NEW CASTLE —
It is one of the most iconic and shocking moments in American history.
It was witnessed live by millions of people as they watched their TVs. It is preserved in shocking, close-up detail in one of the most famous photographs ever.
Just a day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as the alleged assassin was being transferred, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby steps from a crowd of police officers, fires one shot and murders the young man as the world watched on TV.
Why? Was it the act of a vengeful man to protect the first lady, as has been said? Or was it a mob or CIA hit ordered to silence Lee Harvey Oswald and keep him from sharing what he knew of a conspiracy to murder the president?
A new play making its world debut tonight at the Victorian Players Theatre in Youngstown attempts to answer some of those questions while introducing us much more to the man who pulled the trigger.
The production, “Sparky ... from Chicago,” is the second show in the Vic’s JFK Assassination Trilogy this season, meant to honor the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s slaying. The script was written and directed by J.E. “Jack” Ballantine, whose many theatrical credits include directing several shows at the New Castle Playhouse. Ballantine understands that Ruby is an unusual subject for a stage production, but it was born out of his decades of research into the Kennedy assassination.
“When we decided to do this trilogy, I thought this would be an interesting second step. Very little is known about Jack Ruby,” Ballantine said.
Starring in the infamous lead role is New Castle resident and New Castle Playhouse veteran Brady Flamino. He says he was drawn to playing Ruby because the assassination of JFK and the events surrounding it were the first major event in his life that he remembers.
Flamino says playing such a character is not easy, but he has drawn on his own knowledge and research to bring Ruby to life.
“All that I’ve read or known over the years, whether it was a book, movie, documentary, all that I know, whatever I’ve heard, everything I feel, I try to funnel down inside me and bring across on stage,” he said.
One of the men who greatly influences Ruby’s actions, directly or indirectly in the play and in real life, was Mafia kingpin Carlos Marcello.
That role is played by another New Castle resident, and stage veteran Tom Ewen. Ewen says he finds playing the Mafioso to be a unique experience.
“Revenge is an important part of Marcello’s life,” he said. “When he is crossed, he wants to get even.
“That is what motivates his hatred of the Kennedys.”
Flamino says the show is based in fact, but there is some speculation because no one can be sure exactly what took place.
“The audience is left to determine the veracity of the information presented,” he said. “The show is meant to inform the audience on one hand, and yet leave you wondering on the other.”
Ewen adds: “This is more than a play, this is American history. Many segments of this story are still alive and affecting us yet today.
Other Lawrence County residents involved in the show include Sam Luptak Jr., who plays Franko, and Sylvia Ewen, who is helping with props.
If You’re Going ...
•“Sparky, from Chicago” opens tonight and runs weekends through Aug. 4.
•Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays are at 2 p.m.
•Tickets are $10 and reservations can be made by calling the Victorian Players Reservation Line at (330) 746-5455.