From film noir classics to modern Mojos, crime and murder (okay, sex also) have been the bread and butter of American entertainment. But does real-life killing have a place in pop culture -- specifically theatre?
That's the question being posed by protesters -- many of them relatives of murder victims -- blasting Paul Simon's new Broadway musical, The Capeman. That show deals with Salvador Agron who, in 1959, stabbed two 16-year-olds to death. Agron later repented and became a poet in prison. He died at age 43 in 1986, seven years after parole.
Kim Erker, a cousin of Agron's victim, Robert Young, stood outside the Marquis Theatre on the first preview night, Dec. 1, carrying a sign that read "Our Loss Is $imon's Gain." She told the Associated Press, "My cousin's murder should not be entertainment. There's a million stories in New York City, why pick this one? You don't do a murder musical to jump start your career. Would Paul Simon do this if his son was murdered?" She stopped short of calling for a boycott, however, saying, "I'm not trying to shut it down. I want Paul Simon to know that he could have talked to someone in the family so (some of) the focus could have been on the victims."
The protests got coverage on national TV and radio.
AP reported that Capeman producer Dan Klores released a statement reading: "In no way, shape or form does The Capeman glamorize the acts or life of Salvador Agron. In fact, it examines the human being's search for redemption. Unfortunately, those who object to this artistic endeavor have no accurate information at all. Theatre, literature, film, opera and ballet have always wrestled with issues of good versus evil." Other real-life criminals have crossed the New York boards with less hubbub. Stephen Sondheim's Off-Broadway Assassins looked at everyone from John Wilkes Booth to Lynette `Squeaky' Fromme. Currently, American Jewish Theatre's Never The Sinner takes another look at the Leopold & Loeb horror and the musical Ragtime offers the murder of Stanford White by Evelyn Nesbitt's husband. On the other hand, Jackie, a satire on the life of Jacqueline Onassis, covers the JFK assassination but does not mention Lee Harvey Oswald.
The Capeman opens Jan. 8, 1998.