The story behind the story of Ben Butler

The play Ben Butler is based on real facts and real people. The play is a comedy, however,Come see Ben Butler in those early dayes of the Civil War, it is unlikely the participants saw the events unfolding in front of them as comedic. They were matters of life and death.

However, the play’s author, Richard Strand, stradles the line between reality and comedy in a way like none other. To quote the New York Times:

It’s part comedy, part historical drama and part biography, often all at once, and sometimes none of those. Yet the show is easy enough to review. Just call it splendid.

. . . .

At the end, it’s still not entirely clear how to classify this two-hour show. But such questions are beside the point. Only one category really matters to theatergoers — good play. Into that slot, “Butler” fits effortlessly.

Undoubtledly, BAT’s 2017-18 season opening play Ben Butler (September 29 thru October 22, 2917) is a good play, great even, but from what facts did the play arise? The best article on the events of May 23, 1861, I have found so far, is from the New York Times, read it here: Great article on the story behind Ben Butler

It is not too early to get your tickets HERE for BAT’s season opening play! (Come on opening night and enjoy BAT’s free opening night party after the show on Seaptember 29.)

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Fun with Foster

I am starting this post while I wait for BAT’s final meeting with the student at the Foster School of Business at the UW.

Due to a rather odd set of occurrences, BAT was able to join forces with the Foster School of Business to see if we could get a handle on BAT’s economic impact on the City of Burien. It has been a very interesting trip. I have had the opportunity to get to know a handful of students and their corporate consultants. My faith has been renewed for the future of business.

This was the students’ first exposure to the odd world of non-profits and the especially odd world of non-profit theater. I was often asked questions like people — fill in the blank — (actors, designers, directors, stage managers) work for THAT amount of money? I would always explain, BAT would like to pay more, but with a 94 seat house and no trust fund, that is the most we can pay. Nevertheless, the students were impressed and their eyes were opened to the idea that not everything one does is for the money. A good lesson for those at a school of business.

The students came to see a show and were very impressed with the whole experience, from the production values to the kindness of BAT’s volunteers. (Plus they liked the cocktails designed for the show.) Again, a good lesson on what you can do on next to nothing with great people volunteering to help.

For my part, I was very impressed with how bright the students were. It has been a long time since I studied statistics and data analysis, but these students had it down, and then some.

I have not yet seen the final report, and don’t really have a good idea what BAT’s economic impact is on Burien, but I am very confident what these students find will be very accurate. As I said, the amount of work that went into this study was very impressive. Continue reading

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Why don’t they come?

Talking to a patron after the last performance of BAT’s Playwrights Festival. She asked, “With you doing such great theater, why don’t more people come?”

She was telling the truth, BAT does not sell out every performance. Our record is 14 sell-outs out of 15 performances. But for most shows, some performances are less than sold out.

Still, I think the patron got the question backward. It is not, why don’t more people come and see a show, the real question is, why do so many people come to see BAT’s shows?

Those who do come to the show are treated to better live theater. And that is not just a marketing phrase. BAT produces some of the very best theater in the region, and I dare say the Country.

First, BAT looks for interesting scripts. As we say, you can stream/watch a $200 million dollar movie without having to put on pants, so what does BAT offer to get you to get off the sofa, into your car and then into the theater? It must be a compelling story, told well. (At least BAT has free onsite parking, taking away some of the drama of going to the theater in Seattle.) Continue reading

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As the City of Seattle plans on running its parking meters until 11 pm on a daily basis, first in Queen Anne and then throughout the City, the question of theater and parking comes to the forefront.

Want to have dinner and catch some theater? Now, you can park in Seattle, pay for a couple of hours of parking before the meters stop charging. Just buy your parking stamp and have dinner, and then go to the show. If you can walk to both dinner and the theater from where you park, no big deal. But if the meters charge until 11, it gets more complicated. Can you eat and see a show in just two hours? Three? Maybe not.

At BAT we have plenty of free onsite parking. Even with a sell-out, crowd BAT’s lot will hold your car. If not, there is free street parking on the edges of BAT’s parking lot. True we do not have much food in easy walking distance, but in Burien, all of the street parking is free. A few pay lots have popped up, put their use is minimal.

