The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Community

April 26, 2007

Play challenges death penalty views; local man plays killer in ‘Lucasville’

YOUNGSTOWN — Before he started work on his latest acting role, Sam Perry assumed that most people were in favor of the death penalty.

“I’m finding out, talking to more and more people, that’s not the case,” said the Hermitage amateur actor with an extensive resume of regional acting credits.

Perry is playing a convicted killer in “Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising,” which will be performed Sunday in Youngstown.

In meeting people who have seen the show, Perry has found that some he would expect to support the death penalty, including politicians and policemen, are against it.

The Staughton Lynd-Gary L. Anderson play also has prompted Perry to reexamine his own thoughts on the issue.

“It’s not as cut and dried in my head,” he said.

The playwrights crafted an anti-death penalty message around the 1993 prison riot in Lucasville, Ohio, in which nine prisoners and a guard were killed. Five prisoners were convicted and sentenced to death for their parts in the uprising.

Perry plays George Skatzes, a negotiator for the prisoners during the uprising and a member of the prison’s Aryan Brotherhood contingent.

“The point of the show is this one particular warden tried to make it into a racial thing,” said Perry, who was seen in a photograph accompanying a Cleveland Plain Dealer story on the play.

The play also paints the convictions of the Lucasville Five as flawed because prosecutors relied on the testimony of other prisoners who arguably had something to gain by their cooperation.

Although Perry has done light comedy and crowd-pleasing musical theater, he’s always on the lookout for meatier roles that are beyond what might be considered typical theatrical fare.

But he was asked to consider doing “Lucasville” for reasons that have nothing to do with his acting integrity or background.

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