal in Baltimore. We need the support of the Baltimore community at large to help make lasting changes that will not only ensure a glorious rock-filled future for Baltimore, but also will create a space for artists to gain new skills and put existing ones to use. This is our vision for our rock palace, a new home for the arts in Baltimore, owned and controlled by Baltimore Artists. We call it, “The Paradise.”
Perks for Donating and Fundraising
Donors of $500 will get their custom portrait hung on our Wall of the Righteous. The Wall of the Righteous will live with us forever in any home that we occupy for the next 6,993 years! The BROS will bring to life your concept for a completely epic photo portrait, including props, costuming, and rock 'n' roll attitude. Don't have a concept? We'll help you develop one! You’ll also receive an 8x10 photograph to keep.