There's another national anthem playing,
It's the story of America, the place where any kid can grow up to shoot the President... and just in time for the presidential primaries! In March 2008 New Line presented one of the true stage masterpieces of the twentieth century, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's powerful and disturbingASSASSINS, a musical that gives voice to the men and women who've tried to kill American presidents, exploring their neuroses, their passions, their delusions, and their reasons, all in a wild vaudeville of American politics. The Washington Post called ASSASSINS "one of Stephen Sondheim's most original, disturbing and exquisitely scored shows." As the philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre said, "Words are loaded pistols." And this is a show that dares to let these uniquely American misfits tell their own stories and make their own cases, as they slowly realize that together, across the decades, they have become a powerful force for change. Theirs is the other national anthem, the dark underbelly of the American Dream.
In this world of shootings at Virginia Tech, Columbine High School, and so many others, a world becoming more violent and more angry every day, ASSASSINS offers us a moment to stop and think about why guns are so important to so many Americans, why violence erupts, who's being left behind in America and how those scars might manifest themselves in the public square. There is no other piece of theatre quite like ASSASSINS, and we need it now more than ever before.
Frank Rich wrote about the show in The New York Times, "The effect is... as if someone had removed a huge boulder from the picturesque landscape of American history to expose to light all the mutant creatures that had been hiding in the dankness underneath. In Assassins, a daring work even by his lights, Mr. Sondheim and his collaborator, the writer John Weidman, say the unthinkable, though they sometimes do so in a deceptively peppy musical-comedy tone. Without exactly asking that the audience sympathize with some of the nation's most notorious criminals, this show insists on reclaiming them as products, however defective, of the same values and traditions as the men they tried to murder."
The New Line cast includes Aaron Allen (Oswald), Christopher "Zany" Clark (Czolgosz), Brian Claussen (Byck), Cindy Duggan (Moore), Zachary Allen Farmer (Guiteau), Matthew Korinko (Booth), Amy Leone (Fromme), Scott Tripp (Zangara), Jeffrey Wright (Hinckley), Andrew Keller as the Balladeer, Alison Helmer, Aaron Lawson, Kimi Short, and John Sparger. The show will be directed by Scott Miller and Khnemu Menu-Ra, with costumes by Russell Bettlach, sets by David Carr and Jeff Breckel, and lighting by Stephen Moore. Check out our blogs – Matthew Korinko's Blog, Scott Miller's Blog, Steve Moore's Blog, Kimi Short's Blog
to explore more? We recommend:
Frank Rich's insightful 2004 New York Times column "At Last, 9/11 Has Its Own Musical" about how different Assassins seems since 9/11; and also the fascinating 1990 Times article "Assassination: The Ultimate Public Theatre"
James W. Clarke's amazing book, American Assassins: The Darker Side of Politics (which includes the truth behind the myths about John Wilkes Booth and the others); and a great webpage about the show with mini-biographies on all the assassins
Wikipedia's list of all the U.S. presidential assassination attempts, including a few not included in Assassins
"A Study of Presidential Assassins" online article (PDF)
An interesting webpage about the specific guns the assassins used, from a theatrical rental company called Weapons of Choice
The brilliant, disturbing, though-provoking "documentary" Death of a President about the assassination of George W. Bush – and no, this isn't a Bush bashing movie; it's a serious piece of filmmaking about the effects of the War on Terror.
Actor Aaron Lawson's hilarious Charles [Guiteau] in Charge video