Sunday, June 8, 2008
By SHELBY SCHROEDER
The play relates the story of a 1993 inmate uprising in Lucasville, Ohio.
An original Youngstown play will be under the spotlight on a New York City stage come August.
“Lucasville,” an adaptation of the book “Lucasville: The Untold Story Of A Prison Uprising,” by Niles author Staughton Lynd, was selected as part of the 12th annual New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC).
“Lucasville” is the story of the inmate uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, in 1993. Lynd wrote the book to chronicle the deaths of nine inmates and one guard, and the trials that led to death sentences for five prisoners. Lynd argues in his book that faulty inmate testimony and a biased jury wrongly put the five men on death row.
The book came to the stage after Lynd presented actor Gary Anderson with a copy following one of Anderson’s shows in Youngstown. Anderson quickly took interest in the project, and helped co-write a play. Soon after, actors from the production “The Exonerated” at the Oakland Center for the Arts were recruited for the performance.
The show, which has toured several cities in the past two years, was one of approximately 200 acts chosen for the festival. Elena K. Holy, producing artistic director for FringeNYC, said jurors for the festival eliminate around 75 percent of entries, in search of “innovative, vibrant and diverse” pieces.
Lynd called the selection process “excruciating,” with about 100 adjudicators reviewing and ranking shows.
Holy said the passion the “Lucasville” crew showed for the story made the project leap off the page, and “made the application glow.”
That’s because the play is based on a very real story of five men who are still incarcerated, said Ray Beiersdorfer.
Beiersdorfer, the producer of “Lucasville,” said the actors and stage crew are hopeful that their play leads to renewed interest in the story. With the likelihood of being mentioned in New York entertainment publications, he said, “I’m hoping it will actually go over to the news pages as well.”
Ultimately, the attention could lead Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland to reopen an investigation into the Lucasville 5, he said.
Beiersdorfer also sees the production as a great opportunity for the play’s director, Youngstown State University student Brandon Martin. At 23, Martin said taking the play to New York City has been the biggest opportunity he’s received. Still, he regards the story as most important.
“I want for the five guys’ story to get out, before any theatrical aspect,” Martin said.
Holy said “Lucasville” drew a remarkable reaction from the other participants at a meeting to review the list of this year’s performances.
“They can’t wait to help support and embrace this show,” she said. “And that goes double for our volunteer staff.”
FringeNYC has not yet posted a lineup for the shows, which will be Aug. 8-24. Information will be provided through the festival’s Web site, www.FringeNYC.org.
The “Lucasville” crew also plans a kick-off in Youngstown to show audiences the faster-paced, audience-inclusive version Martin and the cast have prepared for the festival.
FringeNYC is North America’s largest mixed-arts gathering, modeled after the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Along with plays, the event is host to a range of performances, from stand-up comedy, vaudeville and puppetry to clowns, musicals, dances and more.