Thursday, July 30, 2015

2015 Interview with Creative Team of Assassins

zach lutsky

dan fishbach

On August 21 Red Blanket Productions will present a rare revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Assassins at the Pico Playhouse in West LA. Director Dan Fishbach and actor/producer Zachary Lutsky, who plays assassin John Hinckley, recently took time out of their busy schedules to talk about the show. It is particularly relevant this year as we recollect the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth in 1865.

Dan Fishbach: Recent credits include The Maiden's Prayer, Private Eyes, Company, 25th Annual Putnam Co. Spelling Bee, HAIR, Bat Boy, Chicago, One Night Stand, International Tour (an improvised musical for Producer Marc Platt) and several productions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Currently a professor at The USC School of Dramatic Arts (Directing & Musical Theatre). Formerly Head of Performing Arts at Harvard-Westlake School (2002-2006), Director of The Groundlings Theatre & School (2006-2008). Has taught at CalPoly Pomona, Santa Monica College and lectured extensively about the History of Musical Theatre. As a producer he produced the play An Oak Tree at The Odyssey Theatre, which was described by Variety as “A celebration of pure theater’s power”, Impro Theatre’s Impro Unscripted (Odyssey) and nearly 30 shows at the Edinburgh Festival. He is an alumnus of Director's Lab West. Degree from Kenyon College. Member SDC.

Zachary Lutsky: Zach is thrilled to be working with the amazing cast and creative team behind Assassins.   Some of his favorite roles include Harry in Company, Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors, and Albert in Bye Bye Birdie.  During the day (and too often nights) Zach can be found working as a doctor in the ER.  He also has worked as a writer, medical consultant and actor on such shows as “ER,” “Parenthood,” “A Gifted Man” and “Scandal.”  He is currently a writer/producer on NBC’s “The Night Shift” in its third season.  Special thanks to Liz, Jacob and Emma, for their enthusiasm and support.  For Grandma Florence, who inspired his love of theater.
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How do you know each other?

DF: Zach and I have known each other since Jr. High School.  We were in a production of Gypsy together.  I played Rose’s Father and disappeared after about page 8 and he played Herbie (the lead).  No jealousy there at all. ;)

In the past, have you worked together doing theater – and if so, how and when?

DF: We have talked about doing a show together for a couple years now.  Zach’s been eager to produce something.  He initially approached me about doing In Trousers, which didn’t work out.  We then talked about The Last 5 Years, and Parade before agreeing on Assassins, and I’m thrilled that we did.

How did the idea of producing a musical first get hatched?

ZL: As mentioned, I have had a deep passion for musical theater since my high school years.  I have long fantasized about producing a musical.  But as a doctor and TV writer there has not been any time to make this dream come true.  In the meanwhile (meantime?), I have long supported and envied Dan's work directing plays and musicals at the college and professional level.  When it turned out that the show I am currently writing on was going to be on hiatus for a few months, I saw my opportunity and finally approached Dan about working together to produce a musical.  I knew he too loved Sondheim and with his extensive experience would be the perfect collaborator for this endeavor.  Fortunately, he was interested and we started working on it immediately.

It seems clear that you both enjoy musicals by Stephen Sondheim.  However Assassins is not one of his most popular works and when first produced, was not a successful venture creatively or financially.  The musical later picked up steam with a production in London, and was revived in New York, earning five Tony Awards in its first revival.  That being said, why choose Assassins and why now?

DF: As a director, Assassins appeals to me because for the very reason that it was not a financially successful venture:  it’s not traditional musical comedy fodder;  it asks us to look at a very dark side of America’s history and our present, and to look at these assassinations not from the outside but from the inside.  It asks us to step back before the moment of assassination to view the circumstances that provoke unthinkable violence.  They’re questions that regularly surface today with the regular gun violence in our country, and questions that even today, in real life, we hesitate to answer.  This show forces us to look at those questions, without ever really answering the questions.  It does what Sondheim and his collaborators do best: make an audience look inside  themselves and think.  That, to me, is the most exciting kind of theatre.

ZL: It is true Dan I are both huge Sondheim fans and this show popped in my head almost immediately when I thought about producing a musical.  I love that it is so unique, so rarely done and that ONLY Sondheim would have the brilliance and confidence to attempt to write a musical about people who murder presidents.  Who would ever think that that topic could be so entertaining, funny, moving and even lend itself to song and dance. Another aspect of this piece that I found attractive is that it is an ensemble show.  We have been able to pull together a very diverse group of actors and have been blown away by how their individual talents have melded together.   Finally, I feel that its message and themes are still very relevant today.  The show explores what happens to sick minds when they are confronted with the reality that most people will never achieve the American dream that we are all promised.  Looking at all of the horrific violence in our country today, we see the modern manifestation of this realization, when certain individuals, hopeless and disturbed, lash out in grotesque ways against the country they feel has betrayed them.  The Balladeer belts out early on in the show, "Listen to the stories. Hear it in the songs. Angry men don't write the rules, and guns don't write the wrongs."  I often think of these lyrics when yet another gun-related tragedy pops up on the evening news and pray that one day the world will know this truth.  

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Red Blanket Productions presents the multi-Tony Award-winning musical Assassins with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by John Weidman based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr. directed by Dan Fishbach, music direction by Anthony Lucca, and choreography by Lili Fuller.

Disturbing, alarming, and eerily funny, Assassins is perhaps one of the most controversial musicals ever written.  Stephen Sondheim, the great genius of contemporary musical theater, with stand-out shows such as Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, and Company, leads audiences on a tuneful review of Presidential assassins and would-be killers from John Wilkes Booth to John Hinckley.  Thought provoking and darkly delightful, Assassins won five Tony Awards in its first revival on Broadway. 

The cast includes the talents of Claire Adams, Jeff Alan-Lee, Sean Benedict, Janna Cardia, Cole Cuomo, Dominic De Armey, David Gallic, Adam Hunter Howard, Jason Peter Kennedy, Zachary Lutsky, Sandy Mansson, Nick Tubbs, Bryan Vickery, Selah Victor, Travis Rhett Wilson, and Paul Wong.

Material appropriate for ages 15 and up/August 21 – Sept. 27, 2015/Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM; Sundays at 2:00 PM/The Pico Playhouse, 10508 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90064
/Tickets: $30

For tickets and information please visit 
Show Facebook:
Twitter: @assassinsshowLA

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