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Syracuse University Department of Drama Presents THE BALTIMORE WALTZ


Syracuse University Department of Drama Presents THE BALTIMORE WALTZ The Syracuse University Department of Drama continues its season with Paula Vogel's Obie Award-winning play "The Baltimore Waltz." Directed by Drama faculty member Katherine McGerr, the play runs March 30 - April 8 in the Storch Theatre at the Syracuse Stage/Department of Drama Complex. Opening night is Saturday, March 31.

Playwright Vogel, who has a well-established reputation for treating difficult situations with humor and compassion, wrote "The Baltimore Waltz" as a response to the death of her brother Carl from AIDS in 1988. The play premiered Off-Broadway in 1992 where it won the Obie for Best New American Play. Since then it has been produced at regional theaters around the country and received an Off-Broadway revival.

Director McGerr points out that "The Baltimore Waltz" is not a memoir but rather a fictionalized account whose inspiration derives from a letter Carl wrote to the playwright during his illness. The letter-light-hearted and sincere-reveals Carl's clear-eyed acceptance of his fate and offers some suggestions for his funerary service: open casket, full drag, among the options.

Another source of inspiration was Vogel's recollection that two years prior to his death, Carl had invited her on a trip to Europe. Not knowing he was ill at the time, she declined. In writing "The Baltimore Waltz," Vogel imagined a madcap version of that trip in which a woman, terminally ill with a mysterious disease, is spirited away by her brother on a whirlwind, last-grasp-at-life tour of Europe. A subplot, inspired by the famous film noir classic "The Third Man," involves a search for an improbable cure for the woman's illness.

The close juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy in the play is reflective of real life, according to McGerr. "There are so many moments in life where you're sort of walking this edge between being highly ridiculous and also incredibly depressing and sad," she said. "You don't deny one or the other, they just sort of coexist in this very vulnerable, profound way. I think of them of actually feeding and raising the stakes for each rather than being in opposition."

McGerr explained that she considers "The Baltimore Waltz" a play of its time, but one that has relevance for today's audience. Some audience members, she said, will be too young to remember the fear and panic wrought by the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. "The way, at the time, people felt about AIDS. There was a lot of fear because we didn't know how it spread," she said. "That fear spiraled out of control. There really isn't any counterpart to that today."

Still, McGerr said she believes the play is timely because it offers an opportunity to "look at what has and what hasn't changed in terms of our perception of disease and our perception of homosexuality."

Moreover, while AIDS related deaths have decreased worldwide by 48 percent since 2005, the disease is still a significant health issue. As of 2016, some 36.7 million people were living with HIV worldwide. Of those, 30 percent do not know they are infected. More than one million new cases are reported each year.

The Baltimore Waltz

By Paula Vogel

Directed by Katherine McGerr

Choreographed by Andrea Leigh-Smith

Scenic and Lighting Design: Joey Moro

Costume Design: Sasha Falsberg

Sound Design: Kevin O'Connor

Dialect Coach: Blake Segal

Stage Manager: David Jackson


Shanel Bailey Anna

Cormac Bohan Carl

Sarah Hubner Third Man


Lily Schmidt (Anna)

JJ Sheehan (Carl)

Quinn Hemphill (Third Man)

Additional Credits

Dance Captain: Shanel Bailey

Assistant Director: Crystal Heller

Assistant Scenic Designers: Samantha Olszewski, Mar Regan, Ningning "Renee" Yang

Assistant Costume Designer: Breanna Zahakos

Assistant Lighting Designer: Carolina Ortiz Herrera

Assistant Stage Managers: Shannon Bagoly, Sarah Preston

Casting Assistant: Brianna Stankiewicz

Performance Dates

March 30 at 8 p.m. (preview)

March 31 at 8 p.m. (opening)

April 1 at 2 p.m.

April 4 at 8 p.m.

April 5 at 8 p.m.

April 6 at 8 p.m.

April 7 at 2 p.m. (open captioning)

April 7 at 8 p.m.

April 8 at 2 p.m. (ASL Interpreted)


The Syracuse University Department of Drama offers conservatory-style training in a university setting shared with a resident, professional theater (Syracuse Stage), presenting an unparalleled combination of teaching professionals and diverse performance and production opportunities. SU Drama offers four conservatory-style bachelor of fine arts (B.F.A.) degree programs in acting, musical theater, stage management, and theater design and technology, as well as a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree program in drama that features a Theater Management track. Undergraduates put classroom theory into practice through productions and various special opportunities, including Wednesday Lab, study abroad, the NYC-based Tepper Semester, the Sorkin in L.A. Learning Practicum, numerous community engagement initiatives and the opportunity to participate in workshops or discussions with such visiting artists as Taye Diggs '93, Aaron Sorkin '83, Vanessa Williams '85, Frank Langella '59, David Henry Hwang, Tim Miller, Tony Kushner and more.


The Syracuse University Department of Drama is housed within the College of Visual and Performing Arts (SU:VPA). SU:VPA is committed to the education of cultural leaders who will engage and inspire audiences through performance, visual art, design, scholarship and commentary. It provides the tools for self-discovery and risk-taking in an environment that thrives on critical thought and action.

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