John Wilkes Booth, portrayed by Francisco Morales, forces his accomplice to take down his manifesto after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln during a scene of ‘Assassins,’ a play that will take place at Seward County Community College/Area Technical School. The performance attempts to tell the twisted stories of nine separate assassins who tried to kill presidents. Some succeeded. L&T photo/Earl Watt
Play dives into the mind of a killer
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
Why did they do it?
That’s one of the first questions asked after a tragic shooting occurs, and the newest production of the drama department at Seward County Community College/Area Technical School is seeking to share the answer.
“Assassins” will take the stage tonight and share the perspective of nine twisted people who attempted to kill the president. Some succeeded, starting with John Wilkes Booth.
The play is considered PG-13, according to director Alison Bridget Chambers, and with the raging debate over gun control, this was her way of sharing her “two cents.”
For Chambers, the play hits close to home. The mother of one of her college friends worked as a psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Mary Sherlach was one of the victims of the shooting. Twenty children and six adults were killed in the massacre.
“I felt like I needed to do something, to say something,” she said. “As an artist, this is the way I speak. This is a story I needed to tell, because something has to be done. The country is a mess, and if you are disenchanted with our government, with our politics, with society, then this is going to be a good show for you because it has a message, a very strong, social message.”
Chambers has directed a number of plays at the college as well as with Rainbow Players that have received rave reviews by those who have attended, and sneak peeks of “Assassins” illustrate the same commitment to strong acting, solid singing and an additional attention to the use of special effects.
“This play is about each of the nine successful or unsuccessful presidential assassins,” Chambers said. “It’s told from their point of view. Each assassin has his own point in history. We examine the politics and society at the time and what brought them to make the decision, why they felt their only choice was to kill the president.”
The play combines music, drama and comedy to convey the psychotic views of the assassins and their justifications.
“It has so much comedy, like the scene (college president) Dr. (Duane) Dunn is in,” Chambers said. “Some of the characters are comic relief. Basically, it goes a scene that’s comedy, a scene that’s drama and song. All the songs take place in different periods of American history. It classifies as a musical, drama and a comedy.”
Dunne portrays the role of Gerald Ford, who was also the target of an assassination attempt by some of the followers of Charles Manson.
The music for the play was composed by Stephen Sondheim who also wrote the scores for “Sweeney Todd” and “West Side Story.”
The show was originally an off-Broadway production, but it later made the move to Broadway where Chambers watched it.
“I was moved by it,” she said. “It has to have a specific time to be produced.”
For Chambers, now is the time.
Despite its difficulty, Chambers said the cast has stepped up to the challenge.
“I am so pleased with them,” she said. “This is a very difficult piece, it takes a lot of maturity. It has a huge emotional range. It’s hard on them. You have to go from hysterical to irate in a matter of a measure. They have been working very hard. I am very impressed. Sondheim is notorious for being difficult. They were able to handle it like nothing else.”
Tickets are available for Thursday through Saturday and can be purchased by calling 417-1451. Admission is $10 for the center section, and $8 for adults. According to Chambers, the play is suitable for high school ages and up.