Arts & Theater

Leukemia survivor, retired judge to premiere two new plays to raise money for cancer charity

Ron Tochterman, a retired longtime Sacramento judge started writing plays, is battling cancer. The cast of the upcoming play, “The Rules of Law” rehearse on Monday night, August 28, 2017.
Ron Tochterman, a retired longtime Sacramento judge started writing plays, is battling cancer. The cast of the upcoming play, “The Rules of Law” rehearse on Monday night, August 28, 2017.

Ron Tochterman is an expert in legal drama, having prosecuted and presided over some of Sacramento’s most infamous court cases.

Now retired after more than four decades as an attorney and judge, Tochterman has turned to the stage to share the highlights of his career – amended and dramatized, of course.

Loosely based on real cases that he and his colleagues were involved in, Tochterman has written and produced two new one-act plays, which will appear on one bill for nine performances at the Geery Theater in Sacramento.

“Innocence/Guilt” premieres May 31, and all of its proceeds will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Tochterman was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2017 and survived thanks to a clinical trial at UC Davis. Now in remission and feeling good, Tochterman is giving back.

He began writing with stories he wrote for his grandchildren. He then ventured into adult fiction inspired by his time in the courtroom, which Tochterman said “migrate from page to stage” to become one-act plays.

“I have no imagination, so I write what I know,” Tochterman said. “It’s great fun for me to write, I have so much material to write from…. I have a mine of stories.”

While his work is based on his career and experiences, all of the plays are modified to make the cases more entertaining – or as Tochterman said, “to make them look better or worse.”

Nine of his one-act plays have been produced on stages across the country, including an off-Broadway show in New York and shows in Washington, D.C. and Seattle.

He took a break from writing when he was diagnosed in 2017, but produced his first shows in Sacramento that same year. All of the proceeds from that show – over $6,000 – were donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and every performance sold out.

He hopes to have similar success this time around with “Innocence/Guilt.”

Tochterman said that while one play is about entrapment and the other plea bargaining, they are both about misogyny.

In “Innocence,” smug criminal defense attorney Leonard is convinced by ex-girlfriend Jane to intervene with her abusive boyfriend, who is a friend of Leonard’s. He refuses but eventually intervenes, and Jane repays him by entrapping him on behalf of a conniving police detective, who just happens to be Leonard’s rival.

In “Guilt,” a woman with an abrasive personality is accused of robbery and murder. She proclaims her innocence, but her attorney, who is cynical and overworked, persuades her to accept a plea bargain pleading guilty to manslaughter; all the while, she protests that she’s innocent.

At the performances of “Innocence/Guilt”, Tochterman will also sell copies of his newest work, a book called “Attorney Client.” The book is a collection of interconnected short stories about friends who graduated from law school in 1955, and all end up dying in prison. All of the profits from the book sales at the play performances will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Tochterman is also selling “phantom tickets” for those who wish to support the play but can’t make it to a performance. The phantom tickets are the same cost as a regular ticket but they do not reserve a seat. All proceeds from phantom tickets will benefit the LALS.

If you go

What: “Innocence/Guilt,” two one-act plays by Ron Tochterman

Where: The WJ Geery Theater, 2130 L Street, Sacramento

When: Dress rehearsal May 30th, 8 p.m.; performances May 31 to June 9, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets: Dress rehearsal, $10 suggested donation; regular performance tickets and phantom tickets $25. For tickets, email alantruax@sbcglobal.net or call 916-521-9959.

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