The Ladykilling of Chattanooga, is a full length play about Julia Morrison James. She was a stage actress in a touring comedy from New York City, who alleged that her stage manager harassed and sexually assaulted her while travelling for the show. The stage manager, Frank Leidenheimer, was also a leading role in the comedy, which was common at the time.
In the time leading up to their stop in Chattanooga, the tension and harassment escalated, until reaching a climax before the opening curtain at the Opera House in Chattanooga. Morrison left her dressing room and met the rest of the cast, who was in their places ready to begin the show. There were almost fifteen hundred people attending the play that night, just behind the curtain. Morrison drew a pistol from her dress and shot Frank Leidenheimer three times, killing him, while the band continued to play ragtime.
She was tried, exonerated, and went on to attempt to warn women about the dangers within the theatrical community. She was not heard by any and was instead rejected by the newspapers who had just months previous relished opportunities to discuss her “beauty” or “her courtroom stage gowns”. It would be funny if it wasn’t so incredibly sad.
This play deals with the “other side of stage life”, which is still tragically relevant. Julia, being an stage actress, tells this story through a memory play, where she role plays the story back and forth using the other players to deal with her experiences.