A mystery with a twist, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” will be coming to the stage April 14-17 at Tusculum College.
Revelry Repertory Theatre will premier the original mystery with performances at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14-Saturday, April 16 and a 2 p.m. matinee, Sunday, April 17. All performances will be in the auditorium of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Building on the Tusculum College campus. The play is part of Tusculum College Arts Outreach’s 2010-11 performance and lecture series.
“Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” written and directed by respected local actor Doug Presley, explores the notorious, unsolved 19th century serial murders of prostitutes in the White Chapel section of London.
However, audiences should not expect a definite answer to the mystery of the identity of Jack the Ripper as each performance will have a different ending presenting one of four separate possible suspects as the murderer. Presley describes two of the suspects as probable candidates as the murderer and the other two as interesting suspects. Each performance’s ending will be a surprise to all but the stage manager, crew and the actor playing the Jack the Ripper suspect for that evening.
Presley first began to research Jack the Ripper as he was searching for a topic on which to base a scary play to be staged at Halloween. But, the deeper he researched about the murders, Presley said he realized he needed to tell the story of the victims of the crimes and their struggles to survive in the poorest section of London, which was the most prosperous city in the world at the time.
One of the victims was a widow, whose husband had died two years prior to her murder on Christmas Day, and with the low wages in jobs for women, had to resort to prostitution to provide for her family, Presley noted.
Another of the victims, Mary Kelly, was a woman of higher means than the other victims, an artist who was part of a brothel in the prosperous West End of London, Presley said, which prompts the question of what she was doing in White Chapel. An answer to that question is proposed in one of the endings.
In telling the stories of the victims, the play does not lose the edginess and scariness in depicting the vicious murders and the desperation and destitution of life in White Chapel. The play’s characters, some colorful and others unsavory, are expertly brought to life by a talented cast of actors, who include some local favorites including Wess duBrisk, Chris Greene, Seth Holt, Sandy Nienaber, Robbie Poteete and Brian Ricker. Due to a medical emergency of a cast member, Presley will also be appearing in the play. The cast also includes a number of Tusculum College students such as Jade Bussell, Anney Cox, Zackery Elliott, Valerie Harrell, Allison Harris, Andrew Herzig, Josh Hickson, Billie Jennings, Kayla Jones and Jeffrey Peck.
Accentuating the poverty of White Chapel and the gruesome crime scenes are the sets, expertly designed for the play by Frank Mengel, technical director and stage manager of Tusculum College Arts Outreach. The revolving sets also include the insides of the homes of the suspects, providing more clues into the mindset of those who may have been Jack the Ripper.
Period attire for the actors is being provided by Barbara Holt, costume director for Arts Outreach.
The playwright and director also received assistance in keeping the dialogue period-appropriate from one of the cast, Wess duBrisk and his wife, Marilyn, who is artist-in-resident at Tusculum College and director of its Arts Outreach program.
Presley is a veteran of many of the Arts Outreach theatrical programs under duBrisk’s direction and first appeared on stage at age nine in the Annie Hogan Byrd auditorium. “I never dreamed that a play I wrote and directed would be performed on the same stage where I started,” he said.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors (60 years of age and older). With the nature of the story, the violent murder of prostitutes, no children’s tickets will be sold. To reserve tickets, please call 423.798.1620 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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