On April 9, 1865, the surrender at Appomattox ended the Civil War. Passover began the following day. The annual Jewish observance of freedom from slavery served as a remarkable parallel in that spring of 1865, because here in the South, another freedom from slavery was forging a new social order in the embers of the old one.
That’s the setting of Matthew Lopez’s The Whipping Man, a play currently in production at the Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville.
Passover 1865 is the time. A war-ravaged mansion in Virginia is the place. Caleb DeLeon, a Jewish man who fought for the Confederacy, returns to his wrecked home to find two of his former slaves. The three of them begin to grapple with the realities of their new lives, unable to completely shake the thoughts and prejudices of the old ones.
Steve Sherman plays Caleb DeLeon. Tramell Tillman and Daver Morrison play the two slaves John and Simon, respectively. On February 7, Sherman and Tillman spoke with WUOT All Things Considered host Brandon Hollingsworth about the play's larger themes.