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INSIDE UB

UB's theater and dance department is moving forward with its production of "Assassins," a dark musical whose characters are John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and others who have tried to kill the president.

Several points in the musical loosely parallel last week's attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., including a planned aerial assault on the White House.

A theater company in Manhattan, where "Assassins" was set to begin rehearsals this week for a November opening, indefinitely postponed its production in light of the bombings.

The UB production, like all on-campus events, was postponed last weekend.

People involved with UB's "Assassins" say they debated whether to cancel the show, but they believe performing the show is part of the country's efforts to return to business as usual.

A member of the show will read a statement on the musical and the bombings prior to each of three performances this week, said Michael Formato, production manager.

"In presenting 'Assassins' as written, and in its entirety, we hope to honor the principles our country was founded on -- to execute our freedoms -- and stand against those who would deprive us of those rights," the statement reads in part.

Formato said the cast and crew met last week for about two hours to discuss whether to cancel or reschedule the show.

Production members felt strongly that canceling the show would mean that they were giving in to the terrorists who attacked America last week, he said.

"Assassins," a musical by Stephen Sondheim, takes its audience inside the minds of the men and women who have tried -- some successfully -- to kill a president.

Among those is Samuel Byck, who sought to kill himself and former President Richard Nixon by flying a private plane into the White House. He was arrested before he could set his plan in motion.

Jerry Finnegan, the show's director, said the assassins portrayed in the show are Americans who carried out their attacks for personal, pathological reasons. They have little in common with the men suspected in last week's attacks, who were foreigners making a religious and political statement, he said.

The musical doesn't glorify the assassins, Formato said.

"It shows that they didn't stop America, because America is strong," he said. "It's very close to what we're being asked to do -- (show) that America can't be stopped by terrorism or violent acts."

Finnegan noted that during the Nazi bombing campaign waged against Britain during World War II, London theaters made a point of staying open.

"Theater is a communal event," he said, which can have a cathartic effect when done well.

"Assassins," which is tied to the centennial recognition of the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley in Buffalo, is showing at 8 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday. All performances are in the Black Box Theater in the Center for the Arts on the North Campus.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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