Musical showcases Lincoln’s pivotal yearsJune 26, 2019
By RILEY GUERZINI
Actors Community Theatre returns to the Lincoln Amphitheatre Friday with a new spin on one of the country’s greatest leaders.
“Here I Grew Up” takes place inside the memories of an unconscious President Abraham Lincoln in the hours following being shot inside Ford’s Theatre in April 1865.
Lincoln revisits the memories of his experiences growing up in the community of Little Pigeon Creek in northwestern Spencer County. He is aided by friends in his community that would play an important role in shaping him as a man.
The musical was produced by Actors Community Theatre, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Jasper. This is their third consecutive year producing a Lincoln-based performance at the Lincoln Amphitheatre inside Lincoln State Park, having produced the 30th anniversary of “Young Abe Lincoln” in 2017 and again in 2018.
“This year, we put an emphasis on community,” said Molly Rupert, president of ACT. “We wanted to portray a different side of Lincoln that shows more than just his presidential life and captures the importance of the roles of others in his life.”
ACT produced the play, handled its finances and marketing, and hired staff and management. They didn't write the original script, though.
“When we just had finished the 30th anniversary of our production ‘Young Abe,’ (Director of the Lincoln Amphitheatre) Marc Steczyk came to us with the idea of this new show,” Rupert said.
The amphitheater was collecting submissions for new shows about Lincoln in 2008 and “Here I Grew Up” was one of them. As director of the amphitheater, Steczyk shared the submission with ACT and the only caveat for using the script was that the playwright remain anonymous.
“We were eager to get started on it,” Rupert said. “I’ve been involved in theater my whole life and was excited about it and this was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass on. When Marc approached us about doing this, everybody was immediately on board.”
ACT had full creative control when developing the play, leading to seven versions of the script in an 18-month development period.
The musical features 43 actors and more than 10 crew members. Fifteen new songs were composed for the production, with many of the lyrics taken from poems written by Lincoln.
Open auditions were conducted across the area with ACT hiring actors and crew members. Rehearsals for the production began in April.
The musical is exclusive to ACT and the amphitheater and Rupert said the partnership has given both groups wonderful opportunities.
“This is a musical that was made to be performed at the Lincoln Amphitheatre,” she said. “You don’t get the full impact of the show unless you’re seeing it at that venue.”
Director Jasmine Bosler said the musical showcases Lincoln’s most pivotal years and it’s important to keep that history alive.
“Many of the people he was surrounded by, and many of which you will see in the production, had a large influence on his political career and interest in learning about law,” she said. “They really helped develop him into the man he eventually became.”
The run time for the musical is two hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission. It opens at 7 p.m. CT Friday, and a show is also set for 7 p.m. CT Saturday. Three subsequent performances will take place July 11-13 at the Lincoln Amphitheatre. Tickets can be purchased at www.lincolnamphitheatre.com or at the door prior to the performance.
Bosler complimented the massive undertaking ACT took to ready the musical set to premiere Friday.
“The hardest part was doing justice to the new script,” she said. “There were so many unknowns with it and we really had to work through it.”
Bosler said the community focus of the musical is what separates it from other Lincoln plays and the performance doesn’t fixate on one person.
“This musical showcases the impact everyone has on each other,” she said. “You don’t have to be president to have an important story.”
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