Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Assassins' Takes Aim at a Troubled Culture

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Assassins' Takes Aim at a Troubled Culture

Article excerpt

Byline: TANYA PEREZ-BRENNAN, The Times-Union

Art sometimes reflects reality, but at other times it must reveal reality.

That's where innovators come in, and some local actors say Michael Bahar is an innovator.

Bahar is directing and playing a lead role in the Jacksonville production of Assassins, a dark musical by Stephen Sondheim that chronicles the lives of nine Americans who assassinated -- or attempted to assassinate -- their country's presidents. The show opens tonight and runs for two weekends at Theatre Jacksonville, which is also offering technical assistance.

During a recent meeting at a local Starbucks -- what some jokingly call Bahar's office -- a few cast members got together over coffee and talked theater.

"Now is the perfect time to do this because it's not really a show about assassins," Bahar said. "It's a show that makes you think and see patriotism through the eyes of discontent."

This comes from a man who started his New York-based non-profit theater company, Blue Line Arts (USA) while at Harvard Law School; a man who is now a lieutenant in the Navy's J.A.G. Corps; a man who says he loves theater and talks about it with passion. Bahar has teamed his company with FirstLight Theater, a new organization that wants to bring edgier theater to Jacksonville.

"Somebody has to show another type of theater that's challenging," Bahar said.

"There are musicals out there that are stretching the envelope," added Karl Rogers, FirstLight's executive producer. "Assassins is just the beginning."

Assassins was first staged in 1991 in New York, to harsh reviews. It was Sondheim's attempt to redefine musicals, to get away from the stereotypical, lighthearted fare most people expected. It was rife with black comedy and hateful characters, and it took a painfully close look at the other side of the American Dream. …

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