New Jersey Stage

Sunday, October 6, 2013

TAKING AN AXE TO LIZZIE'S LEGEND, AT THE CRANE HOUSE


(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- "Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacksand when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one," so went the nightmare nursery rhyme known to millions. While speculation persists as to who really killed Lizzie's father and stepmother in August of 1892, the subsequent trial would make the 32 year old Massachusetts spinster one of the most sensational figures of her era a woman who, despite her attempts to assimilate into polite society, would become part of the folklore of Halloween spookhouses and costume shops.Did she or didn't she? That's the question explored by actress, playwright and performance artist Marjorie Conn in "Lizzie Borden's Party," a one-woman show that "takes an axe" to everything we thought we knew about the infamously accused (but indisputably acquitted) figure of Yankee legend; a portrait that illuminates a person who lived a life far beyond the morbid quatrain of the familiar rhyme.

The self-described "Conn Artist" first appeared as Miss Lizzie Borden during her award-winning tenure as founder of The Provincetown Fringe Festival on Cape Cod. Undaunted after being evicted from her P'town homestage in 2007, Conn moved her FringeFest concept to Asbury Park and found snug harbor at The Stephen Crane House, an offbeat space of which she's said, "the minute I walked into there, I knew immediately that it was where I wanted to do my thing."

On the evening of Tuesday, October 15, the Crane House welcomes Marj Conn for an encore performance as Miss Lizzie Borden of Fall River, MA. Presented in the period-correct setting of the intimate 30-seat Lecture Room space, the 7:30 p.m. presentation is the latest in a monthly series of "Sketches From Life" events designed to spotlight a range of voices and perspectives in poetry, prose and performance. The series that began in August is programmed by Tom Chesek, director at the Crane House and arts correspondent for the Asbury Park Press/ Gannett Newspapers.

Nearly twenty five years after making her stage debut alongside the equally legendary Ethyl Eichelberger in a genderbending gerrymander of classical Greek drama, Conn has made a specialty of presenting quasi-underground guerilla stage work in any art gallery, library, restaurant, retail store, public space and private residence that could accommodate it. A Ph.D in Audiology and a frequent presenter of events at the Crane House, the Ocean Grove resident has researched some often misunderstood figures in American history (atom-age American pariahs Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; executed killer Aileen Wuornos; the long-term relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok), and, through their own journals or correspondence, brought them to multidimensional life.

For the program on October 15, Conn will reprise the solo version of the play that she's performed at venues throughout New Jersey, New York, and Lizzie's stomping grounds in New England a play in which Lizzie opens up to her guests about the long-simmering family tensions that led to the gruesome (and officially unsolved) murders as well as her love for animals, and her affair with the Shakespearean actress Nance O'Neill. The evening will also include a screening of "Lizzie Borden's Scrapbook," a short video on the Borden case, featuring Conn-mentary by the guest artist as well as a discussion on the real-life woman behind the whacks, with questions from the audience encouraged.

Admission to the event is $10, and seating is extremely limited, with attendees encouraged to reserve in advance via The Stephen Crane House Facebook page, through cranehousereservations@gmail.com , or by calling (732)361-0189. Admission will be taken at the event, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and refreshments served prior to the presentation. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the ongoing grass-roots effort to help the Ocean Grove/ Asbury Park "Beach Kittens."

The young aspiring writer Stephen Crane regarded his first attempts at fiction as "sketches from life"and it's in the spirit of his journalist's eye, his poet's passion, and his rebellious sense of social justice that we offer this series of theater and spoken word events, inside the actual 19th century cottage where the author of "The Red Badge of Courage" and other American classics first set his storyteller's pen to paper. Contact The Stephen Crane House on Facebook, or at (732)361-0189 for directions or additional information, and check the Facebook page or the official website (thestephencranehouse.org) for updates on additional events in the "Sketches From Life" series.
Originally constructed in 1878 under the name of Arbutus Cottage, The Stephen Crane House has been rechristened here in the 21st century in honor of the American novelist, journalist and short story author Stephen Crane (1871-1900), who resided in the Fourth Avenue home at the beginning of his career as a writer. Having been rescued from the brink of demolition, the historic house is in the process of being renovated as a museum dedicated to the life and times of the man who wrote "The Red Badge of Courage" and other literary classics. Frequently in use as a host venue for theater, film, music and spoken word events, as well as a meeting place for arts groups and other nonprofit organizations, The Stephen Crane House is committed to serving the greater Asbury Park community as a resource for the support and celebration of our city's rich cultural life and heritage.