1864. The Civil War has reached it’s bloody heights. The death
toll approaches 600,000. Atlanta is
a smoldering ruin. Sherman’s Army marches across Georgia burning everything in
it’s path. Abraham Lincoln has
just been re-elected in a surprise victory sullied by his suspension of the
right of habeas corpus through-out the North . Three hundred anti-war newspapers
have been closed. Anti-war candidates have been thrown in jail. By the end of
the war 30,000 Americans in the North will have been arrested and imprisoned
New York the sons of the illustrious tragedian Junius Brutis Booth are about to
perform a one night benefit which will raise funds to erect the statue of
William Shakespeare that now stands in Central Park.
The play will be Julius Ceasar and it will be the only time in
their careers that all three brothers appear on stage together.
following day the middle brother, Edwin, working in collaboration with his
business-minded older brother Junius, will
premier a new production of Hamlet that will change the face of American
theatre for all time.
Youngest son, John Wilkes, in the wake of a violent argument with Edwin will
leave New York. Five months later he will assassinate President Lincoln at The
Ford Theatre, shouting “Sic sempter tyranis”
– “Thus always to
tyrants” the motto of the state of Virginia and a line attributed to Brutus in
the wake of his assassination of Caesar
Tyrants is a complex, at times gothic, family drama that asks important
questions about the relationship between politics and art.
It explores the complicate philosophical,
physiological and political roots of Wilkes decision to kill the
President. Those roots go deep into
the collective character of his family. The
action takes place as the family rehearse the play and stage it on a night when
Confederate spies (friends of John) try
to torch New York City. As their
dominant mother and fiercely pro-south sister engage in an emotional battle for
John’s soul, Edwin is torn with indecision.
He’s in deep in despair over the tragic death of his wife at a loss how
he can act save his brother from the ill-advised southern patriotism that may
soon destroying his life and haunted by memories of his own dead father who
Johnny so much resembles.