History professors teach about national heroes and people often view these men and women as flawless saints. One of the nation's most defining eras was the Civil War and while the stories of Confederate heroes are better known here, most are seen as one-dimensional figures.
Playwright and actor Tom Dugan has researched his personal hero, General Robert E. Lee, in detail. The result of his passion is a one-man show, "Shades of Gray." Dugan's portrayal of Lee's story reveals a different twist on the hero's life.
Dugan will perform his show at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Emma Kelly Theater. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for youth.
Dugan said the play reveals characteristics of Lee that are often untold, such as his views on slavery and the Union. The most famous Confederate general was, in fact, anti-slavery and pro-Union. Why then did he command the soldiers of the Confederate South?
"The first thing that struck me about Lee's story was that the fascinating parts have never been explored in any theatrical performance," Dugan said. "There are many contradictions within his life, and that makes for an interesting story."
Shades of Gray is dedicated to Francis E. Dugan, Tom Dugan's father and a World War II veteran. Dugan found many similarities between Lee's experiences and his father's.
Using his father's war stories, Dugan said he is able to present emotional scenes that will resonate deeply with the audience not to glorify war, but to express the reality of its intensity.
"To make a play emotionally connect to an audience you should personally connect to it, as well," said Dugan. "I see both my father and Lee as humble heroes, which allows me to make that connection to this performance."
The three-dimensional story is neither black nor white, hence its title Shades of Gray. Dugan expressed that people cannot relate to characters with few flaws and perfect lives. He said he hopes his performance breathes reality into Robert E. Lee's life story.
"Lee had a terrific sense of humor," Dugan said. "I believe you will find the audience laughing more than they expect!"
Shades of Gray is sponsored by local attorney Lovett Bennett, Jr.
To purchase tickets visit the Emma Kelly Box Office through Friday 1 to 5 p.m. or by calling (912) 212-2787.