Kenneth Butler was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire when it was still a blue-collar seaport town. He graduated from Portsmouth High School just as the city was discovered by the artistic, then the financially comfortable, and began on a course that has concluded with a fine and complete gentrification of the city. The most telling symbol for this transformation was the greasy-spoon Teddy’s Lunch on Market Square morphing into Cafe Brioche.
Butler was a film studies major at Emerson College in Boston. In 1983, through connections there and sheer favoritism, he secured a job as a Story Editor for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures in Los Angeles, where he had a brief and undistinguished career writing script reports on the screenplays in the studio’s slush pile. Over the course of the next twelve years, he would return to Hollywood several times to work in various low-level capacities for MGM/UA, the Walt Disney Studios and Columbia Pictures. He also collaborated on five screenplays, all of which met with varying degrees of failure — or at least no success.
Somewhere in there he got married and divorced (no children), and traveled a half-dozen times to Europe, visiting England, Wales, France, Germany and Sweden.
He returned to New England in 1995 and enjoyed favorable productions of three full-length stage plays — Chinese Checkers, Cannibals (about the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961) and A Pound of Flesh. When he failed to secure productions by any major American theatre companies, he threw in the playwrighting towel.
In 1999 he received a BA in Creative Writing from Plymouth State University and taught History and Drama at the Woodward School for Girls in Quincy, Massachusetts from 2000-2007. He also taught eight summers at Phillips Exeter Academy, and one year at the Holderness School. It was during this period that he wrote his first two novels, The Ghosts of Swallowtail, about malevolent spirits in a girls school near Boston, and A Pound of Flesh, a comic caper novel that was also a fleshed-out, expanded narrative which taking its premise (disparate and desperate eccentrics fighting over Grigori Rasputin’s preserved penis) from his earlier play of the same title.
In 2012 he received an MFA in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, with authors Robert Begiebing, Katherine Towler, Merle Drown and Richard Adams Carey as his mentors. His third novel, Holy Fool, served as his master’s thesis.
He now lives in New England, where he teaches literature and film courses at a private prep school. He is at work on his fourth novel.
Butler was fortunate enough to have been a student in the Portsmouth High School Drama Department in the 1970’s, when Richard Gremlitz, Robin Albert and Wendell Purrington were creating landmark theatre there.
He went on to direct several productions for the PHS Department, including two state championship winners in the NH Drama Festival in 1996 and 1997. He also directed productions for Phillips Exeter Academy and Plymouth (NH) Regional High School.
Butler continued to act in college, and stage managed professionally at Seacoast Repertory Company in Portsmouth, as well other venues. In the summer of 1991, he was one of the company members in all five productions that season at the Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick, Maine.
The following year saw his first stage play, Chinese Checkers, produced professionally at Durham Centerstage in Durham, NH, directed by Nathaniel Aldrich. in 1993 his script Cannibals, about the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, was staged at The Player’s Ring in Portsmouth. 1996 again saw a production of an original play, A Pound of Flesh, at Durham Centerstage, this time directed by Roland Goodbody.
Butler also had a one-act, Gone Cat, staged in New York City and Newburyport, MA, as well as additional one-acts in Portsmouth and Manchester, NH.
Butler’s last performance as an actor was as Polixenes in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale at The Players’ Ring in 2008.