Who would have thought a play about a real Civil War general and an escaped Southern slave would be funny subject matter?
But the four-character tale of Benjamin Butler, a Union general faced with the dilemma of escaped slaves turning up at his Virginia fort in 1861, has real humor and charm.
When Thom Hofrichter first asked me to read the play, I found the script to be a real page turner. What would this gruff general do with these escaped slaves? The Fugitive Slave Act of 1855 required him by United States law to return them as property if anyone showed up to claim these slaves.
The two main characters, General Benjamin Butler and the escaped slave, Shepard Mallory, are real characters from our difficult past. The dilemma they face in this play is a dramatization of the real dilemma they faced in 1861.
Luckily, I had four of the top actors in Fort Wayne show up to be cast in our humorous and charming play: Thom Hofrichter, Tony McCarrol, Kevin Torwelle, and Robert Phillips.
With these fine actors, we have had a challenging and fulfilling journey to discover the humor and pathos in this play that brings two disparate individuals together only to realize they are exactly alike. However, the real drama lies in the question, “Will General Butler return these slaves?” After all, he is a lawyer, that is the law, and Shepard Mallory is rather irritating!
Ben Butler previews Thursday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. (all seats $12—no presale—available at the door). The play then runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. from April 19 through May 4, with one Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on April 28. Tickets are $20 general admission, $18 for patrons age 65+, and free for the first 30 full-time students per performance who make reservations. All seating is festival seating (first come, first served) and doors will open 30 minutes prior to curtain.
Usually at FPT, if you are deciding last minute most nights you can walk up and get a ticket the night of the show. You can also buy tickets, as well as find out all about FPT, by going to our website, firstpresbyteriantheater.com.