William Alexander Guerry

1861 - 1928
Bishop, Reformer, and Martyr

In June 1928, William Alexander Guerry, a bishop of the Episcopal Church, was shot and killed in Charleston, South Carolina. Until recently, his death and the events leading to it have been largely forgotten. Thomas Tisdale’s original play, Truth in Cold Blood, restores the memory of this tragedy to a place where it can – as all history strives to do – lead people to a better understanding of how to face the future while, at the same time, confronting the past and present.

In his play, Tisdale dramatizes, for the first time, the story of what led to the shooting and how it happened. It also suggests the elements of the human frailty that brought it all about.

As the lines of the play reveal in this dramatic rendition of the events leading to his death, it becomes clear that what happened is a certain mirror of our time. The unfolding plot vividly translates the societal injustices of an earlier day and lays them on the doorsteps of people living in the 21st century. The events ending in the tragedy of Bishop Guerry’s death are powerfully portrayed and the conflicts in human nature are clearly focused, still begging for obvious but elusive solutions.

The fact is the bishop’s death came about at the hands of a priest who shot him in cold blood in broad daylight on the grounds of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, just across the street from where his body now lies in the churchyard under a tall Celtic cross for all to see. But how and for what he died is now largely unknown but to a few.

Bishop Guerry was driven by a sense of racial justice grounded in a need for the diverse unity of all people that put him far ahead of his time. It cost him his life. The priest who shot him honestly held different views of justice.

Bishop Guerry has been politely requesting a hearing of his story in order to bring about healing. The truth, indeed, is worth fighting for; truth, ultimately, can bring healing.

The Venerable Calhoun Walpole
Vicar, Grace Episcopal Church
Archdeacon, The Episcopal Church in
South Carolina
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Stage Reading - June 2014 - Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Chruch

Robin Burke (Bishop Guerry) and Bradley Keith (Rev. Albert Thomas) present a staged reading from “Truth in Cold Blood” at a recent conference at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church in Litchfield Beach, SC. The play, which chronicles the 1928 assassination of Bishop William Alexander Guerry, will be presented July 16 – 20 at the Dock Street Theatre in Charleston. A limited number of tickets for the opening performance and gala are available at (843) 509-0286; tickets for the four additional performances are available at www.etix.com.

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Unity Productions Limited, a non-profit, educational and theatrical company, was organized in 2013 to present its premier production, Truth in Cold Blood. The play dramatizes the tragic events surrounding the murder of Bishop William Alexander Guerry in 1928 at St. Philip’s Church in downtown Charleston, SC. Truth in Cold Blood will run July 16 – 20, 2014 at the historic Dock Street Theatre, less than a hundred feet from where Bishop Guerry was murdered.

Richard Futch

Richard Futch, CSA, is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, Mr. Futch began his professional theatrical career in New York under the guidance of the late Michael Shurtleff, renowned Broadway casting director, playwright and author. He worked with Mr. Shurtleff on major Broadway productions, including Pippin, Miss Moffat and Chicago.

During his 15 years in New York, Mr. Futch also directed more than 30 off-off-Broadway, regional and showcase productions. In November 2013, he returned to his theatre roots as Director of “True Fans” by Bill Rosenfield in its premiere at The Abbey Theatre in Orlando.

A partner in Futch-Mullins Casting since 1990, Mr. Futch has been responsible for casting both principal actors and background talent for feature films, including The Notebook, directed by Nick Cassavetes. In 2006, he was selected as the Casting Director for Lifetime/ABC Studios series, Army Wives, filmed in Charleston, and continued as Casting Director for six seasons and more than 100 episodes.

Mr. Futch was instrumental in forming a local, grass roots group of film professionals in 1998 to form the Carolina Film Alliance (CFA) and served as the organization’s founding President. CFA is now a statewide organization. In 2010, he was again elected to the Board of Directors and currently serves as CFA President. He was graduated from The Citadel following service in the United States Air Force.

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Thomas Tisdale

Thomas Tisdale, the author of Truth In Cold Blood, is a writer and lawyer living in Charleston. South Carolina. He is a former president of the South Carolina Historical Society and of the South Carolina Bar. Tisdale is the author of the biography A Lady of the High Hills: Natalie Delage Sumter, and has written many published essays related to the history of South Carolina. He was the Executive Producer of the play South by Julian Green. Tisdale is a founder of The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge/USA, the American branch of the oldest English missionary society that publishes and distributes Christian literature worldwide.

A graduate of the University of the South and The University of South Carolina Law School, Tisdale has served on many educational and civil boards including Voorhees College, The University of the South, Porter Gaud School, The Southern Education Foundation, The South Carolina Historical Society, and Spoleto Festival, USA.

