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posted: 7/23/2012 2:29 PM

Lee Havery Oswald drama to premier in Glen Ellyn

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  • Glen Ellyn's Village Theatre Guild is staging the Midwest premiere of "Oswald: The Actual Interrogation" beginning Friday, July 27. Director Bill Burghardt, left, sought out the production rights to the intense drama that stars Ken Ball, center, and features Lee McFadden.

      Glen Ellyn's Village Theatre Guild is staging the Midwest premiere of "Oswald: The Actual Interrogation" beginning Friday, July 27. Director Bill Burghardt, left, sought out the production rights to the intense drama that stars Ken Ball, center, and features Lee McFadden.
    Courtesy of the Village Theatre Guild

 
Village Theatre Guild

On Nov. 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and interrogated for allegedly firing three shots from the Texas School Book Depository, killing President John F. Kennedy. Nearly 50 years later, Glen Ellyn theater director Bill Burghardt has acted upon his own fascination with the events and secured for the Village Theatre Guild rights to produce the newly minted "Oswald: The Actual Interrogation."

The suburban community theater is excited to show the Midwest premiere of the play. To date, "Oswald: The Actual Interrogation," written by Dennis Richard in 2011, has been produced only in Los Angeles and New York. The show opens Friday, July 27 in Glen Ellyn.

The play re-creates the 48 hours between Oswald's arrest on Nov. 22, 1963, and his killing by Jack Ruby on Nov. 24. For that short span, Oswald was in the custody of the Dallas Police Department.

Burghardt says his fascination with the events surrounding the JFK assassination began when he was a child. He said he's read more than 50 books on the so-called "crime of the century."

"JFK was assassinated when I was in fifth grade, and at that time, I just wondered why someone would do that," Burghardt said. "Two years later, books critical of the findings of The Warren Commission Report came out, like Mark Lane's 'Rush to Judgment' and Josiah Thompson's 'Six Seconds in Dallas.' I thought this couldn't have happened the way the official inquiry decided. Over the years, my interest increased and there was no shortage of information. It seemed like there were hundreds of different ways people said this happened, and dozens of people who could have been responsible. I kept saying to myself, 'Wait a minute. The president of the United States was killed in public in broad daylight and there are still unanswered questions.' I felt then -- and still do feel -- this is important; this event can't be swept under the rug of a new generation."

And there is controversy in "Oswald: The Actual Interrogation." There is no complete record on video or audio tape, or by stenograph, of Oswald's interrogation by Dallas Homicide Capt. William Fritz. Richard has painstakingly researched those 48 hours, and has come up with an "as accurate as possible" depiction of the events. Some of the lines in the play are directly attributed to Oswald, who completely denied having done the crime.

Burghardt used a little of his own detective work to get rights to produce the play at the Village Theatre Guild.

"I started to chase it down," he said. "I was able to get a hold of Dennis Richard, the playwright. We talked. I talked to the VTG board. Everything fell in place. This (play) is a real tense battle between two determined men. Oswald -- only 24 years old -- with mounting evidence accumulating throughout the show, refuses to break. Capt. Fritz commented later that Oswald appeared to have been trained in how to resist interrogation."

Coincidentally, in 2012-13, the Village Theatre Guild is celebrating its 50th anniversary season, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

"Oswald: The Actual Interrogation" runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees at 3 p.m. Sundays, July 27 through Aug. 11, at the Village Theatre Guild, near the northwest corner of Park Boulevard and Butterfield Road, Glen Ellyn.

Tickets, $15, can be purchased by calling (630) 469-8230 or visiting the VTG website, villagetheatreguild.org.

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