ORLANDO — Roger Floyd has a passionate interest in Jack – but then again, so do thousands of other people as well.
Jack the Ripper is part-urban legend, partly a grim chapter in the history of bloody serial killers, and partly a figure capable of haunting people’s recurring nightmares. Floyd, the Orlando-based actor, stage director, playwright and artistic director of The Riordan Theatre Company, has spent years cultivating his play “The Painter,” about the murderer whose identity is still a mystery, and who stalked impoverished areas in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The Ripper targeted female prostitutes from the slums, cutting their 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. That led to the creation of his full-length play, “The Painter,” which will be performed in October at the new Greater Orlando Actors Theatre (GOAT) stage at the Creadle Business Center in Winter Park.
Audiences will get to see Floyd’s interpretation of the Ripper legend, right in time for the Halloween season, he noted.
“It’s the time of year when people are more intrigued by this subject matter,” Floyd said.
Before that production, Floyd is developing “The Painter” in another unique way: as a graphic novel – from stage to printed page.
“It’s not the end of this, either,” he said. “I plan more for this as well. I’ve been living with this off and on for years.”
That’s appropriate for a play about the world’s first serial killer, a show that’s been evolving for a decade, and continues to evolve today, Floyd said – and is about to find new, creative life.
“We’re doing the show in October at GOAT, which we’re super-duper excited about,” he said. “I was rewriting it and adding some scenes, and I was reading it to my wife, and she happened to mention that the visuals are very cool and wouldn’t it be great to do it as a graphic novel? She gave me the idea, and I ran with it.”
In addition to translating the story from the stage version into a novella, Floyd did all the illustrations as well.
“I’ve been drawing since I was a child, and before I discovered I had the blessing — and curse — of being an actor,” he said. “I did oil paintings about 10 years ago, and I do it as another outlet to create. What I’ve done here is adapted the script for the play into a novella, like a graphic novella would be.”
That’s appropriate, he said, since this latest version of the play is partly 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.”
Floyd said the Sickert concept fits perfectly with a graphic novella.
“Sickert was an artist, and it made sense to me that he would not only keep images of his madness, but he also did a painting of Jack the Ripper,” Floyd said.
Floyd recently worked out a deal with Sam Flax Orlando to print and market the book, and it will be available online as well. Floyd said his aim all along has been to get into Jack’s mind, while also looking at the dark side all of us have buried deep within.
“I want to take it as far as I possibly can,” he said. “I would love to do it someday in the U.K. With this book, I’m hoping people can whet their appetite for the play as well.”
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