Assassins Shooting Gallery: Meet the Players and the Plotters

By Ernio Hernandez
and Kenneth Jones
23 Nov 2012

Neil Patrick Harris (Inset: Lee Harvey Oswald), Bottom: Marc Kudisch

 

 

Character:

Proprietor
Other jobs: Hangman, Announcer
Famous Words: "Hey, pal — feeling blue?/ Don't know what to do?/ Hey, pal — I mean you — Yeah/ C'mere and kill a President." [The show's opening lyric.]



 

Played by:

Actor: Marc Kudisch
Born: September 22, 1966, in Hackensack, New Jersey
Before he was in Assassins: Broadway: Thoroughly Modern Millie, Bells Are Ringing; Other: The Thing About Men, A Little Night Music, "Bye Bye Birdie"
Other jobs: Waiter, Movie Theatre Usher, GAP
"I waited tables. I loved waiting tables. I put myself through college waiting tables. After my first semester, I had a terrible GPA. My father said to me, you're on your own. He said 'I'll pay for the second semester on a loan, you're going to pay that back and after that you're truly on your own.' So I had to go get a job. Ultimately, I probably would have never even gotten into theatre if it wasn't for that because I made the choice when I was in college to switch majors. It was my choice, so I felt very strong about it. The best thing my folks ever did for me was make me pay for college."

Why he became an actor:"I did my first play when I was in high school because I wanted to say that I did something like that in high school. I was a geek, I was like president of the Spanish Club for two years. When I got into college, I was a political science major and I took some theatre courses to lighten that load, as something to enjoy. And, I found myself at three in the morning building sets when I should have been studying for an exam and I just decided I was going to do it. And really, what's the difference between being a politician and an actor."

On his casting in Assassins:
"I went in to audition [for Booth]. I kinda knew his music and so I went in to audition with it and immediately following, we got a call going 'So, they want you to do Assassins. They want you to play the Proprietor.' And I was like 'What?' And of course, who wasn't excited? I was excited. Who doesn't want to do this show? Right? There's not a guy who wouldn't want to do this. But, I was just like 'The Proprietor?' They said they want to explore the possibility of the role. I was like 'Okay!' Basically, you're asked to go in there and take a risk. A large part of the agreement going in was 'We're going to explore and see what's possible and are you willing to take that trip with us?' To which, I was like 'Woo-hoo.'"

On being a political person:
"I consider myself to be political in that I have very strong opinions and very strong stands on my particular beliefs. I am a registered independent because I feel, at least for me, I don't like it to be about party politics, I like it to be about a platform, about programs."

 

***

 

Character:

Assassin: Lee Harvey Oswald
(aka Alek James Hidell, O.H. Lee)
Born: October 18, 1939, in New Orleans, Louisiana
Before he was an assassin: Stock Worker in Book Depository
Other jobs: U.S. Marine, Factory Worker, Various Jobs
Assassinated: President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas

Why he became an assassin: Shot by Jacob "Jack Ruby" Rubenstein before a motive could be determined (after two days of questioning, Oswald never confessed). Oswald's Marxist beliefs, his ties to Russia and Cuba as well as an alleged attempt on anti-communist General Edwin Walker suggest the assassination was a political action.

Died: November 24, 1963, shot during his transfer to county jail.

Famous Words: [When asked "Did you kill the President?" at a press conference] "No. I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question."

 

Played by:

Actor: Neil Patrick Harris
Born: June 15, 1973, in Albuquerque, New Mexico (grew up in Ruidoso, NM)
Before he was in Assassins: Broadway: Proof, Cabaret; Other: Sweeney Todd, Rent; TV: "Stark Raving Mad," "Doogie Howser, M.D."
Other jobs: Waiter, Bookstore Clerk

Why he became an actor: "I was always an extrovert when I was a kid. I always dealt with adults really well, adults didn't intimidate me, so I didn't have any problem singing in front of people or being in the church choir or do plays or things like that. And then, all of a sudden, acting in a motion picture with Whoopi Goldberg when I was 12."

On his casting in Assassins:
"I had worked with Stephen Sondheim before for the Sweeney Todd concerts and he asked me to record that Evening Primrose album. And that was right around when they were casting the first workshop [of Assassins] back in 2000, so they asked me to be the Balladeer/ Oswald and I sort of made my mark and stayed with the show."

On the duality of his roles as The Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald:
"They ying and yang each other very well. The Balladeer has no real acting to do, he doesn't interact with any character, he just sort of narrates to the audience. So it's all one color for a long time and a very happy color at that. And when I play Oswald, it's the absolute antithesis: It's someone who's not very comfortable of confident in himself physically, emotionally."

On research for playing Oswald:
"I didn't realize what a bad egg he was so early. His father died before he was born and his mother really wanted to keep him close to her, so they ended up moving from town to town countless times before was out of elementary school and he was held back a few years, so he was always kind of the bully, getting in fights, the loner, the outcast that no one really knew. He became interested in the military, Marxism and Communism at a very early age because his older brother went into the military. Then as soon as he could, he joined himself and wasn't the oldest kid in his class, but was sort of the younger runt of the litter. So he went from idolizing this military ideal to suddenly being treated poorly in his mind by his peers and his superiors."

On being a political person:
"I'm not particularly political. I like to sit on the sidelines and observe. I'm certainly pro-active in voting and encouraging people to vote. But, I feel like there's a lot of grandstanding on both sides of the political coin. It's tricky to step in to politics and give your opinion because we're rarely given all the facts necessary to make an informed decision."

(Ernio Hernandez is a former writer and photo editor for Playbill.com.)