By Wendy Swanson
Tuesday, Janurary 10, 2023
In this time when our country is deeply divided, how do we reach a common ground among opposing factions? That question is being asked at all levels of our society. At the same time many hunger on a personal level for the opportunity to discuss relevant issues but are not sure how to start.
One organization, The Patterson Foundation, is addressing these concerns through a tool utilizing a combination of history and the arts. The device used to do this is award-winning playwright Beth Duda’s one-act play Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect. A free staged reading of the work is coming to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. The event will be held at the Terrace Theater and will include the performance as well as a panel discussion by the actors and production staff.
In this production, Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist leader and former slave, and Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America, clash in their ideologies regarding race, politics, and slavery. Frederick Douglass, a true radical with a fiery spirit, believes in racial equality for everyone. Douglass dedicates his life, writings, and career to abolishing slavery everywhere. Abraham Lincoln, cautious and considered, while opposed to slavery, is first and foremost a patriot intent on preserving the Union at all costs. These two self-made men, at a time when our divided nation faced annihilation, face their differences with courage and compassion, forging a friendship that helps to end the Civil War and reunite our nation.
The play uses the actual words of Lincoln and Douglass while exploring the walk of these two great American leaders from conflict to understanding.
Lincoln Group member Linda Elliff saw this play in Sarasota, Florida a couple years ago. Subsequently, she shared a link to an online performance with others – all those who have viewed the work including Karen Needles, Debbie Jackson and this writer have described the play as powerful – a must-see!
Many Lincoln Group members will recognize the Abraham Lincoln shown on the event flyer. (See above photo) That’s Michael Krebs who has appeared as Lincoln at previous Lincoln Group events including the second inaugural anniversary program. Frederick Douglass is portrayed by Joel PE King. A third player is word-poet Cedric Hameed who provides narration that connects the historical events portrayed.
The Patterson Foundation works to strengthen the efforts of people, organizations, and communities by focusing on issues that address mutual aspirations, foster wide participation, and encourage learning and sharing.
In connection with this presentation, the Foundation emphasizes the importance of history to today's world:
History provides powerful examples of ordinary men and women with different opinions and agendas coming together to produce positive change. Lincoln and Douglass provide inspiration and hope. Their love of country and their willingness to connect built respect and understanding. They set the example for us who aspire for a better tomorrow.
We learn from history and from Lincoln (and Douglas!) Join us for yet another lession from Lincoln.
As a gift to the community, The Patterson Foundation is pleased to offer tickets to these two performances at no-cost. Tickets are available but must be reserved in advance at the Kennedy Center Box Office, by phone (202) 467-4600 or on their website Kennedy-Center.org.
(Photo credit: The Patterson Foundation)