By day, he’s the quiet studious chief procurement
officer for MDE, listening intently in
meetings as all kinds of potential contractors
try to sell their business ideas to the agency.
But Bill Kamberger’s true colors really come
out at nights and on the weekends. He has
been one of the most respected theater
directors in the metropolitan Baltimore area
for the past 25 years and was selected the city’s
best stage director in 2015 by BroadwayWorld
for the comedy Almost, Maine and in 2003 by
City Paper for the musical Parade.
One of Bill’s most ambitious endeavors ever,
Ragtime, based on the novel by the same name
by E.L. Doctorow, will be performed April
15-16 and April 22-23 at 7:30 p.m. and April
17 and April 24 at 3:30 p.m. at Memorial
Episcopal Church, located at 1407 Bolton
Street in Baltimore. Admission is free.
The two-and-a-half hour musical is set in the
first two decades of the 20th Century and
tracks the interactions of three families -- one
African-American, one upper-class white,
and one Jewish immigrant – as their paths
cross and lives change. Bill said he began the
planning process for Ragtime, which ran on
Broadway in the late 1990s, a year ago and
rehearsals began in early January.
"It’s very complicated because of the large
period of time that is tracked. We have 15
major characters, 50 actors total, and 25
musical numbers," Bill said, adding that many
of the 50 actors are playing multiple roles.
"It’s a broad range of characters that deal with
all kinds of social issues and the play has the
inherent drama and conflict of that time. This
is the first time that I have worked with the
Memorial Players and it has been an honor. "
Bill said he has had a life-long passion for
directing plays, starting in his parent’s living
room. He majored in English and minored
in theater at William and Mary University
in Williamsburg, Va., before returning to
Baltimore and getting involved in community
“I remember one of the early plays I did was
a real learning experience because I had to
cast two sets of actors, switching them out
as they got older. It was hard to find people
who looked close enough like the character
they were replacing and there were some
complaints that the resemblance wasn’t close
enough. So, I grew from that and several
theaters said that showed I was willing to take
a risk and it opened doors for me down the
road,” Bill said.
That led to a nearly decade-long run as director
at Fell’s Point Corner Theatre and kudos
especially for the musical Parade, the trial of
Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman accused of
murdering a 13-year-old factory girl named
Mary Phagan in 1913.
Bill said he has been paid to direct a few
plays, like Ragtime, but for the most part has
volunteered his time for the more than 35
plays he has directed during his career.
"I always say that I don’t choose the play, the
play chooses me," Bill said. "I am especially
drawn to the issues of social justice and
raising attention to those kinds of themes is a
gift to the community."
Bill said he would eventually like to write his
own play, time permitting, and that an idea is
"currently percolating." But he also said he has
no plans to retire from his MDE job, after 33
years of state service.
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