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The Venerable Calhoun Walpole

The idea for this play originated with the Venerable Calhoun Walpole, who is Vicar of Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston and Archdeacon of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

While at Sewanee, she began to connect the dots as to the reasons behind the Bishop’s death. Walpole first preached on the story of Bishop Guerry on Palm Sunday in 2007, when the Gospel text came from Luke: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” She then worked closely with writer William Baldwin as they further researched the facts of the events leading up to the Bishop’s death. Baldwin’s poem, “On the Death of Bishop Guerry,” can be found on the last page of the play. She then aided Sewanee professors Don S. Armentrout and Samuel R.Williamson, Jr., in preparing the article “Sewanee Priest Murders Sewanee Bishop,” which appeared in Sewanee Perspectives: On the History of the University of the South, published in 2008.

In 2009, the Reverend Canon J. Michael A. Wright, Rector of Grace Church, Charleston, instituted the feast day for Bishop Guerry, and his story began to be told each year at Grace on the date closest to June 9, the day of the Bishop’s death. That same year, Walpole asked Thomas Tisdale to effect the writing of a play on the subject. She worked closely with Tisdale as he wrote Truth in Cold Blood.

Walpole is a native of John’s Island and graduate of Clemson University and the University of the South School of Theology, Sewanee.

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Margaret Mullins

Margaret Mullins, Unity Productions business manager, is a partner in Futch-Mullins Casting.

Her film casting credits range from The Notebook, The Hunley and Die Hard with a Vengeance, national commercials for Cadillac, McDonnell Douglas, Citgo and Walgreens to national print projects including Pfizer, Neiman Marcus, BMW and Boeing/Air India. She is a founding board member of the Carolina Film Alliance. Mullins additionally has worked in public relations and publications in Washington, DC, New York as well as Charleston. In 1988, she and Richard Futch co-authored and produced an original play, Love by the Rules, selected for that season’s Piccolo Spoleto. A native of Charleston, Mullins is a graduate of The University of South Carolina School of Journalism.

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New Drama Reveals Story Surrounding 1928
Murder of
William Alexander Guerry

Tisdale’s “Truth in Cold Blood” debuts July 16 at Dock Street Theatre

The nearly forgotten story of a southern Episcopal bishop murdered by one of his own peers in 1928 will surface this summer here at the historic Dock Street Theatre, less than a hundred feet away from where the incident occurred.

Thomas Tisdale’s original play, “Truth in Cold Blood,” dramatizes for the first time the story of the shooting and death of Bishop William Alexander Guerry and the events leading up to how it happened. Tisdale, an attorney and writer in Charleston, serves as Chancellor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

“Bishop Guerry was gunned down in his office at St. Philip’s Church by a disgruntled priest,” said Tisdale. “In writing this play, my goal was to bring to life the reasons for this now forgotten tragedy, and to force us to confront the deep societal issues that continue to divide our communities in our own time.”

The play, produced by Unity Productions, will make its national premier on Wednesday, July 16 at the Dock Street Theatre with a gala reception at Hibernian Hall following the performance. Four additional performances are scheduled through Sunday, July 20. A cast of 15 actors will portray the many characters directly involved with both the Bishop and his assassin.

“The knowledge that we in South Carolina had a bishop who was shot and killed had always haunted me,” said The Rev. Calhoun Walpole, who worked closely with Tisdale for more than two years to bring about the new play, published in summer 2013. Walpole is Archdeacon of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and Vicar at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston. “Bishop Guerry was driven by a sense of racial justice that put him far ahead of his time and it cost him his life. The disgruntled priest who shot him, honestly held different views of justice,” Walpole added.

“Truth in Cold Blood” is being directed by Richard Futch, who has directed more than 40 stage productions in New York, Connecticut, Florida and locally. Futch, a member of the Casting Society of America (CSA), has also served as casting director for more than 100 film and commercial projects, including most recently the Lifetime television series “Army Wives.”

“Until last summer, I had never heard about the assassination of Bishop Guerry,” said Futch. “Through Tom’s words, we are able not only to tell the story as it actually happened but also to explore both sides of this tragedy in hopes of finding the truth and the healing that can come from that.”

He added, “This was a very difficult time and series of events, both for Charleston and the Episcopal Church. Fortunately, we are working with a cast of actors who are very skillful in bringing full dimension to the real-life characters involved in this tragedy.”

Reservations and tickets for the opening night performance and gala are $75 per person. To purchase tickets, please call (843) 509-0286. Reserved seating tickets to all other performances are $40 per person and will go on sale April 7th. Please call (843) 509-0286 to purchase tickets.

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Sponsorship Information

    All sponsors at every level will receive recognition in the “Truth in Cold Blood” programs handed out at each performance.

    For individual levels:

  • Presenting Sponsor - $5000+

    (includes 10 tickets for opening night performance and gala reception; special listing in program as a “Presenting Sponsor;” and pre-show reception at Dock Street Theatre)

  • Platinum Level - $2500

    (includes 8 tickets to opening night performance and gala reception and pre-show reception event at Dock Street Theatre)

  • Gold Level - $1000

    (includes 6 tickets to opening night performance and gala reception, and pre-show reception at Dock Street Theatre)

  • Silver Level - $500

    (includes 4 tickets to opening night performance and gala reception)

  • Bronze Level - $250

    (includes 2 tickets to opening night performance and gala reception)

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Unity Productions | 2014