Theatre Arts first play of the season, 'Crimes of the Heart,' sold out Friday night


David L. Dodds

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Arts & Sciences


The University of North Dakota's 2012-2013 Theatre Arts Season began Tuesday, Sept. 25, with Crimes of the Heart, a poignant but hysterically funny family story centered on the lives of three sisters by the celebrated American playwright Beth Henley. The event is sold out for Friday night.

The three zany, irreverent, and loveable Magrath sisters have had a lifetime of "bad days" since their mother's death that made national news because she hung the family cat along with herself when the girls were quite young. On those "bad days" the women tend to create havoc around the men in their lives. Lenny rejected the only man she has every loved, Meg's actions led to Doc Porter nearly losing a leg during a hurricane, and, when the play opens, Babe has just shot her abusive but politically powerful husband, Zachery Botrelle

It is 1974 and the sisters have come together at their grandparents' home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi where the kitchen table becomes the site of old jealousies and slights as well as fond memories of playing cards all night long.

After some struggle the sisters convince Babe to tell her side of the story to a lawyer, Barnette Lloyd. He seems competent but may threaten the success of the case with his own vendetta against Botrelle. Much to Lenny's dismay, Doc Porter, who is now a married man, returns to see Meg. To add to the chaos, their cousin Chick pops in to stir things up with her criticism of their shameful behavior. She claims their whole side of the family is crazy, and it hurts her standing in the community.

Box office and parking

Crimes of the Heart will continue through Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Burtness Lab Theatre. Adult tickets $10 and Student tickets $5. Box Office 701.777.2587

Apart from an existing special free parking arrangement already set aside for theatre goers (1,000 spaces behind Burtness Theatre and the North Dakota Museum of Art), guests for this event also may use the pay-as-you-go option in the Parking Ramp (corner of 2nd Ave N and Columbia Road), the Visitor Lot (off Centennial Drive), or a Parking Meter. Parking in any other parking lot on-campus requires a parking pass which can be purchased directly through UND Parking Services, Twamley Hall Rm 204 (M, W-F 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Tues. 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).

The Playwright

Elizabeth Becker Henley was born May 8, 1952, in Jackson, Mississippi, the daughter of an attorney and an actress. Early on she dreamed of becoming an actress, and to that end she earned a B.F.A. at Southern Methodist University in 1974. While at SMU, she wrote her first play, the one-act Am I Blue, which was produced at SMU's Margo Jones Theatre in 1973.

In 1976, she moved to Los Angeles to live with actor/director Stephen Tobolowsky, with whom she would later collaborate on the screenplay True Stories. After Crimes of the Heart won its initial award and was staged in 1979 by the Actors Theatre in Louisville, it debuted on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre November 4, 1981. The 1986 movie version, for which Henley wrote the screenplay, starred Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek as the three sisters, with additional performances by Tess Harper and actor/playwright Sam Shepard.

Henley followed the success of Crimes of the Heart with The Miss Firecracker Contest, in which a socially outcast woman, Carnell Scott, wishes to improve her standing in her small southern town and decides the best way to do so would be to win the "Miss Firecracker" beauty contest. As the play opens, Carnelle is seen onstage dressed in a leotard and draped in an American flag as she tap-dances and twirls a baton to the accompaniment of "The Star-Spangled Banner." First produced onstage in Los Angeles in 1980, the play would likewise be adapted into a Hollywood film with a screenplay by Henley.

Other plays by Henley include The Wake of Jamey Foster, produced first in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1982 and later that year on Broadway; The Debutante Ball, first produced in Costa Mesa, California, in 1985; The Lucky Spot (1987); and Abundance (1989). More recent plays include Signature, Control Freaks, and L-Play. Her most recent play, Impossible Marriage, debuted off-Broadway in 1998. Written while Henley was pregnant with her first child, the play is set in Savannah, Georgia, and tells of a young bride named Pandora whose upcoming wedding is opposed by nearly every other character, including her older, very pregnant sister, Floral, played in the 1998 production by actress Holly Hunter, who had appeared onstage (and in the film Miss Firecracker) in six previous Henley plays.

In addition to play-writing, Henley has written several television and movie screenplays, including "Survival Guides" with Budge Threlkeld for PBS (1985), the film Nobody's Fool (1986), and True Stories, on which she collaborated with Steven Trobolowsky and David Byrne, the lead singer of the rock group Talking Heads who directed and starred in the film.


Lenny Magrath played by Emily Wirkus, Albert Lea, Minn.

Meg Magrath played by Jacqueline Degraff, Bismarck.

Babe Magrath played by Daniella Lima, Grand Forks.

Chick Boyle played by Kjerstine Trooien, Astoria, S.D.

Chick Boyle Understudy played by Abbie Schoenborn

Doc Porter played by Nick McConnell, Grand Forks.

Barnett Lloyd played by Brett Olson, Glenburn, N.D.

Production Team

Director: Kathleen McLennan

Scenic and Lighting Design: Brad Reissig

Costume Design: Michelle Davidson

Sound Design and Technical Director: Loren Liepold

Stage Manager: Philip Muehe

Assistant Stage Manager: Rachel Perry

Dialect Coach: Emily Cherry

Fight Choreographer: Brett Olson