"Baltimore Waltz" Receives Award At Kennedy Center Competition

Harvard's production of "Baltimore Waltz" was one of eight plays chosen from more than 900 entries for honorable mention in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The director, Dunster House resident Bradley G. Rouse '94-'95, was also singled out for his work by the festival's judges.

"[The award is] an exciting recognition for me and everyone else involved," Rouse said. "Baltimore Waltz" was the only non-faculty-directed production to be performed at the festival, he added.

The play, by Paula Vogel, ran for two weekends at the Loeb Experimental Theatre in November 1994. During its Harvard performances, three judges affiliated with the festival saw the show and nominated it for the regional round of the contest.

Out of 120 New England plays nominated at the local level, "Baltimore Waltz" was one of six to reach the regional competition. On February 24, the Harvard cast performed "Baltimore Waltz" in Wellesley, Mass. before an audience of 130--including the judges who evaluated 47 other plays at eight regional festivals nationwide.

Six of the 48 regional finalists were chosen to compete in the national festival in Washington, DC. Although "Baltimore Waltz" was "on hold" to continue to the national round, according to actor Michael A. Stone '95, who played Carl, the brother of the narrator, it ultimately won an honorable mention, along with seven other plays.


Rouse was chosen as one of two New England directors to receive special distinction for his work. He was the only student director in New England to earn this honor, Stone said.

"Baltimore Waltz" also won an award for technical work, which Stone credited to the extreme complexity of the production.

The plot is based on Vogel's experience with her own brother, who asked her to travel to Europe with him after he found out that he had AIDS. Vogel, unaware that her brother was ill, refused to travel with him, and he died soon afterwards.

"This is the story of the trip they would have taken," Stone said. The task of cramming 30 separate scenes into the 90-minute play was a severe challenge for the technical crew, he said.

Each scene had to portray a different location, using a set limited to a painted floor, a projection screen and a metal table.

"Everything else was lights," Stone said.

But lighting the show for the festival posed a challenge as well.

Kirkland resident James S. Gwertzman '95, the lighting designer, "had not saved a lot of the lighting from the original production," Rouse said, "and had to reproduce it from shadows on the videotape of the production--in only five hours--an achievement never seen before at Harvard."

Dunster resident Francesca B. Delbanco '95, who played Anna, the character based on the playwright, said the performance at the Festival was "pretty amazing and a remarkable theater production."

Delbanco, whose thesis in History and Literature was due five days later, "pulled a week of all-nighters before the show." She then fell asleep before the performance, she said. "I missed a lot of the chaos."

"Everything was hectic and everyone was pretty exhausted," Stone said. "But it was easier for me, without a thesis or much else going on in my schedule."

The actors' fatigue notwithstanding, "the momentum of the day pushed us all forward" during the prizewinning performance, Delbanco said. All three of the actors in the ensemble piece--the third character, called Third Man, represented everyone the brother and sister met in their travels--were nominated for the Irene Ryan acting competition at the regional festival.

Despite the three months that intervened between the show's Cambridge run and its festival performance, the team "did not need a lot of rehearsal time, as the play was kept in our brains," Stone said. "However, we did forget some things, which added some spontaneity."