By Richard Strand

Directed by Joseph Discher

Originally produced at New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch, NJ.

June 12, 2014 through July 13, 2014

About the Premiere Production

The play is based on a historic figure, that of General Benjamin Butler, a highly controversial Union commander who gained notoriety at the start of the American Civil War when he defied his superiors and refused to return runaway slaves to their Southern masters despite the still active Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. President Lincoln had forbidden his commanders by military directive to offer asylum to runaway slaves but Butler defied the order risking court-martial and dismissal. As a highly trained lawyer, he gradually concocted a scheme to get around the law by declaring that the slaves were aiding the Southern cause by building roads and fortifications and therefore were military tools and implements of war of the Confederacy. As such, he reasoned, the slaves were not individuals but military contraband that could be confiscated and taken from their owners under the Articles of War. This radical interpretation ultimately became the official policy of the Union and of President Lincoln.

Artistic Statement

Butler is a unique play that deals with the issues of slavery, the American Civil War, and the moral and ethical dilemmas that faced our country and threatened to destroy the Union in the greatest upheaval in our nation’s history. The play is very timely given the recent attention and re-examination that the subject has received, with films as varied as 12 Years A Slave by John Ridley, Lincoln by Steven Spielberg, Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino, and a recent television documentary Killing Lincoln. Despite its importance it is rarely addressed on stage, especially in such an accessible yet probing manner. 

-Gabor Barabas, Executive Producer

Grant Statement

The grant from the Edgerton Foundation allows us to expand our rehearsal time by two weeks, refine the script, and provide the actors and director sufficient space to explore the complex characters and themes.

-Gabor Barabas, Executive Producer

Director: Joseph Discher

Additional Funders:

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

The Shubert Foundation

The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust