Bringing Texas to Minny: The JFK Assassination, Revealed

Tessie Bundick may be able to hide her Texas accent, but she can’t hide her love for her home state. As soon as I sit down across from her at Urban Bean coffeeshop in Minneapolis’s LynLake neighborhood, she dives into her latest project: It Happened in Texas: Dallas, Jack Ruby, and the Lone Star State, the second installation in this year’s Fresh Ink series at Illusion Theater.

“It’s going to start off with a clip from Annie Hall, the Woody Allen film,” she says, motioning to the notebook in front of her in which she’s sketched out her show minute by minute. “He’s marching back and forth in front of the camera mumbling, ‘Now wait, were there three bullets or were there four; was it this and this, or this and that…’ Then it’s going to go to black and when the lights come up, it’ll be Beth (Gilleland, co-director of the show) and I sitting there, and it’ll be an interview set up. And we’re just going to start right away and have me talk about what it means to be from Texas.”

(By the way, she said all that in one breath, in under 10 seconds. Texans talk fast, folks.)

What it means, in a nutshell, is big hair, bigger fashion, fast talking, and an obsession with figuring out precisely what happened November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

I say obsessed, Tessie says intrigued. The Texas native grew up on a cattle ranch near the Alamo, went to Texas Tech (“Which is the most cowboy-Texas school you can possibly imagine” (emphasis hers), and can whip out a Texas accent thick enough to knock the wool socks off a Minnesotan. But her interest in the assassination didn’t really start until 25 years ago.

She’d been in Minnesota eight years, attending grad school for costume design at the University of Minnesota, and was talking with a friend from Texas when suddenly the conversation turned to the dog boutique her friend used to own in the 1950s and ’60s. One minor detail: the friend is former Texas Governor John Connally’s cousin—the same John Connally who was not only in the car with Kennedy the day he was killed, but was himself badly injured by a bullet. Why would a story about a dog boutique trigger an interest in the assassination? That’s where the story gets interesting.

As I promised Bundick I wouldn’t give away the juicy details of her larger-than-life Texas show, I’ll instead whet your appetite with these fun facts:

  • A dachshund named Sheeba provides more clues than you could possibly imagine to solving the murder mystery that is the JFK assassination
  • The behind-the-scenes 1960s wheeling and dealing between Texas politicians and Washington bigwigs is both terrifying and fascinating
  • Bundick presents an abundance of facts and figures in such a way that even the most apathetic listener will want to dig in and play Sherlock
  • Expect lots of photos, video, and make-you-squirm, borderline conspiratorial conclusions—as Bundick told me, “I fully expect at least one person per show to jump up and tell me I’m crazy.”

It Happened in Texas: Dallas, Jack Ruby, and the Lone Star State
July 19-22
8 p.m. (7 p.m. Sunday, July 22)
Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.

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