Silver Spring Stage set for Assassins

May 18, 2024
Assassins at Silver Spring Stage

Silver Spring Stage will present its first musical in nearly three decades with Assassins by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, directed by Fred Zirm, running weekends June 7-23 at 10145 Colesville Road in Silver Spring. In fact, Lee Michele Rosenthal, who plays Sara Jane Moore, was in the Stage's last musical, Weird Romance, back in 1997. "It's about time they started to do musicals again!" she said.

"Silver Spring Stage is a theater that prides itself on pushing boundaries and experimenting with new things," said Zirm, who is directing at the Stage for the third time. "Although musicals are a staple for many other community theaters, doing a musical is experimental and new for the Stage."

Assassins first opened off-Broadway in 1990 and won the Tony Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical in 2004. It explores the motives and demons of the four men who killed sitting presidents of the United States - well-known figures like John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, but also the resolute anarchist Leon Czolgosz, who killed William McKinley, and the delusional Charles Guiteau, who assassinated James Garfield - as well as failed assassins like Moore and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, who both tried to kill Gerald Ford, and Sam Byck, who concocted a scheme to kill Richard Nixon by crashing a plane into the White House.

"The show both humanizes and demonizes the assassins," Zirm said. "It lets us see their hopes and fears, and maybe even understand why they did what they did."

Some of those involved in the production remember what they did quite well.

Maureen Freshour, who plays the Balladeer, said November 22, 1963, was "the first day I saw my mother cry. I was six years old and home from school, and my mother was in the kitchen preparing dinner and listening to the radio. I don't remember the announcement, but I heard sniffling and then sobbing. My mother, a good Catholic American, had a particular affinity for John Kennedy. That crying from the kitchen will forever be connected to that event for me, how an instant can shake the country so dramatically and it was truly like everything changed at that moment."

Bill Bodie, who plays Byck, said, "Like John Hinckley, I was a big fan of Taxi Driver. I remember the Oscars were on the same day as the Reagan shooting. Robert DeNiro, who just won for Best Actor in Raging Bull, had to spend the entire press conference afterward answering questions about Reagan, Jodie Foster, and Taxi Driver."

"Unfortunately, Assassins has become more relevant during such polarized times when more and more people look toward violence as a solution to our problems," said Zirm. "It's not. Do not think eliminating any one political figure will solve our country's problems. Happiness is not a warm gun."

Silver Spring Stage, founded in 1968 and incorporated in 1970, exists in part to provoke conversation and shine a light on stories that might otherwise remain untold. We are a community theatre on a mission to present the best in contemporary theatre that will appeal to the diverse population of the Silver Spring area and attract new audiences and artists.