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“Assassins” Musical to be Presented April 2

Marking the 150th anniversary of the April 1865 assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the Appalachian Musical Theatre Ensemble (AMTE) presents the multi-award winning musical “Assassins” by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman.  The single performance takes place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 2, in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on the Appalachian State University campus.

Ticket prices start at just $5 for students and only $8 for faculty, staff and adults. For more information, visit the Schaefer Center box office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or call 800-841-ARTS (2787).  You may also stop by the Valborg Theatre box office between 1 and 5 p.m. weekdays or call 828-262-4046.  Tickets are also available online at http://theschaefercenter.org/ and at the door one hour in advance of the performance.

A multiple Tony Award-winning theatrical tour-de-force,Assassins” combines Sondheim’s signature blend of intelligently stunning lyrics and beautiful music.  It is panoramic story of our nation’s obsession with celebrity and success as seen through the eyes of nine people who would assassinate the President of the United States. Bold, original, disturbing and alarmingly funny, “Assassins” is perhaps the most controversial musical ever written.

This one-act historical “revusical” explores the dark side of the American experience. From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, writers Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman bend the rules of time and space, taking us on a nightmarish roller coaster ride in which assassins and would-be assassins from different historical periods meet, interact and inspire each other to harrowing acts in the name of the American Dream.

According to AMTE President Daniel Bukin, the Appalachian Musical Theatre Ensemble is “a production-based club on campus that provides performance and educational opportunities for all students, regardless of major.”  Bukin, a senior music theory and composition major and theatre arts minor, said that in addition to putting on shows, the club hosts a variety of workshops and master classes at our bimonthly meetings.

As has been the custom since its inception, AMTE collaborates with other partners in the production of musicals. With “Assassins,” auditions were open to any theatre artist in the High Country, and the cast and crew collectively have worked with 13 different producing theatres in the region.  While two-thirds of the company has ties to AMTE or Appalachian, other theatres represented include (in order of participation) Lees-McRae College and the LMC Summer Theatre, In/Visible Theatre, Ensemble Stage, Blue Ridge Community Theatre, the former Blowing Rock Stage Company, Beanstalk Community Theatre, Ashe Little Theatre, Appalachian Young People’s Theatre, Watauga High School and Tweetsie.

Dr. Ray Miller directs, with Aaron Ames and Dr. Michael Hanna serving as musical director and vocal coach, respectively.  Rebecca Cairns and Ann Hoskins are designing costumes with lighting by Dr. Frank Mohler and dialect coaching by Derek Gagnier. Leah Chandler heads a three-person stage management team of Appalachian students, as well as an all-volunteer production crew.  The orchestra is comprised of area faculty, staff and students from Appalachian’s Hayes School of Music.

Principal roles are being portrayed by Michelle Bucci, David Craven, Derek Davidson, Derek Gagnier, Cam Haas, Michael Hannah, Holly Hendricks, Ian Lawrence, Keith Martin, Sarah Emaline Melton, Zane Rassler, Maureen Renihan, Zeb Scott and Chris Wiseman.  Seven members of the ensemble – Anna Ashburn, Savannah Bennett, Lauren Evans, Breanna Glosson, Muhammad “Russ” Harith, Krystopher Paschen, and Grace Schaffner – play dozens of supporting and cameo roles.

Bucci is an Appalachian junior interdisciplinary studies major minoring in Spanish who has been in all five musicals AMTE has produced, including “Rent,” “Godspell,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Spring Awakening” and “Urinetown” She portrays Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme in “Assassins” and said, “It’s been a really great experience being able to act with my own theatre professors at ASU, professional actors from around the High Country, Lees-McRae faculty and students, as well as my App State classmates.  We actually have people of different ages to accurately play the characters.”

About the production, director Miller says, “‘Assassins’ is a unique musical in terms of subject and in terms of how is it constructed. Essentially, it is a musical about the dark side of the American dream as told through the point of view of John Wilkes Booth, the actor who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, and every American who attempted to assassinate other presidents from Garfield and McKinley to Reagan and Kennedy.”

Miller said that, “In song and drama, Sondheim creates a poignant and moving dreamscape in which these Americans can make their voices be heard. While most of us understand that we have a right to the pursuit of happiness, these characters have distorted that to be the right to happiness. When they don’t get it, they feel justified in killing for it. Like the recently successful film by Clint Eastwood, ‘American Sniper,’ Sondheim’s musical, ‘Assassin,’ invites its audience to look seriously at aspects of the American experience that challenge easily held conceptions of what it takes to maintain the American dream.  This musical is both entertaining and thought provoking as well.”

The Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts is located at 733 Rivers Street.  Parking for the Schaefer Center is available to patrons at any available parking lot or garage on campus after 5:30 p.m. The Raley and Edwin Duncan parking lots are right across Rivers Street from the Schaefer Center and the stadium parking lot is located behind the center. Covered parking is available at both the Rivers Street Parking Deck and the College Street Parking Deck.

“Assassins” is produced by special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).