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John Wayne Gacy- inspired musical to world premiere at Tech


The musical, presented by the Backdoor Playhouse, will be based on serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The musical’s success could mean the cast’s name could be printed on every copy as the original cast. Photo by Elliot Payne.

The Backdoor Playhouse is preparing for the world premiere of a new, true crime musical based on the life of serial killer John Wayne Gacy titled “Crawlspace.” The musical will begin its run on Nov. 3. 

After its opening night, Crawlspace will hold shows at 8 p.m. on Nov. 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 and 12 in the Backdoor Playhouse. There will also be a late show at 10 p.m. on Nov. 10 and a matinee at 2 p.m. on Nov. 12. 

James Alder, facilities manager for the Backdoor Playhouse, explains how this musical came to be. 

“Well, the playwright specifically reached out to us, the Backdoor Playhouse, to produce it because he thought it jives with our work. We do kind of strange stuff. So, I think that’s part of what makes it special,” Alder said. 

According to Alder, running the world premiere of a musical can have future significance. “If it ends up being very successful, whoever’s in the cast will be printed on every copy going forward as the original cast. That’s pretty exciting,” he said. 

Lorelei Jernigan, a fine arts major, hopes to become part of this cast whose name will be printed on every copy as the original cast. For Jernigan, this musical is the colliding of her two long time interests. 

“I auditioned because I’ve always really liked doing theater. I’ve always really been a part of theater,” Jernigan said. “And I love true crime. So, it was kind of like a mixing of, like, two of the two things that I really, really like. Because, I don’t know, I’m a freak about true crime. It’s so interesting to me.”

Alder hopes after seeing Crawlspace, audiences will appreciate the musical as well as its cast. He said, “I hope [the audiences] enjoy it. You know, people enjoy true crime. Some people don’t, but I hope that people will come out and enjoy it and think that our students are very talented people and that we do good work.”

Jernigan hopes audiences will get more than just entertainment, though. She said, “I guess I hope [audiences take away] just more knowledge about the case. Either how it’s like a cautionary tale or like a warning of some sort. I still want them to be entertained, but I do think they should be warned about people like John Wayne Gacy.”

After Crawlspace finishes its run, the Backdoor Playhouse will begin preparing for Winterfest – An Evening of One-Acts. Winterfest will run Feb. 9-18, 2023.