Visiting the Lincolns: A Review

Monday, September 23, AD 2013

On Saturday night, September 21, 2013, I was master of ceremonies at a performance of “Visiting the Lincolns” performed by Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller in Dwight, Illinois.  The performance was masterful.  Mr. Krebs and Ms. Miller have been performing as Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln since the mid-nineties and they gave a highly polished two person play.  The audience was very much a part of the play, as the premise of the play is that the members of the audience are unexpected visitors at the White House who appear just before the Lincolns on Good Friday 1865 are due to leave to attend a play at Ford’s Theater.

The play is a mixture of comedy and drama as the Lincolns deal with the task of attempting to entertain their unexpected guests.  Mrs. Lincoln serves lemon juice and cookies as she and Mr. Lincoln discuss their courtship,  and their sorrow over the deaths  of their sons Eddie and Willie, as well as Emancipation, the War and the other events that made the Civil War an unforgettable crossroads in American history.  Mr. Krebs and Ms. Miller demonstrate both the bickering, that the Lincolns did on occasion historically, and their deep love for each other.  The play is enlivened with some of Lincoln’s stories and constant interaction between the Lincolns and the audience.  One of the more dramatic episodes occurs when Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln are reading amusing dispatches from Union generals and criticizing the incompetence that was often a hallmark of Union high command, when Mrs. Lincoln lightheartedly begins reading Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, not realizing that the letter consoled a mother for the loss of her five sons, and the reading awakens Mary’s constant grief over the loss of her two sons.  It made the dramatic hallmark for the evening.

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Abraham Lincoln in Dwight, Illinois at 7:00 PM, September 21, 2013

Saturday, September 21, AD 2013
Would I might rouse the Lincoln in you all,
That which is gendered in the wilderness
From lonely prairies and God’s tenderness.
Imperial soul, star of a weedy stream,
Born where the ghosts of buffaloes still dream,
Whose spirit hoof-beats storm above his grave,
Above that breast of earth and prairie-fire—
Fire that freed the slave.
 
Vachel Lindsay

 

Well, today is the day.  Every year my little town has a festival, Dwight Harvest Days.  We draw tens of thousands of visitors from all around for parades, a flea market, a craft show, rides, a 5k run, and many, many other events.

This year, I have arranged, well I should say the Dwight Rotary Club, of which I have been a member for 28 years, has arranged, for Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller to bring their presentations of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln to the Dwight High School Auditorium, 801 South Franklin Street in Dwight on September 21, 2013, tonight, at 7:00 PM.  The presentation is free and I think we will have a huge turnout, especially among students.

I have long followed the career of Mr. Krebs and I believe he is the king of Lincoln presenters.  Some samples of his work:

 

 

I am looking forward to this immensely.  It speaks well of the Great Emancipator in our national memory that he is by far the President most portrayed by historical re-enactors.  Lincoln calls to something very deep in the American soul.  Men portraying Lincoln go back to the first decade of the last century, while men and women who knew Lincoln were still alive, but were rapidly departing this vale of tears.  They kept alive a memory of Lincoln as a man and not just a mere statue or a historical personage trapped in books.  Those early Lincoln presenters gave the models by which Lincoln was portrayed in the new technology of film.  Through the efforts of the Lincoln presenters the memory of Lincoln is kept ever green.

Like most counties in Central Illinois, we have our Lincoln sites, places Lincoln visited while he was riding the circuit as a lawyer. In those more civilized days, courts in most areas only operated part time. On a court day, the judges and attorneys would arrive at a county seat, and the trials on the court’s docket would be called and tried. So it was on May 18, 1840 when Lincoln and his fellow attorneys rode into Pontiac, the then tiny county seat of Livingston County, for the first ever session of the Circuit Court in Livingston County.

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2 Responses to Abraham Lincoln in Dwight, Illinois at 7:00 PM, September 21, 2013

  • Sounds like a lot of fun!

    Had to share this: Last night I was exploring an alternate history forum in which one of the members had posted an elaborate (and quite fascinating) timeline in which the Civil War breaks out in 1857 in Kansas, with James Buchanan as president. In this scenario, Buchanan bungles the war effort so badly that Kentucky and Missouri join the CSA, Rebel troops make it as far north as Philadelphia, the US government is forced to flee Washington D.C., and the war is over and the South victorious by early in 1859. Lincoln, in this timeline, ends up as John Fremont’s Republican running mate in 1860. They preside over what’s left of the Union, now a one-party state totally dominated by Republicans since the Democrats are blamed for having destroyed the country. Douglas, meanwhile, flees to the CSA and eventually plays an important part in getting the CSA to end slavery in the 1870s. The ripple effects from the Southern victory end up having an effect worldwide and lead to alternate developments in Europe and in Latin America as well. It may be a bit farfetched, but like any good alternate history, gets you to thinking about what could have happened, and appreciating what did happen.

  • The idea of the Civil War coming early in 1857 over Bleeding Kansas is an interesting concept I haven’t come across in alternate history before. Historically it was unlikely in that the Kansas issue never was a really gripping issue for most Southerners, especially since Buchanan was a “doughface” and Southerners and Southern sympathizers dominated his cabinet. Now if Fremont had been elected in 1856 I think we would probably have had a early Civil War sometime during his term.

    Douglas being instrumental in ending slavery is far-fetched. He had absolutely no moral qualms about slavery, having an interest in a plantation. He also would have been a fiery opponent of the Southerners in any early Civil War as he was when Civil War came in 1861.

Abraham Lincoln Comes to Dwight, Illinois

Thursday, July 25, AD 2013
Would I might rouse the Lincoln in you all,
That which is gendered in the wilderness
From lonely prairies and God’s tenderness.
Imperial soul, star of a weedy stream,
Born where the ghosts of buffaloes still dream,
Whose spirit hoof-beats storm above his grave,
Above that breast of earth and prairie-fire—
Fire that freed the slave.
Vachel Lindsay

 

Well, I guess this was inevitable, at least I am sure that faithful readers of this blog will think that it was inevitable!  Every year my little town has a festival, Dwight Harvest Days.  We draw tens of thousands of visitors from all around for parades, a flea market, a craft show, rides, a 5k run, and many, many other events.

This year, I have arranged, well I should say the Dwight Rotary Club, of which I have been a member for 28 years, has arranged, for Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller to bring their presentations of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln to the Dwight High School Auditorium on September 21, 2013 at 7:00 PM.  The presentation is free and I think we will have a huge turnout, especially among students.

I have long followed the career of Mr. Krebs and I believe he is the king of Lincoln presenters.  Some samples of his work:

Continue reading...

One Response to Abraham Lincoln Comes to Dwight, Illinois