WINTER PARK – Every day that Roger Floyd goes to work, the environment gets more disturbing, more troubling, until it’s just downright scary.
And that couldn’t possibly be more appropriate, Floyd said.
“It is going to be the perfect show for this time of year,” he said. “And this is not a show for the weak of heart.”
Floyd, the Orlando-based actor, stage director, playwright and artistic director of The Riordan Theatre Company, is now in rehearsals for “The Painter,” a play he wrote and will be staging next month – right in time for the Halloween season. That’s perfect timing, he said, since “The Painter” looks at the mythology of one of the world’s unsolved mysteries, and one that deals with the notorious figure who may have been the first serial killer: Jack the Ripper.
“Although it’s being billed as a Halloween event, this is still history being documented,” he said. “We can’t forget there are still people in this world who still do this to women.”
Floyd not only wrote the play, but is playing the lead role, in the show being produced by the Greater Orlando Actors Theatre, for a grand opening on Thursday, Oct. 11.
That opening night, Floyd said, will feature a celebration with food and drinks, and the show will continue that weekend with performances on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m. The production runs for three weekends, through Nov. 3 – and if attendance is solid, it could even get extended, Floyd added.
“I have the knife, so I can do the carvings for Thanksgiving,” he joked, while adding “It’s not really a Christmas show.”
Floyd has spent a good part of the past decade developing this play about the urban legend of Jack the Ripper. This murderer, whose identity has remained a mystery for more than a century, stalked impoverished areas in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888, targeting female prostitutes from the slums.
The killer’s methods were brutal — cutting his victim’s throats and mutilating them, even removing the internal organs from at least three of the victims.
Floyd became fascinated by the Ripper case more than a decade ago, after seeing a program about the killer on The History Channel, which inspired him to start writing this play. This latest version is called “The Painter” in part because it’s inspired by the writings and works of Walter Sickert, a German-based painter who resided in London and died in 1942.
Sickert took a keen interest in the crimes of Jack the Ripper, and even came to believe he was living in a room used by the infamous serial killer. Sickert did a painting of his living quarters and titled it “Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom,” showing a dark, melancholy room.
Several books have been published that suggest Sickert may have been Jack the Ripper or possibly his accomplice, including Stephen Knight’s 1976 book “Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution.”
“The Painter” is being directed by Paul Castaneda, the executive director of GOAT, at the company’s new theater at the Creadle Business Center at 2431 Aloma Ave. in Winter Park.
It co-stars Leesa Castaneda and Crystal Gillette in supporting roles as two of the killer’s victims.
Artistically, Floyd said, he and Castaneda are creating a very unnerving stage experience.
“We had a great rehearsal on Sunday,” Floyd said. “This is going so much further than I ever planned on. It’s going to be more than I anticipated. The cast is great, and this is the first time I’ve worked with Paul. It’s like we’re reading each others’ minds and both coming to the same place. He’s far exceeded my expectations, and it’s getting more scary with every rehearsal. When you add performance and action to words, it gets more frightening.”
Floyd hopes audiences are ready to take a very dark glimpse in a deeply disturbed mind.
“His victims were horrifically butchered,” he said. “Some people don’t want to see that, and I understand. Some people will be shocked by it.”
On the other hand, Floyd said, consider the subject matter – which can’t in any way be sanitized or told in a gentle way.
“What’s the point,” he said. “Tell another story.”
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