“I was asked up to audition for this role because I have long hair and a beard,” he said, the look Skatzes favored at the time.
Lynd exhaustively documented the subject — he wrote a book about the uprising — and made parts of his research available to the actors.
Perry said he heard parts of taped conversations Skatzes had with state officials during the uprising, but quickly chose not to study them. If he had tried to stick with the speech patterns of those involved, the play would be slowly paced and stretch much longer than its two-hour run time, he said.
He also turned down an initial offer to meet Skatzes.
“I was afraid I might absolutely not like the man,” Perry said. “And, two, I was afraid, if I spent any time with him, I’d want to copy him and that wouldn’t work from an actor’s standpoint.”
Perry said he hasn’t ruled out meeting Skatzes in the future.
He added that he’s not trying to make Skatzes a hero or a sympathetic character.
“There are no good guys or bad guys in this,” he said. “Some classified this as a morality play.”
Even though he turned aside some real background sources in preparing for the role, he still approached it differently than he would a fictional part. He said he is portraying a real person and saying dialogue that Skatzes actually spoke, so his portrayal has “grown” into accepting that all the roles are real people.
“I want to portray him honestly. It’s been an interesting acting challenge,” he said, noting the script has changed several times since he received his first copy.
“Lucasville” opened April 11 in Portsmouth, near the site of the prison, and will have played six times around Ohio by the time the curtain goes up on the Youngstown show.