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Category Archives: TV, Theatre & Film

Chloe Sevigny Interview on Lizzie Borden

In this very recent Town & Country mag interview Chloe Sevigny admits her film “Lizzie” is fiction but it’s what she says about Lizzie the person where she gets it all wrong.

First of all let me say that whenever I ready ANYTHING about Lizzie Borden where it states unequivocably that an “axe” was used (instead of a hatchet), a red flag goes up in my critical, case purist mind.  Alas, it was mentioned almost immediately.   The trouble with the content of  remarks made in this interview is that urban legends are reinforced once again.

Sevigny maintains Lizzie Borden was stifled under her father’s rigid control and had no outlets to vent her frustrations.  Truth be told, Lizze at age 32, was just on the cusp of joining the core of that society she so craved.  For the past 7 years she had been active in the Congregational Church, taking part in almost all it’s departments, i.e., Fruit and Flower Mission,  also Reverent Buck’s Mission where she taught Chinese children, Womens’ Board of the Fall River Hospital, etc. etc.  She pretty much came and went as she pleased, entering and existing by the front door as her sister, Emma, did while her father and stepmother used the back door.  Lizzie went out frequently to make calls but most of her social engagements involved the Central Congregation Church.  And just the year before she had gone a 16 week Grand Tour to Europe.   She was no captive of her father’s doman, that’s for sure.

I have repeatedly said Sevigny’s film is soft porn.  Just as there are books with hooks there are films produced for targeted audiences.  This film is no exception.  But I’ll still go see it.  And I’ll keep buying those books.

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Christmas Parody on Lizzie Borden by Garrett Heater

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THE best play on Lizzie Borden, bar none,  is Lizzie Borden Took An Axe by Garrett Heater.  So I was particularly pleased to receive this information:

“Hello old friend!
 
I hope this finds you well!
 
“Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” wrapped up a 3rd consecutive sold-out run at the Barnes-Hiscock Mansion in Syracuse this October! Some of the cast members and I even squeaked in a trip to the Fall River bed & breakfast! 
 
During the run of the show we decided to create a short skit: “A Borden Family Christmas.” There are plenty of gems in it to keep the most orthodox Bordenophile laughing. We had such a blast making it.
 
Here is the trailer we released in November: “
 

This video is very funny and very “inside”.  I love it!

Some years ago I did my own parody – cllck below.

Scroll down to “It’s a Wonderful Life – when Deadwood was still on HBO.

If you ever have a chance to see Garrett’s play, BUY TICKETS IMMEDIATELY!!

 

 

 

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“SPINDLE CITY LIZZIE BORDEN” MUSICAL

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Unlike certain TV documentaries, this one has an expanded cast including Uncle John Morse and Nance O’Neil – real life characters.  This “Spindle City.…” musical takes into account the mill workers – something most often ignored in prior plays and T.V. documentaries on the case itself.  This is the second musical I’ve heard, the first being “LIzzie Borden the Rock Musical” which has enjoyed a good measure of success.

JohnMorse-olderUncle John Morse

Nance O'Neil

Nance O’Neil

Judging by this casting call, artistic license once again will run rampant.  As with so many TV depictions of the case, there are many fictional characters  However,  I’m looking forward to the singing and dancing.  It is, after all, a musical – –  not some 10 part PBS Documentary by Ken Burns or a major theatrical release directed by Martin Scorcese.   (sigh)

I’ve been to the Secret Rose Theater in North Hollywood before.  Its very small.  Can’t imagine the dancing on that small stage but we’ll see.  Maybe they go into the audience.

I still maintain that the VERY  BEST PLAY on Lizzie Borden is “Lizzie Borden Took An Axe” by Garrett A. Heater, which premiered at the Covey Theate Company in Syracuse, NY, played at BMC Durfee H.S., and continues to be produced in New England.  But that was a drama with age appropriate actors.

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Blood Relations by Sharon Pollock continues to be the most produced of all Borden-related plays.

I’ll write a review in after seeing Katrina Wood’s production.

Meanwhile, I await Rebecca Pittman’s new book.

 

 

 

 

 

Regarding that Chloe Sivigny-Kristen Stewart Film on Lizzie Borden

Prepare yourself for another grossly fictitious telling of the Lizzie Borden story – this one showing her as having a lesbian affair with the maid, Bridget Sullivan.  Read about it HERE.

