Katie Harroff sat down with Braxton Molinaro, who is currently playing John Wilkes Booth in ASSASSINS at Cygnet Theatre. Braxton went to school in North Carolina and currently lives in New York.
Hi Braxton, Welcome to San Diego! How are you enjoying working with Cygnet Theatre? How did you become connected to us?
Oh man, Cygnet Theatre is an absolutely stellar company. They are as pro as it gets. I believe the designers, the cast, and all of the work that has gone into Assassins is inspiring. The actors are remarkably talented! Sean does such a great job casting unique people who bring a lot to the table. You can’t overlook the weather out here too. It’s pretty ideal to get notes in the sun. I get to smell flowers and see palm trees. San Diego has become an amazing retreat.
As far as how I became connected to the company- I was in a production of Oklahoma directed by Terrance Mann at my now alumni school: The North Carolina School for the Arts, where Sean Murray had also attended. In the production I played Judd. Sean came out to NC to see the show and we became friends. When the season was announced at Cygnet I saw that they were doing Assassins so I reached out to Sean and asked if I could send him a tape and he said sure. I was fortunate to get an offer!
Who are you playing, and what is your character like?
I’m playing the infamous John Wilkes Booth- the very first presidential assassin. Obviously he is deeply flawed, but he loves presentation. Booth was the bastard son of a famous acting family. He had a good career as an actor- sometimes 9 different pieces of material in a week. He had a plethora of opportunities to get on the stage, and probably what would be considered a very admirable performance career to most people. Comparatively, however, to other members of his family he was not successful. This made him very desperate when he came into adulthood. He wanted to live up to the fame his father had succeeded in achieving. As far as motives to killing Abraham Lincoln- Booth had strong ties to the south, and had slaves. He believed it was an important part of being an American.
As an actor, I’ve had to find empathy for a man that is truly full of hate. While very challenging, finding the theatricality in that has been fun. Booth has this daring, unapologetic outward buffoonism to him.
Why should people come see this production of Assassins?
I’m biased because I’m so happy to be here. But I can’t say enough about the importance of this piece. I believe Assassins is such an important play to be performed right now. It will inspire theatre goers to have a conversation- which is what theatre is about. This play gives us the opportunity as a society to look at the people that are causing a lot of turmoil in our country. The message of Assassins is to listen. The Assassins aren’t being heard and they think killing is the only way to make that happen. I think that scary sentiment is shared with a lot of people that live in this country today, and we need to take a look at this. We need to become aware of the possibilities of the things we don’t want to address.
I think a musical-format in expressing this idea is brilliant trickery that allows audiences to see this message while being wildly entertained.
Assassins runs through April 28th!