Sondheim Production Imagines Presidential Assassinations/Attempts
The Austin College Music and Theatre departments come together this week in presentations Thursday, April 28, through Saturday, April 30, of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, with performances at 7:30 each evening in the Sally and Jim Nation Theatre of Ida Green Communication Center. Tickets are $8 each (or free with a valid Austin College ID). The show is directed by Dr. Kirk Andrew Everist of the Theatre Department faculty with the Department of Music’s Dr. Ricky Duhaime as Conductor (and Orchestra Director) and Dr. Wayne Crannell as Vocal Director.
Everist notes that this production is intended for Mature Audiences and includes the use of strong language, adult situations, and simulated violence. The production makes use of loud sound effects (simulated gunfire), flashing lights, and actors moving through the aisles. Firearms and pet dogs are simulated through the use of children’s toys. No real bullets or weapons are used during this performance.
A performance by The Austin College Improv Troupe will follow each evening’s production.
With music and lyrics by Sondheim and librettist John Weidman, Assassins is based on an idea by Charles Gilbert Jr. The production was originally staged off-Broadway at the Playwrights Horizons in New York City on January 27, 1991, where it was directed by Jerry Zaks with orchestrations by Michael Starobin. An off-Broadway production of Assassins is currently running. Assassins is presented at Austin College through a special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.
Everist said this production presents the stories of disaffected people from history who share one thing in common: they tried to kill the President of the United States. He said that in the tradition of American light entertainment and political satire, a Balladeer leads the audience from moments in history to imagined conversations across time, stepping into some of the darker corners of the nation’s past and identity with a critical ear. Assassins, he said, engages the mind as well as the heart, providing a memorable examination of the American Dream.
When the show originally opened in 1991, New York Times reviewer Frank Rich wrote, “There is a shadow America, a poisoned, not-have America that must be recognized by the prosperous majority if the violence in our history is to be understood and overcome.”
Sarah Schlesinger, writing for Music Theatre International, describes Assassins as “… a kaleidoscopic musical theatre exploration of nine people who committed (or attempted to commit) political murder in America over a period of two centuries.” Everist said she continued, “In the framework of a showbiz revue, Assassins gives voice to the nine characters’ hopes, fears, and furies by exposing the twisted thoughts that make them such intriguing figures. … American mythology promises everyone a right to their dreams; if these dreams are not attained, someone must be responsible. The nine assassins share a desperate need to reconcile their belief in this myth with their sense of personal hopelessness.”
The Austin College Cast of Assassins follows:
Chloe Bachofen of Waco, Texas, plays The Balladeer;
Pan Bridgwater of Hamilton, Texas, plays Lee Harvey Oswald;
Bianca Dickinson of Anna, Texas, plays Leon Czolgosz;
Brinn Flores of Dallas, Texas, plays The Proprietor;
Grant Garrison of Fort Worth, Texas, plays Charles J. Guiteau;
Megan Kiel of Dallas, Texas, plays Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Samuel Byck;
Rhys McComack-Morris of Fredericksburg, Texas, plays Giuseppe Zangara;
Jaden Petty, a guest performer from Grayson College, plays John Wilkes Booth;
Percy Stout of Plano, Texas, plays John Hinckley; and
Olivia Trusty of Fort Worth, Texas, plays Sara Jane Moore and Samuel Byck.
Members of the Ensemble are Sawyer Ahmad of Grapevine, Texas; Sarah Arnold of St. Paul de Vence, FRANCE; Clay Bourne of Texarkana, Texas; Shallon Cox of Mansfield, Texas; Brinn Flores of Dallas, Texas; Elizabeth Funderburk of Wylie, Texas; Christian Ghermay of Plano, Texas; and Cecily Sims of Fort Worth, Texas.
The Pit Orchestra for the production will include the following area musicians:
Timothy Jenkins, piano, Austin College accompanist;
Chris Dickson, clarinet, soprano saxophone;
John McGinn, synthesizer, Austin College faculty;
Chris Wilson, flute, clarinet, alto saxophone;
Wayne Crannell, percussion, Austin College faculty; and
Paul Onspaugh, clarinet, tenor saxophone
The Production Staff follows:
Stage Manager………………………..Mia Rios of Richmond, Texas;
Assistant Stage Managers…………Larry Ramirez-Quintana of Pharr, Texas, and Kennedy Shumate of Seymour, Texas;
Scenic Design………………………….Dan Pucul, theatre staff;
Lighting Design……………………….Liz Banks, theatre faculty;
Costume Design………………………Liz Banks and Deedee Jansen of Santa Fe, New Mexico;
Prop Master…………………………… Siran Berberian of Dallas, Texas;
Light Board Operator……………….Brooke Le of Flower Mound, Texas;
Sound Design & Bd. Operator……Chase Chavez of Houston, Texas; and
Spotlight Ops…………………………. Deedee Jansen of Santa Fe and Paige Butler of Richardson, Texas.