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November 26th, 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 without charge.

 In 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.  

The 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.