Aside from the two female stars, everyone else now attached to the project are pretty much unknowns.  Sadly, the work of the Director tells us a lot about the genre and qualilty of this yet to be produced film.

When, oh, when will we ever have a true depiction of this most compelling case?

Sigh.  And so it goes.

Meanwhile, enjoy this “Then and Now” image depicting the Sitting Room at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River.

SOFA LBBphoto credit Joey Razda

 

 

 

 

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Barbara Walters Presents American Scandals – Lizzie Borden?

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My guess is that if there were a living bloodline relative of Lizzie or Emma Borden, Barbara Walters would be interviewing that person on Investigative Discovery’s new show, American Scandals”, produced by Lincoln Square Productions. The biggest and most popular branch of The Discovery Channel, Investigation Discovery has many cousins, such as Deadly Women where our Miss Lizzie has been featured.

But Barbara’s fort’ is in the interview of the subject or those who are significantly relevant to the subject. So we have Kato Kaelin on OJ; John Ramsey on his son, Burke; Mark David Chapman on John Lennon and – well, you get the idea. (see article)

I have written to Lincoln Square Productions giving a special appeal they do an episode on the biggest and longest lasting American Scandal, Lizzie Borden. Barbara Walters does Lizzie Borden. Let that waft over your cerebellum for a moment. Of course, Babs would have to speak to Michael Martins and Dennis Binette because nobody, repeat nobody, knows Lizzie better than they do. As to the impact on contemporary times the episode would naturally draw in Donald Woods who would be a refreshingly new face. So I’m hoping, just hoping.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Theatre & Film, TV, Theatre & Film

 

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Defending Lizzie – New Indie Film

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Well, here it is folks – what we’ve all been waiting for— A feature length independent film of the Borden story with a terrific script, acted by age-appropriate actors, directed by a talented director with a passion for the case, and, for the very first time – wait for it —— filmed inside the actual house where the murders took place.

The “Defending Lizzie” official website with full history, can be found HERE.

“Defending Lizzie” is based on the screenplay co-written by author Karen Poulsen and Jerry Orzel,  and adapted from  Ms. Poulsen’s play of the same name.  Ms. Poulsen’s play is one of the most authentic I have ever read and yet has at its foundation a most believable Lizzie under pre-murder circumstances.   The play is a compelling read and quite thrilling.   All characters are carefully crafted from her significant research and the screenplay has maintained authenticity of character, dialog, and plot trajectories.  Further, unlike other productions, the story takes on factual occurrences often ignored or portrayed with gross inaccuracies.

This project has recently gained the partnership of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum  and we are all grateful to Lee-ann Wilber, General Manager, and Donald Woods, owner, for recognizing and giving support to this exciting endeavor.  The “Wonderful World of Lizzie” and all its orbiting satellites will benefit with the production of this film.  (I’m encouraging the new owner of Maplecroft, my friend, Kristee Bates, to allow some special filming of the interior which would be – you got it – another new FIRST!).

Mr. Borden 6Andrew Borden

 

Abby 4 Family 1 Bridget 3 Dr Bowen 1 Emma 1 Piece & Emma 1 Jennings 3 Jennings & Lizzie 1  Mrs. & Mrs Borden 1 Officer Desmond & Lizzie 1

Because this is an independent film with limited financial resources, a fundraising campaign is being launched on August 4th.   Primary funding will be used for transportation, housing and feeding of cast and crew to film on location.  The film is scheduled to be released in summer  2016.  You can help make this project achieve its destiny by contributing and I will post the link above under “Important Links” when it goes live.

Below is my interview with Jerry Orzel, the Director and co-writer.

Tell us briefly about your background as a filmmaker.

My first endeavor into film was “Revelation 22:22” which was a full feature
zombie film that I made fresh out of college. I wrote and directed a commercial
for a Holiday Inn Express contest that won the People’s Choice award.
I’ve been a freelance videographer / editor for the passed 15 years, and I’m
currently a media producer with the Volusia County School District.

What drew you to Lizzie and why Karen Poulsen’s play?

Karen’s play was well received by the audience and theatre
community. It was designed for minimal scenery, although it took place
in several locations. The characters were compelling and complex. She told the
story in a unique way that I instantly knew it had the perfect foundation for a
movie. The amount of research Karen has done over the past 30 plus years,
shows in the details of the script.

What will be your biggest challenges in filming “Defending Lizzie”?

