A Visit to a Small Town Sets the Stage for a New Life

A visit to Chestertown so moved John Schratwieser that he moved there. Photograph by Matthew Worden.

Travel > Nearby Getaways > Great Weekends

“All the stars were in place” is how John Schratwieser describes the moment during a weekend visiting friends in Chestertown, Maryland, when he sat down in the renovated Prince Theater for a Billie Holiday revue. It was 2004, and he was studying for a master’s degree at George Washington University. He had worked in development at the Whitman-Walker Clinic, Signature Theatre, and Children’s National Medical Center. His future suddenly became clear.

“I had been dreaming of running my own performing-arts organization,” Schratwieser says, “and realized I wanted to live and work in this wonderful town.”

He persuaded the new owners of the theater to give him a chance to turn the somewhat highbrow venue into a viable arts center. Three years later, the theater runs programs 11 months a year, including plays, cabaret, concerts, and films. There’s even an occasional wedding reception.

Schratwieser finished his degree in 2005 and has few regrets about his move from the city. “Sometimes during January and February when no one is around, I miss the activity in DC,” he says. “But I feel more at home here than anywhere else I have ever lived.”