Robin Holt, 52, director of theater productions, speech, drama teacher

April 05, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Robin J. Holt, a speech and drama teacher who directed and performed with several Baltimore theater companies, died Monday of heart failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The lifelong Parkville resident was 52.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Holt was a well-known fixture in community theater, directing or acting in productions at the Vagabond Players, Fells Point Corner Theater, Theater Hopkins, Spotlighters and Paragon Theater.

He was a founder of the Baltimore Laboratory Theater at the University of Baltimore and the Millennium Theater Co.

In 1990, he directed "The Heiress," which marked the Vagabond Players' 75th anniversary season.

He also had been on the faculty of Boys' Latin School from 1974 to 1978 and established the North Baltimore private school's theater program.

As a member of the faculty of the Community College of Baltimore from 1974 to 1988, he taught English, speech and public speaking.

During the 1980s and 1990s, he taught similar courses at the University of Baltimore, Charles County Community College, Catonsville Community College and Harford Community College.

Mr. Holt was a full-time professor in Towson University's speech and mass communication department from 1981 to 1991. At the time of his death, he was teaching at Anne Arundel Community College.

Born with spina bifida, Mr. Holt was afflicted with polio as a child. Forced to wear braces on his legs and use crutches, he refused to allow his physical situation to interfere with his desire to work in the theater or get an education.

A 1964 graduate of St. Paul's School for Boys, he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1970 from the Johns Hopkins University. In 1972, he earned his master's degree in speech and drama from Catholic University of America. He also had finished the course work for his doctorate in communications and drama from the University of Maryland, College Park but had not completed his thesis.

"He was so severely handicapped that he could not walk without the aid of appliances. However, every day he took the train to Washington to Catholic University. I don't know how he did it," said John Bruce Johnson, veteran Baltimore actor and president emeritus of the Vagabonds, who had known Mr. Holt since childhood.

"He was a powerful and gifted intellect who could hold his own in theater and intellectual company. As a director, he had a very devoted following, and people wanted to work with him. They believed in his theories, and he was highly respected by the theater community," he said.

Greg C. Seagle, a Lutherville actor, writer and teacher, said, "He never wanted pity because of his physical situation. ... He assumed an edge to deflect pity."

"He was tumultuous and emotional when working. He could be adversarial at times. And he pushed you. Yet he was very affectionate toward his actors," Mr. Seagle said.

Mr. Holt favored the plays of Eugene O'Neill and William Shakespeare, and was the author of "Scenes from Shakespeare: A Workbook for Actors," published in 1988 by McFarland & Co. He also was a frequent contributor to the op-ed pages of The Sun.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

He has no survivors.

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