A Killer Musical: OU School of Theater Presents “Assassins”

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Spending an evening with murderers may not be at the top of everyone's list, but the Ohio University School of Theater is asking its audience to do just that, with its production of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins.

Assassins chronicles the stories of real people who attempted to kill, or successfully killed, the President of the United States.

Historical figures depicted in the play include everyone from Abraham Lincoln’s killer John Wilkes Booth to Gerald Ford.

The musical is directed by third year M.F.A Theater student Lee Kinney as part of his thesis project. Kinney believes that it's about more than just a group of criminals.

"I think the play’s about the underbelly of the American Dream and how there’s this veneer of everything in America seeming prosperous and opportunistic," he said. "It’s not that for so many people."

The musical combines lively songs with true crime stories ripped from the headlines. Striking a balance between the play’s darker and lighter elements presented a challenge for Kinney.

"It borderlines on parody with a dark undertone," he said. "That, I think, is actually harder to do; to present the things that are funny and lighthearted and still show you’re not making light of these things that have been so pivotal in the history of this country."

Staging a musical by a legend like Sondheim can also be intimidating. Kinney says that, although the music is very complicated and that the actors must work at the lyrics, it's ultimately rewarding.

The audience can expect more than murderers and complex music. During the show, they may see a bit of themselves in the rogue’s gallery of assassins.

"I think you’ll find more of yourself in Assassins than you might want to believe you would," Kinney said. "There’s a lot of humanity in these people. Even though they’re very damaged and deranged, which the play does make clear, there’s a whole lot of humanity."

Assassins opens Nov. 28, followed by shows on Nov. 29, Dec. 1 and Dec. 4-8. Performances start at 8 p.m. in the Forum Theater. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors and free for students with an OU ID.