Locations and wardrobe will be the most challenging, we don’t have the backing
of a large studio and we don’t have all the resources of a big budget production
has, but what I do have is a clever and resourceful wardrobe team lead by Ida
Bailey. She, along with Tosha Williams, made dresses by hand, altered items, and
used their connections with community theaters, assisted in wardrobe for the
trailer. Locations on the other hand have been challenging and fun. I had the
pleasure of getting into some really great places and talking to the owners. Our goal
is to shoot on location in the Lizzie Borden B&B, and use Fall River itself as a
backdrop for Defending Lizzie. Using the B&B along with other locations in Fall
River would add the production value that other movies lack. We would be the
first movie about Lizzie Borden to use the actual house. To me that in itself
would be a huge accomplishment as a filmmaker.

It’s been said the film is 80% factual an 20% artistic license or conjecture. Can you
describe what that 20% is?

Not every detail from Lizzie’s life is documented. To get from one historical fact
to the next we used a little artist license, even within the 20% we took has some
facts. One or two characters were combined into one.  In doing this we are able
to keep production cost low, and still keep historic elements in the movie. We
created scenes between characters that may not have actually happened but
what they discuss is important to the story and it’s characters.

Which film festivals are you planning to submit Defending Lizzie?

Right now I’m currently just focused on getting the funding needed to get the
movie shot. I’ll submit Defending Lizzie to as many film festivals as I can, and
attend as many of those as I can. It’s fun to watch the audience watch the
movie, you get to see how they react to it, and as a film maker I get see what
works and what didn’t.

Will you be showcasing the film to special groups?

When we get Defending Lizzie done, I would like to hold 2 screenings prior to
hitting the film festivals. One in central Florida around where the cast and crew,
are located, and one in Fall River. I feel it is important to give the community a
chance to see how much of an impact they had in helping make Defending
Lizzie.

Will your film be available on DVD for purchase and if so, when?

It depends if it gets picked up by a distributor, There is the possibility of it being
available thought VOD (Video On Demand) I know Netflix has an independent
division; Redbox, or we’ll self-distribute it ourselves thought Amazon, eBay and
the movie website. Somehow, some way it will be made available.

Can you elaborate on how your fund raising campaign will support this project?

Our Indiegogo campaign launches on August 4th on the 123rd anniversary of the
Borden murders. All funds will go directly into producing Defending Lizzie. We
have a “bare bones” budget, that will able us to shoot 90% of the movie in
Florida, and just get exterior shots of a few locations in Fall River. If we are lucky
enough to get the full amount needed, we would spend about 16 days of
production in Fall River. The budget is as big as it is because that’s what is costs
to make this type of movie. The fact that we are paying our cast and crew,
separates us from other independent films. I strongly believe in compensating
everyone that is working on this production. They have a talent whether it’s in
front of the camera or behind, and without them we have no movie.

Aside from Lizzie, who do you consider the most compelling character in the Borden case?

Andrew Borden.  It is interesting to me that a man would build himself up from
basically nothing, and become a successful business man then live as frugal as
he did. I can understand not wanting a flashy lifestyle, but not to even have
indoor plumbing is really penny-pinching.

What would you like to say about the film or the Borden case given this
opportunity?

Defending Lizzie will be in a class all of its own when it comes to telling the
Lizzie Borden story.  At its heart, it’s a murder mystery and the Borden case
could not be a better story to tell.  Defending Lizzie will be what movies used to
be like, a story is driven by characters, an interesting plot, and of course –
mystery.

Do you think Lizzie was guilty?

Not sure, I’m on the fence with that. I know that as the director, I want to show
Lizzie had another side. She has always been portrayed as a heartless, selfish, little brat. There is another side of Lizzie, a side of her that other movies
haven’t shown, a side that will make you feel sorry for her if she truly is
innocent of the murders. Lizzie, in this story, is walking a fine line between being
innocent and guilty

Defending Lizzie – Finally, a  feature length, theatrical movie – – –  filmed in the right place.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2015 in Theatre & Film, TV, Theatre & Film

 

“Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” – play by Garrett Heater

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This is such a wonderfully written play, I wish I could see it again….with the same cast from 2011.  ( The below image was swiped from Garrett’s Facebook page).

