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Assassins

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The theatrical conceit is as morbid as it is comical and, ultimately, unnerving. The setting is a carnival shooting gallery (nicely evoked through David Scaglione’s scenic design and the lighting motif devised by Jesse Bosworth). With sixteen players on stage (many in multiple roles), we meet the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth — exquisitely embodied by Derek Rubaino —  and come to an understanding of the rebellious intentions that facilitate the murder of Mr. Lincoln, through the odious ode, "The Ballad Of Booth."

The show’s opening number, "Everybody’s Got the Right," also serves as the musical finale. Its lyrics include, "No job? Cupboard bare?/ One room, no one there?/ Hey, pal, don’t despair/ You wanna shoot a president?/ C’mon and shoot a president." And while this ensemble sung song doesn’t necessarily capture the economic status of all who target a U.S. President for assassination, it does suggest the fanaticism and desperation of these homicidally impassioned individuals.

Moreover, the rogues gallery of presidential assassins (and assassination aspirants) are convincingly, and often, comically characterized in this astutely crafted productions. Taryne Moyse brings the bizarre persona of Squeaky Fromme to life, while Kyra Kiener gives a humorous twist to her characterization of Sara Jane Moore (both women made separate attempts to assassinate President Gerald Ford). Hunter Ryti plays John Hinckley Jr. (the gunman behind the near fatal shooting of Ronald Reagan) in all his introverted madness. On the extroversion side of the behavioral scale we are introduced drunken Samuel Byck, who schemed to hijack an airplane in order to crash it in to the White House to kill Richard Nixon; this role is enlivened by Noah Wagner.

The entire cast is ready and steady in their performance of Assassins, including Sean McCallon as Giuseppe Zangara, who mortally wounded Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago while attempting to assassinate Franklin Roosevelt in 1933; Nick Bradford as Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated William McKinley in 1901; and Kevin Wood as Charles Guiteau, who shot and killed James Garfield in 1881.

But it is the scenario played out by Brian Pirnat as Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John Kennedy, that brings the show to its emotional peak, with images projected not only from the Dallas book depository where Oswald sat perched, but also the harrowing Zapruder film clip of the deadly 1963 incident (projection design by Sean Gray). The moral of the musical is encapsulated in the scene with Oswald: Desperate people do desperate things, but assassinations have historically caused created little more than chaos, confusion, and social disruption.

Along with the cast members mentioned above, a hardy shout-out goes to Jeseka Luna, Mark Eggert, William Ardelean, John Vann, Amanda Webb, Serena Bottiani-Henderson, and Jess Oliver for their professionalism and dedication to this production of Assassins. Costumer Donna Fritsche’s designs are also worthy of accolades.

What: Assassins Where: Long Beach Playhouse’s Studio Theatre, 5021 East Anaheim Street.  When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m.  How: Make reservations by calling (562) 494-1014 or online at lbplayhouse.org.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.