An assassination of norms

Touching base with some cast members following the closing of Assassins last weekend

The curtain closed for the Assassins cast and crew last Saturday night at the last showing of this dark comedic musical, but the powerful performances will resonate with the audiences and performers long after the Motyer-Fancy Theatre doors close.

In his production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, director Paul Del Motte highlighted many social and political issues that are both relevant in the setting of the play, and in our lives today. Motyer Fancy Theatre/Submitted

Assassins was written by Stephen Sondheim and directed by Paul Del Motte, with musical direction by Jennie Del Motte and Matthew Thompson. The musical is about the nine historical individuals who assassinated or attempted to assassinate the president of the United States. Their stories were told in the form of a carnival game, where the object of the game is to shoot the president. Del Motte made the choice to gender-bend the casting, making all of the assassins women. The play explored crucial topics of mental health and gun control.

The performance began with Paul Brisk Jr. greeting the spectators in the audience before the show began. Brisk played the Proprietor, a character who manipulated and coerced the assassins into carrying out the assassinations. Brisk said that being a part of Assassins was “absolutely phenomenal because you don’t often get shows that provoke thought like this one.” On the content and feel of the piece, Brisk said, “It’s very intense, but it still manages to allow itself to be funny.”

One notable decision made in the production of Assassins was to take a cast of predominantly male characters, and give the roles to mostly female actors. Motyer Fancy Theatre/Submitted

The hilarious Chelsea Doherty played Sara Jane Moore, who attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford and provided much of the comedic relief for the show. Touching on the topic of how mental health was handled in the musical, Doherty said, “The way that we tried to approach our characters was that what is rational to them may not be rational to other people, but they had their reasons and motives regardless.”

One standout performance was by Gabrielle Gagnon, who took the stage in Assassins as Samuel Byck, a Santa-suit-clad lover of Leonard Bernstein, who attempted to assassinate President Richard Nixon. Gagnon’s captivating, paranoid monologues exuded the dark comedic qualities of the show. When asked how she embodied this interesting character, she said, “I just studied the text, and performed it in a way that felt most natural.”

On the significance of gender-bending the cast, Gagnon said, “It was so empowering to look around the stage and see a group of such strong women.… I admire them so much.”

The opportunity to use theatre as an outlet should never be ignored or wasted. Assassins combined multiple genres to produce a thought-provoking and intelligent piece. The choice to defy gender roles in this production should be an example for all future directors at Mt. A: Gender should never be set in stone.

Jane Rempel
Jane Rempel is a fourth-year English major and drama minor from the Vancouver, BC area. She has three friends and one cat.