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Roxy Update

Rather than have Wuss-Out Wednesday, I shall provide a brief update on Roxy, the play being presented by the Herkimer County Historical Society at Ilion Little Theatre.  Full disclosure: as opening night gets closer this blog may become All Roxy All The Time.  For now we will content ourselves with an update.

For anyone who has missed my previous posts about the play, it is an original play, written by local author Jack Sherman, about a historical crime which happened right here in the Mohawk Valley.  In 1884 in the Town of Warren, Roxalana Druse killed her husband, Bill, with a gun and an ax.  She was later tried in the County Courthouse in Herkimer NY and hung in the 1834 Jail.

The story is set some 30 years after the murder.  Roxy’s son, George, all grown up now, is telling the story to his daughter, Florence.  It’s not like those old movies Steven likes to make fun of, where the whole thing is a big flashback.  Rather, the action switches back and forth between the past and present, with Florence asking questions and remarking on the events.  Sometimes within the past,  the action goes even further back; as a character testifies in court, the murder is re-enacted.

At our rehearsal last night things seemed to be going very well.  The transitions from present to past to re-enactment are getting smoother.  Characters are being developed.  It is beginning to feel like a play.

We have rehearsal again tonight and I fear I have not looked over my lines since yesterday.  I should perhaps hit publish and do that.  Roxy will be presented September 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20, at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, at Ilion Little Theatre, Remington Avenue, Ilion, NY. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students.  For more information call 315-866-6413.

 

But I’m NOT a Method Actress!

I’m afraid this blog may become All Roxy All The Time sooner than one might expect.  Opening night is one month from tomorrow.  Plenty of time, you say?  Perhaps.  But it is difficult to concentrate on other things, especially on nights when we have rehearsal.  And anyways, I thought of something new to talk about.

Roxy, for anybody just tuning in, is a play written by local author Jack Sherman about Roxalana Druse, who murdered her husband and was later hung for it at Herkimer County Jail.  The play is being presented by Herkimer County Historical Society at Ilion Little Theatre.  I play Roxy.

The historical society is going to great lengths to make the play authentic.  They have biographical information on many of the characters.  We have two costume designers who are striving to make the costumes true to the time period.  And then there is the set…

Since Roxalana Druse was famously the last woman hung in New York State (James Greiner wrote a book about her called Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse; good book, read it), one might expect to see a gallows in a play on the subject.  So the historical society got a gallows.  In fact, they got some folks at BOCES to build them a gallows just like the one used on the real Roxy.

These gallows were pretty interesting in and of themselves.  They were called the Galloping Gallows, because they could be taken apart and moved.  Herkimer County rented them for the occasion.  Additionally, this was not a traditional gallows, where the condemned fell through a trap door.  Instead, a weight was dropped, jerking the body upward.  Who thinks of these things?

I have to confess, I am feeling just a little bit nervous about this contraption.  I think it is a bit more realistic than is strictly necessary.  How do I know the guy playing the sheriff won’t get a little carried away with his part on opening night?  Do you suppose I should insist upon a stunt double?

 

No Worry Wednesday

This is my new feature, to replace Wuss-out Wednesday.  I like it.

Astute readers (have I any other kind?) probably read yesterday’s post and expected another ridiculous post today.  Well, I AM still trying to learn my lines for Roxy.  In fact, I did write something today, but it wasn’t a blog post, and I didn’t finish it.  Still, words on paper, that’s a good thing, right?

Logging onto WordPress.com this evening (later than expected once again; gotta love overtime), I saw that I had ten Likes and one comment on yesterday’s foolishness.  In the course of replying to the comment, No Worry Wednesday was born, so thank you to fellow blogger Mark Bialczak.

In order that my entire post not be an announcement of a new day for me, I will share you a story about yesterday’s rehearsal.

In case you didn’t know, Roxy is about Roxalana Druse, who murdered her husband in the Town of Warren, and subsequently was tried and hanged for it in Herkimer, NY.  It is a true story.  I play Roxy.  I shoot my husband and chop his head off with an ax (I didn’t need to include a spoiler alert for that; in addition to being a well-known bit of local history, the characters talk about it in the first scene).  In my defense, my husband is, to quote the play, a “goddam lousy son of a bitch.”

