What happened to John Wilkes Booth's stage trunk? Play in Bel Air to explore answers

The Aegis

The Historical Society of Harford County will present “Final Performance or The Curtain Falls,” a one-act play by Charles George, on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Bel Air Reckord Armory.

Tickets are $12 and may be purchased online at www.harfordhistory.org or at the door.

Presented as a costumed staged reading, the show, which is set in 1873 in the basement of Edwin Booth’s theatre in New York City, the production dramatizes the legend of the disappearance of John Wilkes Booth’s stage trunk.

The performance will be followed by a presentation and audience discussion of the tale led by Booth family scholar and Junius B. Booth Society President Tom Fink.

The evening will also feature a special keyboard performance of period music written in tribute to Edwin Booth. Pianist and music instructor Joan Wiggins will perform one of the many pieces of music that were written in honor of the great Shakespearean actor during his lifetime.

Based on a story related by Edwin Booth’s contemporary and friend, actor Otis Skinner, the tale which has been dramatized by the playwright appears in Skinner’s 1923 autobiography “Foot Lights and Spot Lights.”

Skinner himself has another connection to Harford County. In 1931 he appeared in a film version of “Kismet” with actress Mary Duncan. Duncan, as Mary Duncan Sanford, lived for a time with her husband, Stephen “Laddie” Sanford, at the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club of which they were both members.

Friday evening’s performance will feature local actors Eric Richardson as Edwin Booth; Rob Tucker as Pete, the stage-hand; and Jacob Bensen as Elmer, the janitor.

Richardson is known around Harford County for his tribute performances as crooner Dean Martin; however, his theatrical background includes a degree from the American Musical & Dramatic Academy in New York City and road/summer stock performances in roles such as “Oliver’s” Fagin and Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls.”

He spent two years touring with the second national company of the original Broadway musical “Annie” and has performed with the Covered Bridge Theatre Company of Cecil College, where has portrayed Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In 2014, he sang the national anthem at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in a tribute to its author, Francis Scott Key.

Richardson has also been nationally recognized for his wide variety of tribute performances dedicated to such actors as Dean Martin, Gregory Peck and Geoffrey Rush. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

Tucker is the drama teacher at Edgewood High School. He has been a regular area performer since moving to Harford County in 2008. He has been seen regionally as Ché in “Evita,” the Courier in “1776” (Capitol Theater), Jonas Fogg (Musicalfare) and as the original Leonardo in Lauren Gunderson's “Eye of the Beheld” (New Phoenix Theater).

Locally, he has been celebrated in roles in “Chess,” “Shipwrecked,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Titanic,” “Cats,” “Seussical” and “Sweeney Todd.” Tucker holds a BFA in music theater and a master's in education (arts) from University at Buffalo and a master's in early childhood education from Towson University.

Bensen, administrative assistant to the Historical Society, is a former member of C. Milton Wright High School’s, Stage Wright, where he performed in productions of “Clue,” “Seussical,” “Into the Woods,” “The Tempest” and Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

He is also a choral singer and has sung with the C. Milton Wright High School Concert Choir, Philadelphia University Singers and the Healing Power of Music Chorus. Off the stage, Bensen is an architectural historian and photographer and has worked with Booth scholar Fink on some of the architectural aspects of the Booth family home, Tudor Hall near Bel Air.

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