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Barbara Borden Morrissey as Emma and JoAnne Giovino as Mrs. Churchill
George Burns had his Gracie, Lucy had Ethel, Abbot had Costello, and the P.E.P. has been blessed with the dynamic duo of Barbara and JoAnne, proof that great things often come in pairs. The gals have been best pals for over two decades and have been frequent visitors over the years to the Lizzie Borden B&B, with both being regular guests every August 4th since the house was opened. In years gone by, Barbara’s mother, Mrs. Lucy Borden, a decendant of Lizzie’s great uncle Cook Borden, was a regular August 4th guest at the house. “Jo Jo and BoBo” are the leavening which makes any skit “rise” and after years playing various Borden case characters, their familiarity with the case makes for brilliant on -the- spot ad libbing which is always a crowd pleaser. Their combined high energy and grasp of the Victorian era, as well as an instant rapport with the audience bring out the best in any cast. Every performance is as fresh as the first, and every year an anticipation of what new twists the pair will bring. “Lady Barbara” and JoAnne are both enthusiastic members of the Second Street Irregulars and dedicated Mutton Eaters whose annual desserts at meetings are always a revelation! If the “Game is Afoot”, you can be sure these gals will be first out the door, dressed to the nines and leading the pack with all the fire usually attributed to redheads !
Recently, in an interview, Barbara had this to say about herself:
“No I have never done any acting unless you consider being a town meeting member for 24+years counts. I was born in Fall River at St. Anne’s Hospital. My regular job is grandmother,wife and friend,and I love my job. I love to read mysteries (especially about Lizzie); gardening,travel and politics fascinate me. I do believe the only person with the opportunity and motivation was Lizzie.She and Emma had the most to gain,in fact the only ones who would gain anything if Mrs.B was gone. I think that is one reason why my family never talked about her, our family black sheep.”
JoAnne as Mrs. Churchill with “Dr. Dolan”, Ted Gregoire.
A few words from Mrs. Churchill herself-
“Anyhow….. I was born in Lynn,Ma. A big city similar to FR. It was know as the shoe capital and had several shoe factories. It was quite the city in the 50′s. Unfortunately, as FR it has taken a down turn. I saw it happening once big malls were developed. Downtown disappeared!
I graduated from Salem State College with a degree in elementary education. Right after graduation , I married and moved to Dedam and then Saugus where I was a permanent substitute teacher. What a job…yuck! I have two daughters, Katelyn and Leslie Anne. Later my husband and I owned and operated our own business. He did the work and I spent the money. He is now retired. I went to Woodstock in 1969….groovy man. I was one of the few who actually bought a three day ticket. I went with my two best friends at the time. I have some great memories. as a matter of fact, My husband and I last year were up around that way and I had him stop at the site. of course it has changed but in my eye it was 1969. I shed a couple of tears.
I moved to Billerica and met Barbara 25 years ago and have been best friends like sisters really ever since. We have a great time no matter what we do but Lizzie is by far one of our most cherished things. I am the chairman of the Billerica Conservation Commission . We review and condition development that impacts wetlands, floodplain, rivers etc. I was recognized by the premier state organization of conservation commissions, The Massachsetts Association of Conservation commissions and was named Conservation Commissioner of the year a few years ago. Also I was awarded an environmental award for my volunteerism and achievements from the federal goverment in 2003. I love to read, especially mysteries. Thanks to the Mutton Eaters, I have discovered Sherlock Holmes.I have a wild imagination (dressing little sheep in period costume!) and I never want to grow up.”
The role of Bridget Sullivan, the Borden’s Irish maid, is the glue which connects the characters and revelation of the plot to the audience. No one who exited the house on August 4th could forget the letter- perfect Irish accent of Kathleen Troost-Cramer. With a mother whose maiden name was McMurphy, we might have a good idea where the great Irish brogue originated! Kathleen, a daytime tour guide at the house on Second Street for the past three summers, has no problem slipping into the humor, posture, and dialect of Bridget. With a B.A. in Theatre from Emerson College, Kathleen is no stranger to the actor’s life either. Currently Kathleen is pursuing her PhD in Biblical Studies at Boston University and manages to squeeze in a trip to Israel to work on an archeological dig, work during the week at the Lizzie Borden B&B Museum and pursue many other interests and hobbies. Kathleen’s husband Bob is sometimes seen behind the old black vintage stove at the Borden house as he ties on the apron to flip the jonnycakes on a weekend for overnight guests.
Kathleen has a few ideas as to whodunnit: “I think Bridget is the most mysterious person in the case and knew more than she told in order to protect her reputation. Just what did she know? I believe John Morse killed Abby Borden that morning and an acquaintance of Morse’s later killed Andrew. Bridget unknowingly let Andrew’s killer in the house. After working here and seeing the layout of the house, my initial assumption that Lizzie was innocent soon disappeared. It is impossible to believe that Lizzie did not know what was happening-that she knew nothing about the plot. With Abby’s time of death a little “wonky”, as to the exact moment, there is room to believe that Abby died very early on and could be in the time frame where Morse could have managed it and taken a street car down to the Emery house to establish his alibi.
