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Harding-Kerrigan saga becomes opera

10/13/2005

BOSTON -- The Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding soap opera is now
a musical opera.
The figure skating saga that captivated the country 11 years ago
-- with the ubiquitous video of Kerrigan crying "Why me?" after
being attacked and hit in the knee -- is the basis for "Nancy and
Tonya: The Opera," to be performed at Tufts University next
spring.
Kerrigan became a household name when an associate of Harding's
clubbed her on the knee with a baton as she left the ice during
practice at the 1994 U.S. championships in Detroit.
The attack prevented Kerrigan from competing, but she recovered
to win a silver medal at the 1994 Olympic games in Lillehammer a
few weeks later. Harding finished out of the running.
"This is the classic envy story and it was just so strange and
got stranger by the day," said Elizabeth Searle, who wrote the
opera's libretto.
Videotape of Kerrigan -- her face contorted in agony, grabbing
her knee and wailing "Why me? Why me?" -- was a TV staple in the
days after the attack.
Harding, the cigarette-smoking, pickup-driving bad girl, had
said she would "kick some butt" in the Olympics.
Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Stone, and two other men served time
for planning and carrying out the attack. Harding pleaded guilty to
covering up the attack but didn't serve any time. She received a
lifetime ban by the U.S. Figure Skating Association and apologized
in person to Kerrigan.
"Tonya and Nancy was the first completely insane scandal that
took over the country," Searle said.
Attempts to reach Kerrigan and Harding on Thursday by phone and
e-mail were unsuccessful.
The 43-year-old Searle said she did not consult the two skaters
about the one-act opera, which was pieced together using actual
quotes uttered by the women and others involved in the scandal.
Searle plucked from newspaper reports, FBI transcripts and her
previous novella about the skating rivals, "Celebrities in
Disgrace," which is being made into a short film. Tufts graduate
student Abigail Al Dorry is writing the music.
The opera opens with Kerrigan and Harding holding dueling news
conferences at the 1994 Olympics, just weeks after the attack on
Kerrigan.
"There are elements of parody in it, but I really feel for this
story," Searle said. "Girls in America are either raised to be
Tonyas or Nancys. I think any girl can relate to these two women
and what they went through."