Sarah Winchester's famous San Jose mansion, the Winchester House, is the setting of composer Craig Bohmler and lyricist-librettist Mary Bracken Phillips' new musical, The Mystery of Winchester House, set for a reading 11 AM June 15 at the Sobrato Auditorium in San Jose.
Scott Schwartz (Bat Boy, tick, tick...Boom!) will direct.
The Mystery of Winchester House is a highlight of San Jose Repertory's annual New America Playwrights Festival, running June 14-16. Also featured will be Sandra Tsing Loh's new one woman show, I Worry, and Philip Kan Gotanda's The Wind Cries Mary, a resetting of Hedda Gabler, which will have its world premiere at the Rep in 2003.
The widow Winchester, wife of the famous rifle manufacturer, was obsessed with the spiritual realm as were many Victorian-era women. Her obsession turned to fear, however, and she took to adding rooms, staircases and doors to her home in order to confuse the ghosts she was certain haunted her. The actual Winchester House, which Sarah continued to build on until her death in the 1920s, has 60 rooms (40 are bedrooms), five kitchens, two ballrooms, two basements, 950 doors, 47 fireplaces and 40 staircases.
Bohmler and Bracken Phillips play with the legend of the Winchester House, turning history into a combination of romantic thriller and musical comedy. In the show, ghostly gunfighters shoot it out on the many staircases leading to nowhere, while a barbershop quartet of the deceased comments on the action. Bohmler is best known for his musicals Enter the Guardsman and Gunmetal Blues. Bracken Phillips was Tony-nominated for her lyrics to Metro and penned the book and lyrics to Brimstone and I>Cradle Song.
I Worry, Loh's reflection on current events, will be performed by the writer-performer 3 PM June 15 and 6 PM June 16 in the Sobrato Auditorium. David Schweizer directs. Timothy Near directs The Wind Cries Mary, reading 1:30 PM June 16 in the Fourth Floor Studio Theatre.
San Jose Repertory Theatre is located at 101 Paseo de San Antonio between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. For reservations, call (408) 367-7255. San Jose Repertory Theatre is on the web at http://www.sjrep.com.
— By Christine Ehren