A lecture and workshop with the creator of the Speakeasy Dollhouse book series and off-Broadway immersive play.
Artist and author Cynthia von Buhler’s Italian immigrant grandparents, Frank and Mary Spano, owned two speakeasies in the Bronx during Prohibition. In 1935, shortly after Prohibition ended, Frank Spano was shot and killed on the street in Manhattan. When she began her search two years ago nothing was known about the killer, his motive, or a trial. At the time of Frank Spano’s death, innumerable murders went unsolved because evidence was mishandled or downright ignored. In 1936, as a means to better explore these cases and train investigators of sudden or violent deaths to assess visual evidence, Frances Glessner Lee created the Nutshell Studies. These studies consisted of detailed, 1:12 scale dollhouse models that students could examine from every angle. Taking inspiration from the Nutshell Studies, von Buhler created the scenes from her grandfather’s murder and the events leading up to it using her own handmade sets and dolls. Utilizing evidence gathered from autopsy reports, police records, court documents, and interviews in tandem with the dolls and sets, she has pieced together a probable scenario. In this workshop von Buhler will display dollhouse murder dioramas based on actual crimes (including that of her grandfather) for participants to solve. The best sleuth will receive a copy of von Buhler’s book Speakeasy Dollhouse, The Bloody Beginning, an evidence booklet, and two tickets to see the immersive play based upon her findings.