Relive the night Lincoln died at Centerstage Theatre 4/14
“The opportunity to be able to bring the play alive in a reading to a modern audience on this important anniversary was thrilling” said Dr. Jan Powell, artistic director for Henley Street Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare.
Powell’s Henley Street Theatre will stage a reading of the 1858 classic Our American Cousin in conjunction with Richmond Shakespeare on April 14th at the Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond CenterStage.
Directed by Melissa Rayford, the show will immerse the audience in American history as much as it will in theater — it’s the play that President Lincoln was watching the night he was assassinated, and the event will honor the 150th anniversary of his death.
“Our American Cousin” was considered one of the era’s great comedies, where an awkward, loud-mouthed, but honest American takes a trip overseas and is introduced to his long-lost, refined English relatives to seek his inheritance. Along the way, the lead character witnesses the over-exaggeratedly posh mannerisms of his aristocratic cousins, finds love, and imparts the virtues of living a simple life.
Although the actors will be reading from script books, they will be moving and in full costume, to be able to put the audience into the same environment that Lincoln found himself in 150 years ago. According to Powell, the themes and archetypes that the play deals with are still very much commonplace in the today’s storytelling landscape, and audiences will be able to follow along with the language easily.
Halfway through the play, the titular American cousin, Asa Trenchard, hits this laugh line:
“Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal—you sockdologizing old man-trap.”
John Wilkes Booth seized this moment to kill Lincoln, hoping the sound of the gunshot would not be heard over the laughter. There will be a pause after that line, and HST will discuss the moment of the shooting and how the assassination changed the course of American history.
Afterwards, Henley Street Theater will commemorate the historic event with a panel discussion, where Lincoln historians and 18th century experts will cover the famous president’s legacy and the play’s significance in the context of the era in which it was released.
Dr. Edward Ayers — President of University of Richmond and published Lincoln historian, Director of Public Services and Outreach at the Library of Virginia and Richmond history expert Dr. Gregg Kimball, Dr. Noreen Barnes — early American theater historian at VCU, director Melissa Rayford and the cast of the production will be among those featured in the panel.
Rodrigo Arriaza is a cool dude who loves bees and Bolivia.
“We are delighted to welcome this year’s eclectic lineup to our venues and share these unique performance experiences with our audience.”September 15, 2015
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