Haunting New Play Premieres This Weekend at Olin Fine Arts Center

Created: April 10, 2014
Last Updated: December 13, 2019

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WASHINGTON, PA (March 6, 2014) – Is it possible for a young girl to forgive herself – or be forgiven – after being jailed for the heinous crimes that made her famous? How was a seemingly normal girl drawn down such a dark path in the first place?

Writer Bill Cameron and director Karin Maresh seek to address these questions in a new, one-act play, “Cease to Exit,” that makes its world premiere March 6 at Olin Fine Arts Center and runs through Saturday, March 8.

The play will be performed at 7:30 p.m. each evening, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, March 8. Performances are free and open to the public, and audiences will be seated on the stage.

“Cease to Exist” was first performed by Jeana Rifici ’09 as a one-woman piece, and was Rifici’s senior project for her theatre major. The original piece, and it’s update, tells the story of Patricia Krewinkel, a woman who fell under the influence of Charles Manson and engaged in the horrific “Helter Skelter” murders in California in 1969.

This August will mark the forty-fifth anniversary of the Tate and LaBianca murders committed by Krenwinkel and the other members of the Charles Manson “family.”  Krenwinkel, Manson, and two others have been in prison for almost forty-three years (a fifth member died while still in prison).

Cameron has directed numerous history-centered plays at W&J, including “The Crucible,” “The Laramie Project,” and “The Triangle Factory Fire Project.”  He also wrote and published a play about the Lindbergh kidnapping case entitled “Violet Sharp.”

“I’m interested in looking at the stories we think we know well and exploring them from a fresh perspective. In both ‘Violet Sharp’ and ‘Cease to Exist’, I tried to take a well-known crime story and give it a new and previously unexplored twist; taking what I call a ‘shadow story’ and bringing it to the forefront. Everybody knows about Manson, not everybody knows about Patricia Krenwinkel—the subject of “Cease to Exist”—so let’s explore the same story from that perspective and see what we can learn.”

In Maresh’s director’s notes, she writes, “While the brutality of the murders lingers in our collective memory…this play considers whether or not it is possible to forgive Krenwinkel, or perhaps to at least understand how she, a 21 year-old girl from a broken but “normal” family in 1969, could become a killer.”

She continues, “What I find most fascinating about this play is Krenwinkel’s yearn for release from the hell she created for herself because of her actions.  She seeks forgiveness and understanding, but can she forgive herself?  Perhaps in the end that is the real question.”

Maresh said that from a directing perspective, one of the challenges of the script is the constant fusion of and movement between the past, the imaginary realms of characters’ memories, and the present.

The script is also challenging for the actor cast in the role of Patricia, who is on stage for the entire performance and takes on the bulk of the lines. Allyse Corbin, a senior Communication Arts major, will play Patricia on the Olin stage.

“Allyse has created a brilliant depiction of Krenwinkel,” Maresh said.

Cameron and Maresh plan to take “Cease to Exist” to the Edinburgh International Fringe Theatre Festival in August. It’s important, they agreed, to expose students to the events – good and bad – that have shaped our culture.

“The summer of 1969, when the Manson murders took place, was a watershed point in American history—the moon landing, Woodstock, the Stonewall riots, Chappaquiddick, Vietnam,” Cameron said. “Our students should know about these things, why they mattered then and why they matter today. ‘Cease to Exist’ had its origins as a student project and that’s still how I see it. I hope it’s an effective and affecting drama but I also hope it works as a teaching tool for the students involved in the show and those who come to see it.”

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