Art Wilks, the man playing my husband is a very good actor.  He is physically imposing and has a deep, gravelly voice.  When in character, he is mean and scary.  We were doing the scene in which I kill him.  He had just called me a goddam bitch and threatened to split my skull open with an ax.  It was a tense moment, and Art probably should have turned his cell phone off.

Art’s ring tone was a sweet, tinkly, music-box sounding tune.  It was soft, it was pleasant.  I tried not to break character, and if Art was perhaps ten percent less of a good actor, I might have made it.  As it was, the contrast was too much for me.  Along with everybody else, I cracked up laughing.

Perhaps in reaction to the tension of the scene, I laughed harder than I have laughed in years.  I laughed so hard I had to walk away.  I laughed so hard I gasped for breath.  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  I’m still chuckling just remembering.

I hope I have conveyed how humorous it was. However, in the spirit of the day, I shall not worry if I have not.  If anything has ever happened to you that made you laugh that hard, please share it in the comments.  I like to laugh.

 

Wednesday with Quentin Tarantino

Wuss-out Wednesday follows Tired Tuesday when one is on overtime and in a play.  I do love the overtime. For one reason, it gives me a good excuse to slack on everything else.  Uh, I mean, it gives me a chance to further my career, make a contribution in the workplace and… oh hell, nobody’s a good enough actor to sell that line of bologna.  I’m sure you’ll believe I can use the extra cash, but it is vulgar to brag about one’s income (especially when it’s really nothing to brag about) (so don’t bother hitting me up for a loan) (you know who you are).

Where was I?  Ah yes,  striving to post something, anything before going to rehearsal.  At last night’s rehearsal I showed that although I know my lines, I do not know my blocking (that’s moving where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, for you non-theatre folks) (and for any pedantic theatre folks who want to correct my definition, oh just give it a rest!).

In my defense,  it is kind of a complicated play.  There are flashbacks AND re-enactments.  I think it’s a little bit like a Quentin Tarantino movie.  I can’t even add “but without all the violence,” because my character chops off her husband’s head (that’s not a spoiler; everybody knows that about Roxalana Druse).

I studied my lines again today while on breaks at work (I know, I should have been writing my blog post; one can’t do everything, after all).  I even said them to myself while I was working.  Luckily, my job is not one where I deal with the public.  I don’t think my co-workers were particularly disconcerted.  After all, they’re used to me.

Right now I’m as tired as I was on Tuesday with rehearsal tonight and more overtime tomorrow.  But that is OK, because the show must go on!  Tired is not too great a price to pay for stardom!  Or even for having fun being in a community theatre play.

 

Murder on Monday

I see that last Monday was “World’s Dumbest Monday”, which makes me a little embarrassed to feel as dumb as I do today.  No matter, dumb or not, I must make my blog post.

I don’t feel like watching World’s Dumbest today anyways.  I feel like watching my other favorite guilty pleasure show, SnappedSnapped is a documentary show about women who kill.  I think I wrote a blog post about it some time ago (too lazy to go back and check), but I have another reason to watch it and write about it today.  I feel it will inform my character of Roxalana Druse.

As regular readers may recall, I have the title role in Roxy, a play being presented by Herkimer County Historical Society and Ilion Little Theatre.  It is a new play written by a local author about Roxalana Druse, the last woman hanged in Herkimer County.  She killed her husband by shooting him then chopping his head off with an axe. I think he was asking for it, but perhaps that’s just me being in character.

That last sentence was just me being silly.  It is actually a serious play, probably the most serious I’ve ever been in.  Therefore, one might wonder if watching one of my guilty pleasure television shows is really the best way to prepare.  Listen, don’t try to second guess the processes of the creative mind.

More to the point, it’s Monday and I’m tired. It was a rough weekend and I’m not a young woman.  I studied my lines while on breaks at work and if I want to sit and watch a murder show on cable television, I will.  And I’ll write more about Roxy soon.

