The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Student-led play touches on love, loss and social issues

GVL/ Sydney Lim

The Grand Valley State University’s Theatre Program Performance Studio Series (P.S. Series) brought conversations of love, loss and social issues to the stage during their production of “The Baltimore Waltz” on Oct. 11 through 13.

“The Baltimore Waltz,” like all of the P.S. Series productions, was directed, produced, fully staged and designed by students. The P.S. Series was established with GVSU Theatre Program to give students the space to explore all of their skills within the theatre. 

“The Baltimore Waltz” was written by Paula Vogel in 1990. The play follows a sick woman named Anna, accompanied by her brother, Carl, on an international trip to Europe in which they hunt for a cure to the disease that plagues her. Along the way, they navigate love and loss. In a plot-twist ending, Carl passes away, and it is revealed that the entire play is a fantasy created by Anna to keep the memory of Carl alive. While described as a dark comedy, the play discusses deeper topics, such as the AIDS epidemic, identifying as part of the LGBTQ community and challenges that accompany grief.

The backstory to “The Baltimore Waltz” is equal parts tragic as the play itself. Vogel wrote the story a year after her brother died of AIDS. 

“This is a story of love between two siblings and (coping) with the grief of losing the person they are closest to in this world. This is one story of thousands who died from the AIDS virus. The fight is not over. Although this play is about one person’s story, this is a story that is continuing to repeat itself throughout time,” Auberle said in the director’s note.

Katie Rain Auberle, a senior studying theatre at GVSU, chose “The Baltimore Waltz” as her directorial debut because of the playwright’s desire to bring awareness to the AIDS epidemic and queer community. Auberle hoped that while people would enjoy the play’s ability to bring comedic awareness to these social issues, they would also be impacted by the overall message.

“I think it can challenge people’s concept of heteronormativity,” Auberle said. “(That) is always a good thing.”

Additionally, Auberle hoped the production would encourage discussions on the issues presented in the plot.

“The show in itself is very unique,” Auberle said. “It’s very in your face and very funny, but it’s (also) a show that makes you think, which I really liked.” 

Another thing that made “The Baltimore Waltz” unique was the small cast of only three performers. Auberle described the cast as incredible and prepared. Auberle said the whole cast brought amazing energy during rehearsals and to the stage.

Jared Hogan, a GVSU film major, filled many roles in the creation of the play. He acted as the sound designer and the 12 side characters of the production. 

He said performing in “The Baltimore Waltz” was a dream role for him.

“It’s a play where half of the importance and underlying themes of the plot are subtle and hidden enough that audiences are left to make their own conclusions,” Hogan said. “’The Baltimore Waltz’ isn’t a play that’s here to hold your hand the whole time. It’s equal parts drama and tragedy.”

“The Baltimore Waltz” was a performance that both Auberle and Hogan hoped impacted those who were in attendance.

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