Calling the Audience to the Stand

Marie Sykes (

Though the events of the Dan White Trial may be predetermined, Ursinus’ production of the docudrama, Execution of Justice, by Emily Mann, will keep us on the edge of our seats throughout the entire show, even though it is clear from the beginning Dan White is found innocent for the murder of San Franscisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Marscone. The play mirrors the real life events of the 1979 trial showing both what happened at the trial and the stories that could’ve been told.

Dr. Meghan Brodie ‘00 had a Mann play picked out due to her “great admiration” for the playwright but landed on Execution of Justice due to its relevance to the current social and political environment. Whites’ victims were primarily political targets, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected politician in California, and his death was a major blow for the queer community. Brodie says in “the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Law, I felt like Execution of Justice would be a timely choice.” Ali Wolf ‘23, Assistant Director, says that “it’s so important for people to see this” due to both Harvey Milk and the “same frustration” with the justice system that still happens today. Wolf adds that she also loves the technological side of the show, with clips of “video from the actual event.” She wanted to help direct because she loves the collaboration aspect of it and looks up to Brodie as a “model” in how she directs. “She lets the cast do what they feel as that character [to] have a more in-depth production,” Ali said. There is also the aspect of “craft[ing] a show and mak[ing] it our own.” “No production of the show will be the same,” but as the assistant director, she can “take inspiration from others.”

As Execution of Justice is a docudrama, the production mirrors real life events and directly calls on court transcripts and interviews given about the event. Destiny Young ‘24, Gwenn Craig, tells us that “it’s cool playing someone real” and enjoys the opportunity to “mimic the [characters’] behavior but also mix that with what you could bring to the character, emulating the essence of [them].” Miles Noecker ‘22, who plays Defense Attorney Doug Schmidt, said he has been an “admirer of Harvey Milk” due to “his impact on gay rights.” He says it makes his role as “advocating for the man who slayed one of the most iconic gay men in politics” and “embodying a character that opposes everything I stand for” all the harder.  Sadie Walker ‘25, Mary-Anne White, told us “the process is definitely different. I have to remind myself that the character I’m playing is a real person [with] a backstory already.” 

When asked about their favorite part of the show, almost everyone was torn. Young said she couldn’t pick a single scene since she “like[s] so much of it — that’s the problem.” Ben Little ‘24, who plays Dan White, had a similar problem as well. Noecker said he enjoyed the witness questioning because he gets to “cut a lot of people off and be sassy” as a lawyer. The opposing lawyer, Joey Nolan ‘24, said he enjoyed the part where he questions Frank Falzon since he “get[s] to object over and over again” and since it’s with Kieran and Miles, “it[‘s] more fun.” Emily Bradigan ‘23, Assistant Stage Manager, said they enjoyed the uncalled witnesses as they “showcase the people who did not get to speak.” Walker says her favorite part is being able to “create a really cool piece of work, like theater work, with people I love and spending time together while creating this amazing piece.”

Even with the days counting down before opening night, the team has a variety of things they’re excited for. Nolan found his role refreshing, as since he came to Ursinus, he’s “played a lot of bad guys and I’m more or less the good guy in this one.” Kiran Drew ‘25, Frank Falzon, and Emily Gurganos ‘24, Props Master, both said they were excited to “see everything put together,” with Gurganos adding how it’s “more impactful when everything is finished.” Naomi Marin ‘23, Stage Manager, said that she is most excited “to see the final product of this.” Little said he really wanted the community to “see this miscarriage of justice and to realize that these kinds of things still happen today.” Evan Chartock ‘25, D.A. Joseph Freitas and Dramaturg, said he was most excited about this being a social-justice focused piece since this is “one of the few times” Ursinus has “truly committed to doing a serious show with minimal comical elements. I think it is being pulled off successfully due to the dedication of the cast members to bring this tragic yet true story to life.”

When asked about what they want the audience to know, Walker told us that they do know this happened in the past and “we’re not trying to make a parody of it. We’re trying to tell it how it happened.” Drew added that the play was “intense in a good way.”

Execution of Justice will be the theater department’s first ASL-interpreted performance with its Sunday matinee performance, with every show in the 2022-23 season following its lead. The show opens November third and runs until November sixth. Get your tickets before they sell out, like autumn 2021’s shows did, and go support the cast and crew. Good luck!