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Witness Interview: Ethan Lewiston, Oxtales Theatre member and playwright

Wednesday, February 6, 2002 - 3:23 p.m.

The witness, identified as the playwright for Oxtales, was interviewed at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department. The interview was conducted by Det. Sam Murphy and Det. Ted Armstrong, and was recorded on a portable tape recorder with the witness's knowledge and consent.

TA = Detective T. Armstrong
SM = Detective S. Murphy
EL = Ethan Lewiston

SM: Thank you for coming in on such short notice.

EL: No problem. I had the afternoon off work anyway.

SM: Can you please state your name and address?

EL: Ethan Lewiston. I live at 311 Garner Avenue .

SM: And what was your relationship to Andrea Stover?

EL: I worked with her as the playwright for many of her productions. We went to school together and then began working with Oxtales some years ago.

SM: Is writing your only role with Oxtales?

EL: For the most part. Sometimes I'll fill in and take a small role if needed. But I'm more of just a warm body on stage. I'm definitely no actor.

SM: Do you have any other jobs in addition to Oxtales?

EL: Sure. I work in the office for Hambek Rental Properties. Additionally, I do a bit of freelance writing on the side to try to pick up a little cash here and there.

SM: How well did you get along with Andrea?

EL: Fairly well, I guess. There were tough times because she was so demanding and opinionated in her vision. It's sometimes difficult to pour everything you have into a script and then have someone else demand that it be totally torn apart simply because it doesn't connect with their vision. In many ways, it was Andrea's way or the highway.

TA: So the two of you didn't like each other?

EL: I didn't say that. I just said that there were difficult times in our relationship. That happens in every theatre company.

SM: How were the two of you getting along since her release from prison?

EL: It was somewhat tenuous. Everyone in the group was walking on eggshells. No one really knew how Andrea was going to re-establish the bond with the group. And Dale was still sort of in the picture as well. We're like athletes. We may really like one coach and then another comes in and you adjust to the new guy. Then the old guy returns and no matter how much you liked him, it's still a difficult thing to adjust again.

SM: When was the least time you saw Andrea?

EL: The last rehearsal. Frank and some of the guys said you asked them about that night. That was the last time I saw her.

TA: What were your impressions of that last rehearsal?

EL: It was a tough night for me. She was demanding a lot of re-writes and was really tearing up my work. I was mad and frustrated. When Dale was directing, we never had to go through this pain. I have to admit that for most of the evening, I was wishing Dale was still in charge.

TA: Why?

EL: We just seemed to connect better than I did with Andrea. I wrote and Dale directed and it all went very smoothly. With Andrea, it was always like pulling teeth. We made some very good work over the years, but there were plenty of times when I wondered why Andrea didn't just write the plays herself since she was so opposed to anything that wasn't her vision.

SM: What did you do when rehearsal broke up?

EL: I went home and watched some TV with my girlfriend. She's an architect and likes to watch "Extreme Homes" on HGTV on Sunday nights. After a while I worked on another script.

SM: Was this an Oxtales production?

EL: I don't think so. I've been working on some scripts that I know Andrea wouldn't have liked so I was thinking of selling them somewhere. Or getting them produced by another company than Oxtales. It was a good release valve for the times when I was frustrated with Andrea.

SM: Why wouldn't she have liked the plays?

EL: Because they're pretty quiet. No blood, no gore, no sex, no bad language. Some of my work has gotten really good reviews and I want to keep doing work that is outside of the Marilyn Manson shock tactics Andrea loved.

SM: Were you involved in the "Snopes" production?

EL: Sure. I wrote it.

TA: Were you prosecuted for it?

EL: I'm sure you guys have the records, so you know who was prosecuted and who wasn't. But to answer the question, no. I wasn't prosecuted. What I wrote about wasn't obscene or anything. And I certainly wasn't involved in bringing in the high school kids. So I didn't do anything wrong.

SM: But you think Andrea did do something wrong?

EL: No, I didn't really mean it that way. Listen, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I really liked Andrea. We didn't always agree on artistic matters, but I enjoyed her energy. I considered her a great friend. Our artistic disagreements didn't hinder our friendship. I wrote to her many times while she was in prison and I visited her a few times.

SM: What did you think about Andrea's refusal to plea bargain?

EL: I thought it was kind of extreme, but it was something that she felt strongly about. I think she was more upset about having to register as a sex offender than the jail time. She didn't mind giving up her life to prison, but I think the label really bothered her.

SM: Do you know anything about how she was handling her probation?

EL: Not really. She mentioned that her parole officer was a pretty sleazy guy but that's it.

SM: You mentioned writing to Andrea in prison. What did you talk about?

EL: Just what was going on with the group. I told her how things were changing under Dale's lead and about the work we were doing.

TA: How did things change under Dale's direction?

EL: We moved away from the shock stuff. He's more serious about making his point without sensationalism. But things also started to flow much more.

SM: In your opinion, who was better for Oxtales – Andrea or Dale?

EL: I don't know that I can say which was better. I think each had their time and place. Andrea really took things to a new level and got the group a lot of attention. Dale was doing a good job at showing to people that there was some substance to the group and not just sensation. He was showing that the attention Andrea brought wasn't just a result of smoke and mirrors.

SM: Were you surprised when Owen replaced Dale as soon as Andrea got back?

EL: Not really. Owen and Andrea were being very quiet about the group's leadership in the weeks leading up to her release. I figured that she would come back and resume control. It's a shame because Dale is very talented and was doing great work.

SM: What will happen to the group now?

EL: I assume Dale will take over the helm again. Although, I think Owen is pretty shaken. So it wouldn't surprise me if the group just broke up. It would be a shame, but we had a good run.

SM: Can you think of anyone who would want to hurt Andrea?

EL: Except for the nuts who persecuted her in the first place? No, not really.

SM: Okay. Thanks for your time, Ethan.

EL: I'm glad to do whatever I can to help.

End interview 4:05 p.m.

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