Santa Rosa's 6th Street Playhouse Presents KITE'S BOOK, Opens 9/30

Mesmerized by the daily broadcasts by top television networks of sensational courtroom dramas during 1990s, a young playwright noticed similarities to the 18th century trials in London. He worked off a collision of two ideas: one antiquated and one modern; one firmly rooted in the history of crime and punishment and the other as near as the television. The result was his play, "Kite's Book: Tales of an 18th Century Hitman."

"I wanted to write a play about judicial reform in the here and now, but chose instead to set it against the backdrop of the 18th century," said "Kite's Book" playwright Robert Caisley of Moscow, Idaho.

Set in London in the 1750s, "Kite's Book" is an examination of the many variations on, and the disparities within, the human ideal that "Justice must be served." Santa Rosa's 6th Street Playhouse presents the West Coast Premiere of Caisley's rousing, swashbuckling, action-packed stage play from Sept. 30 to Oct. 23, 2011.

6th Street Playhouse artistic director, Craig A. Miller directs the play inspired by the sensational courtroom trials of the mid-1990s that captivated the public's fascination about crime and punishment.

"What does any respectable playwright do when they've encountered a dreadful case of writer's block? They sit on the couch, eat potato chips and watch television. And what was on the tube? O.J.," said Caisley, currently Associate Professor of Theatre, Head of the Performance Area and Head of the Dramatic Writing Program at the University of Idaho.

During the early 1990s, Caisley accepted a commissioned by Mike Webb, producer of RVC Studio Theatre in Rockford, Illinois, to write a play.

It was about the same time that Court T.V. was broadcasting the 1993 Lyle and Erik Menendez murder trial. Media coverage of courtroom stories continued, including the infamous John and Lorena Bobbitt incident and trial which followed in 1994.

Then the media turn its full attention with daily coverage of the "Trial of the Century" - O.J. Simpson murder case.

The top three television broadcast networks, plus CNN and Court T.V., provided gavel-to-gavel coverage during the trial that began January, 1995 and ended Oct. 3, 1995 when former football star, television and film celebrity, O.J. Simpson was acquitted in the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

"I was a sucker for the O.J. Simpson trial from the get-go. The images were crackling across the airwaves and invading our homes on an hourly basis. The lawyers, judge and media pundits seemed like characters in our favorite crime dramas. The whole proceeding took on the look and feel of a Hollywood production. And I sat on my couch, riveted," said Caisley.

"I had just started teaching at Illinois Wesleyan University when the verdict came down in the O.J. trial. I remember fighting my way through a mob of students at the union, packed ten and twenty deep around the wide screen T.V. as the jury's decision of 'Not Guilty' was read. The crowd's vehement reaction sent a chill right through me. It made an impression. Why did a verdict in a celebrity murder case incite more of a reaction in people than a declaration of war?" said Caisley.

Caisley took note of the parallels to the 18th century, when crowds of up to 100,000 were not uncommon in London for public trials and executions of 'celebrity' criminals. He set out to explore how the sensationalism of the media that causes societies to think and feel on a purely emotional level about one particular crime, one particular criminal.

"Financial clout was never more clearly evident than in 18th century England, when the Great Divide between the Have's and Have-not's was ever-widening. The law-makers of the time were really gung-ho for the death penalty, and in the 18th century we see a sudden and rather frightening increase in the number of capital offenses (punishable by death) more than at any other time in history," said Caisley.

"The overwhelming majority of those new laws concerned Crimes Against Property. John Locke's Second Treatise of Government unashamedly states, 'Government has no other end but the preservation of property.' Which, by extension, could be taken to mean, 'Laws are written to protect the rich,' " said Caisley.

Caisley decided to explore this idea in his play and said "Kite's Book" was the result of a collision of two ideas: one antiquated, and one modern; one firmly rooted in the history of crime and punishment.

The modern idea, said Caisley "is as near to us as the television sets in our own homes."

"I chose to set 'Kite's Book' against the backdrop of the 18th century in order to give an audience the necessary distance to view the 'Thought' of the play with some objectivity. It was also, most likely, a holdover from my penchant as an actor for classical plays, heightened language and cool-looking costumes," said Caisley.

6th Street Playhouse is located in Historic Railroad Square, at 52 West 6th Street in downtown Santa Rosa, Calif. For tickets or more information about "Kite's Book: Tales of an 18th Century Hitman," call 707-523-4185 or visit www.6thstreetplayhouse.com

Photo CreditKrysta Ficca

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