The Mimes and Mummers get political with Assassins
By Pamela Zazzarino
Something special will be happening for Fordham theatre this semester as the Mimes and Mummers endeavor to produce Sondheim and Weidman’s Assassins. The Mimes officially chose Assassins as the Spring 2013 musical last summer. Many of us felt that the Presidential Inauguration would make the timing ideal for this production. However, what we could not predict was the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December. As an executive board, we seriously considered not going through with this production in lieu of the recent events. But after much meaningful discussion, we came to the conclusion that it is actually the perfect time to do this show.
Written by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, Assassins is a dark musical that explores the lives and motives of the nine Americans who assassinated or attempted to assassinate presidents. The play opens in a shooting gallery where a proprietor sings, “C’mere and kill a president,” convincing nine people (among them John Wilkes Booth, Charles Guiteau, and Sam Byck) to ease their troubles by picking up a gun. The play follows their individual stories, manipulating history in such a way that the assassins are able to interact. The narrator, a balladeer representing the “American Dream,” is constantly questioning the nine, “Why did you do it?”
Finally, the assassins convince the balladeer himself that not everyone has a right to his or her dreams in America. It is Sondheim and Weidman’s genius that allows us to consider the ramifications of the unfulfilled promise we call the American Dream, and that these nine historical figures are no less a part of American culture than you and I.
We believe we are doing a musical that is more relevant than ever because of the events at Sandy Hook school. After watching the news that day in December, many of us were nothing short of shocked that something so horrific could take place in what was believed to be a safe and relatively quiet town in Connecticut.
What could make this 20-year-old gunman feel he had to go to Sandy Hook school and kill innocent children? Americans everywhere question our gun laws, the popularity of violent video games, the glorification of violence in the media, and other controversial cultural phenomena in search of an answer. In Assassins, we get a glimpse into the minds of nine people who felt they had to kill a president to be heard. But perhaps surprisingly, it is quite difficult to dismiss them as “crazy” in the same way it is difficult to blame the actions of the young man from Connecticut to mental illness.
We, the Mimes and Mummers, are producing this show to support meaningful discussion, especially when tragedies that seem unspeakable take place right before our eyes, especially when this young man from Connecticut could have been your neighbor or your classmate. On February 28 and March 1-3, the conversation will be taking place in Collins Auditorium, and it will be called Assassins.