Written in 1991 by John Weidman, “Assassins” looks at the killers and would-be killers of American presidents, humanizing villains through motives and rationale rather than simply condemning them as aberrations of society.
“As one of the most produced college plays in our generation, this play doesn’t glorify the assassins, but explores them as people and the motives that drive them,” director Paul Edwards explained.
Although this production covers some of the most tragic political assassinations in American history, directors Edwards and Little stress the relevance of the play’s message to today’s cultural and political issues.
“America has had a history of gun violence and it is now a prevalent political issue, especially with the presidential election around the corner … when people don’t gain access to the American Dream, they may grow angry, and this play shows what happens when they have had enough and rebel,” Edwards said.
In fact, actors waved guns about throughout the entire play. Those students went through professional training to learn how to safely handle the weapons.
At one point in the show, the actors all directed their guns at the packed audience. The tension and apprehension was nearly tangible. The live gunfire with blanks and hidden smoke machines combined to create the realistic yet still fantastical atmosphere the directors envisioned.
For the play to come to fruition, the Peak Productions cast put in a tremendous amount of effort and it showed in the actors’ fluency. The cast started rehearsing back in late August.
“It's been such a pleasure to work with such talented, effervescent people, but we are only college students after all,” said Shelby Herbert, who played Sarah Jane Moore. “Everyone gets a little slap-happy between scenes, and seeing people exaggeratedly mouth each other's songs and lines is a frequent and hilarious occurrence. I even saw my ‘dead dog’ prop get volleyball-spiked between the rafters once.”
Now that production is over and the play has aired, Little and Edwards say they’re overwhelmed with pride for the cast of Peak Productions.
When asked about the most memorable part of producing the play, Edwards simply replied, “Every night that they come out and perform the play. Seeing all their hard work and effort come together and take off is amazing.”
Story by Michael Feng. Photos by Taylor Ahearn.