Education Director Michael Wiggins
December 9, 2016—Michael Wiggins joined the Baltimore Center Stage family in December 2016 as the new Director of Education. Most recently, Wiggins spent five years as the Director of Education and Special Projects at the New York-based Urban Arts Partnership, where he supervised the development and implementation of arts and technology-integrated educational programs designed to close the academic achievement gap. With extensive experience in theater education and zeal for new challenges, Wiggins could not be more excited to bring the Baltimore community and Center Stage together through the power of theater. “Center Stage belongs to Baltimore,” he says. “It’s in public service and education is a strong part of that element.”
Wiggin’s first exposure to theater was at age six in his elementary school library: a production of Puss in Boots that was performed by children, for children. It wasn’t a professional play, but it had costumes, an amazing narrative, and it had a cat in boots, which was fantastic,” he says. A firm believer that theater belongs everywhere, Wiggins grew up to become a passionate teaching artist. “Theater is a space of transformation and wonder. A space where people can see themselves reflected in a work of art,” he explains. According to Wiggins, the job of the Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Education Department at Baltimore Center Stage is to make it known to the Baltimore community that everyone is welcome. There are many different “doorways,” as Wiggins puts it, through which one can enter the theater and he wants to be sure they are all open and accessible.
Baltimore Center Stage offers educational programs that ensure children, as well as adults, get to experience theater in their own way. Camp Center Stage, for example, brings 150 young people together every summer to ignite their creativity. The Young Playwrights Festival transforms 600 Maryland students every year into playwrights; honored submissions are then professionally produced at Baltimore Center Stage. And over 13,000 school children participate in the theater’s Student Matinee programs each year. Wiggins has already been struck by the number of people he’s met who describe themselves as part of “the Center Stage Family” based on their involvement with these educational programs. “That’s a huge indicator of the kind of work that this theater has been doing and what it represents for people. We have to live up to that in the Education programs; I have to live up to that as a leader,” Wiggins muses. Having just joined the Center Stage Family himself, Wiggins describes his first couple of months as a period of discovery. He’s also doing quite a bit of listening. “I am talking to everybody I can to find out what they think is important, to find out what they think is needed and what actions we should take. I’m honoring the prior experience and knowledge that has already been here,” he explains. The future of this program, he says, will be decided as a community.
One thing Wiggins is particularly excited about is the new Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Education Center. “We are fortunate to have a dedicated space for education,” he says. This new Education space will give the department the ability to accommodate different types of programs, which supports Wiggins’ focus of forging even stronger relationships between the community and Baltimore Center Stage.
Wiggins grew up in Maryland, but spent much of his professional life in New York City. Now that he’s returned, Wiggins is already captivated by the Baltimore community. “There’s something in every neighborhood that is visually exciting, culturally unique,” he says. And his Baltimore experience so far has affected how he views his role as Education Director. “Baltimore Center Stage has a significant role as a gathering place for ideas and problem-solving,” he says. ”My job is to help the theater better understand its community and how to serve it.”