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A Manson accomplice speaks in Cornerstone Theater's 'For All Time'

October 30, 2008 |  3:30 pm

Manson_4  In creating its new play, "For All Time," over the past year, L.A.'s Cornerstone Theater Company applied its usual documentary methods to the sprawling topic of criminal justice. That meant interviewing more than 100 people on all sides of the crime-and-punishment equation, and using their words as the raw material for playwright KJ Sanchez's script. And that's how one of the troika of women who were convicted along with Charles Manson for the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders came to be a voice in the play.

As part of the project, Cornerstone taught its interview techniques to volunteer inmates at the California Institution for Women in Chino. One of them landed an interview with one of the three former Manson followers imprisoned there: Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten.

Manson accomplices Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten (L-R)

Sanchez and the play's director, Laurie Woolery, say they had promised not to identify interviewees; in the script, the character, known simply as “Girl,” says that she had loved swimming and surfing in the days “when I still believed in innocence and friends.” But when she committed her crimes, “I came to full recognition of what I had done: `Oh my God, how frightening. How could I be so far away from myself?’”Leslie Van Houten in 2002Susan Atkins, undated prison photo

"The dumbest question I've been asked, and I'm asked almost daily, is 'Are you one of the Manson girls?'" the character continues. "Well, I'm no girl and I'm certainly not Manson's girl! You know, in here they all assume I'm an OK person. People on the outside assume I'm evil, cold-blooded, a monster.... My biggest worry right now is dying here. And it's beginning to look more and more possible that I might."

The play runs through Nov. 23.

-- Mike Boehm

Photos: Charles Manson (top); Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten (L-R) return to court in 1971. Van Houten (L) at parole hearing in 2002 and Atkins (R) in an undated prison photo. Credits: Manson, Associated Press. Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten in 1971, Associated Press. Van Houten in 2002, Reuters/Damian Dovarganes. Atkins, Associated Press/California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.