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Students of the Ohio University School of Theater perform the musical Assassins during a dress rehearsal at the Forum Theater. Assassins was the last musical produced by the Division of Theater in 2012. 

Musical gets playful with presidential assassinations

Never before has a presidential assassination been something to sing and dance about.

Despite performing only straight plays for the past 10 years, the Ohio University School of Theater and School of Music will present the musical Assassins.

Director Lee Kinney, a third-year theater graduate student, said the School of Theater was unable to produce a musical for the past decade because of the number of different skills needed and the lack of a musical-theater major.

“We’ve collaborated with the School of Music on this production,” Kinney said. “This collaboration has been extremely fruitful, but it’s a lot of work to collaborate between two schools that, of course, operate differently. And I think it’s something that there has been some hesitance around in the past.”

The partnership between the two schools has resulted in the production of the Steven Sondheim musical based on fictional, actual and attempted presidential assassinations ranging from the time of Abraham Lincoln to Gerald Ford.

Despite the heavy subject matter, Andy Haftkowycz, a junior studying theater performance, said the show presents some serious questions in a playful way.

“I hope the audience can understand the ideological distinction between entertainment and the political and psychological implications of political assassination,” he said. “It’s a very fun show, but this acts to foil the reality of the situation when political assassinations have and do occur.”

Haftkowycz described his character, the proprietor, as the classic devil sitting on a shoulder influencing the characters’ decisions to commit the assassinations, but said his character is misunderstood.

“My biggest challenge as an actor has been to craft that omnipresence,” he said. “Being that being who can be present onstage both physically and emotionally while not being involved with the action happening in front of me. His intentions could seem evil at times, but he’s simply the only realist in the world of the assassins.”

Because the show follows so many different characters’ stories and assassination plots at once, the technical aspects have provided a challenge, said Jeremy Borbon, a graduate student studying technical direction and the technical director for the show.

“There were a few difficult parts to this show in particular,” Borbon said, “but I would say all the different movements that the set makes throughout the show took up the majority of my time.”

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