On September 15, 2014, the cast of Rope met for our first read-through. After a single reading, I knew I had made the right casting choices. We had an incredibly talented group of actors, and thankfully, everyone got along from the start.
We got into rehearsals right away, and quickly started making interesting discoveries about the text. The onstage chemistry grew fast, and offstage new friendships started to form.
We put together an awesome fundraiser, Retro Radio Hour – Suspense! and got to see everyone’s comic side.
And a glamourous side as well.
As the show progressed, and intensity grew, I started to get really pumped about the show. Despite seeing scenes over a dozen times, these guys were giving me chills. I knew we had something great.
It’s that time again! Time for our Cast and Crew spotlights for Rope. First up, Bygone Artistic Director/Producer and director of the show, Emily Dix.
1.What first attracted you to Rope?
I’ve been a Hitchcock fan since I was a kid. Growing up I had some darker interests and was always drawn to mystery and horror; my parents, worried I’d see too much gore too young, steered me towards the classics. As an adult I studied film at UofT, and the more that I watched Rope the more I was drawn to the story. One day, while watching the film with my co-founder Matt McGrath, I noticed a note in the opening credits; based on the play by Patrick Hamilton. I was thrilled. We looked up the play, found that, despite some differences, it was still amazing, and it’s been on my radar and to-do list since then. That was back in 2011.
2. What challenges have you faced working on a site-specific play that runs in real time?
A lot of the same issues that I had when we did Doubt back in January 2013; plays are written (generally) to be on a stage and to have SFX like lighting and sound. I wasn’t too concerned with this initially because I thought, well, real-time should look like real-life, what’s the issue? But being in a museum we do have a lot of limitations and things to consider. Also, ending a play that has a dramatic finish when you can’t simply “go to black” is a challenge. But we manage alright.
3. What have you done to prepare for your role?
As Artistic Director/Producer, preparing for my role basically means preparing the entire show. Over a year ago I started some basic design ideas and looked for venues. Once we had a venue and dates set, I finalized costume designs and started working on raising funds and casting the show. Now I’ve got rehearsals where I do all the basic directing stuff, I spend evenings doing admin things like balancing budgets and filling out the ticket selling paperwork, and then of course there is the marketing. A lot of time is spent on the computer. I spend hours daily updating social media, writing to the cast, contacting other companies to cross-promote, completing props lists, updating online event listings; no one task is particularly difficult but there is a LOT to do.
4. What has been your favourite part of the rehearsal process so far?
I love my cast. I say this every time, but it really is true. I think the best thing that I ever do for one of my shows is cast a group of amazing people; I’ve done it before and it’s happened again. Everyone is so unbelievably talented and they’re a really fun group. Despite working on a heavy play with some dark and very serious concepts, rehearsals are always fun and everyone is getting along. I always look forward to going to them and I never want them to end. It’s a great group.
5. Why should everyone come and see Rope?
Aside from all the usual things – amazing cast, beautiful costumes, and a phenomenal script – you should come and see Rope because it really is different from anything else you’re going to see in the city. The venue is unique and perfectly suited to the show. The play is not one that is done very often, so chances are no one else has seen it performed live (plus, we’ve made some changes as it is now public domain). Rope is unique because it addresses issues of morality, murder and equality without forcing them down your throat; it’s never preachy, it doesn’t talk at you about these things, it simply lets the audience in on a dialogue about it. Sitting right there amidst the party guests the audience is invited to join the conversation and make up their own minds, question themselves on what they would do if they were in that position. I think it’s a neat concept.
Rope run November 21-29th, 2014 at the Gibson House Museum. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased through TO Tix. Seating is extremely limited, to ordering in advance is encouraged. For more show information check us out on facebook or twitter, or see our website.
Working on Rope has got us thinking about true crime and the bizarre attraction the world has to criminals and the supposed “glamour” that surrounds them. While we of course don’t support or encourage crime itself, you’ve gotta admit, some of these vintage mugshots are pretty stylin’. Want one of yourself? Join us for Retro Radio Hour – Suspense! and have one taken in our Mugshot Photobooth!
The original “Thrill Killers” Leopold and Loeb were part of the “Crime of the Century” killing of Bobby Franks; the real-life inspiration for half a dozen books, movies, and plays, including Bygone’s next show, Rope. Here’s a quick rundown of the crime and notorious killers.
The Crime of the Century
The murder was labeled the “crime of the century” by the press because it was so unusual, so unprecedented for its time; two young men, from well-to-do families planned and orchestrated the murder of an innocent young teen, purely for the thrill of it. These were not gang members, were not foreigners or minorities; they were wealthy, good looking and brilliant, and the public just could not reconcile the concept of these two young men being ruthless murderers.
It was Chicago 1924 when Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb decided to kill; there was no clear motive, although theories range from that of a sex-for-murder agreement to seeing the entire incident as a game. They had planned the majority of the crime for over six months, but it wasn’t until the day of the murder that the two selected the victim; 14 year old Bobby Franks. While he was chosen at random, Bobby was familiar to the boys whose family’s new each other; still, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The murder was fast and brutal; after luring Bobby into their car, one of the men attacked him from behind, delivering a fatal blow to the head. In an attempt to mislead police, they stripped the body naked and covered it in acid, hoping to disfigure the corpse that they left abandoned in a wooded area not far away. Despite months of careful planning, a relatively simple mistake lead to their capture; Leopold dropped his glasses at the crime scene, and as they were made with a particularly unusual style of hinge they were quickly traced back to the young man. In the brief time before their arrest, Leopold and Loeb had attempted to demand a ransom from Franks’ parents, but this too was done messily. For two young men certain of their brilliance and ability to commit the “perfect crime”, they made quite a few amateur mistakes.
“Loeb’s friendship was necessary to me– terribly necessary”
When quested about his motive for the crime, the youth replied; “to the extent that I had one, was to please Dick”. In the case of Nathan Leopold, nothing was too horrid a task if it would please his beloved Richard.
While still exceptionally bright, Richard Loeb was not as intelligent as Nathan Leopold. Despite being the University of Michigan’s youngest graduate at the age of 17, he was often described with unflattering terms; “lazy”, unmotivated”, and “obsessed with crime”. All points suggest that he was the mastermind in the crime, and that he took advantage of Leopold’s love for him, manipulating the young man to act in a way he would never have done on his own. Loeb had committed numerous crimes in his youth, but none that involved injuring another human being; until the day he murder the innocent Bobby Franks.
Quotes from the psychiatrists (the called alienists) at the trial paint a picture of the man;
“It was Richard Loeb who was the ‘mastermind’. Nathan Leopold, the intellectual prodigy, was his virtual slave”
“Leopold is a victim of autoism, a type which centers and defies the ego. Loeb is a case of non-emotional psychosis.”
“They are a supreme case of ‘folie a deux’, or insanity of two. Leopold might have escaped all trouble had it not been for Loeb. Loeb would certainly have reached nearly the same end at which he is now”.
The case quickly became less about the trial itself, and more about the defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, and his fight against the death penalty. For more information of the trial’s specifics, check out the Darrow Collection.
Various works have been inspired by the shocking true story of the Leopold and Loeb murder; Patrick Hamilton wrote Rope which was in turn adapted for a Hitchcock film of the same name, and which we are basing our production off of. There is also Thrill Me, a a musical more directly related to the case.
While the case was tragic and horrific, it goes to show that mankind has a fascination with the darkest parts of a human’s mind. To see our take on this concept, check out Rope at the Gibson House Museum this November.
Want to help produce the show? Check out our FWYC campaign to make a donation.