Arts Alliance opens season with ‘Assassins’

Kimberly Go, Reporter

Arts Alliance will put on a killer musical for its first show of the school year.

“Assassins,” a play that tells the stories of the men and women who tried, failed or succeeded in killing America’s presidents, opens Thursday for a three-day run at the Shanley Pavilion.

The musical, which takes place in vignettes, allows each assassin to come forward and tell their story in a unique theatrical medium, whether through song, dance or monologue, director Alex Gold said.

“The show takes place in this twisted carnival, where these assassins are invited into the story by this creepy proprietor,” the Communication senior said. “They’re handed a gun and they’re told to go shoot a president, so it turns into this twisted game for them.”

Gold said he first encountered the piece when he was 13 and was blown away.

“It’s dark and it’s happy and it’s beautiful and it’s violent,” he said. “And it doesn’t mix all of those colors together, it just paints them side by side.”

Gold and producer Caitlin Medina chose “Assassins” because they felt it was challenging and different. However, between June, when they casted the show, and September, when they started rehearsing, the musical’s relevance has changed.

“There have been shootings and gun violence all over the country,” he said. “It was scary at first to do a show with such violence in this climate, but after a while we realized that it was a gift and we got to use this story to say something unique about the state of gun violence in America.”

Gold and Medina reinterpreted several parts of the musical to reflect its relevance to today’s shootings.

“Typically the show is eight men and two women,” said Medina, a Communication senior. “Opening (the roles) up to any race and gender highlights how these assassins literally could be anyone.”

The character of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, for example, is played by Communication senior Alex Getlin.

“People think they know who John Wilkes Booth was,” Gold said. “But going into this space and seeing a woman walk out and play him immediately forces them to reconsider their expectations and be open to reconsidering what they think they know about any of these people.”

Getlin agrees and added that the show is important because it lets the audience empathize and sympathize with people normally cast off as “total monsters.”

“This show forces you take a second look at them and understand why they did the things they did,” she said.

Another artistic decision Gold and Medina made was to stage the musical in the rounds. The stage is a big circle in the middle of the space, with the audience sitting all around it. Not only will this staging create an increased sense of intimacy, Gold said, but it will also allow audience members to “watch other people watch the show.”

“It’s definitely a very unique production of the show,” Gold said. “As people who are both making and watching theater, I think this is the time to be taking risks. The show has become an American classic and I think it’s our turn as a new generation to put our spin on it.”

Gold and Medina said they hope the show gives the audience the space and tools to more productively talk about gun violence in America.

“We see throughout the show whenever a presidential assassination is committed, people always say, ‘How could someone do that?’ The show begins to attempt to answer that question,” Gold said.

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