Tony Award-Winning Musical 'Assassins' Opens Thursday

Image Assassins Nick Manthe as John Wilkes Booth in the background and Nick Akins as Lee Harvey Oswald in the foreground in the USD production of "Assassins."

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University of South Dakota Department of Theatre presents a dark-humored and bold musical that crosses time periods in “Assassins,” which runs April 14-17 and 20-24 in the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre of the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, “Assassins” is what it sounds like but contains so much more.

Going to a fair can be wonderfully entertaining. From the rides, exhibitions, games -- even the food can all create a memorable experience for the fairgoer. There even seems to be a different feel to the fairgrounds themselves, full of energy and amusement. However, when the show opens there appears to be something deeper going on here; it doesn’t seem to have the same feeling as a favorite summer pastime. From the opening moment, the audience knows they are about to enter into a fairground that is anything but normal. That’s immediately evident through the shooting gallery that introduces the audience to historical figures such as Leon Czolgosz, John Hinckley, Samuel Byck, Lynette Fromme, John Wilkes Booth and many other assassins or would-be assassins.

A panel discussion will follow the Saturday, April 16 performance. The panel, which will consist of USD students and faculty, will tackle questions raised in the show. Moderator (and director) Raimondo Genna, Ph.D., will lead a discussion around the cultural fascination of the American Dream as presented in “Assassins” and the distortion of that idea by the media. The panel will also explore the importance of that topic in the 2016 election year. The discussion will follow the performance and be open to all audience members that night.

“Assassins,” which contains adult theme and language, performs April 14-16, 20-23 at 7:30 p.m. and April 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. in the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre on the USD campus. Tickets -- $15 adults, $12 senior citizen (62+), $10 K-12 and non-USD students with ID, and $5 USD students with ID -- can be purchased in the afternoons (12-5 p.m.) by calling the USD Theatre Box Office at 605-677-5400 or online at


USD's College of Fine Arts encourages students to pursue their chosen professional field in art, music or theater through their study with nationally recognized faculty who are working professionals. Students learn and grow to be professional fine artists with great job potential anywhere in the country. The college offers opportunities for additional real-world experiences through work with guest artists, study tours abroad and opportunities at the National Music Museum and the University Art Galleries on the Vermillion campus and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The college brings more than 80 guests artists to campus annually to work with students.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News