The Better Angels of Our Nature

I haven’t heard anything about my Jane Austen plan, but then again, with the end of the school term in sight, it’s not as if I’m going to get a lot of support now, anyway.  This is something that I’ll have to bring up after finals, and I know that.  It’s going to be interesting, however, to see if anything comes of it.  If not, then I have the obligatory Plan B.

The one thing I learned as a child is that there should always be a Plan B.  Life is just too unpredictable for just one plan.  You need to be prepared on the off-chance that Plan A crumbles before your eyes and you’re left with nothing.  People will forgive you for tossing out a bad plan; they won’t forgive you if you’ve no plan at all.

In my case, Plan B is the same idea from a different angle.  To wit:  What was the name of the play that Abraham Lincoln went to see the night of his assassination?

Our American Cousin has to be the most famous play that no one knows anything about, save for the fact that the Lincolns went to see it on April 14, 1865.  It was considered a very funny and lively play for the time, and had not John Wilkes Booth used it for his own agenda, it very well would have gone down in history as one of the classics of the American stage.

My plan, simply, is to stage the play in it’s entirety.  Build a whole theme around Lincoln, the American Civil War, and to cap it off with a performance of Our American Cousin.  The Upper Midwest has a lot of connections with the American Civil War, so making such a tie-in is pretty easy.  And there’s a lot of specific ACW history in this area, so there are a number of things to do:  Tours of historic sites (and locations now used for other things), a cemetery tour, a dance featuring ACW themed music, ACW era foods, presentations, etc. – there’s a lot of opportunity here.  Then, the capstone – a performance of the play that Lincoln never got to finish.

(I think, for example, that it would be highly educational to have – under glass – items that are similar to what Lincoln carried on his person that night.  Eyeglasses, a newspaper clipping, a Confederate bank note, a handkerchief – to help paint the picture of this tragic event.  By tying in the ACW in general, we could also provide period uniforms and accoutrements – some original, some replica – to flesh out the learning experience.)

Frankly, I think it would be in bad taste to have performers dressed as Lincoln and Booth, especially since this would not be a recreation of that night, but rather a performance of the play, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find someone trying to do just that.

Because this is interdisciplinary, I can drag in other departments – theater, obviously, but art, English, and geography, for a start.  This would be a fantastic teaching opportunity; I think that if there’s enough interest, it would work!

Now, to draw up some plans . . .



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