Character assassination: Play explores John Wilkes Booth’s effect
Darin Dahms created and stars in the one-man show, "The Player King," about how Edwin Booth copes after his brother John Wilkes Booth assassinates Abraham Lincoln.
‘The Player King’
Theatre of Western Springs, 4384 Hampton Ave.
8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25
$25 in advance for members, $30 for nonmembers; $5 more at the door
theatrewesternsprings.com; (708) 246-3380
Updated: August 22, 2012 3:24PM
When a person commits an atrocity such as a murder, his family can react in any number of ways.
Maybe a spiral into depression ensues or a long period of denial. Or perhaps that family member starts to question everything that he once knew to be true about his life.
Actor and playwright Darin Dahms explores these themes in his one-man show, “The Player King,” inspired by the lives of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865; Booth’s brother Edwin Booth and their father Junius Brutus Booth.
“The Player King” will be on stage at the Theatre of Western Springs on Saturday, Aug. 25 as part of a four-show series of fundraisers.
Jennifer Jermano Miller, chair of the theatre’s fundraising committee, said “The Player King” will appeal to history buffs and high school students, but also to anybody who enjoys theater.
“I’m always just intrigued because (Dahms) is on stage for two straight hours playing three different characters, and the amount of energy and dedication that you use, it’s amazing,” she said.
“The Player King” begins a year after Lincoln’s assassination when Edwin Booth is coping with feelings of shame and grief over his brother’s actions. Additionally, Edwin is trying to decide whether or not to carry on with his acting career.
“He’s revisiting these moments from his life with his father and with his brother and trying to determine if it’s valuable to even step back upon the stage,” said Dahms in an interview from his Los Angeles home.
Dahms added that everything in the play is based on factual events. “It’s designed to be a piece of theater, a piece of drama. It’s not designed to be a history lesson, but everything in the play is historically accurate.”
Dahms researched Civil War archives and read books like The Prince of Players: Edwin Booth by Eleanor Ruggles.
Thematically, the play is about responsibility, acting and taking action, Dahms said.
“It’s really about the emergence of the fact that (Edwin Booth) has a child and that he needs to take care of this child regardless of what’s going on around him.”
One of Dahms’ most treasured accomplishments is directing the play “Butterflies of Uganda,” which he co-wrote with Soenke Weiss. Based on a true story, the play is about a young Ugandan girl who was abducted from her village by the Lord’s Resistance Army. She was given as a “wife” to the army’s second in command, who raped her and impregnated her at age 14, Dahms said. After a failed suicide attempt, the girl decided to keep the baby.
Dahms, who traveled to northern Uganda with his writing partner to conduct the interviews for the play, said working on that play was a “challenging and fulfilling” experience.
“The Player King” came into being later during a less glamorous period of his life. Dahms, now 43, wrote the play between October 2011 and January 2012 when he had returned to his home state of Indiana for “personal reasons” — he was unemployed and his mother had just had surgery. He intended to stay just six weeks, but ended up remaining for eight months because he could not afford to move back to Los Angeles.
“To avoid going crazy, I finally sat down and wrote this play that I had been researching for about a year,” he said.
His daughter had also just turned 1 and he wanted a means to support her.
“I’m in a situation now where I’m trying so hard to provide for her and that need makes its way into the voice of Edwin when he’s talking about his daughter and his return to the stage,” Dahms said.