Joseph Kesselring the playwright
Joseph Kesselring was a young playwright born in New York City. He completed a total of twelve plays in his lifetime, but the one that made his name famous was Arsenic and Old Lace. This show was produced this past year at The Dallas Theater Center starring Broadway stars, Betty Buckley and Tovah Feldshuh, with jaw dropping scenery by Anna Louizos. In short, the play is about two elderly women poisoning lonely old men, thinking they are doing the world a justice. Along the way you laugh and get caught up in the antics of the crazy Brewster family.
In real life Mr. Kesselring based this story from a serial killer Amy Archer-Gilligan. This crazy lady would soon open up a family business out of her home called the Archer Home for the Elderly and Infirm. What was the weapon of choice to kill her rumored 60+ victims for there fortunes? "Arsenic with a pinch of cyanide" to quote one of the Brewster sisters. Ms. Archer-Gilligan was arrested and tried for murder. In 1924, Archer-Gilligan was declared temporarily insane and was transferred to Connecticut Hospital for the Insane, where she remained until her death in 1962.
You know she kinda looks crazy if you stare at the picture long enough. You are starring at the real life character that inspired the play.
The setting for the live stage show is an old, elegant home in Brooklyn. The set that the Dallas Theater produced was impressive, it looked like they scooped up an old house and placed it on the stage. DTC hired Anna Louizos to come in a create the ornate "murder factory" of the two charming aunts and crazy nephew, Teddy. To see Ms. Louizos' set for this show click here.
Enjoy reading my encounters in and around theatre set design.
"The object of art is to give life a shape" -Shakespeare-