Baltimore Backstage: The making of a lacrosse documentary, quilting for love of the city, and prepping for Reggae Rise Up festival

The arts are still rallying from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the art makers we talk to this week have persevered despite delays and difficulties. Check out how a Maryland-raised musical theatre lover turned his lacrosse background into something he never imagined. Meet Black quilters who are showcasing love for Baltimore through their artwork. Go behind the scenes of a music festival with island vibes that will rock Charm City later this month.

Philip Byron started as theater kid growing up in Owings Mills and is now producing the Off-Broadway show “Titanique,” which runs until Sept. 25 at The Asylum Theatre. But it was a family passion and childhood hobby, outside the arts, that prepared Byron for one of his latest projects.

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“Given that we do a lot of sports content – LeBron [James] owns the company — I’ve always been pretty upfront that I’m not a sports guy,” said Byron, senior vice president for unscripted series and documentaries for SpringHill Company and Uninterrupted. “I think that’s what made me successful in this role, I come back to what’s the story… Why will people like myself want to watch the show?”

But Byron said his lacrosse-loving family, and a childhood spent playing the sport, helped him to work with fellow Maryland native and star player Paul Rabil on the documentary “Fate of a Sport.”

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“‘You’re actually one of the only athletes I’ve really known about,’“ Byron told Rabil during their first meeting in February 2020. The documentary follows Rabil and his brother Mike, co-founders of the Professional Lacrosse League.

“It was something my dad and I really connected with and lacrosse doesn’t get a platform like a documentary — ever,” said Byron, who studied film and television at Boston University.

Soon after beginning film discussions, the Rabils faced a derailed second season as the pandemic forced the league to retool. The documentary shows them navigating the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice conversations after the murder of George Floyd.

“To see Paul, first of all as someone who’s the ‘LeBron James of lacrosse,’ but also a businessman, creating a league from scratch. It’s super inspiring,” said Byron, who executive produced the film with the basketball phenom, Maverick Carter, Jamal Henderson and the Rabil brothers.

Beyond sports, business and brotherhood themes, Byron said the documentary offers a valuable lesson: “If you believe in something, keep going.”

While the city of club music might seem far from the island vibes associated with reggae, Vaughn Carrick is excited to bring his touring music festival to Baltimore.

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Headed to the Port Covington neighborhood July 29-31, Reggae Rise Up Music Festival first started as the Utah Reggae Festival in 2012, but Carrick saw more potential for the venture.

The music festival was headed to St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2020, for the first leg of a tour when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“We joke that we turned from promoters to professional postponers, because we were literally dealing with trying to reroute bands,” said Carrick.

After postponing St. Petersburg three times (as well as other shows), Reggae Rise Up finally premiered there and also in Las Vegas. Now the festival founder is gearing up for Baltimore,” which he called “a very strong market,” for reggae.

“There’s quite a few local reggae bands that are in the area, whether that’s Soja, Bumpin Uglies, The Movement, Ballyhoo!,” he said. “We’re happy to come help support [local reggae] and, hopefully, bring some more attention to it.”

One of the goals of the tour is to support the communities where the festival takes place. For the Baltimore tour, Volo Kids is the charity partner and the festival team is working with local food vendors and businesses, as well as volunteer organizations to staff about 300 people for the three-day event.

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“We’re excited to be there and it’s a cool town,” Carrick said.

In addition to tunes from the likes of Dirty Heads, Slightly Stoopid, Trevor Hall and many other acts, Carrick said the festival offers a “positive… and family oriented culture.”

For tickets and more information about Reggae Rise Up, visit reggaeriseupmaryland.com.

Glenda Richardson, president of the African American Quilters of Baltimore, began gearing up for the “United We Thread” exhibit, which opens July 28, back in 2017.

The quilters association proposed it to Morgan State’s James Lewis Museum in 2020, they set a date, and the following week the pandemic shut down the museum..

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“Everything was in flux so we did not know what was going to happen to all this work we made, and how this show was going to happen,” Richardson said.

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Once the group began meeting on Zoom, they doubled their membership to about 80 people and set up plans for a virtual show. Then the museum reopened.

Now audiences will get to see the years of work from the 21 artists who created “United We Thread.” The theme is all about Baltimore — from famous Baltimoreans to historic buildings to family stories.

Each quilter worked individually, but the exhibit features one collaborative quilt, which inspired the show’s title.

Barbara Pietila founded the organization in 1989 with a goal of showcasing members’ work. The purpose of the guild is to offer support for Black quilters as well as “demonstrate the merits of African American quilts as an art form.”

“I know that the art community has not always been kind in recognizing the contributions of Black artists to any aspect of the arts, and we consider quilting an art form,” Richardson said. “So we’re involved in making a place where that can happen.”

There will be a soft opening for the “United We Thread,” on July 28, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., then an official opening on Sept. 11 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The show, which is open until Dec. 10, is free.

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