Student director aims to entertain, engage with 'Blood Relations'

Actress Jessica Quindlen.Keegan Bushey, director of the current SUNY Oswego student honors production “Blood Relations,” aims to keep the audience on the edge of its seat during the play and talking about it afterward.

The production, opening Nov. 18 in Tyler Hall’s lab theatre, taps the story of the infamous Lizzy Borden, accused of killing her father and stepmother with a hatchet in 1892. The psychological thriller unfolds when, years later, Lizzy (played by Courtney Bennett) is asked by a character known simply as The Actress (Jessica Quindlen) whether she committed the sensational murders.

While a big fan of the horror and thriller genre, Bushey noted “Blood Relations” is by no means a traditional horror or thriller plot. “It’s a very well-written script by Sharon Pollack, who took on a concept, a case she felt a relation to, and turned it into this fantastic play,” the senior theatre major from Utica said.

“Now in America, horror and fear are making a comeback,” he said, as reflected by the films that top the box-office charts on a regular basis.

The rest of the cast includes Knate Roy as Andrew Borden, Sarah Sterling as Abbey Borden, Kim Greenawalt as Emma Borden, Daniel Distasio as Harry Wingate and Samuel Austin as Dr. Patrick/The Defense.

Bushey said the production touches on the timeless theme of people being perceived guilty until proven innocent, from Borden’s acquittal yet continued notoriety to the modern trial-by-popular-opinion. “People will come in thinking that she did it and she’s crazy,” but the play forces viewers to keep an open mind, he said. “We assume people guilty and never think about their story.”

“I like a play that makes you think,” Bushey said. “While we want to entertain you, we also want you talking three hours later about the play and society.”

The director said he also hopes the audience “gains a love and respect for theatre” even as they may be “shocked and scared” by the many twists and turns of the taut plot.

“Blood Relations” will take place in the round in the intimate lab theatre. “Depending on where you sit, you can get a different perspective each night, given the characters in your line of sight, so we suggest people come more than one night,” Bushey explained.

The small space also helps reinforce specific themes of the play. “With the audience so close, there’s a feeling that there’s no exit, just like for the characters themselves,” Bushey said. “The claustrophobic feeling helps tell the story and the claustrophobic feeling of the time period.”

The annual student-run production has been months in the making. After earning the director position in the spring, Bushey set to work collaborating with set designer Angela Kowinsky, lighting designer Chris VerSchneider and dramaturge Tess Kaczorowski to bring the script to life. Using the space without scene changes means lighting cues and set configuration become all the more important.

Those interested in behind-the-scenes notes and images from the production’s development can visit Kaczorowski’s blog at

The regular run features 8 p.m. curtains Nov. 18 to 21 with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee Nov. 22. Tickets cost $12 ($10 for seniors and students, $7 for SUNY Oswego students).

The production is suggested for those 16 years of age or older.

Tickets are available at or by calling Tyler box office at 312-2141. Patrons with disabilities who require assistance should call the box office to make arrangements.

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PHOTO CAPTION: History uncaged—The psychological thriller “Blood Relations” unfolds when The Actress (played by Jessica Quindlen, above) asks the infamous Lizzy Borden whether she committed the 1892 murders that captivated the world. The SUNY Oswego student honors production, directed by senior theatre major Keegan Bushey, opens Nov. 18 in Tyler Hall’s lab theatre.

(Posted: Oct 30, 2009)

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