By Richard Strand
Directed by Joseph Discher
Scenic Design by Jessica Parks
Lighting Design by Jill Nagle
Costume Design by Patricia E. Doherty
Sound Design by Merek Royce Press
Production Stage Manager - Jennifer Tardibuono*
Ames Adamson* | Major General Benjamin Butler
David Sitler* | Major John B. Cary
Benjamin Sterling* | Lieutenant Kelly
John G. Williams* | Shephard Mallory
*member Actor's Equity
On May 23, 1861, three slaves made their escape from Sewell’s point Virginia. At midnight, they took a small boat across the water and in the early light of dawn approached the high stone walls of the Union Fort Monroe. They did not know if they would see their families again. They did not know if they would be returned to their owners and be punished or killed. But the great risk they had taken would mark the beginning of the end of slavery in America.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to bring Richard Strand’s powerful and well-crafted play to life on stage for the first time. For the better part of two decades I have been working primarily on plays by dead playwrights—so it has been particularly rewarding to come across a new play of such importance—one that can stand alongside the classics, and will I’m sure, in the years to come. I wish Butler a long and prominent life on the stage, and I’ll do whatever I can to make that come true.
Not only does Butler center on the most defining historic event of our country, the Civil War, but it tells a story that many of us never knew (I for one was unaware of the events that unfolded at Fort Monroe until I read Mr. Strand’s play). Most importantly, it does this against the backdrop of something larger and more powerful than the conflict itself—humanity. At its core this story is ultimately about changing one’s perspective.
In a small military office, two men match wits. They challenge each other in a heated debate. A third man is drawn into the conflict and inexorably, each person begins to see things differently than they have before. It is something so difficult to do, and yet it is the key to all understanding, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and redemption; the ability to change one’s perspective, to see things from another person’s point of view. The play makes one wonder how many chains would break, how much violence and intolerance would cease; against other races, against women, against children, against the LGBT community, if we could truly—as the escaped slave Shepard Mallory says: “see things differently.”