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Oct. 29, 2009

Contact Dana McConnell at 608-796-3766 or


 LA CROSSE, Wis. – Viterbo University will present the powerful and thought provoking musical Assassins Friday, Nov. 13, Saturday, Nov. 14, and Thursday, Nov. 19–Sunday, Nov. 22 in the Fine Arts Center La Croix Black Box Theatre.

Assassins, by lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim and book author John Weidman, opened on Broadway in 1991. The play explores the demented minds of nine individuals who assassinated or attempted to assassinate a president of the United States. Their acts are not sentimentalized or glorified, however. Rather, Assassins, as described by a Washington Post reviewer, “It lays bare the compulsions, the half-baked political rationales, the petty grievances, and the hallucinations with which each of them nursed an explosive need to lash out.”

The play examines and questions American values, and each assassination attempt could be considered a metaphor for the loss of American innocence. Assassins will challenge audiences and will leave them thoughtful and searching for answers.

Working with the deep and challenging material that is Assassins is an important part of a quality theatre education, said faculty member Dana McConnell, who is directing this production.

“Working on historical characters is really a rich task,” McConnell said. “Our students engage in research for their roles, studying images, historical events, and reading biographies. The intention is not to imitate, but to illuminate. Work like this extends the historical function of theatre—theatre artists embody, enact, engage, and reflect on the events that continue to affect our lives, for it is the work of the well-trained and responsible actor that makes it possible for an audience to reflect on the action seen and its consequences within our society. The opportunity to be engaged in such work is crucial in preparing our students to meet the challenges of a professional career in theatre.”

Assassins was chosen for several reasons, said Rick Walters, chair of the Viterbo theatre department.

“It’s a compelling piece, written by one of America’s foremost musical theatre writers, Stephen Sondheim,” Walters said. “The music is exceptional and the show provides excellent performance training experience for young actors. While the subject matter is challenging, it does not glorify killers, rather each assassin is made to confront the fact that his or her act of meaningless violence failed to bring about the desired results.”

Note to audience members: numerous simulated gunshots will be fired during the production.

Post-show discussions will be held Nov. 14 and Nov. 21. The discussions with the audience will include the director and the company. Deb Murray, psychology department chair, and Rick Walters, chair of the theatre department, will facilitate.

Performance times are 7:30 p.m. for each show except Nov. 22, which will be held at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission seating. For more information, contact the Viterbo box office at 608-796-3100 or visit

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