Assassins by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman
Westbury Theatre (10330 84 avenue) August 14 – 16, 18, 19, 22
An interview with Amber Bissonnette and Molly MacKinnon.
Describe your show in five words.
Amber Bissonnette: Illuminating, satirical, gigantic, psychological, entertaining
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
Amber Bissonnette: 9 presidential assassins are thrown in “limbo” to compete for their right to be heard, to justify their actions, and to find connection in their differences. They are enabled by a man called The Proprietor who ultimately represents how the American dream can go terribly wrong. And questioned by a man called The Balladeer who helps them tell their stories through his rose coloured glasses and unfaltering belief in the American dream in its ideal form.
Assassins is about the pursuit of the American dream – can you speak a bit more about the ideas Assassins explores?
Amber Bissonnette: One of the main themes of the show is “the right to be happy”…. The pursuit of happiness. The American Dream is merely the standard to which this “happiness” is held up. The American Dream is largely equated with wealth and prosperity, and the fact is that very few of these assassins committed their crimes in the name of those things. Some did it for love, some did it for justice… but it goes much deeper than the American Dream.
What does the juxtaposition between the different historical periods add to the story?
Amber Bissonnette: The notion of time period isn’t really addressed in the libretto/script. Yes, our assassinations span from 1865 to 1981, but dates and times are rarely spoken of, and simply inferred by the presidential target. If anything, the time period differences highlight that the human need to be heard and validated spans the ages.
Tell us about your company – Loose Ends Theatre. What is your mandate and how do you want to work towards it?
Molly MacKinnon: My goal with Loose Ends is to facilitate collaboration between artists and even other theatre companies to create an honest experience for the audience. No cheap tricks, just great acting. In this production we’ve tried to work towards that by casting a fantastic mix of people spanning from current students to veterans of the Edmonton theatre scene. We have also pared down the usual look of Assassins to keep the focus on the actors instead of the spectacle. When you’ve got a great cast like this there’s no need for big sets or flashy lighting, you just allow the story and the characters speak for themselves.
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
Molly MacKinnon: All I’ll say is prepare yourself to laugh, tap your feet, and empathize more than you ever thought you could with a bunch of murderers.
Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?
Molly MacKinnon: We are lucky to have a phenomenal group working on this show, including Jeff Page taking on the role of Samuel Byck for his first musical in years, Scott Shpeley joining us for his first show since opening Nevermore at New World Stages in New York, and Nancy McAlear taking time from directing two other Fringe shows to play Sara Jane Moore.
The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.