 

Aunt Cindy Killed Somebody?

Don’t you think that’s a catchy title for Non-Sequitur Thursday? I do so love an eye-catching headline.  However, I am going to go on to explain that one and talk about killing somebody else, so it is not exactly a non-sequitur.  I ask you to bear with me.

I was on the phone with my sister, Diane, who also writes novels. I had written her a long letter lamenting my novel woes.  I had talked about character and plot, which I rarely do.  For one reason, once you’ve talked about it, you often feel you don’t have to write it.  Must maintain that oomph, after all.  For another reason, the person you’re telling it to might roll their eyes and say, “That’s been done.”  I hate that.  However, desperate times call for desperate measures, so I wrote the letter.

Diane, alas, did not have any specific advice for me.   It had been a couple of weeks since I had written the letter, so I updated her on a couple of  scenes I had written.

“I killed off another character,” I said. “But not one of the ones I was talking about in the letter.”

I heard my niece in the background say, “Aunt Cindy killed somebody?”

I don’t know why she sounded surprised.

The reason I’m using this admittedly thin story for a post is that I must post and run today.  Steven and I have a read-through for a play we are in.  Perhaps you read a previous post where I spoke of how we had auditioned for Roxy, which is being presented by the Herkimer County Historical Society and Ilion Little Theatre Club.  We are very excited to be part of this original production, which is written by a local author and concerns a local, historical case.

The play is about Roxalana Druse, who killed her husband in the Town of  Warren.  She was tried in the  Herkimer County Courthouse, imprisoned and later hanged in the 1843 Jail, which is right across the street.   I believe much of the dialogue is taken from actual court testimony.

Guess what part I got. I’ll give you a hint:  see the headline of this post.

Another Visit to the Historical Society

Last Saturday I got to introduce some friends to a couple of my favorite places, the Herkimer County Historical Society and the 1834 Jail in Herkimer, NY.  I know I have mentioned  both places before, but I think they rate numerous shout-outs.

My sister Cheryl and some friends had long been interested in visiting the jail, which is not open for tours on a regular basis. I suggested we watch for when the Historical Society holds its Open House in June, because the jail has been open that day at least for the last couple of years, when I have made it to the Open House.

We arrived at the Jail, on Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners on Main and Church streets,shortly after eleven, only to find out that the tours did not start as early as we had thought.  I suggested we check out the Historical Society, which is right across the way.

Of course I had to show off my knowledge and explain that the house had belonged to Dr. A Walter Suiter, although he had only used it for his office. Dr. Suiter provided medical testimony for two of Herkimer County’s most famous murder trials, of Chester Gilette and Roxalana Druse.

As we walked into the Queen Anne style brick mansion, we saw a display about the Gilette  case. We talked about the case and about how Hollywood did not get it right in A Place in the Sun (although that is a highly entertaining movie). I said that Chester Gilette was a player. I’ve read several books about the case.

As we walked around downstairs I pointed out the ornate Remington typewriter. I have a less fancy Remington typewriter myself.. We all admired the doctor’s study with its built-in bookcases and large fireplace. The woodwork throughout the house is beautiful.

Upstairs we noted the old bicycle with the huge front and tiny rear wheels. We marveled over the fact that a man rode it right across the country.

“And that was in the days before highways and Motel 6,” I said.

We also enjoyed looking at the dollhouses and the portraits of local people of note. I pointed out Margaret Tugor, because Cheryl had noticed a picture of the South Side School in a display about immigrants downstairs. Miss Tugor had been principal of that school, which was later named after her.

The third floor, which is not open on a regular basis, holds many artifacts and archives. We especially noted many typewriters, some chairs in need of repair, and a rather delightful baby carriage.

I suggested we go down the back staircase from the second back to the first floor, and that was another experience. The stairs are steep, narrow and curved. I think it is good to know what the servants put up with back in the day.

In the gift shop, I chatted up Caryl Hopson about the play Roxy, which the society is presenting at Ilion Little Theatre (I’ll be writing a lot about that as time goes on). I also ate a couple of cookies, which were from the Heidelberg Bakery. Who could resist?

