The Trial of the Catonsville Nine: When 1968 becomes 2009

The Actors’ Gang returns to the Modlin Center (with Tim Robbins in tow!) for a timely production of The Trail of the Catonsville 9. Check out this preview of the show… and enter to win free tickets!

A couple of years ago, I went to see a production of 1984 by the Actors’ Gang at the Modlin Center for the Arts. Powerful, loud, and entertaining all at once, the performance got right in my ashamed face and reminded me pertly that opportunities to see world-class theatre should not be squandered. *

Tim RobbinsAre you ready to not squander??? The Actors’ Gang is coming back to the Modlin Center for the Arts next week for a production of The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, with artistic director Tim Robbins in tow (yes! Tim Robbins!). The dramatization of the trial of nine civilly disobedient Americans in 1968 who had been arrested for burning Vietnam War draft records with homemade napalm has been adapted from the original text, written by Rev. Daniel Berrigan, one of the nine themselves.  These eight men and one woman, all staunch Catholics and several actual members of the clergy, were moved by a seemingly endless war that conflicted with their religious and patriotic beliefs to stage this peaceful protest at the Selective Service office.

In the midst of another seemingly endless war, it’s easy to spot the motivations behind this play’s revival by the Actors’ Gang (based in Los Angeles). Diving farther into the history of each of the nine, as mediated by the prosecutor and judge, we are invited to compare their unwavering dedication to their personal faiths to the legal faiths on which we all depend. Are the rest of us necessarily less concerned with the fate of America’s sons and daughters because we do not create our own napalm, call the newspapers, and then use it to destroy public records while the world watches? Who sets our moral compass?

Tim Robbins will be hosting a talkback session after both performances (Tuesday, September 8 and Wednesday, September 9, performances begin at 7:30). If you’re new to Modlin talkbacks, you’ll enjoy a casual session in which Robbins answers questions from the audience and expounds sagely upon the spectacle you have just experienced. Tickets can and should be purchased online at or at the Modlin Center box office. The performance will take place at the Alice Jepson Theatre.

But wait! Thanks to the nice folks over at the Modlin Center, we’ve got two pairs of tickets to give away for Tuesday’s performance AND two pairs to give away for Wednesday’s performance. That’s eight tickets total! Go here to enter. The contest goes until noon on Friday.

*The other lingering effect is that I still bark out “YOU MUST BE PRECISE” sometimes, with the aim of making my unfortunate, imprecise comrades jump in their seats.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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