Gen. Benjamin Butler, one of Lowell's favorite historic sons, gets his on-stage close-up in Richard Strand's "Ben Butler" at the Gloucester Stage Company, Aug. 2-25.
Born in New Hampshire and raised in Lowell, Butler was one of President Abraham Lincoln's top generals in the Civil War. Strand's smart, funny play is a discourse on race, protocol and our sense of humanity.
The sharply comic play takes place in the middle of the Civil War, in 1861, at Virginia's Union-held Fort Monroe under the command of Gen. Butler. When three escaped slaves show up seeking sanctuary, Butler is faced with an impossible moral dilemma — follow the letter of the law and return the escapees back to the Confederacy, or make a game-changing move that could alter the course of U.S. history?
The bold, bright escapee, Shepard Mallory, demands an audience with Butler, and what ensues is a battle of wits between two equally formidable men at the edge of a country ripped in half.
Butler, a lawyer, championed the causes of labor, abolition of slavery, and naturalized citizens. After retiring from the battlefield, Butler was a settler of Gloucester's Bayview neighborhood (present-day Ames Estate is still inhabited by Butler's descendants), a presidential candidate and the 33rd governor of Massachusetts.
Ames Adamson is "gleeful" about reprising the role of Butler that he created in the 2014 world premiere and the critically acclaimed off-Broadway production in 2016. Joseph Discher, who helmed both of those productions, makes his Gloucester debut directing "Ben Butler" at GSC.
As part of the opening weekend's events, UMass Lowell professor Robert Forrant, a Butler historian, joins cast members and Butler's Bay View descendants for a talk Saturday at 2 p.m., at Cape Ann Museum. Performances of "Ben Butler" are Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday at 2 p.m. at 267 Main St., Gloucester. For tickets and info, visit www.gloucesterstage.com or call 978-281-4433.
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