Here are some of the many Lincoln-related theater offerings coming up in the next few weeks:
It’s always nice to drive over to Rushville, especially to see what’s playing at the historic Phoenix Opera House on the town square. On Saturday, Jan. 24, they are offering Lincoln Tales Tall and True at 7 p.m., performed by Prairie Folklore Theatre. This is a storytelling and musical performance, featuring some well-known and some little-known stories about the 16th president. Call 217-322-3078 for information.
Sangamon Auditorium is bringing well-known acoustic performers Jay Ungar and Molly Mason to Springfield for an Early Birthday Party for A. Lincoln, Saturday, Jan. 31, at 8 p.m. Ungar and Mason have been performing acoustic music since the 1970s and their performance of Ungar’s song “Ashokan Farewell” from the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War became a big hit. The concert will also feature the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Band. Call 206-6160 for ticket information or online at www.SangamonAuditorium.org.
Springfield Theatre Centre is staging the 19th-century comedy Our American Cousin at the Hoogland Center for the Arts over two weekends, Feb. 6-8 and 13-15. Pam Brown directs the Tom Taylor comedy, which was the play the Lincoln’s went to see at Ford’s Theatre the night of the assassination. Cousin is one of the few plays from the 1800s that still work today (and has a lot of laughs). It is definitely an old-fashioned melodrama and as we watch, we can think about the President and Mrs. Lincoln enjoying the comedy that fateful night. Call 523-2787 for tickets, or online at scfts.org.
A special performance for area schoolchildren will take place on Wed., Feb. 11, at 10:30 a.m. at the Prairie Capital Convention Center. The presentation centers on Lincoln’s Farewell Address to Springfield and features Lincoln favorite Fritz Klein and a cast of local actors. The performance is free and open to the public as well.
The Illinois Symphony performs a free family event concert titled “Let Freedom Sing!” on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.
A new show will be playing at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum: One Destiny by Richard Hellesen was commissioned by Ford’s Theatre in Washington and has been performed there the past two years. The ALPLM has the rights to begin presenting the one-act, 40-minute play, which will be performed several times a month. One Destiny takes a look at the assassination as seen through the eyes of theater manager Harry Ford and actor Harry Hawk (who was performing onstage when Lincoln was shot). Terry Jones and Ed MacMurdo will perform. Performances during Bicentennial week: Feb. 11 (3 p.m.), Feb. 12 (2:15, 4:15, 7:30), and Feb. 13 (3 p.m.). Find show information online at www.presidentlincoln.org or call Phil Funkenbusch at 785-6085.
Chicago actors Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller will perform their theatrical presentation Meet the Lincolns in the Union Theatre at the ALPLM Feb. 12 (11:15) and Feb. 13 (12 noon). The performances of both One Destiny and Meeting the Lincolns are free with museum admission (www.presidentlincoln.org).
Robert Davis will portray a Civil War soldier in A Soldier’s Story at the Lincoln Home on Feb. 12. Davis wrote the theater piece and plays a Civil War veteran reminiscing about his journey from slavery to freedom (Call Lincoln Home at 391-3221 for showtimes.)
The must-see theatrical offering has to be The Spirit of Lincoln. Ken Bradbury and Roger Wainwright have written this new musical, premiering at Jacksonville Theatre Guild Feb. 20-21 at the Sophie Leschin Theatre.
Commissioned by the Jacksonville Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, the show was created from interviews with dozens of people in central Illinois about their thoughts on Lincoln. These interviews are interspersed through the show, along with many other stories from those who knew Lincoln personally. Illinois performer Barry Cloyd will be featured in the cast (call 245-1402 for tickets; or online at www.jaxtg.com).
Bradbury has written several plays that sprang from interviews and they have the ring of truth that is sometimes missing in plays about historical figures. The fact that this one interviews people today who have been moved by Lincoln’s story makes this a much-anticipated production. The Spirit of Lincoln will also play at the Hoogland Center for the Arts on Fri. and Sat., March 6-7 (523-2787).
A new musical, Abe, will premiere in Quincy in a production by the Muddy River Opera Company Feb. 20-22, featuring opera singer Samuel Hepler in the title role. Abefollows Lincoln’s early life up to the moment he and his family leave Springfield for Washington. The large-cast musical with orchestra will play at the Quincy Community Theatre, 300 Civic Center Plaza. For more information call 217-222-3313. The musical will also tour to New Salem this summer for performances at Theatre In the Park Aug. 14-16 and 20-23.
Finally, The Lawyer of Springfield, a provocative play by Ronald Gow, will be given a reading by faculty and students at UIS in Brookens Auditorium at 7 p.m. Feb. 21, directed by Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson. The play is about an incident in 1839 Springfield when Lincoln supposedly came to the aid of a troupe of actors (among them, Joseph Jefferson, Jr., who would become one of the 19th-century’s most famous actors).