Abraham Lincoln play to explore president's Centre connections
RELEASED: June 12, 2008
"I'm basing the historian character on a professor of mine from Berea College," Campbell says. "Wonderful teacher. No names, though."
The play, written by Mike Norris, director of communications, and directed by Patrick Kagan-Moore, Hazelrigg Professor of Dramatic Arts, focuses on Lincoln's relationship with John Todd Stuart, an 1826 Centre alum. According to the real Lincoln, in an autobiographical sketch, it was Stuart who encouraged him to study for the bar instead of pursuing a career as a blacksmith at age 23. When Lincoln protested that he had nothing to study, Stuart loaned Lincoln his law books and after his friend passed the bar, accepted him into his law practice. The two remained friends until Lincoln's death in 1865, when Stuart headed the National Lincoln Monument Association.
"Playing John Todd Stuart," says Will Johnston, "gave me a opportunity to get in touch with my Centre roots and discover the important role the College has played in the history of this country. Beyond that, Stuart was a complicated man who seems to have felt competitive with his protege on some level, but was still a big enough person to acknowledge Lincoln's greatness.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for audiences, both local and from out of town, to discover the friendship between Lincoln and Stuart,” Johnston continues. “Not only will they see the professional connection between the two, but a profoundly personal side as well.”
Norris says he was inspired to write the play as part of the College's "Year of Lincoln" activities. The "Year of Lincoln" aims to both celebrate and explore the life of America's 16th president as the 200th anniversary of his birthday approaches, and to acknowledge Stuart's role in Lincoln's road to the White House.
Dorrell, who plays Lincoln, has worked as a Lincoln presenter for more than a decade and was awarded the honor of Best Lincoln Presenter in America in 2003. Norris says that he counts himself fortunate to be working with such national-quality talent.
"The play features three main actors and we have three standouts. Dean Dorrell is not only a nationally acclaimed 'one man show,' but a fine actor as well. He brings a convincing dignity and depth to his portrayal of Lincoln. Stan Campbell captures the intensity of a compulsive teacher in a way that's comic and serious at the same time. And Will Johnston brings John Todd Stuart to life as a competitive trial lawyer, who despite his competitiveness, can appreciate Lincoln's gifts.
Saxton's Cornet Band will augment the play with an opening and closing of Civil War tunes. Regarded as one of today's most historically accurate ensembles, Saxton's Cornet Band uses Civil War era instruments and brings the music from the mid-19th century to life with haunting authenticity.
Audiences can expect a heartwarming tale as Stuart and Lincoln are reunited once again after centuries apart in this narrative which is an imaginative interpretation of the historical record. In Norris' words "some of this is made up, but it's mostly true." Much of Lincoln's monologue is in Lincoln's own words, as compiled by Dean Dorrell.
Admission is free and open to the public. The play is funded in part by the Kentucky Historical Society, the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Danville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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