IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Abe Lincoln is back at Spencer County theater

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

After I discovered it one summer, Lincoln Amphitheatre quickly became one of my favorite theaters in the state. Nestled in a state park in Spencer County, the covered-but-still-outdoor theater’s anchoring attraction was a show about young Abraham Lincoln, who spent his formative years just yards away.

I never saw that historical production, though. Instead, I timed my trips to catch each year’s “other show”—always a mass-appeal musical.

One summer it was a well-sung “Big River.” Another year it was a fun “Music Man” with a strong supporting cast. There was a “Sound of Music” where an added kick came from seeing the nuns make a long, long entrance from the woods that surround the stage. And there was an “Oklahoma!” so outstanding that I saw it three times. Not only was the dancing exuberant and the performers charming and true, but the wide open space of the theater—and the natural beauty surrounding it—supported the show’s themes of optimism and fear that faced the pioneering farmers and cowboys of the titular state.

I also liked Lincoln Amphitheatre because, combined with a visit to the Lincoln Boyhood Home and a day at nearby Holiday World amusement park (more on that in a later column), it was a destination for a terrific overnighter. Who can argue with education, a sense of history, time spent in the great outdoors and world-class roller coasters all in one spot?

Mary Todd (Katie Horwitz ) and President Lincoln (Geoffrey Wade) share a tender moment.


The theater shut down after the 2005 season, though, and Spencer County nights weren’t quite the same.

When news came that another Lincoln show was being commissioned for a relaunch, I knew I had to make the trek to check it out.

In hindsight, it’s clear what a tough assignment the producers of the new show, “Lincoln,” faced: They had to create a theatrical experience that works as history, works as drama, pleases a general audience, and doesn’t tick off history buffs.

A nationwide search for a playwright led just across the river to Ken Jones, chairman of the theater department at the University of Northern Kentucky. He and artistic director R. Scott Lank constructed a work that whiplashes between episodes in the president’s life in an effort to connect moments from his boyhood in Indiana to his decisions as commander-in-chief. The device occasionally works, but more often than not it feels forced.

It’s complicated by the added gimmick of multiple actors playing versions of the title character. Lincoln’s assassination is dealt with early so that the playwright can use the misguided device of having Abe’s ghost consider the key moments in his life. It’s a hackneyed gimmick that leads to far too many Lincolns involved in the proceedings. Not only do we get ghost Lincoln and adult Abe (who appears significantly older than his departed counterpart), but there are also two versions of young Abe who aren’t different enough in appearance to justify the double coverage.

The North and South are represented by a single soldier on each side—a practical idea that quickly becomes redundant. Having a chorus of slaves serve as the glue holding the episodes together is more effective and, with rewriting, could prove to be a major asset in future seasons. (Their muted singing of a spiritual as they walked up the hill toward the theater before the show was the strongest emotional moment of the evening.)

Young Abraham (Britt Reagan ) teaches John D (Timothy Brown )and Elizabeth (Jacklyn Collier ) about cipherin’.

The new experience at Lincoln doesn’t begin and end with the show itself. Rounding out the evening is a pre-show, tent-covered fried chicken dinner from the Black Buggy Restaurant, complete with down-home musicians and actors leading period games. Free popcorn and drinks at intermission, and a friendly staff, are definite pluses. Tickets are $39.95 to $42.95, with discounts for seniors and students. Children 6 and under are free.•
 

  

 

 

 

__________

Visit ibj.com/arts for additional reviews, previews and arts discussion. Twitter: IBJarts

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Can your dog sign a marriage license or personally state that he wishes to join you in a legal union? If not then no, you cannot marry him. When you teach him to read, write, and speak a discernible language, then maybe you'll have a reasonable argument. Thanks for playing!

  2. Look no further than Mike Rowe, the former host of dirty jobs, who was also a classically trained singer.

  3. Current law states income taxes are paid to the county of residence not county of income source. The most likely scenario would be some alteration of the income tax distribution formula so money earned in Marion co. would go to Marion Co by residents of other counties would partially be distributed to Marion co. as opposed to now where the entirety is held by the resident's county.

  4. This is more same-old, same-old from a new generation of non-progressive 'progressives and fear mongers. One only needs to look at the economic havoc being experienced in California to understand the effect of drought on economies and people's lives. The same mindset in California turned a blind eye to the growth of population and water needs in California, defeating proposal after proposal to build reservoirs, improve water storage and delivery infrastructure...and the price now being paid for putting the demands of a raucous minority ahead of the needs of many. Some people never, never learn..

  5. I wonder if I can marry him too? Considering we are both males, wouldn't that be a same sex marriage as well? If they don't honor it, I'll scream discrimination just like all these people have....

ADVERTISEMENT