If I could play any other role than Bridget it would be Lizzie herself because there are so many ways to approach that character. I do not think she wielded the hatchet- but she sure had a hand in it! If I could have answers to three questions only they would be: 1. What was the truth about the attempted purchase of Prussic acid? 2. Was there ever a note sent to Abby and if so who was sick and who delivered it? 3. What caused the rift between Emma and Lizzie in 1905?”
It’s hard to believe that August 4th was Ted and Lorraine Gregoire’s first plunge into the dramatic arts. The pair, now married for 36 years, was as calm and confident as Tracy and Hepburn! Both of them were born in Webster, MA. but now live in Dudley, MA. Ted works in the Security Dept at Commerce Insurance in Webster, MA. His dapper and distinguished bearing lent a real believability to the role of Dr. William Dolan, city medical examiner. There’s something about a moustache!
Dr. Dolan arrives in the Borden parlor
Lorraine works at Gentex Optics in Dudley and is part of the polarized division that makes polycarbonate lenses for prescription sunglasses. Miss Manning was an ideal part for Lorraine, whose natural friendly “approachability” and skill at ad libbing on the spot gave visitors the feeling it was really 1892!
As far as their personal interests, Ted works many hours, so to relax likes to work around the house. Lorraine loves the old black & white movies from the ’30′s & 40′s and books, especially mysteries which of course led to the Borden case. ”It’s never boring because there is always some new fact about someone involved that makes it interesting.”
Ted thinks Uncle John did it. Lorraine thinks it was a collaboration between Emma, Lizzie and Uncle John, with Bridget getting caught up in the middle, and just wanting to get out and away without having to say any more than she had to. Ted and Lorraine are both Second Street Irregulars and members of the Noble Order of Mutton Eaters. Stay tuned for more great things from this pair!
Miss Manning, a.k.a. Lorraine Gregoire in real life, posed as The Fall River Herald’s Ace Girl Reporter out under the “pear trees” of #92′s parking lot on August 4th.
Dressed in a green plaid summer cotton frock with jaunty black straw hat, Miss Manning had her steno pad in hand to interview guests and visitors as they exited the Borden cellar. As history records, John Cunningham, the chap who was ambling down Second Street after exiting Wade’s market, overheard Mrs. Churchill exclaiming to a friend in front of Hall’s Livery about the shocking assault on Andrew Borden. Cunningham, being an enterprising and helpful sort of guy, beat feet to Gorman’s Paper and Paint Store down the end of Second Street and rang up several newspapers and eventually got around to calling the police too!
Mr. Manning, from the Herald, was soon dashing up to #92 in his carriage as one of the first on scene. We had a “Miss Manning” this year, who filled a much-needed role of transitioning guests from the gift shop to the house, setting that 1892 tone immediately, and continuing it at the exit. Visitors were amused, and naturally very chatty about what they had seen inside. Miss Manning’s easy, friendly warmth and vintage charm disarmed the crowds- for who in this day and age doesn’t enjoy escaping into the Past- even for a little while? And of course- EVERYBODY wanted to give their opinions on whodunnit!
Read all about Miss Manning’s Big Day in the Pages section to the right.
This year Ben, who works at the Second Street house whenever he can sandwich in a day between performances and school, created a first-time role- that of Detective Seaver. In years gone by, Ben has played Mr. Cunningham, the fellow who was crossing the street after coming out of Wade’s Market and overheard Mrs. Churchill exclaiming about the killings to a man she knew in front of the livery.
Ben hails from Charlestown, R.I. where he has lived his whole young life. He works as a PASS Direct Services Worker thru CranstonArc, serving adults and children with physical or mental disabilities, and has impressive stage credentials.
He is currently a junior at the University of Rhode Island majoring in theatre. Upon completion of graduation requirements next year, he will be a professional actor with a Bachelor of the Fine Arts degree with a focus in acting. Ben joins Jeff in thinking Lizzie did the deeds!
Watch out for this young man- Broadway is calling! Here are some of Ben’s post high school credits:
Beauty and the Beast
Jeff Masson is usually happiest when tromping around cemeteries on a crisp autumn day wearing his Sox jacket and baseball cap. A native of Somerset, Massachusetts (just over the Brightman St. Bridge), Jeff loves history and travel- and of course the Borden case and all things Victorian. A “young face” on an “old soul”, Jeff is a frequent visitor to Oak Grove Cemetery and the house on Second Street. Nick-named “Cemetery Jeff” by all his friends, Jeff made his acting debut this year as The Body of Andrew Borden for the August 4th re-enactments. The effect was startling- a blood-stained sheet covering a prone body on the black sofa led many visitors to use their imaginations to guess at the grisly presence beneath the sheet. Jeff admits he could actually see through the sheet, and enjoyed watching the reactions of the visitors. Sometimes LESS is MORE!
Jeff is also among the ranks of the Second Street Irregulars, Noble Order of Mutton Eaters (Fall River Chapter) and often leads interesting tours of Borden-related grave sites in Oak Grove.
If Jeff ever ages, he is ripe for the part of Uncle John Morse. GO, RED SOX! (photo credit: Lorraine Gregoire)