"What would you do? If you had to choose between being a hero, doing the noble thing and never seeing anyone you loved again...what would you choose?"
This is one of many probing questions asked in THE LAST LIFEBOAT. It tells the story of J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line. Ismay was an upper crust Englishman who always did what was expected of him. He went to the best schools, married the right society girl (even though he was in love with someone else), reluctantly took over the family business and did everything he could to please his cold, unforgiving, father. On his father's deathbed, he vowed that he would make him proud by building the biggest, grandest, most opulent ship the world had ever seen – the RMS Titanic. What an accomplishment!
We all know the story of how the Titanic sank…or do we? Ismay saved as many people as he could, but felt that someone would need to set the record straight back home. With no women and children in sight, he stepped into the last lifeboat…and was branded a coward and a traitor forever.
The world needed a scapegoat for the sinking of the Titanic and Ismay became the perfect target. But why him?
He had a powerful enemy in the United States - newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst. He condemned Ismay nationwide before the rescue ship Carpathia even landed in New York. William Alden Smith was a Joseph McCarthy-like senator of his day who led a witch hunt style investigation into this high-profile disaster. Although there was no solid evidence against Ismay, Senator Smith managed to drag the hearings on for months. More than 3,000 passengers brought lawsuits against the White Star Line for loss of life and property, which only fueled the intense survivor’s guilt Ismay was already feeling. He spent the rest of his days as a recluse at his estate in Ireland, haunted by the ghosts of that fateful night to the point of near insanity. Shadows of victims like John Jacob Astor, Captain William Smith and the nameless faces of immigrants who drowned appear to him in flashbacks of that horrible event for the rest of his life.
THE LAST LIFEBOAT tells a story about the Titanic that has never been told. In the style of The Laramie Project or the RSC's Nicholas Nickleby, the stage version is intended to be presented with minimal scenery and costumes and a few, simple set pieces. The ensemble cast plays multiple roles and can be presented with as few as seven actors, or it can be expanded to more than forty, depending upon the needs of your producing organization. This epic story deals not only with the disaster itself, but the sensationalized trials and the aftermath of an event that changed the world forever.