“It is the show’s thesis that assassination has become its own disturbing cultural tradition in this country, that each of the characters is made of a cloth first spun by (Abraham Lincoln killer) Booth,” the Times’ Ben Brantley wrote in a rave review. Of Eisenhauer and Fisher specifically, Brantley said the pair “created a painterly tour de force, with glaring walls of color and deep pockets of shadows” that “sets the ideal tone for the fractured, time-warping narratives that follow.” In her discussion with the Mira Costa actors and stagehands, the ever-humble Eisenhauer downplayed such accolades and used the time to urge students to engage in every aspect of theater now to better their chances of going pro down the road. “I had a path that began around the age of 12 or 13,” she said, relating her early volunteerism with amateur and summer stock theaters. “I didn’t even know what lighting design was then, I just knew that I loved the theater.” “I pursued it very hard. I worked very hard at it ? and I landed on Broadway at a very young age,” Eisenhauer added. Detailing her favorite moments on the Great White Way, including assisting Bob Fosse, doing the smash revival of “Cabaret,” designing and winning her first Tony for “Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk,” Eisenhauer also offered a small window into composer Sondheim. “Steve Sondheim, first of all, is a really nice guy,” she said. “He’s a genius composer. He’s a bit of a recluse, and I believe he lives in Katherine Hepburn’s old apartment. He had a big `Assassins’ party for us when it closed, which he never does.” Asked if she knew why Sondheim was so driven to do “Assassins,” which took 14 years to get to Broadway, Eisenhauer added: “He likes hard things. He likes puzzles; he’s a real puzzle man. He likes things that are hard, and he doesn’t care if they’re commercial.” Commercial or not, “Assassins” became a smash hit that went on to take five Tony Awards. The cast and crew at Mira Costa don’t know what sort of reception to expect in Manhattan Beach for the show that Lamoureux, the director, called “a tough sell.” But they hope the local crowds will come to see their take on the thought-provoking piece that was once a Broadway sensation. Regardless, asserted Lamoureux, the visit from a sensation in her own right – Eisenhauer – will serve the students well. “It’s such a privilege,” he said. “To have here someone so closely tied to what is now referred to as the definitive production of this show is just amazing.” “I’m so glad she could come share her time with us,” concurred senior Michael Peha, 17, part of the ensemble cast who is also playing the role of Booth accomplice David Herold. “It gives us some hope. I mean, she started backstage, found her interest and worked hard, and bam – look at what she’s done.” “It’s really, really great to see someone who’s done all these things I hope to one day do,” Michael added. “And she knows all my idols, like Sondheim. I mean, she knows him. That’s amazing.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre In Los Angeles last week to light rocker Neil Young’s two shows at the brand-new Nokia Theatre – she works concerts as well as stage productions and motion pictures – Eisenhauer dropped by the Manhattan Beach campus to share her experiences with the cast and crew. “When I heard you were doing `Assassins,’ I thought, `Wow,”‘ Eisenhauer told her teen audience. “It’s a hard show ? a very ambitious project. It’s a great piece.” Acknowledged by school drama-department head Carol Mathews and the show’s director David Lamoureux to be a risky choice for a high school, “Assassins” tells the tale of the people who have killed American presidents, or tried to. Primary characters include John Wilkes Booth, John Hinckley Jr. and Lee Harvey Oswald. But rather than glorify such acts or their perpetrators, the “glitteringly dark musical,” as a New York Times reviewer described it in 2004, puts forth the question, “Why would someone do that?” By Shelly Leachman Staff Writer Bringing words of advice and insight, a Tony Award-winning theater professional visited some local students about to mount their version of the show that won her such acclaim. Renowned lighting designer Peggy Eisenhauer, with her partner Jules Fisher, nabbed Broadway’s biggest prize in 2004 for their work on “Assassins,” the Stephen Sondheim thinker musical that Mira Costa High School will stage starting Friday.