Library patrons to take a whack at Lizzie Borden trial

Axe murder show at Southbridge library Thursday evening

By Audrey Clark and Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writers

SOUTHBRIDGE — You’ve probably heard this one before: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Thursday evening at the Jacob Edwards Library the Delvena Theater Company will perform “Lizzie Borden and the 40 Whacks,” a dramatic telling of the murder mystery surrounding the infamous Lizzie Borden’s life. During the hour-long performance, which begins at 6:30 p.m., the audience will become the jury in Lizzie’s trial.

The story stems from a gruesome pair of August 1892 murders in Fall River, a city less than 75 miles southeast of Southbridge’s downtown library. Andrew Borden, a well known and wealthy Fall River man, was found in a pool of blood on his living room couch while wife Abby was found upstairs with her head caved in. It was 32-year-old Lizzie that became the primary suspect in the murder of her father and step-mother. The Bay State murder drew national attention and has been immortalized in numerous television shows, movies, plays, and books. While the famed poem alleges Lizzie swung an axe 81 times at the elder Bordens, investigators asserted there were 29 whacks of the axe. Lizzie was found not guilty due to a lack of evidence, but the general public opinion — including that of many family, friends, and neighbors — had already condemned her.

The family home on Second Street in Fall River is now the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum, the owners of which insist is haunted to this day. Visitors can tour the property, stay overnight, or pick up any number of gift shop items, including an axe-wielding and blood-stained Lizzie bobblehead, books, movies, coffee mugs, axe-shaped cookie cutters, keychains, golf balls, and even apparel sporting slogans such as “I love my Daddy to death.”

More than 125 years after the murders, the legend and Lizzie’s spectre still loom large, particularly in Massachusetts and theatrics.

“I love this type of theater where the audience becomes a part of the story,” said Ms. Molton. “It is such a great way of communicating with people.”

The Delvena Theater Company began in 1992, originally located at the Boston Center for the Arts. “We decided it was time to take the show on the road and have been performing at all different locations ever since,” Ms. Molton said. “We had a great previous experience at the Jacob Edwards Library and we’re so excited to come back.”

She added: “The best way people can support the arts is just by attending. We had such a great response last time, we’re hoping for another big audience.”


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