After a successful run in London, Ontario, Bootlegger’s Wife is making its way to the Hamilton Fringe Festival, winning 1st Runner Up for this year’s Hamilton Fringe New Play Contest.
Written/performed by Victoria Murdoch and directed by Susan Wilby,Bootlegger’s Wife is a one-woman show, based on the story of Bessie Starkman and Rocco Perri, two famous organized crime figures, who began a bootlegging business in Hamilton during the early 20th century – Bessie being the brains behind the entire operation.
What better place to stage this play than the place where it all began? “It is a Hamilton story,” Murdoch states. “[These] two people created an empire…they were providers in the community [who] became national celebrities….[Hamiltonians] own this piece of history.”
Murdoch first heard the story of Starkman and Perri on a “Today in History” segment on the radio. “ I was very intrigued by [Bessie’s] strength as a woman and her tenacity and her business sense,” Murdoch explains, when asked about what sparked her desire to initiate the creation of this stage play. “This was a time when women weren’t even considered persons yet…she was actually the financial brains of the mob…[it] was really inspiring, despite the illegal activity, to see the woman behind the man.”
Bessie is an empowering historical figure, whose story still has the ability to touch the lives of spectators today. “For women and girls today, [there’s] the idea that they don’t have a limit on what they can do. They don’t need to be arm candy – an accessory,” Murdoch adds. “ They’re running stuff, they’re shaking stuff, they’re making things happen.”
As a theatre artist and playwright, Murdoch has a fascination with the way people position themselves in society and how they relate to other people – an imperative notion sewn into the foundation of Bootlegger’s Wife. “The way we look at roles in society is always important,” Murdoch explains.Bootlegger’s Wife presents the larger idea of breaking out of societal roles and owning who we are as individuals.
Murdoch has high hopes for her Hamilton audiences and she wishes for them to leave the theatre with a sense of empowerment. “I want them to leave feeling like they are kings and queens,” Murdoch declares. “I want them to feel like they are on top of the world and that they are a force for reckoning… but, first and foremost, [I want them] to have an amazing time.”
Bootlegger’s Wife plays at Theatre Aquarius Studio (190 King William ) as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival, until July 27th. For more information, visit https://www.bootleggerswife.com/.