By Layce Gardner
February 17 - March 11, 2006
Directed by Brenda Williams
Newspaper headlines across America screamed, "Butcher!", "Tiger Woman!",
"Insane!" when they covered the lurid story of Winnie Ruth Judd with the same
prominence that they gave the sentencing of Al Capone and the rise of Adolph
Hitler. Tried for a grisly double murder in Phoenix, Arizona in 1931, Judd's
notoriety has faded over the years, but her mysterious story still fascinates
and it is the basis for the play TIGER LADY by Layce
Gardner of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Carpenter Square
Theatre will present its Oklahoma premiere February 17 – March, 2006 in Stage
Center's intimate arena theater at 400 W. Sheridan in downtown Oklahoma City.
While this is the first
time that Ms. Gardner's play will be performed in her home state, TIGER LADY has
been performed in Los Angeles where it received Drama-Logue's Outstanding
Achievement in Theatre Award. Other critically praised productions have been
staged in Dallas, Memphis and Newfoundland.
After many years in Los
Angeles writing teleplays for Lifetime and screenplays, Ms. Gardner moved back
to Oklahoma where she has written for "The Trail of Tears" outdoor drama, among
other projects. Ms. Gardner will be on hand for the opening weekend at Carpenter
Square Theatre. Audiences will have a chance to meet her at the opening night
party immediately following the performance on February 17. In addition, she
will be at "Theatre Exchange" on February 18 immediately following the show.
Theatre Exchange is a chance for the audience to interact with the actors,
director and production, learn more about their dramatic process, and ask
questions. In this case, the playwright will be available to answer questions
about her play and writing process.
At the play's start Winnie
Ruth Judd sits on death row one week before she is to hang. It appears that on
October 18, 1931 in Phoenix, Arizona Winnie Ruth shot two of her closest friends
and put their bodies into trunks. When one body would not fit, it was
dismembered and body parts were placed in a suitcase and a hatbox. She set out
for Los Angeles by train, hoping to dump the luggage and bodies in the Pacific.
An observant baggage clerk, on the lookout for illegally smuggled venison,
noticed that the heavy trunks were oozing a dark, foul-smelling liquid. When he
asked her to open them for inspection, Winnie made a vague excuse about her
husband having the keys and hurried away with her brother. Nevertheless, the
distraught, young woman was taken into custody within four days, tried and
sentenced to die.
While on death row Winnie
Ruth's only visitor is psychiatrist Elijah Martin, appointed by the court to
determine her mental state. If he deems her insane, her life will be spared. But
during their sessions, Winnie Ruth is visited by many others in her memories. As
these flashbacks play out onstage, the audience glimpses Winnie Ruth's childhood
with her confused, oppressive mother, her relationship with a lesbian couple who
become her alleged victims, and her love affair with a married man about town.
While the play doesn't try to justify or explain her crimes, it does use both
humor and drama to suggest how passion, met with persecution and rejection, can
lead to tragedy.
Theatre is the recipient of a project assistance grant from the Oklahoma Arts
Council for this production. The theater is an Allied Arts member agency and the
show is an Allied Arts Star Card event.
TIGER LADY is rated PG-13.
The Cast & Crew of TIGER LADY with playwright Layce Gardner
(Back row, 2nd from right)