Jason Trachtenburg and Emily Frembgen perform "Havin' a Real Good Time" from "Me and Lee--The Musical"
Best known for his role as "The Dad" in the acclaimed long-running Off-Broadway and indie-rock act The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players--in which he, his wife Tina and daughter Rachel present wacky original songs telling imagined stories to projected slideshows assembled from vintage mid-20th century American photographic slide collections--Edinburgh Festival Fringe award-winner Jason Trachtenburg has now turned to the Kennedy assassination for his latest theatrical production.
His Me and Lee--The Musical, which has had a five-show run at The Brick Theater in Brooklyn and a one-off at both Dixon Place and The Sidewalk Café in Manhattan, is now scheduled for an important performance Sept. 15 at the annual “Dream Up Festival” of new works and performances presented each summer at the Theater for the New City--the East Village Off-Off-Broadway theater known for radical political plays and community commitment.
Trachtenburg wrote, directed and scored Me and Lee--The Musical, which focuses, he says, on “the fantastic and true love story of Judyth Vary Baker” and showcases “seven catchy-as-heck songs.” The “family-friendly” show is an authorized musical adaptation of Baker’s 2011 autobiography Me and Lee: How I Came To Know, Love, and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald.
Trachtenburg describes Baker as a “teen science superstar, witness to history--and the secret girlfriend of Lee Harvey Oswald.” His show is set in New Orleans in the summer of 1963.
“Yes, she is a controversial figure, but she has more cred than every other author/researcher combined,” maintains Trachtenburg. “Her reputation isn’t very good because her accuracy gets in the way of other writers’ theories and makes their books unsellable. She is 75-years-old, and not in the best of health. So it is my duty to get her story out there through my abilities in musical theater.”
He sees the one-act Me and Lee, then, as “the next logical step in my work.”
“I’ve always been obsessed with the Kennedy assassination and it’s impact on our world today, yet I take this serious subject matter and add a lighthearted approach to the story as told through a love story based on young love. I always want to inform and entertain, and this play is certainly no exception.”
Trachtenburg recorded the Me and Lee score with a full band, including himself on acoustic guitar
“Although this is serious subject matter, Me and Lee--The Musical is an upbeat, light-hearted and charming historical love story, suitable for all ages!” he says. “The seven original songs are catchy, humorous, and sharp. The music is rich with vocal harmony, composed to fit the stylistic sounds of the time--the early 1960s--and most comparable to the Everly Brothers, The Lettermen, and the Four Seasons.”
Trachtenburg himself plays Oswald, opposite singer-songwriter Emily Frembgen’s Baker. David Ferrie, a major figure in Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, is played by playwright/performer Trav S.D., also author of No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.
Playwright and Huffington Post blogger Mike Amato plays internationally known heart surgeon Dr. Alton Ochsner. At the start of Me and Lee, Baker is a naive 19-year-old science whiz working with Ochsner on cancer experiments. Per Trachtenburg’s script, she is “unwittingly drawn into a secret government project to design a cancerous bio-weapon with the intention of killing Fidel Castro,” and becomes romantically involved with Oswald--who is also part of the scheme--until realizing he’s being set up by the JFK plotters.
“I have spent weeks in personal contact with Judyth and I’m honored to call her a personal friend, and by far the most intelligent and bravest person I have ever known,” says Trachtenburg. “It is my duty to get her story out there through my abilities in musical theater.”
A Q and A with the audience follows the performance of Me and Lee--The Musical, along with a three-minute video of Baker in discussion with Trachtenburg. Baker, who now lives in Europe, worked closely with Trachtenburg in the musical’s conception and is bringing him and the cast to Dallas in November to perform it at the The 7th Annual JFK Assassination Conference.
“Tickets are only $12,” says Trachtenburg. “1963 prices!”
Video of Me and Lee—The Musical is currently being edited for later availability. Meanwhile, Trachtenburg’s first musical, Dr. Glassheart--A Modern-Day Medical Musical Comedy, is being developed into a podcast.
Additionally, Trachtenburg remains the leader of The Pendulum Swings, an indie big band swing group, and also heads both the alt-country band The Watersheds and the pop band The Type. He further serves as president of the 4th St. Food Co-op in the East Village.