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe

Production in Fall River, MA
August 2011

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A big THANK YOU to all of our supporters on Kickstarter who pledged over $3,500 to send our cast to Fall River, MA where we performed the show twice in Lizzie’s hometown! Here we are (sans Kate Huddleston, our wonderful Abby Borden) outside the actual home where the murders occurred, which is now a delightful bed and breakfast! We were also able to view vintage Borden artifacts at the Fall River Historical Society including the blood-stained bedspread from the guest room where Abby was murdered, her severed false hair piece, the hatchet head which is still considered the murder weapon, and many authentic photos of the home and it’s infamous inhabitants. Our cast had a truly wonderful time and you helped give Covey Theatre its first official tour! Thanks again!!! 


Tattered Fabric: Fall River’s Lizzie Borden
Review by Faye Musselman

The play delivers absolutely all it says in the program.  Most all voice-overs were lifted verbatim directly from inquest, preliminary or trial testimony.  The play manages to interject the incest theory in a way that will give you pause for re-consideration if you’ve never bought into it before.

What I particularly liked was that the characters, except for Uncle John Morse, were age appropriate.  Even Carmen Viviano-Grafts bore a striking resemblance to Emma Borden from the most known photo of her.  She played Emma with just the right mixture of loyal and nurturing sister coupled with what we know to be Emma’s own fierce dislike of her stepmother.

Garrett Heater, writer/director, did a very, VERY good job interjecting the more known theories such as a possible daliance twixt Lizzie and Dr. Bowen.  The later played by Jordan Glaski was excellent in conveying his concern for Lizzie,while suspending your belief in his actually BEING a doctor.  His portrayal was consistent in the professionalism of his character but was subtle enough in keeping you guessing about their true relationship – again a credit to writing as well as delivery.

Kate Huddleston played Abby Borden and her portrayal was reminiscent of Abby’s character in the 1975 Legend of Lizzie Borden made-for-tv movie.  Often shrill, always unappealing, a person not well read on the case would believe she was just as portrayed.  Poor Abby gets a bad rap because there’s nothing to validate she was anything but kind to those girls for as long as possible.  Kate does a terrific job in showing her loyalty to her husband while still conveying her strong interest in the legacy of his money.  We can understand her, we can even sympathize with the burdens she endured, but we do not like her.  Kudos to Kate!  Not an easy role.

The primary character, of course, is Lizzie and her part was played beautifully by Katharine Gibson.  Through dialog we understand why she hated Abby, through acting and writing we are never certain as to whether or not she did it.  Her particular acting chops, I think, came out when her father wants to take her “down to the basement”, an obvious location and metaphor for sexual abuse.  We know she is 32, we know her father dominates.  But Ms. Gibson does such a wonderful job we find it totally credible that it just very well may have happened that way – thus, explaining the rage of the act, if you choose to believe Lizzie guilty.  Katharine was the obvious standout performer of the cast but I tend to think their talents fed into her own.

The set was minimalistic but seemed to be so much more because of the staging.  (Thus, less is more.)  The use of lighting was exceptional during the two periods of time of the slaying.  Bright red lighting as the backdrop to intense music, leaving much to the imagination and leaving the audience to imagine an intruder, Lizzie or an unnamed other.  Totally plausible.  Totally believable.  Strong stuff and very well executed.

My favorite part of the entire play was a monologue delivered by “Andrew” in the second act.  Played by Bernard Kaplan he speaks of “what your mother would have wanted  for you” (meaning their real mother) in a suspended state with Lizzie and Emma frozen on stage.  The writing here was absolutely terrific.  It had me riveted throughout and stayed with me for days.  In fact, as I write this, I am still haunted by it.  Beautiful writing, Garrett, and so well spoken by Mr. Kaplan. “Andrew” also did a very believable job when putting his lascivious hands on Lizzie and first coercing her, then demanding of her that she go “down to the basement”. Not an easy thing to do and it could have come out corny or clumsy but Bernard did it very well.

Beth Schmidt played Maggie with a most believable accent and was quite convincing; Susan Blumer made a good Churchill; C. J. Parsons equally as good as John Morse and Jodie Baum gave us shades of Alice we may not have thought of before.  All in all, the entire cast was excellent.  The set was excellent.  The use of lighting and music was superb, but the writing – the writing which weaves so well the many threads of this tale was absolutely exceptional!!

I’ve seen several plays on the Borden case, including musicals, including a ballet, and so far, this is now my very favorite of all I’ve seen.  I would see it again.  And again.   And if YOU haven’t – you should.  Absolutely.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in TV, Theatre & Film