The impact of theater, beyond sharing stories and seeing the world through other’s eyes, is economic. People who attend theater like to eat, drink and shop before and after the show. BAT is working with the Foster School of Business to take a closer look at this. But to eat, drink and shop takes time. Time with a parked car.

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Meet and greet at Foster

Met the full group at the Foster School of Business who will be working with BAT. Nice group of people.

There were a dozen folks in suits and me. While I believe this will be a very good experience, I can see there will be a little culture clash.

Young business students faced with the madness that is theater. We can put a show on for what they spend on coffee in a month. We are going the have a “site visit” soon. I can hardly wait to see they go through BAT’s office, a corner of the costume room.

I have already got to try to explain the business model of a nonprofit theater to people who are used to seeing the corpora ladder as a playground. The future leaders of corporate America looked puzzled by the idea that BAT’s shows do not cover our expenses and it is only because the kindness of people like you making a DONATION that BAT stays alive.

While this project is about BAT’s economic impact on Burien, I can see all of us will be learning something. (I am already learning the economic jargon. Let’s talk deliverables.)

At our next meeting, we’ll have more time to get to know each other. I am looking forward to this journey, and I already like the students that BAT will be working with.

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Guest review of weeks one and two of the playwrights festival

Review by Clair Enlow

Better together

Two women, a goddess and a mortal one, try to get it right in marital dramas
At Burien Actors Theatre

In two plays at Burien Actors Theatre, Hera and Carol are being themselves, trying to make things better in that most ubiquitous and freighted of human relationships, marriage.

They Walk Among Us, by Kirsten McCory, is a half-hour one-act. The main course is a full-length play, Escorting Tom, by Duane Kelly. They are presented as a double header, running through April 23, at Burien Actors Theatre (BAT), 14501 4th Ave SW, Burien, as part of BAT’s 2017 Playwrights Festival. A different pairing of shows, Winter People and The Law of the Sea, will run from April 28-May 7 in the Festival.

Two couples are muddling through to an unknown end, mixing the storied and eternal with the brutally and hilariously real. It’s a rich evening of laughs and moving moments, mixing the timeless with the heartbreakingly temporal, ancient with modern.

They Walk Among Us brings us Zeus and Hera (yep, none other than the couple at the top of the ancient Greek pantheon) living in an American suburb and dealing with—what else—their marital issues. Only she’s doing all the emotional heavy lifting (sound familiar?) and he is the issue: a compulsive womanizer who is simply being himself. She struggles to improve him or adapt to him, with the help of her therapist. But in the beginning, as in the end, she is herself, too—an unchanging and unchanged being.

After an intermission comes the main course, Escorting Tom, about a modern couple facing the final segment of life, with no certainty. Tom and Carol are stuck somewhere between life and death, love and loss, one life and the next. Clueless and knowing, respectively, they try to negotiate with fate and win, and Carol enlists the help of a professional. Escorting Tom is a comic setup that the Burien group exploits to the brim, with tragic undertones and ribald moments (condoms from Costco?).

Both plays have just three characters: a couple with a woman as protagonist, in control of herself and trying to steer the marital ship, with a loose cannon of a husband on deck. Hera and Carol each make projects of their men and their respective relationships. The third role in both plays happens to be a female foil, brought into the story because her counterpart within the couple is just trying to get expert help. Goddess Hera’s all-too-human goals are utterly futile. As the erstwhile protagonist in , Carol’s lawyerly strategies are applied with very mixed results, but with life-affirming effects in the end. It makes us glad we are living in the modern world, after all.

-Clair Enlow

Disclosure: Clair Enlow is Duane Kelly’s life partner

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First look back

As BAT’s 2016-17 season draws to a close with the Playwrights Festival, opening April 14 – GET YOUR TICKETS HERE – BAT took a little time to look back during tech rehearsals,

This season has been fun and successful. BAT’s bank account is lower than it should be, but there is still time to fix that. DONATE HERE and don’t forget to give to BAT at GiveBig on May 10. BAT has lined up matching grants for GiveBig that total $5,250, but to get that money you have to give. Some of the grants are in the form of double matches and some are single matches, but BAT needs your help to “earn” the matching grants.

