John Brown:Trumpet of FreedomNorman Thomas MarshallNorman Thomas Marshall Photo

A TRIBUTE TO JOHN BROWN(from The Kansas Journal of Military History)
-by Norman T. Marshall

Actors often find themselves at odds with characters that they play.  But it is their obligation to allow the character to present himself to the audience without the actor condemning him.  I once portrayed a bounty hunter, a slave catcher on the underground railroad.  He was among the most evil characters that I have ever encountered.  Certainly, the equal of Iago, on the "dastardly" meter.  He was brutal, cruel, treacherous and mendacious, but he thought of himself as witty, gracious and charming as Cary Grant.   

But in the case of John Brown, there is little in his nature that I do not admire and even envy.  He is the perfect model for anyone who endeavors to have his life's work improve the world.  Brown, like Jesus Christ, made his life his testimony.  Neither held any public office or wrote a book.  Like Christ, Brown acted out of a pure love for his fellow creatures.  He had not an iota of self-interest in doing what he did.  Neither he nor any member of his family were slaves.  Indeed, at his first encounter with a chained and beaten African, he pledged to God his life to working for the abolition of the hateful institution.    

When it came time to literally give his life, he did so knowingly, willingly and even joyfully.  He climbed the gallow stairs stoically, the way a martyr should.   How noble!  How Christ-like!  How all-American!  

And yet, there are many whom I often encounter who will say things like they don’t “agree” with John Brown.  Indictments range from broad hysterical statements such as, “he was nothing but a horse thief” to “madman” to “deadbeat” and the penultimate argument, “he broke the law.” Indeed, he broke the law.  Breaking the law is often the necessary antecedent to an advancement in a society.  Just ask the Boston Tea Party crowd.  Just ask Jesus Christ.  If someone had not broken the law, we would  be living yet under the sovereignty of a Pharaoh.   

These objections invariably come from white people.  That deep stain of bigotry shows itself.  As if any white person who would extend so profound a kindness to his darker brethren is, by definition, insane.  It seems to be deep in the American consciousness.  It’s in the water.  We just can’t help it.  It is perhaps instructive to compare Harper’s Ferry with the Alamo.  In both instances, a few armed Americans were killed when they were overrun by a larger force.  But there the similarity ends.  At Harper’s Ferry the besieged men were fighting to end the great evil, slavery.  At the Alamo, their mission was to capture territory of a sovereign nation so as to extend slavery into the new territory.    

Brown wanted to save the souls of white Americans.  Our souls will not be saved until we embrace Brown’s mission.

Norman Thomas Marshall is a veteran of thirty-two years as a professional actor. He has participated in more than three hundred productions- stage, film, television and radio- as actor, producer or director. Marshall has shared the stage and screen with such notable preformers as F. Murray Abraham, Raul Julia, Moses Gunn, Bette Midler, Peter Reigert, Burt Reynolds, Telly Savalas, Barbara Streisand and Fritz Weaver. He has also appeared numerous times in a variety of daytime television dramas and is a familiar voice for some of the animated spots shown on the popular children's TV program Sesame Street.

Film Credits

Shamus (featured role) with Burt Reynolds
For Pete's Sake (featured role) with Barbara Streisand

Rx for the Defense (featured role) with Kevin Conway and Fritz Weaver


Kojak (featured role)  
 The Guiding Light (featured roles)
As the World Turns (featured roles)
 The Edge of Night (featured roles)
Texas (featured roles)
 Sesame Street (voiceover and writer)


 Three More Gone(Spring 1995)
 Blood Knot (with Moses Gunn)
 Blood Wedding (with Raul Julia)
  Of Mice and Men (with F.Murray Abraham)
 Charlie Was Here But Now He's Gone
 Boy on a Straightback Chair (Obie winner)
 Snow White (with Donald Barthleme)
 The Broken Pitcher (directed by Karl Weber)
 You Never Can Tell (by G.B. Shaw)
 Mandragola (Fra Timeteo)
 Gorilla Queen (title role)
 Vinyl (at Cafe Cino)
Vinyl Visits and FM Station
 Home/Work (at Astor Place Theatre)
 Hamlet (First Gravedigger)
 Julius Caesar (Marulus, Messala)
 The Winters Tale (Camillo at Columbia Univ.)
 The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden
 The Firebug (title role)
 A Little Wine With Lunch (Cabaret)
The Peoria Impromptu (Cabaret)
 The Westbeth Feminists Cabaret

Other Experience

Commercials (On-Camera and Voiceovers)

E-Mail: john.brown.drama@gmail.com

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