Journey through history with "Assassins"

Brandon Willis | The Item 

Nearly 30 years after its premiere, Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” still astonishes. “Assassins” is a meet-up of nine successful and would-be presidential assassins - from the audaciously rebellious John Wilkes Booth to the unassuming Lee Harvey Oswald - bending the rules of time and space in a roller coaster ride though different historical periods. They meet, interact and inspire each other to harrowing acts in the name of the American Dream.

America’s “most wanted” musical takes on an urgent new life at Sam Houston State University’s Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre’s Erica Starr Theatre October 9-12, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and a Saturday matinee performance at 2 p.m. “Assassins” is directed by Penny Hasekoester with music direction by Laura Avery.

Whether motivated by real-life political grievances or their own messianic delusions, each of the assassins forces us to think about why and under what circumstances an ordinary individual would attempt such an extraordinary act.

“This musical does not glorify the assassins. It does not excuse them. It holds, as Shakespeare said ‘the mirror up to nature,’” Hasekoester said. “How as a society do we aid and abet this mindset and this violence? We are all part of the problem. This is not simply a group of deranged individuals who make dreadful, unthinkable choices on a whim. These choices spring out of their struggle to achieve what for many is unachievable.”

Dark as that sounds, the show’s revue-like format allows the authors to vary the palette with mad scenes, melodrama, minstrelsy and vaudeville. Stephen Sondheim’s score incorporates musical styles inspired by the different historical periods in which the show is set. The music is richly melodic and the lyrics witty and provocative. The book by John Weidman is original, disturbing and alarmingly funny. Read more about the show on our production webpage: www.shsu.edu/see/shows/Assassins

“As we know from bitter recent experiences, every act of gun violence ricochets through countless layers of society, tearing another hole in our national fabric. The actions of these miscreants, regardless of our efforts to understand them, force us to consider the dark underbelly of our culture and the damage wrought by those for whom violence is the only way to seek fulfillment.” –DC Metro Theatre Arts

For ticket information, contact the Performing Arts Center Box Office at 936-294-2339 or visit www.shsutickets.com to purchase your tickets online. Tickets are $12 if purchased in advance, $15 at the door. SHSU Students can obtain one free ticket the week of the show online at www.shsutickets.com.

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