The week before its debut, the cast of “Catch Me If You Can” received some real-life experience on what interacting with renowned con-man Frank Abagnale was like.
Theatre Lawrence will be performing the musical based off of the life of Abagnale, who before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars. Since his days of thievery, Abagnale has since published a memoir under the same title, and in 2002, Steven Spielberg made a film about Abagnale’s life, “Catch Me If You Can,” based on the memoir.
When Jackie Bogner, a season ticket holder and longtime supporter of the theater, heard about this year’s program, she quickly related the play to a personal experience — her brother, a former FBI special agent, who had worked with Abagnale later in his career.
On Sept. 5, James Bogner visited the theater to speak with the cast and invited guests about his interactions with the former criminal.
“As most of you have seen, the actors in the movie paint him as a nice guy, genuine, innocent — even after he’s done all this, so you can see his effect on people,” Bogner said. “And in the short conversations I had with him, that’s how he seemed. Warm, welcoming, but in my mind I couldn’t forget that everything he did was very calculated.”
Abagnale was skilled as an imposter, and in his career had posed as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. His primary crime was check fraud, and he became so experienced that the FBI eventually turned to him for help in catching other check forgers.
Bogner said he didn’t exactly remember the years he interacted with Abagnale, but he said the first time was in the early 1980s, and the last time he saw him was about 10 years ago.
“He was very intelligent, and had an amazing ability to recall what he had done in the past, and when he had done it,” Bogner said.
The former FBI agent recalled a few stories of Abagnale’s crimes, how he could hack a bank account just from standing behind someone writing a check in the grocery store. And although the use of checks has decreased, Bogner said the technique still applies to those using a debit card, and that you can never be too careful with your finances.
Often people excuse Abagnale’s behavior as that of a troubled youth, Bogner explained — but he said some aspects of a person’s character never leave. Bogner said he thought Abagnale enjoyed the chase throughout his crimes, and even ended his book before his eventual capture, to leave the reader with the impression that there were no repercussions from his thievery.
Since Abagnale served his time in prison, he became a consultant in fraud prevention and founded Abagnale &Associates, based in Tulsa, Okla.
Bogner received degrees from both the University of Kansas and Wichita State University, before serving the FBI for 28 years. He was assistant special agent-in-charge in Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombing, Chief in the FBI Laboratory in Washington, D.C. to Special Agent-in-Charge of the Omaha FBI Division, and oversaw all investigations and operations in Nebraska and Iowa.
Theatre Lawrence’s performance of “Catch Me If You Can” starts Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 1. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. except for Sunday shows which begin at 2:30 p.m. Ticket prices vary, adult prices are $29.70, with adjusted prices for seniors, students and children, and additional fees may be applied to online ticket sales.
For information call (785)-843-7469 or visit theatrelawrence.com.