Serving Justice

Courting Harry explores the friendship between Supreme Court justices Harry Blackmun and Warren Burger.

Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun
Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun

It’s hard to believe that two of the 20th century’s greatest Supreme Court justices grew up as best friends in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul. And they turned out to occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum: Harry Blackmun was the great liberal, and Warren Burger a staunch conservative. But that’s the truth behind Courting Harry, a new play by Lee Blessing that gets its world premiere at History Theatre.

A New York producer commissioned Blessing to adapt Becoming Justice Blackmun, by Linda Greenhouse. “Then he died and his family wasn’t interested,” says History Theatre artistic director Ron Peluso. “I grabbed it up. It’s a perfect History Theatre match.”

The play takes place in the afterlife, when Blackmun comes back to talk about Burger. But Burger won’t let him. Joel Sass directs, with Clyde Lund as Blackmun and Nathaniel Fuller as Burger.

The play is being staged during the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, for which Blackmun wrote the opinion—which tore apart their relationship. (They had been best man at each other’s weddings.) “The play is less about politics and more about friendship,” Peluso says. March 2–24. History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul, 651-292-4323,—W.R.B.