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SHSU to present special performance play
By Michelle C. Lyons/The Huntsville Item
The story of one of the most memorable assassinations in history is scheduled to make its way to Sam Houston State University as the Department of Theatre and Dance launches its 2000 season with a historical world premiere.
Students will perform "The Brothers Booth," the story behind President Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, only twice - at 8 p.m. both Monday and Tuesday. This is the first time the show, which was written by SHSU philosophy professor Marshell Bradley, has ever been performed.
The show will be performed in SHSU's Showcase Theatre. Admission is a $3 donation to the SHSU Theatre Scholarship Fund.
"The Brothers Booth" explores both the passion of the theater in the Civil War era, as well as the mentality of assassination. The setting is the Winter Garden Theatre in 1864 as members of the Booth family appear on stage together for the first and last time for a one-night performance of William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar."
Characters include Edwin Booth, who was considered one of the greatest American actors of the 19th century, and John Wilkes Booth, who was a matinee idol in the South - and later would be Lincoln's killer. Even as rehearsals are proceeding for "Julius Caesar," John Wilkes is plotting with fellow conspirators to kill Lincoln.
Thomas F. Soare of the SHSU theater faculty is directing the performance. He explained that the show was not originally part of the department's regular performance schedule but was "squeezed" in.
"This is the world premiere - this is the first time it's been performed anywhere," Soare said, adding that he's anxious to see how the performance turns out. "Dramatic writing is unlike any other because you don't know how it's going to look until you see it performed. It may look great on paper but until you hear it from the mouths of actors, you don't know how it's going to work.
"It's a good piece - it's a complicated piece," he continued.
Soare said both the actors and theater faculty spent a week of their Christmas vacations working on the performance. While rehearsing, they also videotaped their performances with the intent of shooting a pilot that might be used to promote the performance for use in larger venues across the nation.
Bradley said it took about 12 years to write the piece as he studied 125 different historical references. He explained that it was the inherent drama of the historical assassination that simply "begged" to be written for the stage.
"It's sort of a play that writes itself," he said.
Bradley added that there likely will be some information in the performance that many may not have known. For instance, many may not know that Lincoln was a huge fan of the Booths as actors and that he, in fact, saw them a number of times in performance.
The performance's cast includes Todd Porter, Daoud Heidami, Jayson Rivera, Ronald Kueschler, Andrea Haring, Jiggs Burgess, Seth Corley, Rex Harris, A.C. Gardner, Johnna Meyer, Melissa Prichett and April Garton. Bradley also appears in cameo.
D.J. McHenry is stage manager with period costumes by Anne Blackmer of The Mercantile/Cottage Costumes.
Original music for "The Brothers Booth" was composed by local concert pianist and teacher Charlotte Tull.
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