Campus Department Interest in Violet Sharp- Letters

I wrote the following letters– the history letter was later expanded by my request by the director. This may be of interest to you if you’d like to see how our show relates to the following areas of study:

Criminology, Communications Media, English, Psychology, Journalism, History

Criminology faculty and students,

Early this fall, IUP’s Theater-by-the-Grove will be presenting a compelling new drama based on the frenzy surrounding the “crime of the century”— the Lindbergh kidnapping. The play, written by Washington & Jefferson professor Bill Cameron, is entitled Violet Sharp. It focuses heavily on the investigation surrounding the kidnapping, and in particular on the alibi and behavior of a particularly suspicious employee of the extended Lindbergh family. The fate of this serving girl, Violet Sharp, comes to a cruel close after harsh— but seemingly justified— interrogations by police investigators. This work asks questions about the rights of the accused, police tactics in time-critical situations, and media influence on investigations, just to name a few. Audience members must evaluate the difference between right and wrong through a compelling new angle of the most famous twentieth century crime.

Special Note: Much of Bill Cameron’s influence came from The Lindbergh Case written by Jim Fisher, a former Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (PASSHE sister-school) criminology professor, cold-case investigator, and FBI agent.

Communications Media faculty and students,

Early this fall, IUP’s Theater-by-the-Grove will be presenting a compelling new drama based on the frenzy— heavily influenced by the media— surrounding the “crime of the century,” the Lindbergh kidnapping. The play, written by Washington & Jefferson professor Bill Cameron, is entitled Violet Sharp. This new piece explores the search of the Lindbergh family and the state police for the kidnappers of little Charlie Lindbergh. Our approach to this monumental event in history is an exploration of the media’s role in the events that unfolded after the crime. Though the audience will draw its own conclusions, the piece raises important and controversial topics: Does the media put undue pressure on the investigators to solve a crime— especially in a high-profile case like the Lindbergh kidnapping? Does media coverage and the subsequent flow of information to the public help or impede an investigation? How does media coverage change as circumstances of an ongoing story change— and what circumstances create that bias? This final question is deeply rooted in the story of the title character, Violet Sharp, who is a suspect in the kidnapping. Throughout the play, the media consistently scrutinizes her morals and personal life until her circumstances radically change; with that change, her media image also changes dramatically. This play also offers students the opportunity to see the “sob sister” school of journalism— in this case radio news reporting— in action. Adela, our fictional “sob sister,” connects the many elements of the play from her spotlight and microphone— she was a voice to America, she is a voice for our play.

Another reason to attend: Communications Media double major Scott Fetterman is the videographer for this production of Violet Sharp. Scott has worked on many Theater & Dance department productions as videographer providing live stage action with integrated media. Scott’s videography works in conjunction with onstage action, sound, lights and set to create an atmosphere of constant media coverage (dare I say interference?)— just as the Lindbergh family experienced after the kidnapping. His work is the best I have seen in live theatre situations. His growing skills alone are enough to justify a Communications Media student this trip to Waller Hall.

English faculty and students,

Early this fall, IUP’s Theater-by-the-Grove will be presenting a compelling new drama based on the frenzy surrounding the “crime of the century”— the Lindbergh kidnapping. The play, written by Washington & Jefferson professor Bill Cameron, is entitled Violet Sharp. This plays gives students and faculty alike the unique opportunity to see the work of an accessible writer (a theater professor at a nearby university) at its first staged performance, right on our campus. As a double major in English and theater, I have found a lot of value in working with Bill as he further develops the script— a living piece which is changing frequently. The opportunity to see his first staged performance is a special one!

In my personal opinion, dramatic literature is as valuable staged as it is read. Because of this, I would like to offer my services in connection with this new piece of literature. I will be able to provide you with pre- and post-show study guides and information, insight into my process as a dramaturg, including discussing an artistic production journal/record I am keeping throughout the first staging of the script, and/or aide for Question & Answers sessions. If you would like to have a discussion after the performance (or what we call a “talkback” with the artists who created this production), I can help to facilitate the discussion. It may be possible to do so in the theater if we coordinate far in advance, or if my schedule permits I may be able to come to your class time to meet with you and students. If you have questions for the playwright— though he is a very busy university man himself— I could facilitate that communication as well.

Psychology faculty and students,
Early this fall, IUP’s Theater-by-the-Grove will be presenting a compelling new drama based on events surrounding the investigation of the “crime of the century”— the Lindbergh kidnapping. The play, written by Washington & Jefferson professor Bill Cameron, is entitled Violet Sharp. One of its focuses is on the heavy influence of media coverage on all involved. The pressures of constant observation and criticism have a profound and immediate effect on the conscious and unconscious behavior of the Lindbergh family, their domestic servants, and the police investigators. As personalities and egos square off in the cat and mouse games investigators play with the suspected servants, the Lindbergh family clings to the last hopes of the child’s safe return. Through the repeated exhaustion— both physically and mentally— of the title character from police interrogation, the audience begins to understand her undercurrent of personal pain, and can only be left to guess the fate of the carefree but not careful servant girl.

Journalism faculty and students,

Early this fall, IUP’s Theater-by-the-Grove will be presenting a compelling new drama based on the frenzy— heavily influenced by the media— surrounding the crime of the century, the Lindbergh kidnapping. The play, written by Washington & Jefferson professor Bill Cameron, is entitled Violet Sharp. This new piece explores the search by the Lindbergh family and the state police for the kidnappers of little Charlie Lindbergh. Our approach to this monumental event in history is an exploration of the media’s role in the events that unfolded after the crime. Though the audience will draw its own conclusions, the piece raises important and controversial topics: Does the media put undue pressure on the investigators to solve a crime— especially in a high-profile case like the Lindbergh kidnapping? Does media coverage and the subsequent flow information to the public help or impede an investigation? How does media coverage change as circumstances of an ongoing story change— and what circumstances create that bias?

This final question is deeply rooted in the story of the title character, Violet Sharp, who is a suspect in the kidnapping. Throughout the play, the media consistently scrutinizes her morals and personal life until her circumstances considerably change; with that change, her media image also changes dramatically. This play also offers students the opportunity to see the “sob sister” school of journalism— in this case radio news reporting— in action. Though the representation is fictional, the character of the journalist is based on true to life early twentieth century sob sister reporters who helped to jumpstart investigative journalism. Adela, our fictional “sob sister,” connects the many elements of the play from her perspective; she was a voice to America, she is a voice for our play.

History faculty and students,

Early this fall, IUP’s Theater-by-the-Grove will be presenting a compelling new drama based on the frenzy surrounding the “crime of the century”— the Lindbergh kidnapping. The play, written by Washington & Jefferson professor Bill Cameron, is entitled Violet Sharp. The Lindbergh family, let alone the crime, has commanded the attention to students of history decade after decade. This piece, uniquely, allows an audience to see an angle of one of the most notorious crimes of all time that is seldom explored; more importantly, the piece allows both the Lindbergh layperson and expert to explore unknown territory. The exploration of a new area in Lindbergh case files comes with the title character, Violet Sharp. She was a maid in the Morrow household (the home of the baby’s grandmother) and was a suspect for several months following the kidnapping. During this time period, Violet under went both personal and public stresses that reveal themselves throughout the play, resulting in an unsuspected revelation.

The play’s actions and characters are pulled directly from the historical evidence surrounding this major event in America in the 1930s. As a result, the entire production company has been immersing themselves in the fascinating historical framework for these events. In turn, history students could be well motivated to begin their own historical investigation of these events.

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