Thoughts on Assassins: Human Qualities in These Stories of Unfulfilled Hopes

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I have loved the score of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins since I first heard the off-Broadway soundtrack in the early 1990s. The stylistically varied music reflected the historic scope of the tales being told and offered a unification of storytelling the likes of which I had never heard.  I was a bit nervous to see my first professional staging of a score I had loved and had strong feelings about for such a long time, but seeing this Assassins was a full realization of all that I could imagine for this show. I left feeling drained but also knowing that I had experienced an important work of stagecraft.

Bringing the very human qualities of each of these real life characters to the forefront, we are drawn in to the tragedies wrought by their various expectations and disappointments – and with such immediacy. These are true portraits of the American dream gone awry. The unfulfilled hopes for what life, and particularly life in the United States, would/could/should be  are explored and highlighted by honest and emotionally rendered performances. Through the variety and scope of his music, Sondheim enhances our understanding of the mental inability to cope, and of the resulting actions by these touchingly realized characters – or let me amend that – these touchingly realized people.  Intensified by the provocative overseeing presence of the Proprietor, we see how dashed dreams and disappointments are constants that reach across history – not a simple product of any given time, but born of frustrations that are universal.  In our longing for different outcomes that might spare these assassins their downfalls, we, the audience, are confronted head on with the needs of troubled minds and souls.  I am sure I am not the only one who walked away with a renewed sympathy and desire to find solutions for these often ignored members of our communities.  And that, I think, is truly the power of theater in action.

By CONNIE CORRICK, School Programs Manager
Photo by MARK KITAOKAMark and Tracy Photography

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