The Road to Appomattox

by Catherine Bush

Road To Appomattox
Bjørn Johnson, Tyler Pierce

Scenic Designer
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Properties Design & Set Dressing
Scenic Art
Production Stage Manager
Public Relations
Technical Director
Wig Designer
Dialect Coach
Set Construction
Master Electrician
Production Crew

Light Board Operator
Sound Board Operator
Stage Crew
Key Art
Production Photography

Brian Shnipper
David Potts
Dianne K. Graebner
Jared A. Sayeg
Dave Mickey
John McElveney
Orlando de la Paz
Leesa Freed
David Elzer/Demand PR
Robert T. Kyle
Rhonda O'Neal
Nike Doukas
Red Colegrove, Le Sanne Bernandez/Grove Scenery
Watson Bradshaw
Rene Parras Jr., Christopher Rivera,
Matt Tsang, Genetra Tull
Kathryn Horan
Heather Waters
Brian Cordoba,Rene Parras, Jr.
Michael Lamont

(in order of speaking)

Colonel Walter Taylor
General Robert E. Lee
Captain Russell
Steve "Beau" Weeks
Dr. Jenny Weeks

Shaun Anthony
Bjørn Johnson
Tyler Pierce
Brian Ibsen
Bridget Flanery
Tyler Pierce


Various locations along Lee's retreat trail from Richmond to Appomattox


The first week of April, 1865, and the Present

There will be one 15 minute intermission
Running time: Approximately 2 hours

The Road to Appomattox was commissioned by Barter Theatre (Abingdon, VA),
Richard Rose, Producing Artistic Director, as part of their Shaping of America series

A Note from the Playwright

Stuck on the Road to Appomattox

Barter Theatre, my playwriting home, is located in beautiful Abingdon, Virginia - a town that sits in the southwest tip of the state. Arlington House, General Robert E. Lee’s former home, is 350 miles to the north and east - and yet Lee’s presence is felt just as much here as there. In fact, all of the Commonwealth is haunted by this man who considered SurrenderVirginia his home first, last, and always. Lee Highway travels the length of the state. Washington College in Lexington (where he is buried) was renamed Washington & Lee in his honor. Monuments abound. The man is Legend.

So five years ago, on the eve of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, when Richard Rose (Barter’s Producing Artistic Director) asked me to write a play about Robert E. Lee, I was a bit daunted. How do you turn a Legend into a living, breathing person? How do you write him, warts and all, without alienating your very southern audience? And more importantly to me - a Yankee, born & bred - how do you make him accessible to the rest of the country? What could a modern audience take away from this man’s life? What can the Present learn from the Past?

Robert E. Lee was a career officer in the United States Army. He was opposed to secession. In 1861, when the politicians in Richmond voted to leave the Union, Lee found himself in a horrible predicament; he could either betray his country or take up arms against his home. The ultimate no-win situation. In other words, he was stuck.

Feeling "stuck" is a phenomenon we modern Americans encounter daily. Stuck in traffic. Stuck in jobs we hate. Stuck with mortgages we can’t afford, debt we may never pay off, or family members who push every button. Some of us, like Beau and Jenny, the present-day characters in the play, may even find ourselves stuck in marriages that aren’t working. What do we do? Do we fight to make it work? Do we surrender to the past? Do we stay stuck or find a way to march down the road?

On that fateful day in 1861, Robert E. Lee chose Virginia over his country. He chose to defend his home. Four years later, he found himself stuck once more, this time in a small hamlet called Appomattox Courthouse. The Union Army had him surrounded. We all know that Lee surrendered at Appomattox, but what many of you may not know is that surrender was not his only option. He had a choice, and in making the decision to surrender, he did as much to save the Union as Abraham Lincoln. He, and through him, the South, became “unstuck.” The Union was preserved.

150 years later, as we in this country continue to fight over the issues which divide us, I hope we take this present moment to remember the past fondly, then let it go. Instead of yearning for how it was, let us dream of how it may be, and march smartly into the future, a future where all have an equal chance at the American dream. Because no matter what race, sexual orientation, or religion we claim, we are all Americans now - north, south, east and west. Thank you, General Lee.

~ Catherine Bush


"Do you ever miss the old theatre?"

"Not for a minute."

I’ve had this exchange many times, the questioner always a subscriber who has been with us since the old days, before we came to Burbank.

Starting in 1975 and for the next 25 years, our home was a 99-seat theatre near Dodger Stadium. In our marketing materials we said we were in Silver Lake (which was cool even then), but actually we were located in an un-named, undistinguished part of LA we affectionately referred to as The Land That Time Forgot.

Despite this unfortunate location, we achieved a level of success that startles me even now. As people discovered us and told their friends, our subscriber base grew. I was always astonished to learn the distances some of our subscribers traveled to attend our shows. They came from everywhere - not just from our neighborhood and nearby communities, but from the West Side, Orange County, Ventura County, and the east San Gabriel Valley. By the early nineties, there were over 3,000 of them.

And that made it possible to fulfill the dream I had cherished since the day we started.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many 99-seat theatres in Los Angeles? It’s because professional theatre actors are members of Actors’ Equity Association, and are not permitted to work in theatre without an Equity contract that establishes wages and benefits. Except where the theatre seats fewer than 100 people, in which case Equity waives the requirement for a contract. There is no pay for rehearsals, a small stipend for performances, and no benefits.. Producing theatre is never easy, but those economics make it a lot less hard!

I have been a member of Actors’ Equity since 1967, and my Equity card is one of my proudest possessions. (To me, it gives dignity to a noble profession that has often had to fight for the smallest ounce of respect.) And my dream for The Colony was to be in a theatre large enough to pay its actors actual wages and meaningful benefits. The size of our loyal audience, and the generosity of the City of Burbank in providing us a 270-seat home, made it possible.

So, yes, in the old days I rarely had a sleepless night worrying about our finances, and I continue to have them now despite our recovery. But when I look at our stage and know that every actor up there is working under an Equity contract, I am filled with pride.

And I don’t miss the old days at all.

Barbara Beckley
Artistic Director


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