Johns Hopkins Gazette: July 10, 1995

On Staff:
The Play's The Thing: Krohmer Tackles Interracial Love

Mike Field
Staff Writer

     Stan Krohmer can't decide if seeing his plays produced is
ecstasy or agony. Call him the supreme dismal optimist.

     "I go into it each time saying this is going to be the best
experience ever--better than the last time--and the cast and
director are going to love every word," says the 43-year-old
part-time playwright and Hopkins librarian. 

     "I'm always pleasantly surprised," he adds cheerfully, then
pauses to consider. "Or deeply saddened," he says, with the
dismissive chuckle of a recollected memory best left undisturbed.

     Krohmer has had his share of triumph and frustration in his
20-some years of play writing. On July 22 and 23 he is hoping for
some of the better results when his one-act play "Premonition"
premieres as the Literary Arts Award winner at Artscape '95. 

     The Baltimore city festival of the arts draws tens of
thousands of visitors to the Mount Royal neighborhood each year
for the food, music and celebration of artistic activities of all
kinds. This year, the festival will include two performances of
"Premonition" at the Decker Auditorium of the Mount Royal Station
Building at the Maryland Institute, College of Art.

     In his small, windowless office on A-Level of the Eisenhower
Library, Krohmer takes a moment from his work as supervisor of
current periodicals to discuss writing plays about the things he

     "I tend to write confrontational plays," he says when asked
to describe his work. "And several of my plays are multiracial in
cast and content. This play [Premonition] deals with interracial
love themes, even if the whole cast is black."

     Dealing with highly charged subject matter such as race
relations may be what live theater does best, and Krohmer, who is
white, has had no fear of wading in where others might only

     "Growing up in Baltimore gives you many experiences in a
multiracial setting," he says. "I doubt whether I could write an
authentic play about being a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. I
just don't have the background."

     But the streets of Baltimore are something in which Krohmer
has a lifetime of experience, and it shows in his play. Kendra,
his protagonist, has lost her man to the violence of the streets.
Now, after months of mourning, she has begun to date--but her new
beau is a white certified public accountant whose idea of a good
time is dinner at the Inner Harbor. How she reconciles her choice
to her family and her community is the subject matter of
Krohmer's one-hour drama.

     "No one has come out and said 'What is your play about and
why are you writing this?'" says Krohmer about writing a play
with an all-black cast. "I like to think it shows that theater
artists are beyond that. No theater artist should be restricted
by race or gender or whatever.

     "But," he adds, after a moment's consideration, "you better
sure know what you're talking about."

     Krohmer's extensive experience in the theater gives him some
leeway to do some talking. 

     He began writing plays as a college student at Wilmington
College in Ohio. In 1970, at the tender age of 19, Krohmer had a
school buddy who wanted to audition for the Cincinnati Playhouse
in the Park, which was devoting its entire summer season to
theater by and about African Americans. The friend asked Krohmer
to come along to the auditions for moral support.

     "While I was there, the director asked me to read a part
written for a white actor in the play," recalls Krohmer. "I got
the role [his friend did not] and played the white parts in
several of the plays that summer. I got my [Actor's] Equity card
as a result." A self-described "reluctant actor," he has since
allowed his membership in the actor's union to drop.

     He remembers his days on stage with some fondness though. "I
got to play all the heavies, like the landlord in 'A Raisin in
the Sun'," he says of that era of black and white typecasting.
"I'll never forget, in one play I had to say, 'How would you know
what it is? It doesn't have any drums in it!'"

     After college, Krohmer moved to Cambridge, where he became
deeply involved with the Boston Playwright's Theater, then widely
known as the Massachusetts equivalent to New York's Playwright's
Horizon. "I had plays read and produced there, I worked box
office and did tech, I was on the board of directors for a couple
years," he says of his apprenticeship in theater. "It was a
learning experience."

     Krohmer returned to Baltimore in the mid-'80s for family
reasons and soon thereafter started working at the Eisenhower
Library. In 1991, he was the first student accepted into the
School of Continuing Studies' new Master of Drama Studies
program. He graduated three years later, submitting a two-person,
one-act play for his graduate thesis project. It was this play
that eventually became Premonition.

     "I like to think I write plays that rely on subtext, that
what the characters aren't saying is just as important as what
they are," Krohmer says. Premonition is haunted with the ghost of
Kendra's first love, the man who never appears on stage, yet
never seems very far away. His presence is manifest by the
appearance of Marcus, the self-described "darker angel" who
appears suddenly from Kendra's past to question her about her
former and future loves.

     Kendra's final decision may make no one happy--perhaps not
even herself--but it is her decision, and that's what Krohmer's
play grapples with. "These characters kind of emerge out of
somewhere," says the playwright about a process he can't quite
describe. "I'm just a messenger for this." His message, though,
has much to do with something he can describe. "People have to
make decisions and take care of themselves."

"Premonition" will be performed Saturday and Sunday, July 22 and
23, at 4:30 p.m. in the Decker Auditorium of the Mount Royal
Station, across from the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Admission is

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