Caryl suggested we walk a couple of doors down, where another archaeological dig was going on. I had pointed out in the society’s yard where a dig had been going on last year. A glass case in the gift shop displayed many of the artifacts that had been found. Included are a surprising number of intact glass pharmaceutical bottles.

At this year’s dig, a guy was down a well on a safety harness, sending up buckets of dirt and stones. Four people were sifting through them. They explained that they were hoping to find the exact location of Fort Dayton. The house they were digging behind belongs to a member of the Historical Society. She invited them to dig in her back yard, because she knew it was a likely spot.

Making our way back to Main Street, we saw people in front of the jail. We discovered that they were waiting for Jim Greiner to come give the tours. I was pleased to hear that. Greiner wrote the book Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse. He is very knowledgeable about the jail and local history. I’ve taken the jail tour with him and enjoyed it very much.

While we waited we were allowed into the basement and on the first floor. I shared a few of the things I remembered. The lady who let us in told us more, particularly about a house-shaped clock made by a prisoner out of cigar boxes.

I left when Jim arrived, because I did not have time to take the tour. After the jail, my sister and friends were off to Utica to tour the Rutgers Mansions. That’s something I’d love to do next time.

 

And in Theatre News…

There is good news for local theatre goers.  My husband, the handsome, talented Steven, may be returning to the Ilion Little Theatre stage.

Perhaps my elation is premature.  After all, the cast list has not been announced, and there are two more days of auditions.  Still, chances are good that Steven will get a part.

My own public (and by “public,” of course I mean my parents) (Hi, Mom and Dad!) may be pleased to know that I auditioned as well. My hopes for myself are not as high.  There are not as many female parts, and competition is stiff.  There are some highly talented female actors in this area.  However, I don’t need a part in order to take part, if you see what I mean.  There are sets, costumes, and props to worry about. I’m sure the director will find something for me to do.

The play is actually being presented  by the Herkimer  County Historical Society, and it is a drama of great local, historical interest.  Roxy tells the story of Roxalana Druse, who murdered her husband in1885 in the Town of Warren.  She was tried in the  Herkimer County Courthouse.  She was incarcerated and subsequently executed in the 1834 Jail.  Both structures still stand on Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners.  I know a bit about Roxalana Druse from visiting the 1834 Jail and from reading the book Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse by James M. Greiner.

The play Roxy was written by local author Jack Sherman and will be directed by ILT veteran David Stritmater.  Production dates are Sept. 11 to 13 and 18 to 20.  I expect to write more blog posts about it. Perhaps by September this blog will become All Roxy All The Time.

 

Jail Visit

I left the Herkimer County Historical Society and went to the opposite of the Historic Four Corners, the 1834 Jail. The Jail is not open for tours on a regular basis, so one must seize the opportunity when it is available.

I joined a tour already in progress, but I had not missed much. Jim Greiner was the guide. He wrote the book Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse, about one of the Jail’s most famous inmates. I’ve read the book and heard Greiner speak about it. It’s an excellent book, and he is a dynamic speaker. He is an entertaining tour guide as well, knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

I toured the Jail last year on Museum Day (and wrote a blog post about it). There was not a huge difference in restoration from last year, although the Friends of the 1834 Jail have accomplished a lot since the time they started. Money, as always, is the problem. They are not eligible for many grants, because the Jail can never be fully handicap accessible.

I enjoyed seeing once again the cell which held Chester Gilette, the Jail’s other famous inmate. I was once again sorry we could not go up to the third floor, where Roxalana Druse was housed.

Everybody on the tour seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. One fellow mentioned a murderer from the 1960s who had probably stayed in the Jail. Apparently the guy shot a girl in the Frankfort Police Station. I hope somebody writes a book about that one, if nobody has already. I highly recommended Last Woman Hanged to a lady, but I did not see whether she purchased it.

I don’t know when the 1834 Jail will hold another event, but I certainly intend to watch for it. I may even join Friends of the 1834 Jail and try to help them raise funds. Maybe eventually I’ll get a look at that mysterious third floor.