The thing that caused me to pause during tech, is just how many people and how much stuff it takes to do theater. First the stuff. Because the Festival consists of four shows, two shows per performance for two weeks then two different shows for two more weeks, it is stuff times four. Looking around the theater tonight, there is stuff everywhere.

The props and set pieces to produce four shows are spilling out of the theater and out of the office. Still, because BAT has gathered stuff over the last 37 years, BAT can do four shows at once without breaking the bank. Stretching the bank, yes. Breaking it, no.

2016-17 was a year with lots of great donations. New sofas in the hallway and much needed stylish chairs. (If you are downsizing, let BAT know.) Now where to store all these great new things?

This Summer, BAT hopes to clear out some of the stuff we do not use from storage to make room for the new stuff. It’s tough. What do you keep? What goes away?

When it comes to people, BAT has the best creative team. But one thing I have noticed, we start the season with lots of volunteers. Then all season long the number of volunteers goes down. This season, by the time we reached the Festival, BAT was dangerously low on volunteers. We had just enough people to make the festival work, but there was no room for anyone to miss a day. I like it better when BAT has plenty of help.

With all of the extra work that goes into producing four shows at once, there is a very good reason why BAT only produces the Festival on odd numbered years.

I am sure BAT will look back again, once the Festival is over. For now, we’ll look forward to seeing at the shows! TICKETS

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A bit of bacon

Theater requires a great number of skills. It is always grand when you find someone

Top side of the bacon

who has the unique skill set you are looking for. Cyndi is one of those people. Cyndi is creating props for the Playwrights Festival – get your TICKETS HERE. She has help BAT many times before.

Here is a bit of her magic. Bacon! Yes, she created bacon out of felt and a Sharpe. Pictured are both sides, so you can see it is not real bacon.

Why create bacon? In this case, it will be on stage for three full weeks, and real bacon . . . well . . . not so nice after sitting out for

Back side of the bacon

two weeks of performances plus tech week.

While BAT cannot say this bacon tastes good, it sure looks great!

Come see the Bill & Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival DETAILS HERE and catch a glimpse of Cyndi’s bacon.

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$100 a year

It is headed into donor season. BAT has a nice matching grant for the upcoming GiveBig (May 10, early giving begins April 27), and BAT will be asking for donations during the Bill & Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival. BAT needs these donations to make it through the Summer, so BAT is still around for its 38th season. You can make your donation HERE.

A kind donor wanted to make a reoccurring donation to BAT. These are great. They help balance out the ups and downs that make up the income stream for BAT. (You can give weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually.)

Once the donation was made, BAT got notice of a donation for $100 a year now through 2029. BAT took that as quite as a vote of confidence! The donor was so sure BAT would still be producing better live theater in 12 years that he made a donation every year through 2029. This was unique. So, I gave the donor a call.

I told the donor that BAT loved the vote of confidence. He seemed confused. After a bit, it became clear that he intended a donation every month for a year, not once a year for a dozen years. We both had a good laugh.

After a few clicks on my part, things were fixed, and now BAT gets $100 every month for a year. Big BAT smile.

BAT is getting ready for Summer when we pay rent, insurance, update the theater, and pre-pay royalties for the upcoming season. All of that takes money. You make all of that possible. DONATE HERE.

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Bill & Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival – 2017

It’s back! The Bill & Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival! Four award-winning new works over four weekend. The best of new works, all for you. You’re on the cutting edge of new live theater.

April 14 through May 7, 2017. All tickets are just $10 every performance. GET YOUR TICKETS HERE. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 pm. Sundays at 2 pm.

 April 14-April 23

THEY WALK AMONG US ” written by Kirsten McCory

One-act comedy in which the Greek gods Zeus and Hera move to the modern-day suburbs, and go into couples counseling.


ESCORTING TOM” written by Duane Kelly

Carol will be leaving her social inept and isolated husband, but her project to improve the life he will live in her absence goes off the rails in this full-length comedy-drama.

April 28-May 7

WINTER PEOPLE” written by Devin Rodger

One-act drama in which two recovering addicts try to find and understand who they were–and the truth might just heal them.


THE LAW OF THE SEA” written by D. Richard Tucker

A young widow in 1855 seeks answers to her husband’s death in a shipwreck in this full-length drama.

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