BEN BUTLER By Richard Strand Comes To Portland Stage
Ben Butler by Richard Strand begins Sep 25 through Oct 21, opens for reviewers Friday September 28, 2018. When a runaway slave demands sanctuary at a Union Army garrison, the General in charge is faced with moral quandary: follow the letter of the law, or make a game-changing move that could alter the course of US history? "...Part comedy, part historical drama and part biography... by turns sarcastic, droll and witty." NY Times
Anita Stewart, Executive and Artistic Director of Portland Stage shared this "We are excited to be producing Ben Butler this fall. We are very fortunate to be able to bring the play to Portland, because it is slated for a production on Broadway. Portland Stage is the last regional theater to get the rights to produce it before its Broadway run. It is a great play with so much history, a great mix of repartee, and surprising dose of comedy. The real Benjamin Butler was a graduate of Colby College, so it just seems right to have it here in Maine."
Ben Butler is a historical comedy set in the early days of the Civil War. Shortly after Virginia seceded from the Union Sheppard Mallory and two other enslaved men fled across the river to Fort Monroe, run by the newly arrived Benjamin Butler. This historical moment would change the course of the war as Butler made the legal decision to keep southern runaways free from their slave owners in the confederacy. Strand's play examines the absurdity of this moment with an equally absurd play.
Actor Ron Orbach, a popular face in film and television, will head the cast playing the formidable Benjamin Butler and had this to say "Ben Butler is about a man and a moment in history that has long been relatively unknown. The man was both celebrated and reviled in his lifetime, for being both an egotist and a man of the people who was famous for taking up causes of the underdog and the disadvantaged. The events of the play cover the early days of the Civil War, when Butler was confronted with the volatile situation of fugitive Negro slaves, and what to do about them. He chose to go against the grain, and his decision to offer them sanctuary, against the law of the land at the time, became the catalyst for President Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation only a year and a half later. Butler's decision not only eventually broke the color barrier in the military, but in all likelihood turned the tide of the war in the Union's favor. The play is so literate and filled with sharp humor that I immediately fell in love with it and knew I wanted to do it. Playwright Richard Strand has found a captivating way to tell this story that addresses the seriousness of the issues of race relations, war, politics, class and morality, while pointing out the hypocrisy and flaws of all those involved. It is endlessly entertaining while illuminating some issues and events that remain as relevant today as they were more than 150 years ago."
BENJAMIN BUTLER AS HISTORIC FIGURE
Ben Butler by Richard Strand is based on true occurrences that happened. Benjamin Butler graduated from Colby College in Maine in 1838, and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1840. During part of the Civil War, he commanded Fort Monroe.
Richard Strand's career as a playwright began in 1976 when he wrote his first play, Harry and Sylvia, which was eventually adapted into the full-length version called Clown. Two of his plays, The Bug and The Death of Zukasky, published by Dramatists Play Service, Inc., premiered at The Actors Theatre at Louisville's Humana Festival. He currently lives in California with his wife, Mary Lynn. He is a professor, technical director, and set designer at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, where he teaches Stagecraft, History of Theater, and Playwriting.
Ben Butler premiered at New Jersey Repertory in 2014 and opened off-Broadway at 59E59 in 2016. The show has gone on to regional productions and it seems another New York production is in the works.
Ron Orbach BIO (Benjamin Butler)
Ron Orbach (Ben Butler), has had a varied, distinguished career on the stage, in film, TV and voice over. Broadway: Neil Simon's LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR (Ira Stone, the role based on Mel Brooks, 1993). Later starred as Max Prince (the role based on Sid Caesar) in the Chicago premiere (1994), on the national tour (1995) and at A Contemporary Theater in Seattle, where he also directed (1996); CHICAGO (Also, the first Amos on the first national tour/Chicago's Jeff Award, 1998); DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES; NEVER GONNA DANCE; SOUL DOCTOR.
Off-Broadway: Harry Chapin: LIES & LEGENDS, Village Gate; also, Apollo Theater Center, Chicago (Equity Card, 1983) and Pasadena Playhouse (LADCC Award, Best Ensemble, 1988); Neil Simon's HOTEL SUITE (Roundabout); Mark St. Germain's, THE GOD COMMITTEE (Domenick Piero/The Lambs); Shem Bitterman's THE JOB (Martin/WPA); The Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH (CSC).
Regional Theater: Sagot, in Steve Martin's, PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE (Old Globe, San Diego); Bretzky, in Nathan Englander's, THE TWENTY-SEVENTH MAN (Old Globe, San Diego); Bottom in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (Chicago Shakespeare Theater; 2012 Jeff Nomination for Best Actor); Tevye, in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (Sacramento Music Circus); Pseudolus, in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM (Denver Center); Mr. Foreman/Marlowe, in ENTER LAUGHING (Berkshire Theater Festival); David O. Selznick in the world premiere of Ron Hutchinson's MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS (The Goodman); Multiple roles in Brickman & Ellis's, TURN OF THE CENTURY (starring Jeff Daniels, directed by Tommy Tune); and Al in Arthur Kopit's ROAD TO NIRVANA (Odyssey Theater Ensemble, LA Weekly Award, Best Actor, 1991)
Film: Most memorable big screen performance: The DMV Tester in Amy Heckerling's, "Clueless". Recent TV: "Girls". Mr. Orbach is also an acting coach and a director (LA's Ovation Award for Jim McGrath's THE ELLIS JUMP, 1996).